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BP Uses RFID Sensors to Track Pipe Corrosion

The system, provided by Permasense, enables the oil company to monitor pipe thickness at its refineries worldwide.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 31, 2011Oil company BP is installing a corrosion-monitoring system for steel pipes at its 11 refineries around the world, following several years of testing the RFID sensor system at two refineries to track the corrosion of the metal walls of its oil-bearing pipes. The solution, provided by Permasense—a firm launched by researchers at Imperial College London—allows the oil company to attach the battery-powered wireless sensors to the pipes' exterior, thereby enabling it to remotely measure the thickness of each pipe's walls.

BP first approached Imperial College London for a system that would allow the company to track the condition of its refineries' infrastructure. The research team developed and tested battery-powered waveguide-mounted sensors—for which there are several patents pending—that employ ultrasonic technology to gauge the exact thickness of pipe walls, and then utilize the sensor's built-in radio chip and antenna to transmit that sensor data, along with a unique ID number, via an active 2.4 GHz transmission with a proprietary air-interface protocol.


The Permasense RFID sensor, encased in orange plastic, is mounted to a pipe's exterior.
Oil companies, especially those with an aging infrastructure, can find it challenging to monitor the quality of pipes that carry oil at wells and refineries. Crude oil is highly acidic, according to Peter Collins, Permasense's CEO—and is becoming more so as companies drill deeper wells that can affect oil quality—and can thus corrode the pipes through which it travels. It can be difficult to measure how badly a pipe has corroded, and the speed at which such damage is occurring. Traditionally, oil companies manually inspect their pipes at refineries by shutting down the pipes in question, using an ultrasonic device to measure the thickness of each pipe's metal wall, and then manually recording the results on a spreadsheet.

The process is costly, however, because a refinery's operating units must be turned off in order to accomplish the work. What's more, since manual testing is conducted only once every few years, it does not provide as much data as many companies would like. In addition, Collins says, such testing is prone to error, since it can be hard to identify the exact section of pipe on which a test is being carried out, making it difficult to compare the results of tests previously conducted on that particular pipe. And errors can be made when manually recording data as well.

In 2006, BP approached Imperial College London for potential solutions. Researchers at the university began developing a wireless system to measure pipe walls while the refinery remains in operation, and then wirelessly transmit that information to a gateway, via a mesh network of RFID sensors. The research team tested the system, and built software to capture the measurement data and display it for end users. The solution was first trialed at BP's refineries in Cherry Point, Wash., and Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

USER COMMENTS

F P Sanchez 2011-02-06 04:35:59 PM
RFID Sensors to Track Pipe Corrosion Hello, I would like to know more specification and details of this device. I work in an oil production field and need to verify new techniques to identify the corrosion inside our pipelines. Regards, Franklin Sánchez
Claire Swedberg 2011-02-09 01:39:19 PM
Senior Editor Franklin , Feel free to contact me directly to share what details you are looking for. cswedberg@rfidjournal.com
Reader 2011-02-15 12:45:19 AM
mobolaji akinwunmi Sir, please can you give me more information and data on the rfid monitoring device for monitoring corrosion in the oil pipe lines. I have interests in the nigerian oil industry where we have a lot of pipeline leakages due to corrosion
Ibrahim Katibi 2011-08-15 01:46:00 AM
thesis on rfid sir pls i m a communication technology student in final year and i intend to write my thesis on design and implementation of rfid technology in monitoring pipeline in nigeria petroleum industry please i need your help to get research material. thanks
Reader 2012-04-15 10:15:36 PM
DETECTION OF CORROSION I m a student of instrumentation engg & i would like to know how the practical implementation of this sensor and specifications of it !! my mail id is hemachandran89@gmail.com
Biodun Obileye 2013-06-05 10:21:35 AM
RFID with sensors - tracking of Oil and Gas telemetry data within Process, Instrumentation & other application areas (temperature, pressure, humidity, flow rate and shock). We are interested in talking to companies who have tried and tested solutions for these Use Cases please. My email address is biodun@dynakonsult.com

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