Julie Russell | Treasurer  | PICA

Julie Russell | Treasurer

Complete Condition Assessments of Pipelines

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Gone are those days when pipeline owners adopted an attitude of replacing pipes based on age or leak frequency. Denver based PICA has introduced In-Line Inspection (ILI) Tools manufactured by Russell to perform “Direct Condition Assessment” (DCA) of water and waste water pipelines. PICA uses “High-Resolution” Remote Field Technology (RFT) developed by Russell in the early 1990’s. High Resolution Tools contain hundreds of highly sensitive detectors which measure the remaining wall thickness of metal pipes. Thickness readings are taken in 1⁄4” increments down the length of the pipelines and in 1” spacings around the circumference. This information allows Asset Managers to proactively manage their buried pipeline assets and extend the life of their pipelines by performing surgical repairs, or targeted, short section replacements.

Dave Russell, President of PICA, and wife and partner Julie Russell, Treasurer, incorporated Russell NDT Holdings and its subsidiary Russell NDE Systems in 1972 and grew the company to become one of the largest NDT service providers in Alberta. Along the way, they recognized that no technology existed for the inspection of steel tubes used in heat exchangers and boilers. Dave discovered “Remote Field Technology” (developed by Shell Oil for down-hole casing inspections) in 1984, and went on to develop the first commercial instrument for the inspection of heat exchanger and boiler tubes in the world, launched in 1988. These advanced instruments are still manufactured by Russell today (Ferroscope 308ET). From these humble beginnings, Dave went on to develop RFT for other applications including Oil and Gas pipelines with internal liners, and water and waste-water pipelines. Dave presents and publishes technical papers at trade conventions across the world and has been active in the establishment of the “body of knowledge”, course content and exams for technicians to become certified RFT technicians. Through his involvement in the NDT brotherhood, he has become known as the guru for all things RFT related.

PICA has introduced new technology for the inspection of Bar-Wrapped and Wire-Wrapped Concrete Pressure Pipe. These pipes are usually critical, large diameter water transmission mains, although they can be used for waste-water as well. “Our technology improves on our competition through its higher sensitivity to cylinder corrosion,” says Dave. “Cylinder corrosion in bar-wrapped pipes is just as structurally important as breakage of the bars or wires”. PICA also offers a small acoustic sphere, known as the “Recon+” that can be run through lines looking for leaks and air pockets. In an instance, the City of Raleigh, NC implemented a proactive approach to evaluating the condition of their critical water transmission mains and raw water mains. PICA was brought on to inspect the pipe using their See Snake tool with remote field-testing technology (RFT). The See Snake tool is deployed as a free-swimming inspection device or is utilized in a tethered application where the tool is winched through the pipeline. Following receipt of the inspection results, there were a number of defects found which has assisted the city greatly in planning their pro-active asset management program.

The company’s plans for PICA are to focus on their North American client base and to grow those customers who have large diameter PCCP mains. They will take on off-shore work if the job size warrants it. PICA is currently exploring the capability of RFT to detect changes in “pre-load” on PCCP pipes. “When the wires break, they no longer put tension on the pipe, so it loses pre-load. This is a unique capability that RFT has and no-one else has looked into it before,” says Dave. “We will be doing a demo project this spring for a customer who has pipe with potential loss of preload caused by wire breaks.”