ERW pipe materials, particularly those manufactured prior to 1970, have exhibited higher rates of failures from seam manufacturing defects than other types of pipe materials. Typically, the seam bond line regions of low-frequency (LF) and direct-current (DC) welded ERW pipe materials exhibit poor resistance to manufacturing defects. The toughness of the bond line region is difficult to determine, and it is likely to vary from one piece of pipe to another.
Pipeline operators must address the risk of ERW seam failures as part of their integrity management plans, but it is unlikely that they will know the toughness levels in the seams of their pipelines comprised of such materials. To avoid having to know the toughness levels in the seams, a pipeline operator can utilize a hydrostatic test to verify the integrity of a vintage ERW pipeline, but there are disadvantages the main one being that the pipeline must be taken out of service. Most likely an operator will choose to use an ILI crack tool to locate ERW seam anomalies to avoid having to take the pipeline out of service. Even if the seam defects can be located, correctly sized, and classified, however, the operator may have no idea of the effective toughness that is the key to deciding whether or not a given crack has to be excavated and repaired.
Presented herein are two options for improving the effectiveness of an ILI integrity assessment of a pipeline with low toughness ERW seams.
• Option 1 involves assuming a conservative level of toughness. Some such levels are available in the publicly available documents. Data from a large database of ERW seam failures are used to show the effectiveness of a fixed level of toughness at identifying critical defects while minimizing unnecessary digs.
• Option 2 consists of first: back-calculating the toughness levels associated with the known crack sizes and failure pressures of the defects in the database of ERW seam failures, and second: calculating the probability that each type of defect would have been correctly identified at a particular level of confidence using a particular level of toughness.
Using either of these options, a pipeline operator can improve the effectiveness of an ILI-crack-tool integrity assessment of a pipeline comprised of LF or DC welded ERW seams by reducing the number of unnecessary excavations while still being able to find the critical defects with an acceptable level of confidence.