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Together, we are strong – Innovative Inspection Methods

Sitech has set up the Innovative Inspection Methods Platform. This is a platform on which specialists from the Inspections, Engineering Solutions, IT Solutions, Fire Brigade and Security departments and selected contractors work together not only to make inspections safer, more reproducible and cost-efficient. By setting up this platform, we are responding to increasing demand from customers to limit the need to enter production facilities.

It seems so easy – simply carry out an inspection using a drone fitted with a camera, so that it is no longer necessary to enter a pressure vessel. After all, that would actually be a step forward in terms of safety. Unfortunately, things just aren’t as easy as that in practice. In order to satisfy the legislation governing periodic re-inspections, a visual inspection carried out indirectly (an inspection with the help of a camera) is required to fulfill certain quality requirements, so that the findings from the inspection can be evaluated. A pilot project that we carried out during a Turn Around for one of our customers on the Chemelot site showed that inspections carried out using a drone-mounted camera did not, as yet, fulfill the requirements.

Developing an accredited method ourselves
A survey carried out among various market players showed that no standard method yet existed for indirect visual inspections of this type. “So we decided to develop one ourselves in collaboration with Applus Rvis, a contractor we have worked with on a regular basis in the area of non-destructive testing,” recalled Wilbert Derks, Program Manager Innovations at Sitech. “This resulted in a procedure in which all of the quality requirements for the camera were carefully defined. The procedure for calibrating the camera for carrying out visual inspections was tested in October 2020 and the official acceptance is almost ready.”

Photo: Vacuum crawler with calibrated camera mounted on top

In 2020, we also gained experience in carrying out “Risk-based” inspections (RBI) with the plant in operation. Some of these inspections were carried out for projects and Turn Arounds that had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nico Spronk, Manager Integrity at Sitech: “Customers wanted to be given an idea of the status of assets so that they could be certain that their plant was robust enough to continue operating. By deploying methods such as ultrasound, we were able to demonstrate that welds in pipelines that required testing did in fact comply with the standards. Based on that information, we obtained the requested postponement from the supervisory body. This year, we will also try to have this RBI method accredited so as to enable a more flexible approach towards inspection deadlines.”

Photo: Marcel Warnier (right) watches a demo of a 3D hand-held scanner being used to examine a fissure to an accuracy of 20 microns

Working together to respond to customer need
The pilot project, coupled with increasing demand from the market, formed the reason why the platform was set up. As Marcel Warnier, Mechanical Engineer – Corrosion & Materials explains: “Our scope is broader than simply using cameras and robots in order to prevent us from having to enter a production facility. Our activities also include looking at methods that avoid us having to open production facilities up. These are therefore known as ‘non-intrusive’ inspections.”

The ultimate aim of the platform is that by 2025, it will no longer be necessary to enter production facilities. The Senior Inspection Officer & QA/QC Jolanda Cobben predicts that in the short term, it won’t be possible for all visual inspections to be replaced by indirect methods. Jolanda: “In this type of inspection, quantifying our findings still poses a challenge, but we can already go quite a long way, especially in the case of pressure equipment, in which no failure mechanisms are expected.”

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