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Ultrasonic Testing (UT)

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Ultrasonic Testing (UT) is a group of nondestructive examination (NDE) techniques that use short, high-frequency ultrasonic waves to identify flaws in a material. They generally work by emitting waves into a material. By measuring these waves, the properties of the material and internal flaws can be identified. Most UT devices consist of many separate units. These can include pulsers and receivers, transducers, and display monitors. The components included depend on the type of UT that the inspector is performing.

Types of Ultrasonic Testing

There are several different types of ultrasonic testing, including:

Automated Ultrasonic Backscatter Technique

Advanced Ultrasonic Backscatter Technique (AUBT) is a UT technique developed for detecting damage from High-Temperature Hydrogen Attack (HTHA). The technique is for use in pressure vessels and piping. The technique makes use of high frequency, broadband UT probes and a digital oscilloscope. These allow it to provide both an A-Scan display and frequency analysis.

Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing

Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT) is a UT technique that utilizes a set of UT probes made up of numerous (anywhere from 16 to over 250) small elements. Each of the elements in a PAUT system is able to pulse individually. This is done with computer calculated timing, through a process known as phasing. This allows the system to steer focused beam through various angles and focal distances.

Long Range Ultrasonic Testing

Long Range Ultrasonic Testing (LRUT) is a UT method developed to allow for testing large volumes of material from a single test point. This method works by fixing transducer rings uniformly around a pipe. These rings then generate a series of low frequency guided waves. The waves can then propagate symmetrically along the pipe axis. This provides complete coverage of the pipe wall.

Internal Rotating Inspection Systems

An Internal Rotating Inspection System (IRIS) is an ultrasonic technique used to detect corrosion in piping and tubing. using an internally inserted probe that generates sound waves. The system works by inserting a probe into a flooded pipe. The probe them move through the pipe, scanning as it goes.

Time of Flight Diffraction

Time of Flight Diffraction (TOFD) is a method used to look for flaws in welds. It uses the time of flight of an ultrasonic pulse to find the location of a reflector. To find the TOF, the method uses a pair of ultrasonic transducers. The transmitter emits low frequency waves that propagate at an angle. They only diffract back to the receiver if they hit a defect.

Dry-Coupled Ultrasonic Testing

Dry-Coupled Ultrasonic Testing (DCUT) is an alternative, low-cost method that does not require a liquid couplant to inspect metallic and nonmetallic material. Additionally, DCUT transducers are capable of withstanding high voltages. DCUT is a versatile method that can be performed using flexible, contact, wheel, or remote transducers.

  • Flexible transducers can be applied on an external or internal surface of a component to detect flaws.
  • Contact transducers are also used to detect flaws as well as thickness measurements.
  • Wheel transducers allow inspectors to inspect long piping systems in a short amount of time.
  • Remote transducers are advantageous because they can take thickness measurements at non-conventional angles (i.e., at angles that are not 90° to the surface). This eliminates the need to build supports or remove components in order to perform inspection.

Rapid Ultrasonic Gridding (RUG)

Rapid Ultrasonic Gridding (RUG) is an NDE method of performing ultrasonic thickness in which multiple ultrasonic thickness probes are utilized, simultaneously, to rapidly gather thickness measurements in a predefined or ad hoc space. Like other UT methods, RUG captures raw A-Scan data, which can be presented in B-Scan or C-Scan modes — or used to create visual representation as 3-D models. However, RUG is capable of capturing multiple A-Scan data points at a much faster rate than traditional thickness measuring techniques.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In general, UT has several advantages and disadvantages. It’s useful because it can scan for flaws both on and underneath the surface. It is also useful for it's incredible accuracy. On the other hand, not all materials are receptive to ultrasonic testing. It also has the disadvantage that it requires a good deal of skill and training to perform.

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Articles about Ultrasonic Testing (UT)
September/October 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This article presents two case studies that show how having a holistic approach, along with the right technology and experience, is essential to identifying smaller damage mechanisms like fretting in fired heater coils.

Authors: Johnny Weaver
July/August 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This article illustrates the value of digital radiography as an efficient tool to visualize corrosion and other small bore piping anomalies without disturbing insulation, as well as using PRT in conjunction with UTT to survey small diameter lines.

July/August 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

Recent advances in UT technology now allow for inspection and continuous monitoring of sulfidic corrosion to be undertaken while the components are on-stream, at temperature, with high-resolution thickness data.

Authors: Tim Stevenson
May/June 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This case study of a CO2 absorber tower in a remote location investigates the use of a new type of wireless ultrasonic sensor for monitoring the thickness of equipment while on or offline.

Authors: Martyn Cooper
March/April 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

This article will discuss a statistical analysis method that was developed to evaluate the integrity of pipelines that can identify, in a first phase inspection, whether the nature of the active damage mechanism(s) are uniform (general) or localized.

Authors: Marcos Delgado
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This retrospective takes a quick look at two of the most popular topics that were covered in Inspectioneering Journal last year: the accuracy of thickness readings and corrosion under insulation.

Authors: Greg Alvarado
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Temporarily or permanently installed thickness monitors can help to overcome shortcomings and uncertainties associated with manual ultrasonic inspections and can lead to significantly improved maintenance and asset replacement forecasting.

July/August 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspectioneering chats with Gecko Robotics about the new rapid ultrasonic gridding technique and how it can be utilized to increase the speed and effectiveness of equipment inspections.

May/June 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

This article dives into continuous thickness monitoring, which in the opinion of the author is one of the more innovative technologies for corrosion control in the refining industry to come about in the last two decades.

Authors: Spencer Rex
May/June 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

This article demonstrates how the use of TFM/FMC can be an effective method to screen for potential problem flanges before a planned shut down and can be a very useful tool in planning which flanges require further evaluation.

Authors: Mark Schramm
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March/April 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

Universally, smart or intelligent pigging is now a standard practice for the inspection of fired heater and serpentine boiler coils. Understanding this technology can greatly assist with maintenance planning and the prevention of unexpected failures.

Authors: Tim Haugen
March/April 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

There are tools available that can achieve nearly 100% corrosion monitoring coverage. The use of robotics and ultrasonic inspection methods such as rapid ultrasonic gridding have shown to be highly effective in acquiring these data points.

Authors: Ed Bryner
January/February 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

This case study discusses costly repairs that were needed on newly fabricated pressure vessels as a result of poor UT practices. The author shines a light on some industry problems that can be fixed with an understanding of what is actually required.

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We’re excited to announce a new section of our website that is dedicated to equipping inspectors with greater knowledge and proficiency across various subject matter areas.

November/December 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

This article helps shine light on some common industry problems that can occur by having inferior UT procedures and practices, while providing several lessons learned through a case study that resulted in nearly $1 million in turnaround repairs.

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Piping accounts for roughly 40% of “accidental releases” at major petroleum facilities. Modern robots can inspect every inch of piping while still in service, giving you a clear picture of your most concerning areas.

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This article discusses two common challenges for inspectors taking thickness readings in high temperature environments and ways to overcome those challenges.

Authors: Calvin Jory
September/October 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

The refining and petrochemical industries will continue to benefit from the evolution of robotics and data management. The biggest hurdle will be to accept this evolution and embrace the new capabilities that come with it.

Authors: Ed Bryner
September/October 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

Thickness readings are critical for today's inspectors to accurately judge the state of their equipment. Recent advancements in sensors, software, and data management tools have made this easier, safer, and more efficient than ever before.

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Here are 8 tips to help you overcome certain challenges encountered when taking thickness measurements at high temperatures.

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July/August 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

This article is written to provide a brief case study of an acoustic emission test of an FRP storage tank. A method combining acoustic emission with ultrasonics is proposed to ensure reliable long term operation.

Authors: Geoff Clarkson
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May/June 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

While planning methods for thickness data acquisition in any Inspection Data Management Program, PRT should be considered as a cost-efficient, effective way to increase the value of your program for small bore piping or any other suitable situation.

Authors: Ryan Baggett
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UT couplant auto-ignition is a surprise event that puts the safety of inspectors at risk. In an effort to reduce occurrences, API SCIMI plans to address this issue by including new paragraphs in the upcoming rewrites of API RP 572 and API RP 574.

Authors: Gene Larson
September/October 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

The challenge to find CUI is difficult and one single NDE technique cannot be used to identify it. This remains the case today as we combine NDE techniques to perform CUI assessments. The techniques and strategies commonly used today are summarized...

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Authors: Berg Engineering
May/June 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

HTHA of hydrogen-containing equipment can be prevented with appropriate material selection and fabrication, appropriate welding procedures, regular inspection of equipment using proven, effective technologies and equipment operated by qualified...

Authors: Samer E. Ibrahim
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March/April 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

This article features a case study on the feasibility of a wall-sticking drone for effectively conducting ultrasonic testing and other NDT methods on equipment at elevated heights.

Authors: Rami Mattar
January/February 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

Over the past few years, network technologies have been developed to eliminate the need for long cables for UT thickness monitoring. Coupled with a software back-end, permanently-installed UT sensors have become much more competitive in the...

November/December 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

This article explains the Statistically Active Corrosion Assessment, which is a tool for determining appropriate and realistic corrosion growth rates which can assist pipeline operators in optimizing the value of in-line inspection data.

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The availability of high quality UT data is often the cornerstone for FFS and RBI decisions. As such, the API Subcomittee for Inspection and Integrity Management (SCIIM) has initiated a program for the Qualification of Ultrasonic crack Sizing...

Authors: John Nyholt
May/June 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Discover a new ultrasonic inspection approach that provides quantified mechanical integrity and conservative remaining service life information on fiberglass reinforced plastic equipment.

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March/April 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

The purpose of this article is to describe the various in-line inspection (ILI) technologies that are currently available to the market. The pros, cons, and applicability of each type of tool will be discussed in greater detail.

Authors: Matt Ellinger
March/April 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Ultrasonic phased array allow for a variety of structures to be inspected without radiation or taking equipment out of service. Codes are now being developed which allow phased array systems as an acceptable inspection technique for many procedures.

Authors: Bob Lasser
July/August 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

This article details the basis for the lack of understanding about the potential for ultrasonic couplant auto-ignition and outlines an ALARP operating practice for mitigation.

Authors: Gene Larson
May/June 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

In the last few years, electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) has come to prominence for its ability to quickly scan exposed pipelines for corrosion, cracks, and other defects using medium-range guided waves and without the requirement for...

Authors: Borja Lopez
March/April 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

This article highlights the evolution of corrosion monitoring from conventional ultrasonic to ultrasonic phased array manual and automated solutions and their use for both general purposes and complex applications.

Authors: André Lamarre
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March/April 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

While there are many types of advanced NDT, this article will focus on the use of acoustics and electromagnetism as the bases for conducting examinations.

Authors: Mike Brown
March/April 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

While there are many methods for measuring equipment wall thickness, a predominant method used in the O&G and power generation industries is portable ultrasonic equipment. Ultrasonic testing is non-intrusive because it is applied to the outside of a...

January/February 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

Fixed equipment in a refinery can be susceptible to corrosion from the process side, necessitating an inspection strategy to understand the condition of that equipment. Online measurement of pipe and pressure vessel wall thickness is made possible...

Authors: Dr. Jake Davies
November/December 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

While they is very efficient and popular, liquid couplants used for ultrasonic inspection have some inherent limitations and disadvantages. An alternative method to using liquid couplant is Dry-Coupled Ultrasonic Testing (DCUT).

Authors: Borja Lopez
March/April 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

This article provides a discussion of a recent inspection performed at a U.S. refinery. Industry HF lines are experiencing piping failures in increasing numbers due to the presence of residual elements entrained within their carbon steel components.

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November/December 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

The introduction of PAUT is a challenging effort initially, but can have a very positive impact on your first TAR and become a routine inspection for future TARs. When fully implemented, radiation safety boundaries can be reduced significantly or...

November/December 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

Steam reformers are critical assets for the successful operation of hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol plants. The steam reformer is also one of the most expensive assets in these facilities. Catalyst tubes inside the reformer are one of the most...

Authors: Kelsey Hevner
May/June 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

The following interview with Rich Roberts provides answers to some of the questions our readers have about small, specially designed pigs carrying NDE technologies that can inspect nearly every area of a tube from the coils interior surface.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
March/April 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

New inline inspections and integrity management systems allow operators to understand the complexities and economics of terminals’ and station’s complex aging pipeline infrastructure.

January/February 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

Technicians inspecting oil & gas installations and petrochemical plants employ a wide variety of nondestructive testing (NDT) techniques. A new technology has recently been developed that utilizes a real-time portable imaging device which has...

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November/December 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

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Authors: Jan Verkooijen
September/October 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

Maintaining the mechanical integrity of above ground storage tanks (AST’s) is the focal point of tank inspection programs. Performing internal inspections is an integral part of a tank integrity program, however, deciding when to take a tank out...

Authors: Sam Ternowchek
July/August 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

Non-contact ultrasonic testing with EMAT was formally introduced in part one of this series found in the March/April issue of Inspectioneering Journal. Readers were introduced to the practical advantages of EMAT Ultrasonic Testing.

Authors: Borja Lopez
July/August 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspection and fitness-for-service assessments of critical in-plant piping systems are a concern for the chemical industry. This presents a potentially insurmountable task and discovery of a number of areas where the condition is at risk.

Authors: James R. Widrig
March/April 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

This is the first in a series of three articles that will introduce Electro Magnetic Acoustic Transducer (EMAT) and its practical applications in the field of nondestructive testing (NDT). EMAT, or Electro Magnetic Acoustic Transducer, is an...

Authors: Borja Lopez
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January/February 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

This article is the third of a series of articles that will focus on one critical sub process within a PEIP that is key in managing the integrity of process piping: thickness monitoring programs for internal corrosion. These articles will discuss...

Authors: A.C. Gysbers
November/December 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

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Authors: Gary Penney
September/October 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

The refining industry has applied ultrasonic-based intelligent pigging to inspect serpentine coils in fired heaters since the 1990s. Today, thousands of serpentine coils in fired heaters are inspected annually at process facilities around the globe.

May/June 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

Over the past 100 years, Nondestructive testing has made tremendous advances. New NDT methods have been introduced, while old "tried and true" methods continue to be improved. Although some NDT methods have drastically changed or "evolved" over...

Authors: Jason Butz
November/December 2011 Inspectioneering Journal

EPRI is investigating improved inspection technologies as part of a multi-faceted effort to enhance the understanding and management of underground piping and tanks at nuclear power plants. An ultrasonic immersion technique tested on an...

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November/December 2010 Inspectioneering Journal

High Temperature Hydrogen Attack (HTHA) is a long known and still occurring degradation issue for fixed equipment construction materials in the hydrocarbon process industry where hydroprocess plants (hydrogen plus hydrocarbons) are in service....

Authors: John Reynolds
November/December 2010 Inspectioneering Journal

Understanding, predicting, detecting and controlling high-temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA), have been elusive goals of materials engineers and scientists for over 70 years. The destruction of low alloy steel components exposed to hydrogen through...

January/February 2010 Inspectioneering Journal

For years refinery and chemical plant operators have utilized ultrasonic-based intelligent pig technology to inspect coils in convection and radiant sections of fired heaters. This proven technology provides accurate inspection data which allows...

January/February 2009 Inspectioneering Journal

Ultrasonic thickness gages have progressed a long way since their early development in the 1960's. The first thickness gages were large and bulky although they used the same conventional longitudinal (compressional wave) techniques still in use...

Authors: Dan Carnevale
July/August 2007 Inspectioneering Journal

The integrity of pipelines is a natural concern for pipeline operators, and so the ability to detect corrosion, erosion and mechanical damage in pipes is therefore of significant interest. Traditional methods of detection, such as pigging and...

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July/August 2005 Inspectioneering Journal

The ultrasonic Time of Flight Diffraction (TOFD) technique was developed for the UK nuclear industry during the 1970s to provide a method for measuring the height of planar flaws. TOFD is now generally recognized as the most accurate ultrasonic...

September/October 2004 Inspectioneering Journal

The impetus for the development of LRUT is that ultrasonic thickness checks for corrosion, erosion, etc. are localised, in that they only measure the thickness of the area under the UT transducer.

September/October 2004 Inspectioneering Journal

Exactly two years ago, an interview with John Nyholt appeared in the “IJ”. New ground will be covered in this interchange. We at the IJ thought it might be valuable to spend some time chatting about his background, challenges he has faced...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
September/October 2002 Inspectioneering Journal

John has primary responsibility for NDE consulting and troubleshooting for BP around the world in the refining, chemical and gas processing industries. We at the IJ thought it might be valuable to spend some time chatting about his background,...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
May/June 2002 Inspectioneering Journal

We have discussed various factors that can affect the reliability of NDE techniques (i.e., probability of detection - POD and sizing accuracy) in Part 1. In general, it is difficult to quantify these uncertainties. In fact, it is impossible to fully...

November/December 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

The recently released API RP-579 Fitness-for-Service Recommended Practice highlights the need for a measurable degree of reliability in NDE results. In fact, the industry has been asking for a process to assure a minimum level of inspection quality...

Authors: C.P. Hsiao
September/October 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

In part 1 of this article we covered the importance of quality assurance of UT data, that is, understanding for each particular application, the accuracy required of the UT data, and new ways/graphical program to analyze and show the...

July/August 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

The American Paper Institute Recovery Boiler Reference Manual Volume 1, October 1979, indicates that the two main goals of conducting ultrasonic thickness (UT) inspections are to determine (1) the current tube wall thickness and (2) the rate of...

March/April 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

Do You Know All You Need To Know About The People Who Perform Your NDT? Could the following scenario be played out in your plant, on your equipment, on your watch? The year is 1968. The time is 3 PM on Friday. Two fairly young men are...

Authors: Paul Marks
January/February 2000 Inspectioneering Journal

This article covers the use of permanently attached ultrasonic transducers for inspection and process plant equipment condition monitoring while in service.

September/October 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

This paper describes the use of a UT fixture for detection of stress corrosion cracking in ferrous heat exchanger tube-to-tubesheet welds and external tube corrosion or pitting near the tubesheets including crevice OD corrosion.

Authors: Reggie Cross
May/June 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has developed an innovative method for rapid screening of heat exchanger tubing using Guided Wave technology. This screening method can lead to an improvement in heat exchanger reliability and a reduction in the...

May/June 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

EMATs (Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducers) have been used for over six years for field service inspection of in-service piping. Recent advances in technology have allowed us to inspect new types of on-stream piping.

Authors: Paul K. Davidson
March/April 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspection data analysis tools, like risk-based inspection, help us to focus on quantitative reliability targets. When considering thinning mechanisms, there is a certain probability that a piece of equipment will reach retirement thickness before...

Authors: Mike Sparago
March/April 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

The API Subcommittee on Inspection (SCI) has determined to initiate a program covering the qualification of ultrasonic (UT) technicians conducting inspections.

January/February 1999 Inspectioneering Journal

Ultrasonic thickness monitoring programs represent one of the most intensive inspection activities in refining and petrochemical facilities. Despite numerous improvements in ultrasonic testing equipment and inspection techniques, however, there has...

Authors: Mike Sparago
July/August 1998 Inspectioneering Journal

The debate about advantages and drawbacks of the application of the TOFD (time of flight diffraction) approach for ultrasonic weld inspection should not forget the original reasons for its introduction in the 1960s. The major advantage at that time...

Authors: H. Wuestenberg
May/June 1998 Inspectioneering Journal

New inspection technology, when added to the proven practice of using tell tale holes (TTHs), proves effective in reducing significant releases and or catastrophic events that are related to internal corrosion / erosion of process piping. In fact,...

Authors: Mike Badeen
March/April 1998 Inspectioneering Journal

Furnace tubes in the petrochemical and refining industries lengths' can exceed 2,000 ft., often with multiple serpentine bends. This can make them extremely difficult to inspect using conventional NDE methods. The following inspection tool (FTIS)...

March/April 1997 Inspectioneering Journal

This is the second in a series of articles on piping inspection. In the last article, I enumerated four inspection issues that I believe contribute to inadequate piping mechanical integrity in the hydrocarbon process industry.

Authors: John Reynolds
November/December 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

Nelson Curve changes in the late 1980's provided cause for Shell Oil Company to look at more reliable NDE non-destructive evaluation methods for assessment of materials/equipment in high temperature hydrogen service. The primary change motivating...

September/October 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

Low-energy piping system failures in power-generating facilities are often the result of fouling and corrosion. These degradation mechanisms can affect the capacity of piping for fluid-carrying, the heat transfer rates of heat exchangers, and the...

July/August 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

With miles of piping and tons of equipment to consider for on-stream inspection or monitoring you probably have:

Authors: Greg Alvarado
July/August 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

Petrochemical and energy utility industries require a methodology which will allow them and the governing regulatory authorities to make technical and financially sound decisions for the repair or replacement of pressure vessels which suffer damage...

May/June 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

For reason of economy, the hot reheat pipework in many US power plants is fabricated from seam-welded low chrome-moly carbon steel spools. Unlike girth butt welds, where the critical weldment microstructures can off-load stress to the stronger...

Authors: Bob Browne
March/April 1995 Inspectioneering Journal

High energy piping (HEP) systems, main steam lines and hot reheat lines (typically low chrome molydbdenum steels), are susceptible to creep damage. Such damage can lead to leaks, and in extreme cases, catastrophic failure.

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