A significant portion of the global energy pipeline infrastructure is constructed with pipe materials manufactured using the Electric Resistance Weld (ERW) process. The longitudinal seam of these ERW pipelines may contain manufacturing flaws and anomalies that can grow over time through pressure cycle fatigue and result in a pipeline integrity failure. These flaws/anomalies can be present in both vintage pipe (generally pre-1970) manufactured using a low frequency ERW process and more modern pipe that is manufactured using a high frequency ERW process. ERW seam anomalies are challenging to detect, discriminate, and size with current In-Line Inspection and In-Ditch NDE inspection technologies, which is driving the industry to better understand current inspection industry performance and to develop new technologies for ERW seam anomaly inspection.
Ultrasonic (UT) imaging using inverse wave field extrapolation (IWEX) is an emerging NDE technique that is being applied to improve discrimination and sizing of anomalies in pipelines. This paper will describe the IWEX development, the challenges related to seam weld integrity and assessment and SCC assessment, and results from studies to evaluate performance. Ultrasonic imaging is also compared to the current state-of-the-art techniques such as ultrasonic phased array (PA). A goal of the project is to produce images capable of discriminating cold welds, surface breaking hook cracks, non-surface breaking upturned fiber indications, poor trim, offset plate edges, and anomalies with fatigue cracking. The goal is to size all of the cracks in a SCC colony and produce a three-dimensional map of the area. In mapping these anomalies the sizing needs to be sufficiently accurate to qualify in-line inspection tools used for crack inspection.