Historical data shows around 60% of pipe leaks are caused by corrosion, which is just one of the causes of potential failure in critical equipment. Knowledge of corrosion and vulnerabilities in pipes and tanks can help to ensure that any threat to smooth operations - and to the safety of workers - is solved before it happens, and that is what Eddyfi helps operators to achieve.
The company specialises in non-destructive testing (NDT) equipment, specifically high-performance eddy current and electromagnetic solutions for the inspection of critical components and assets. Established in 2009 in Quebec, Canada, the company is developing eddy current array (ECA) technology for a range of markets, including oil and gas, transport and nuclear power, and for the past 30 years, one of its key subsidiaries, TSC, has been developing revolutionary alternating current field measurement (ACFM) systems.
"The original founders of Eddyfi have backgrounds in the inspection industry, particularly in electromagnetic inspection, and they saw a gap in the market for advanced electromagnetics. They focused on one aspect of magnetic inspection, which is eddy current arrays, and basically developed that to its full potential," says Dr Mike Smith, Eddyfi's director of technology and innovation.
Eddyfi now has four subsidiaries, including Swanseabased Silverwing, which focuses on the inspection of storage tanks and vessels using magnetic flux leakage (MFL) techniques. In 2017, Eddyfi bought TSC, based in Milton Keynes, UK, to bring into its portfolio a technology that has been in development since the 1990s, in order to replace difficult-to-use methods of finding and characterising surface cracks in subsea environments.
ACFM senses disturbance in the electromagnetic field created by cracks. The return signal is converted into alerts, immediately warning operators of any defects. Independent testing has shown ACFM misses fewer defects than magnetic particle inspection (MPI), as well as the more conventional eddy current testing (ECT).
"These electromagnetic technologies are particularly good at the surface inspection of metals, looking for cracking - particularly stress corrosion cracking - and other damage mechanisms, but with some conventional techniques, you need to remove the paint or coating from a structure. So, if you if are inspecting a well you may need to strip it right back to bare metal. Our technology enables you to do this inspection without removing the coating. So, there's a huge potential for cost and time saving, and you are not interrupting the reason the coating is on there in the first place, which is usually as a barrier against environmental weathering," remarks Smith.
ACFM can support in-land-based safety and testing applications, but its key advantages come in when displayed within deepwater environments.
"We can distinguish between the wide variety of defects failure mechanisms. The advantage of this is not only that we can avoid unplanned, shutdowns and outages, but also that only tubes that are actually damaged are replaced. These technologies are typically able to characterise defects more thoroughly, so you have information about the depth of defects, beyond what you may see on the surface. And it's typically the depth of a defect that is key when determining its severity and the remaining life of the structure, which informs the type of repair that is going to be done," says Smith.
"The two main technologies are ACFM, which is excellent at detecting surface breaking cracks through the subsea paints and coatings, and the pulsed eddy current (PEC) system, which can detect corrosion under insulation and thermal jackets subsea. And TCS has developed a range of tooling for ROVs that has been used on a lot of different sorts of different geometries subsea. The advantage here is primarily in safety," he adds.
In the harsh subsea environment, improving safety, cutting costs and saving time are high priorities. The esteemed output of Eddyfi belies use of the technology to achieve all three of these goals.