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Non-intrusive inspection could reduce confined space entries by 80% and save the UKCS circa £242 million

Project Summary

Non-intrusive inspection (NII) enables pressure vessels to be inspected with the equipment online and avoids the requirement for entry into confined spaces to perform the examination.

The Net Zero Technology Centre and ABB carried out a landscaping study in 2017 to establish the current use of NII technology across the UKCS and understand the potential for wider application.

The main benefits of using non-intrusive inspection include:

  • Man-entry into confined spaces avoided
  • Avoids breaking containment of the vessel and associated flanged joints, reducing the potential of hydrocarbon leakage on restart
  • Increased equipment availability/uptime
  • Reduced overall cost of inspection
  • Remove vessel scope from shutdown and reduce duration of outage
  • Man entry damage to the internal coatings of vessels is avoided
  • No vessel cleaning residues to manage
  • Negates need to leak test the vessel prior to recommissioning

Industry value:
The survey clearly indicates that there is considerable potential to increase the amount of NII undertaken on offshore installations. Whilst limitations in the current capability of non-destructive testing technology suggest that 100% non-intrusive inspection coverage is unlikely to be achieved in the short to medium term, a target of 80% seems reasonable at this time and potentially save the UKCS circa £242 million pa in increased equipment availability.

Further advances in the capability of non-destructive testing methods through development of sensor technology should improve the coverage of the difficult to examine areas and hence broaden suitability of non-intrusive inspection as an alternative inspection method.

Key results:
The survey of offshore installation operators provided information about the then status of the application of NII in the UKCS and the potential for its wider application. Results indicated that uptake of NII for the inspection of vessels was generally low across the UKCS and there were significantly different approaches to using NII between operators:

  • some are yet to use the methodology at all.
  • some have fully embraced the technology and have an NII strategy for vessels in place
  • others use NII to increase intervals between intrusive inspections or to support an inspection deferral.

The survey also provided data to quantify the potential benefit to the industry from fewer days of lost production, from reduced shutdown durations.

Increased use of NII will require management drive and continued Regulator support.

Lessons learned:
The survey was limited to a relatively small number of participants due to availability of personnel, providing a small data pool and as such may not truly reflect the current non-intrusive inspection uptake status. However, the findings from industry engagement, input from the Technology Leadership Board and the Lockheed Martin Landscaping report support the findings of this study.

Next steps:
A second phase has been commissioned to carry out pilot studies with a small number of operating companies who have limited experience of undertaking non-intrusive inspection. The objectives of this phase are to evaluate feasibility, demonstrate how to apply non-intrusive inspection, and to identify the resulting benefits.

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