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Phoenix Inspection Systems has developed an inspection pig, designed to test the inside of oil refinery furnace tubes after cleaning, for pipeline cleaning company Cokebusters.

This development represents an upgrade to Cokebusters’ previous inspection technology, including advances in battery power, ultrasonic accuracy, storage capacity and overall reliability.

It enables the company to offer cleaning and accurate follow-up inspections as part of the same operation.

Cokebusters provides furnace tube and pipeline cleaning services for oil refineries around the world from its base in Chester, UK.

Refinery process tubes require regular cleaning as carbon or coke deposits build up on the tube walls.

Scraper pigs are the most effective way to remove this build-up.

Cokebusters’ pigs, which have a complex laminated construction with gas-filled polymers, combine cleaning strength with flexibility to help prevent damage to walls.

The pigs are forced through the network of furnace tubes by pressurised water and the coke that is removed is filtered out and removed for safe disposal.

Once decoking is complete, ultrasonic inspection can be used to check the tube wall thickness and the success of the cleaning operation.

This latest development means that Cokebusters can carry out inspections as part of the whole operation by replacing the scraper pig with the inspection pig – a 16-channel flaw detector incorporating probes and instrumentation in one compact package.

It can operate independently without an umbilical and log data, which can then be uploaded once the inspection is complete.

The pig is designed for small-diameter tubing in the range of 4in to 8in (10cm to 20cm).

John Phipps of Cokebusters said: ‘Traditionally, decoking and inspection have been carried out by two separate specialist contractors, which adds to plant downtime and makes the whole exercise more difficult to co-ordinate.

‘There are also difficulties with the ultrasonic inspection.

‘Often it requires a complex framework of scaffolding to be set up and there are access problems and hazards for staff working in such environments.

‘The new inspection pig overcomes these problems by allowing internal inspections driven by the same pressurised water system as the decoking pigs.

‘It means we can integrate decoking and inspection as part of the same operation, significantly reducing downtime for plant operators,’ he added.

Dr Chris Gregory of Phoenix said: ‘The new device offers a clever solution to the problems involved in testing complex pipework systems.

‘The technology also has a wide range of other potential uses and having the probe next to the data processing and storage instrument greatly improves detection capability.

‘As a multi-channel flaw detector with autonomous operation, it is ideal for use in hazardous environments or indeed anywhere where there is a need for the remote gathering of ultrasonic data,’ added Gregory.

Phoenix Inspection Systems

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