Can Borescopes Be Used in Oil and Gas Inspections?

Borescopes are specialized devices used to perform inspections in a variety of industries. They are commonly used by technicians in the aerospace industry, and by mechanics to view the internal components of mechanical equipment. Borescopes are also frequently used to perform inspections within the oil and gas industry.

Let’s examine the various applications of borescopes in oil and gas.

Oil and Gas Operations

Oil and gas is a $232 billion industry that employs tens of thousands of workers across the country. The extraction, refinement, and storage of oil and gas relies on several different processes. Specialized equipment such as compressors, gas separators, and heaters are typically used in these processes.

Such equipment is subjected to high pressures, high temperatures, or corrosive materials. These conditions can jeopardize the safety of this equipment and lead to equipment failure. A single failure in any of these components can endanger the lives of employees and lead to spillage of a significant quantity of oil.

For this reason, oil and gas companies perform routine inspections of the pipes, compressors, and other equipment at their facilities.

Inspections at Oil & Gas Facilities

Visual inspections are the primary inspection technique used in oil and gas. Issues such as cracks, defects, corrosion, or leaks can all be identified visually. Visual inspections are categorized as a non-destructive testing (NDT) method.

Other types of non-destructive testing include:

Ultrasonic Methods

This testing method uses high frequency sound waves to identify defects in internal components. An ultrasonic transducer transmits sound waves which come into contact with the internal surfaces of pipes and other equipment. The device then receives the reflected wave back, and analyzes the difference between the transmitted and received wave to detect cracks or weld problems. This technique is also especially useful for determining thickness changes in pipes.

Thermography

Thermography refers to a testing method that relies on temperature differences between equipment and the surrounding environment. Thermographic camera equipment scans for these differences and uses it to create a thermal image through which pipe leaks or defects can be identified.

Radiography

Radiography is an inspection method that uses X-rays or electromagnetic radiation that penetrates through surfaces. This provides a detailed image of the external as well as internal surfaces of both metallic and non-metallic materials.

Acoustic Emission Testing

Acoustic emission testing is similar to ultrasonic methods in that they both use sound waves. However, acoustic emission testing tools monitor acoustic emissions that are produced by a material under stress or undergoing failure.

Why Visual Inspections Are Preferred in Oil and Gas

The testing methods mentioned above have their unique distinct advantages. However, they are used less frequently than visual inspections.

The primary tools used in visual inspections are borescopes. These devices typically consist of an optical system with a camera, a lengthy probe onto which the camera is mounted, and a display for viewing images and videos.

The probe is usually pushed or lowered into a pipe or any other confined space and produces a live video feed to the mounted display on the device.

Borescopes are used in oil and gas inspections for the following reasons:

Cost-effectiveness

Using a borescope can be more cost-effective than using other NDT methods. This equipment costs next to nothing to set up, and is simple enough for most technicians to operate. By contrast, specialized technicians may be required to perform thermography or radiography inspections.

Borescopes can also be rented for on a daily basis or weekly basis. This makes them an affordable option for oil and gas facility managers that wish to investigate a suspected crack or defect.

Portability

Borescopes are among the most portable inspection devices available. Most models weigh only a few kilograms and can run on batteries. This makes them useful for conducting inspections in remote areas where other equipment cannot be transported.

For example, oil pipelines can be hundreds or kilometers long. Many of these pipelines pass through remote regions where a single electrical outlet may not be available. Using a battery-powered device for inspections in these areas is far more convenient than using other inspection equipment, as they may require bulky power units to supplying electricity.

Inspections in Real Time

Borescope inspections are also favored due to their ability to view and display internal components in real time. Operators won’t need to wait for the equipment to collect data and then create an image at a later time. The display mounted on these devices allows you to view the image as the camera is passing through a pipe or a piece of equipment.

This enables you to spot any defects or imperfections that could compromise the safety of the pipe or equipment, and then maneuver the probe camera focus on it. This may seem like a relatively basic advantage; however, it can be difficult to perform similar inspections using other equipment.

When you are inspecting a pipe section that is tens or possibly hundreds of feet in length, being able to adjust the camera probe to view a particular defect up close can be advantageous. Borescopes have built in LEDs to illuminate the area being viewed by the camera, and include image adjustment features to help you see a clear image in high resolution.

Where Can I Purchase or Rent Borescopes?

Borescopes should always be purchased or rented from a reliable retailer such as USA Borescopes. We offer a wide variety of borescope models that come in different sizes, such as 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, and 8mm models. Most of our models are waterproof, and some are even rated to function in hazardous environments.   Explosion Proof Borescopes are available in different configurations.   The only certified Intrinsically Safe Borescope is the P374 System.   This system offers a 1 inch diameter camera head with 200 feet of push rod.

There are various Class 1 Div 2 borescopes including the XP Series that is available in 4, 6 or 8mm diameters with various probe lengths.   A popular borescope for law enforcement and contraband inspections is the FVVS680 Borescope as this system has an available support kit such as gas tank opener, window wedge and flexible guide tube to support automotive gas tank inspections.

The certified hazardous inspection borescopes are a significant investment and if you application doesn’t require this level of safety you can consider other affordable borescope options or lower cost pipe snake cameras.

If you are overseeing operations at an oil and gas facility, a borescope can make inspections a more cost-effective and efficient process. Get in touch with our experts to learn which borescope models are best for oil and gas inspection applications.

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