The goal of this project is to develop a multi-purpose sensor to be run inside a pipeline that can determine ovality of the pipe, structural defects in the pipe, wall thickness, the velocity/flow rate of gas within the pipe, and potentially detect external defects. The sensor will be integrated with an autonomous robotic platform providing a flexible in-line natural gas pipeline inspection tool.
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545
The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has been developing acoustic sensor techniques for pipeline structural integrity monitoring. The LANL sensors included both acoustic and optical measurement techniques (for this test only) as orthogonal sensor systems for added robustness. The focus is now to concentrate on a single acoustic sensor, and integrate it with an autonomous robotic platform under development by independently funded DOE/NETL projects.
In pipeline monitoring, the ultimate objective is to identify the locations that have defects, and obtain an accurate measurement of the defects. During the normal inspection process, it is typically difficult to characterize every kind of defect (e.g., small cracks, gouges, etc.) while a sensor transport system is moving rapidly through the pipeline. It is often desirable to first identify suspect regions (e.g., dents) inside the pipe quickly as the transporter (e.g., robot) is moving through, and then go back to those suspect regions for detailed post analysis at slower speed. This capability to do post analysis at slower speed simplifies the sensor design significantly. The proposed acoustic sensor can be used in both modes, but not simultaneously. It can be switched to the fast mode, where it can detect the presence and measure dents while the robotic transporter is moving at its normal speed. One then switches to the high resolution post analysis mode, where the acoustic sensor determines defects such as gouges and cracks.
The advanced senor under development in this project (when coupled with an autonomous robotic platform) could provide an alternative, highly flexible in-line tool for the inspection of currently un-piggable (un-inspectable) natural gas pipelines.
During fiscal 2005, LANL and DOE determined that the technique being developed was not mature enough to continue further.
July 2005 Project Report: Acoustic Sensor for Pipeline Monitoring [PDF-1687KB]