What lies beneath

A team of Victoria researchers is using a sci-fi sounding technique involving hundreds of magnetic sensors to find corrosion in metal pipelines where the eye can’t see.

Joseph Bailey working with a newly designed device

One of the biggest issues facing refineries and industrial plants is keeping a clean bill of health—especially for their pipeline infrastructure. Carrying out health checks on these parts is difficult and time-consuming, over kilometres of potentially corrosion-ridden metal.

“Pipeline corrosion is not obviously visible, as the pipes are covered by insulation. This normally requires removing the insulation to check underneath,” says Arvid Hunze, a senior scientist at Victoria’s Robinson Research Institute.

“We’re developing a system to detect corrosion without removing the insulation. The system sends electromagnetic fields through the insulation into the pipe, inducing eddy currents, which change in the presence of corrosion.”

Engineer Joseph Bailey is currently building a prototype with more than 200 magnetic sensors.

“Essentially, there is a ring of sensors and magnetic excitation around the pipe, which will move along so we get a very high resolution picture of the whole surface,” says Joseph. “We tested the idea in a laboratory setting and received very strong and accurate signals.”

The group is collaborating with Qi2, a technology incubator in the United States that has a patent pending on this approach, with Joseph and Arvid being co-inventors, as well as Quest Integrity Ltd, a local asset integrity management company that initially approached Robinson with the corrosion challenge.