Handheld x-ray fluorescence analysers ensure safe operations

Louise Smyth

Thierry Couturier explains why handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysers are a fast way to ensure safe operations

In the oil and gas, as well as chemical and power generation industries, preventing leaks and spillages via component failure is of vital importance. A reliable and comprehensive positive material identification (PMI) programme is an essential element to ensuring safe plant operation. Handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysers are well suited for fast, easy PMI measurements, providing a cost-effective way to prevent component failures and maintain plant safety.

The key to running a successful PMI programme is taking into account the specific challenges of the industry. In the oil and gas industry, harsh conditions – and the resulting risks of damage – are one of the most important challenges for inspection equipment. Furthermore, due to the scale of a typical plant, traceability and short measurement times – without compromising on reliability – are also critical for success.

Instantaneous grade and composition identification

In the oil and gas sector, pipes, solder, welds, connectors and screws all have to be made of the correct alloy for their application. Due to high temperatures and pressures, mechanical stresses and corrosive substances, use of the wrong type of alloy in one component can jeopardise the safety of an entire pipeline or vessel. In a comprehensive PMI programme, all these components are tested before operation and as
part of in-service inspections – or on an ad hoc basis, for example, in case of a missing certificate.

With the use of XRF technology this type of alloy identification can be carried out in seconds. XRF spectra reveal the relative abundances of metals, which are then automatically checked against a preloaded library of alloys and grades. This approach enables fast decision-making and saves time on PMI inspections.
The sensitivity of XRF analysers also makes the technology well suited for detecting trace elements. This feature enables XRF analysers to be used in other applications, such as corrosion inspection. For example, the presence of trace elements such as Cr, Ni, Cu in carbon steel can indicate RE corrosion in hydrofluoric (HF) alkylation units, or carbon steel with low Si content can exhibit significant accelerated/non-uniform corrosion due to the known sulfidation corrosion process.

Traceability and reliable report generation

A key challenge in the inspection of large plants and structures, such as long pipelines, is traceability of measurements. Even when measurement results are generated quickly, collating the data into detailed reports can make PMI inspections laborious and time-consuming. The large number of measurements involved also increases the risk of human errors in report generation.

To simplify the creation of inspection reports and improve measurement traceability, advanced XRF analysers are equipped with GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and cloud storage. The combination of GPS and timestamping of all measurements saves time on reporting and reduces the risk of errors; easy internet access enables automated data sharing and archiving.

Dealing with the elements

The working conditions in industrial plants are often tough for inspection equipment. Damage due to water, dust, drops or shocks is highly likely when unsuitable equipment is used. Also, due to the layout of a plant it is often necessary to inspect in hard-to-access locations, for example using ladders.

Designed for portability and damage resistance, XRF analysers are well equipped to handle the harsh conditions of oil and gas plants. The devices are lightweight and can be carried in one hand or stored in a holster and worn on a belt. Additional features, such IP ratings, drop-tested design, detector shutter protection and cooling fans make
XRF analysers highly suitable for in-service testing.

Olympus’ Vanta XRF analysers fulfil all the requirements for a reliable efficient PMI programme in oil and gas plants. Vanta’s drop-tested, rugged design and IP65 rating improve return on investment by vastly reducing the risk of damage. These features, combined with fast results that are both accurate and repeatable underline its suitability for PMI programmes that help to avoid part failures and ensure plant safety
and profitability.

Thierry Couturier is with Olympus

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