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Impact Labs hopes to improve the processes involved in pipeline welding by developing destructive and non-destructive testing systems.

‘Most modern utility pipes have already undergone rigorous testing in order to prove their capability and that the pipe has a high level of integrity,’ said Kevin Ross, who is heading up the development at Impact.

‘However, welds are the weak point of the pipeline system,’ he added.

Overall, pipeline systems integrity can be compromised by a variety of contracting and installation practices around the globe.

The bulk of Impact’s workload comes from utilities, major industrial users and pipeline contractors.

‘Most clients need destructive testing of both electro fusion and butt-welded joints,’ said Ross.

‘Samples are sent to us from the field to analyse and our results help influence the ongoing contract practice and the management of the project being undertaken.

‘Our services are, essentially, a part of customer assurance,’ he added.

There have been several advances in plastics pipeline welding practices as the equipment has become more sophisticated, often with built-in GPS and bar code recording of individual welds to give traceability.

However, according to Impact, most of the utility industries agree that a large variation in weld quality remains.

Most of this is due to variation in contracting practice and at the interface in the field.

This comes down to the quality of the welding machine and the skill and training of the machine operator.

In order for welded pipeline joints to be effective, the two pipe ends need to be heated and be allowed to flow with the joint; creating ductile conditions so that the joint behaves in a similar fashion to the pipe.

Common faults in this process include overhearing or under cooking of the weld, dirt and misalignment.

Future solutions will embrace non-destructive testing (NDT).

‘The idea is to be able to test welds in situ in real time,’ said Ross.

‘In tandem with our destructive testing methods, we are working towards developing an NDT system that can be deployed in the field,’ he added.

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