Ways to Improve Confidence in Tank Inspection
Effective asset management is a critical success factor of any operation.
Tank inspections are an important component of asset management from an operational as well as a regulatory perspective – and the financial implications of failure, degradation or even unscheduled downtime can have a significant bottom-line impact. Unless tanks are adequately inspected and maintained, the consequences can be catastrophic.
Total tank failure is the most severe outcome of inadequate or incomplete inspection and maintenance practices. Take the failure of a 600 000 litre raw water tank at a mine site in Western Australia in May 2018 which saw the outrush of water affecting an operational area of 24 000m2 and the displacement of pumping infrastructure, ladders and associated debris. Thankfully, no-one was in the vicinity at the time of failure, but things could have been different.
The failure was as a result of the structural integrity of the tank deteriorating substantially as a result of corrosion, with a number of other contributing factors including inadequate inspection and maintenance management of the water tank, failure to ensure that the condition of the structure remained within the design limits and failure to assess the structural integrity of the tank by a competent person with appropriate training and experience.
Even degradation, leaks and a slow loss of stored product can have significant consequences – the most likely of which would be environmental damage.
In order to ensure tanks are in optimum condition and to ensure any sign of degradation is flagged timeously and repair work planned and executed accordingly, operations need quality inspection techniques that they trust.
The inspection has to be of the highest quality. The cost of redoing a tank-floor inspection once the vessel has been refilled is huge, so the asset operator has to have full confidence in the quality and ability of the inspection technique and tools as well as confidence in the employee or third party inspection company doing the work.
What equipment/technique is best for tank inspections?
Advances in non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies continue to be made, offering improved outcomes in terms of the likelihood of detection and accurate sizing of defects. A number of different measurement techniques are used in tank inspection and given that each has limitations and advantages, it is critical to make the right selection.
Equipment choices depend on a number of factors including the nature of the material under test, the condition of the tank and the operating conditions, with the most commonly used NDT techniques being Ultrasonic testing (UT), Magnetic particle inspection (MPI) and Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL).
Of course, the technicians would need comprehensive training on these tools and techniques, most of which is available from certified providers. In some instances, it is easier and more convenient to seek professional training on specific technologies from the equipment manufacturers or the suppliers of the technical equipment.
For an asset owner to have full confidence in their tank inspections, they need the following:
- Complete trust in the chosen technique/s and its capabilities
- Complete trust that engineers and inspectors are fully qualified
- Complete trust that inspection personnel have received the best and most up-to-date training
- Complete trust in detailed, effective and proven procedures which are implemented correctly and independently verifiable for compliance
- Complete trust that the inspection procedures will be fully documented and digitally recorded
- Complete trust that the results will be verified and analysed while the tank interior is still accessible
Asset owners may also want to take advantage of new inspection database management software which allows real-time access to inspection results across multiple sites. These tools elevate tank inspections to the next level as they enable live data and document sharing with input from multiple sources as well as historical comparisons of inspections.
As we said earlier, tank failure can be costly and in some instances, catastrophic. However, with the proper attention to selecting the most appropriate technologies, ensuring appropriate training and procedures and by using the best information verification and data analysis systems, asset operators can have full confidence in their tank inspections.
If you’d like to talk to an expert about cost-effective and practical equipment selection for your tank inspection needs or to find out how a custom-designed NDT solution can benefit your bottom-line, give Nexxis a call. Nexxis is a leader in remote visual inspection (RVI) and NDT solutions in Australia and with decades of field experience, we are well-placed to provide reliable, trusted and proven solutions. Contact us now or browse our website to see our extensive range of NDT and RVI equipment for hire or to purchase.