Inspectioneering Journal

Novel Inspection System Aligns FRP and Metallic Asset Management Approaches

By Geoff Clarkson, CTO and Founder at UTComp, Inc. This article appears in the May/June 2017 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Asset management for steel piping and vessels relies on well-established systematic approaches that have proven effectiveness. Many operators with Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) piping and vessels in their facilities desire the same quality of reporting and advice regarding FRP condition as they receive for their steel assets.  Ultrasonic inspection techniques for FRP equipment that are both non-destructive and non-intrusive are available to meet that demand, backed by thousands of inspections to provide reliable asset management information.  Owner/operators can now receive inspection reports for FRP that are similar to those for metallic assets, including the measured effects of damage and the remaining structural capacity compared to the new asset, whatever its age.

This article provides an overview of a systematic inspection approach for FRP that aligns FRP mechanical integrity results with those for metallic mechanical equipment.

Systematic Mechanical Integrity Management

Systematic approaches, coupled with technology, are used by asset managers to understand the mechanical integrity of assets where reliable process containment and structural support are required.  In general, the approach provides owner-operators with information on measurable changes (e.g., thickness) that have occurred from damage to assets.  The rates at which the changes occur are normally used to predict remaining service life.  Non-destructive examination techniques and inspector certification programs are usually specified, such as by ASME, ASTM or API, to ensure the availability of qualified inspectors, as well as consistent data results.  In the case of ultrasonic equipment, many instruments also contain built-in post-processing to provide “on the spot” analysis of the readings. The final step –Analysis of reported data – is usually completed by a Subject Matter Expert who interprets the measurements and other relevant information to recommend repairs or continued operation.

The time interval between these inspections can be set using either Risk Based Inspections [1] where the risk and consequences of failure can be determined, or they can be based on some time interval based on standards or experience with the service.

Table 1 shows an overview of a typical systematic approach that is used for steel assets.  For most steel piping and process vessels, this process has proven to be very effective at providing owner-operators with safe, cost-effective asset management based on quantified results from the inspection and assessment.  The systematic approach allows optimization of the costs and scheduling of repairs and replacements, along with effective management of change.  The uniformity of steel throughout its thickness has contributed to the effectiveness of this non-destructive examination (NDE) technique.

The success of this process has allowed it to become part of the foundation of the Mechanical Integrity stage of Process Safety Management.

Systematic Asset Management.
Table 1. Systematic Asset Management.

Asset management for FRP piping and vessels has followed a different path.  Starting from FRP’s earliest usage, it has become clear that FRP has different damage mechanisms and responses to NDE technologies and damage than steels.

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Posted by Sergio Damasceno Soares on December 5, 2017
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