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Forensic Plastic Pipe Analysis

Current Challenges


Polyethylene (PE) pipes constitute over 60% of the gas distribution supply in the UK with the age of some of the early plastics in the network approaching 60 years. Flaws in PE gas pipe can be generated during different stages of the manufacturing process (from raw materials to finished components), during installation and commissioning, or during operation. There is therefore a strong asset management need to identify and assess historic pipeline assets as well as new ones to assist lifetime assessment in the case of long term installations and to quality assure the installation of new pipelines.

Current challenges faced by the industry include:
  • Identification of historic gas pipe and fittings
  • Quality assessment of welded joints and fittings
  • Compatibility and interoperability of multiple pipe and fitting suppliers including new entrants in PE polymer supply and pipe and fitting manufacture
  • Validated inspection techniques and procedures
  • Life estimation
  • Flaw detection and acceptance criteria for natural gas networks and future hydrogen gas networks
  • Up skilling installation personnel through training and qualification.

Purpose of Inspections


The purpose of inspection prior to commissioning is to:
  • Identify deviations from specifications or functional requirements as early as possible;
  • Form a basis for corrective actions.
During service, the role of inspection is to:
  • Assure high levels of safety and regularity during operation;
  • Form a basis for maintenance evaluation/planning (including "fitness-for-purpose");
  • Contribute to the improvement of current and future design.
The Purpose of forensic inspection is to:
  • Determine modes of failure in historic gas pipe
  • Asses ageing of out of service pipes
  • Contribute to improvement of future installations and form basis of corrective actions.

Inspection Capability at Kinectrics


Kinectrics has a UK based in-house leading edge and world class capability for forensically analysing plastic pipes and fittings as part of our service offering to the gas distribution community. This facility is capable of analysing plastic service pipe sections using both destructive and non-destructive methods during all stages in the lifetime of a pipe from manufacture, installation, in service and post service forensics. For our clients, we can analyse failed or suspect pipes and joints and report back the polymer properties, condition and likely mode of failure.

Kinectrics can provide inspection and data processing methods capable of:
  • Pipe and pipe-fitting materials identification and differentiation
  • Correlation with “intrinsic” materials property measurements
  • Correlation with measured mechanical properties such as tensile modulus, elongation to break and impact fracture toughness
  • Correlation with gas pipe long-term failure test metrics such as slow crack propagation rate and the C-ring and/or 800C pressure test
  • Correlation with pipe lifetime metrics such as those related to ductile failure, stress corrosion cracking and oxidation induced embrittlement failure (ISO9080).