Testing conditions for tank testers.

19/06/2016

In addition to the financial implications of the loss of product, leakage from storage tanks can cause serious environmental damage and represent a grave threat to health and safety. In some circumstances, particularly when the stored materials are combustible or explosive, leakage can result in a major incident involving the loss of life and substantial damage to assets and to an organisation’s brand. Regular inspection of tanks is therefore essential in order to identify any potential for future leaks, arising from corrosion, damage or insufficient material thickness or strength.

The variability in tank type, age and condition means that a wide variety of technologies are required in order to conduct effective inspections. The data derived from this work is used to inform an effective tank maintenance, repair and replacement programme. A rigorous inspection programme therefore reduces risk and avoids downtime; protecting sites from environmental and safety impacts, and the costs associated with decontamination and clean up.

TankInspection_Ashtead

Steve Drake, Ashtead’s NDT Market Manager, believes that the most efficient approach to the maintenance of tank structural and operational integrity is based on a flexible non-intrusive inspection programme. He says: “Routine calendar-based inspections that rely on historical data, such as fabrication material and age, risk ignoring current conditions and environmental factors. In contrast, we have customers using a range of inspection instrumentation that enables the assessment of current tank condition, often without interrupting tank service, so that an appropriate inspection frequency can be determined.

“By employing a range of technologies, inspection engineers are able to ensure that all potential risks are assessed, and that inspection frequency is optimised to minimise costs.”

Inspection also helps demonstrate compliance with relevant standards and codes, and provides reliable data on tank capacity; ensuring safe storage of materials such as chemicals, petroleum products and liquefied gases in both underground and above ground tanks.

A wide variety of technologies are employed for the inspection of tanks, and these instruments are amongst the most popular in Ashtead Technology’s fleet of rental equipment. The company’s customers are able to select instruments for Non Destructive Testing (NDT), providing data for thickness, corrosion, cracks, flaws and weld integrity. Remote Visual Inspection (RVI) instruments are also available to inspect the difficult to access locations that exist inside most tanks.

Tank inspection case study – anaerobic sludge digesters
An Ashtead Technology customer was contracted by a British utility to inspect its anaerobic digestion (AD) tanks. In applications involving potentially explosive gases, an intrinsically safe certified push-rod inspection camera is recommended. Following the development of a customised access point, inspection engineers were able to produce comprehensive images and videos showing the condition of the digester’s roof and walls.

The tanks were fabricated in GFS (Glass-Fused-to-Steel), a material which combines the strength of flexibility of steel with the corrosion resistance of glass. Consequently, GFS is commonly employed in applications with aggressive environments such as those inside anaerobic digesters – high temperature, high humidity, methane and hydrogen sulphide. An intrinsically safe Pearpoint P374 camera system was used to inspect the AD tanks, in conjunction with a digital video recorder.

Commenting on the success of the project, Ashtead’s customer said: “We built a customised ‘launch tube’ on one of the purge points on the roof and attached nylon to the camera tip so that we could video every surface once the probe was lowered into the ‘live’ digester.

“We were delighted with the results of the survey because we were able to demonstrate the condition of the tank very effectively, without having to decommission the digester.

“We were very impressed with Ashtead Technology because they ensured that we utilised exactly the right kit, and it was delivered and collected very quickly, which helped keep our costs to a minimum.”

Vessel inspection case study – chemical manufacturer
A chemical manufacturer in the North West of England had a requirement to inspect a large stainless steel vessel. The contents of the vessel were typically saline and varied between 50 and 100 Deg C, so the site managers were concerned that stress corrosion cracking might be a possibility.

Inspection engineers believed that Eddy Current Testing with the Eddyfi Ectane Surface Inspection System Ectane would be ideal for this application, so an Ectane was taken to the customer’s site to provide a demonstration. To test the Ectane’s ability to detect stress corrosion cracking in 10mm stainless steel, the client provided a test sample for inspection, and a flaw was correctly identified. As a result, Ashtead’s customer was awarded a contract to inspect the vessel and an Ectane was hired specifically for this purpose.

The Ectane is a multi-technology test instrument, and in addition to Eddy Current Testing, it is also able to perform Eddy current array (ECA), Remote-field testing (RFT), Near-field testing (NFT), Magnetic flux leakage (MFL) and Internal rotating inspection system (IRIS) ultrasonic tube testing.

The external inspection of the vessel took around 2 hours and covered a surface area of around 16m2 and the vessel was found to be free from any detectable stress corrosion cracking. Commenting on the effectiveness of the inspection technology, Ashtead’s customer said: “We have been very pleased with the Ectane; eddy current testing worked very well and at just 7Kg and battery powered, the instrument has been well designed for field applications.

“Our engineers wore rubber boots, gloves and goggles, but the Ectane was still simple to operate, partly because it can be run independently of a computer. Once the work was complete, the instrument was connected to an office PC running ‘Magnifi’ software, which is supplied with the instrument, and this provided a quick and easy method for analysing the data and helping to produce reports.”

Specialist tank inspection technology
In addition to a wide range of NDT and RVI equipment, Ashtead’s fleet of rental instrumentation now includes some of the latest technology for fast, effective tank inspection. For example, Silverwing, a leading manufacturer of NDT solutions for storage tanks, vessels and pipe inspection, has appointed Ashtead Technology as its Preferred Rental Partner in the UK. The Silverwing products offer motorised magnetic inspection; the Scorpion for example, can inspect vertical, curved and even overhead surfaces.

Designed for cost-effective A and B-scan inspection on ferro-magnetic structures, the Scorpion is a dry-coupled UT crawler that connects with the UT Lite data acquisition instrument via a 30 meter umbilical cord. This removes the cost and safety issues associated with scaffolding or rope access. The UT Lite is a portable corrosion profiling, mapping and weld inspection system that can also be used in conjunction with the R-Scan; a manual, dry-coupled ultrasonic scanner for a wide variety of assets ranging from 50 mm diameter pipes to flat surfaces.

Other Silverwing additions to the Ashtead Technology fleet include the RMS2 (Rapid Motion Scanner) a high speed (17m2/8 hour shift), high accuracy, remote access ultrasonic corrosion mapping system and the RMS2 ARC accessory for longitudinal scanning on pipe diameters from 24” to 48”.

Summarising the importance of technology selection, Steve Drake says: “Every tank is different; not just in age and material of construction, but also in build quality and operational conditions. The environment can also have a significant impact on tank quality and integrity, as can operational conditions.

“It is vitally important that all potential risks are assessed, which is why we offer such a wide range of the latest technologies; offering customers the opportunity to make sure that they use the most appropriate inspection tools for every tank or vessel.”

@ashteadtech #PAuto #NDT

To Buy, or Not to Buy – that is the question!

14/05/2016
This year marks the 400 anniversary, incredibly on the same day, 23rd April 1616, of the death of two European pioneers in two forms of literature. The first was of course Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra author of the great work of Fiction, Don Quijote de la Mancha, the first modern novel. The second was that great English playwright and poet  Willaim Shakespeare.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Ashtead Technology hath mused upon the merits of renting equipment and compared them with the advantages of purchase.
The text doth contain a few Shakespearean references, but not too many, for an honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.

Several years ago Ashtead Technology was known as Ashtead Technology Rentals, and specialised in hiring the latest technology for those with a short-term or project-based instrumentation requirement. However, many of Ashtead’s customers had a frequent requirement for the same instrument, so the company now also offers instruments for sale. Nevertheless, the decision on whether to rent or buy is affected by a number of factors, and these are discussed below.

Prelude

tobuyortohire

To buy or to sell, that is the question!

Ashtead Technology supplies a comprehensive range of instruments for Non Destructive Testing (NDT), Remote Visual Inspection (RVI), Environmental Monitoring and Health & Safety.

An Engineer’s Midsummer Night’s Dream?
The dream of every test, monitoring and inspection engineer is to have exactly the right instrument, employing the latest technology, in perfect condition at exactly the right time, in the ideal location. However, these dream conditions only exist for a short while after purchase, because technology moves on and once an investment has been made in a specific technology, customers are less likely to be able to take advantage of newer technologies as they arise.

‘Can one desire too much of a good thing?’
When there is a requirement for new instrumentation, the first thought in most people’s minds (except perhaps the Financial Director’s) is generally to consider purchase. This is the best option when there is likely to be a frequent demand for the instrument, or when it can be shared amongst a group. It is therefore important when making the decision on whether to purchase or rent, to check that a purchase decision is not simply based on a personal desire to take ownership. This is because ownership comes with costs; instruments incur an annual cost because they are written off in the accounts over a few years, and because they generally incur other costs such as maintenance, calibration and storage. In addition, money spent on purchases could have been utilised in a more profitable manner – this is the ‘opportunity cost’ of ownership. For example, the capital could have been used to reduce debt, or it could have been invested elsewhere, in stock, staff, training, marketing etc. As the saying goes: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ so if a company with an overdraft purchases instruments, one of the hidden costs is the interest that will be incurred as a result of the purchase.

‘Having nothing, nothing can he lose’
Some of the potential problems with ownership are theft, damage and even loss. Renting avoids these issues and ensures that responsibility and therefore risk is confined to the rental period alone. Occasionally, justification for instrument purchase is made on the grounds of shared use, but this can incur problems – if one user has a requirement in Stratford and another Bankside in London; they may need the kit at the same time, or one user may fail to deliver the kit on-time or in the best condition.

As you like it
Those that rent instruments are able to choose the instrument that best suits their needs. This means more than just having access to the latest technology because renters have the opportunity to select the specification/model that best meets their needs. This is where Ashtead’s experienced and highly trained staff are able to offer help and advice. For example, the choice of NDT equipment is influenced by the material to be tested, how thick it is, the type of flaw to be detected, the application, the skill of the operator etc. Similarly, different gas analysers are required for different gases, and different remote camera crawlers are necessary for different drain sizes.

‘Delays have dangerous ends’
Having chosen the best instrument, it is essential for it to be onsite, in the right place, at the right time, ready for immediate work. This is because a delayed instrument or an instrument that isn’t ready for use (because the last user did not clean it down adequately or because it is out of calibration), can hold up work and waste time or extend downtime in production facilities. This is of spectacular importance in the construction industry – often Ashtead Technology supplies an array of inspection equipment when highways and motorways are closed (at enormous cost) to enable the inspection of bridges for example. Under these circumstances it is vital for engineers to have every piece of inspection equipment available onsite that might be necessary, in case it is.

A comedy of errors
In order to avoid the use of inappropriate equipment, or for equipment to be used in an inappropriate way, Ashtead Technology invests heavily in its fleet of instruments so that customers are able to choose the right kit. Some might say that this is much ado about nothing, but testing, monitoring and inspection is serious work, so Ashtead staff receive regular training from manufacturers so that they can recommend the best instruments and give advice on how they should be deployed.

Many customers regard Ashtead Technology as their instrumentation partner – responsible for constantly reviewing the market and investing in technology, so that they don’t have to.

In summary, it makes sense to purchase when there is a frequent intended use and when the hidden costs of an in-house instrument do not outweigh the advantages of rental. With enormous experience across a wide range of products, Ashtead’s staff are able to provide unbiased recommendations on which kit to use and whether to buy, or not to buy.

WS-MdeC

Two literary giants William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes who both died 23 April 1616


Strategies for equipment inspection and maintenance!

26/09/2015
Will Russell, Senior Technician at Ashtead Technology, examines some of the key features of an effective inspection and maintenance strategy, and explains some of the advantages to be gained from renting specialist equipment.

iniucadhThere can be nothing more frustrating than a vital piece of equipment failing to perform when it is needed most. Not only can this result in infuriating delays and unforeseen expenses, but it can also affect production performance, let down customers and damage a company’s reputation. Maintenance is a vitally important component of risk reduction and is most effective when predictive maintenance is employed in conjunction with an effective test and monitoring regime. However, in order for this monitoring to be as effective as possible, it is necessary to utilise high quality test equipment that is itself well-maintained and calibrated. These instruments should be able to perform the latest tests, employing the latest technologies and running the latest software.

Choosing a maintenance strategy
Regular inspection and maintenance does not necessarily guarantee successful avoidance of downtime. It is important that the correct inspection strategy is adopted and that the quality of the inspection work is sufficient to enable proactive maintenance. Monitoring regimes that are either reactive or preventative are more likely to fail. Where it is assumed that equipment will reach a ‘wear out’ date, preventative maintenance may seek to postpone this, often as part of a conservative maintenance schedule. This time-based approach can be expensive in comparison with a functional and condition-based strategy. Reactive maintenance is very much a ‘fail and fix it’ approach, that is inherently expensive, due to high repair costs and the resulting costs of downtime.

Best practice when maintaining equipment requires a predictive and proactive strategy, which not only monitors actual equipment condition, but also investigates any drop in performance and corrects this at source. This may mean that organisational procedures may need to be changed. For example, if a specific component is found to perform poorly, re-design or the identification of an alternative source may be necessary. Swiftly and expertly responding to equipment condition ensures flawless operation, prolongs equipment functionality and improves economic performance.

Instrument strategy
An efficacious and dynamic maintenance strategy is clearly a major contributor to the reduction of risk and therefore to a company’s success, but there are a number of questions to be considered:

  1. Is the inspection regime designed to identify flaws before they are able to affect performance?
  2. Is an appropriate level of technical expertise available to set up and run the latest inspection instrumentation?
  3. Is the inspection equipment well maintained, calibrated and ready for deployment?
  4. How often is the inspection equipment required?

If the test and inspection equipment is not in frequent use, it often makes sense to rent specific instruments as and when they are required. Rented instruments are also employed when specific technology is required or when an urgent replacement to an in-house instrument is necessary. However, there are numerous other advantages to be gained from instrument hire.

The benefits of renting specialist equipment
The financial advantages of renting are well known; equipment purchase can involve a significant capital cost, particularly for the most advanced inspection instruments, so renting provides an opportunity to only incur operational costs when the technology is required. However, a major advantage of renting is that it provides continual access to the latest equipment. In contrast instrument purchase locks the technology at that moment in time and precludes access to subsequent developments. Ashtead Technology therefore works closely with leading manufacturers to ensure that its fleet of rental instruments offers the latest, most advanced technology. Often this new equipment is easier to use, faster, with improved reporting and a higher probability of flaw detection. Similarly, the breadth of Ashtead’s rental fleet means that customers can select the instrument that is best for their specific job. Rented instruments are delivered at exactly the time and location at which they are required, tested, calibrated and ready for work, so there are no issues with instrument maintenance and storage.

Clearly there are myriad advantages to renting over purchasing specialist equipment, but perhaps the most important is the transferal of responsibility for the product’s condition. Renting equipment from a specialist supplier means that not only are instruments cared for by a team of qualified, skilled engineers that have been trained on these specific instruments, but also that expert technical support, advice and guidance are provided. Instruments are constantly evolving, so their maintenance is often best provided by those with specialist training and experience.

Typical test and inspection equipment includes Non-Destructive Testing instruments, Visual Inspection kit including Videoprobes, Borescopes and Robotic Crawler Cameras and Environmental Monitoring equipment such as dust, vapour, and toxic gas detectors, and water quality monitors.

In summary, a clear inspection and maintenance strategy should be designed to avoid downtime and ensure the smooth operation of a plant whilst minimising costs and utilising the latest technology to ensure that problems are identified before they are able to affect production. Ashtead Technology’s business is founded in the belief that instrument rental provides an opportunity to achieve this.