Nondestructive Examination (NDE)

Last update: Jan 17, 2017

Nondestructive Examination (NDE), also referred to as as nondestructive testing (NDT), consists of a wide variety of inspection techniques that one can use on equipment to detect the presence of damage mechanisms, characterize findings, and size them without causing any damage to the equipment itself. This is opposed to destructive testing where the part being tested is damaged or destroyed during the testing process. The information gathered during NDE inspections can be used for many reasons, such as determining the current damage state of equipment, gauging the impact of operating conditions on equipment integrity, making more accurate predictions about remaining equipment life, and as input for advanced remaining life evaluations (e.g., RBI, FFS, design reviews, etc.). NDE may be prescribed by codes and standards, both pre-and post-construction, and may be required by regulators and insurers.

NDE inspections are an integral part of the oil & gas industries along with several other industries such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals, and defense. It is important for all refinery, chemical plant, gas plant, and pipeline owners to have a thorough understanding of NDE and the capability to carry out NDE on components when necessary. This is because most codes and standards require periodic examination of machinery and components, and thus being able to effectively carry out these inspections as they come up is an integral part of ensuring safety and reliable operation.

Some examples of NDE include:

Performing NDE on critical equipment and components during the fabrication QA/QC process is growing in popularity as this provides the baseline for inspections following commissioning. This eliminates guesswork on things like original thicknesses and provides baseline knowledge of issues presented when equipment went into service. This knowledge helps owner-users monitor whether or not a potential issue is advancing and the extent and rate of its growth. These are important considerations for effective asset integrity management (i.e., managing equipment from cradle-to-grave safely and reliably).

The quality and capability of NDE technologies have greatly improved over the last couple decades. Now NDE can often be conducted, with qualifiers, from the OD of equipment, while it is on-stream, or as an effective replacement to internal inspection. This not only reduces certain risks to personnel, but it provides an opportunity to gather better data than ever before.

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