GE Energy said it has adapted ultrasound technology used in hospitals to create the most advanced inspection tool for evaluating the “health” of liquid pipelines.


GE Energy’s UltraScan¬® Duo is the oil and gas industry’s first pipeline inspection gauge (“pig”) to utilise “Phased Array Ultrasound Technology,” an automated sensor system GE adapted to perform comprehensive pipeline inspections in a single run.


GE Energy’s pipeline solutions group developed UltraScan Duo, leveraging technology from GE Healthcare and GE Transportation’s inspection services unit.


The two businesses are leaders in phased-array ultrasound technology for medical imaging and non-destructive inspection applications, respectively. GE’s Global Research Centers also participated in the product’s development.


In a statement, GE said: “The system’s technology is similar in principal to that of high-capacity, phased-array radar units that can simultaneously track a large number of targets.


UltraScan Duo’s advanced sensors can be automatically adjusted to measure multiple types of defects. Since metal loss and pitting require a perpendicular signal angle while angular sound beams are used to measure cracks, GE’s tool is superior to conventional ultrasonic pigs with fixed-angle sensors, which can only measure one type of defect in a given run.


By contrast, the UltraScan Duo features clusters of small sensors, with each sensor controlled by a powerful, on-board computer. The size, strength and angle of each cluster’s signals are adjusted to measure external metal losses, mid-wall defects, and internal and external cracking.


The large amount of data is processed on-board the pig and is stored pending further analysis. GE’s pipeline analysts can later access that information in a single data stream, providing the customer with a faster and more precise pipeline “checkup” report.


As a result, GE’s UltraScan Duo reduces a given inspection project’s costs and overall impact on the customer’s operations.


“GE Energy’s new UltraScan Duo represents a pioneering achievement in the oil and gas industry as the first pigging tool to use phased-array ultrasound technology,” said Claudi Santiago, president of GE Energy’s oil and gas operations. “This collaborative effort is yet another demonstration of how we can leverage our technological expertise from across our business groups to develop industry-leading solutions for our customers.”


Mr Santiago also praised the contributions of the company’s two project partners. Forschungszentrum Karlsrughe of Germany, GE Energy’s pipeline solutions technology partner, jointly built the tool’s on-board data compression unit. Enbridge Pipelines of Alberta, Canada, is GE Energy’s North American partner in developing the tool’s operating specifications and will field-test the new tool.


GE Energy’s pipeline solutions group is based in Northumberland, England and is a part of GE’s global oil and gas business headquartered in Florence, Italy.