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Asset integrity – virtue and necessity

15 October 2017

Mistras Group is a world leader in inspection and integrity services for many of the world’s largest oil companies. “What has made us successful is matching the best technologies to the problem being addressed,” said Tim Walsh, Managing Director of its UK division. Colin Chinery reports.

New deepwater fields, declining efficiencies of aging assets, operational safety and stringent regulations are driving the growth of the asset integrity management services market. A new report estimates the 2023 global worth at close to $37 billion, a remarkable compound annual growth rate of 9%.

In prime position to exploit these opportunities is Mistras Group, a world leader and preferred supplier in providing inspection and integrity services to many of the world’s largest oil companies.

With 5,000 employees including highly-skilled and certified technicians, managers, degree engineers and over 40 PhDs operating in over 100 offices in 15 countries, the US-based Mistras Group is a leading provider of conventional and innovative NDT, inspection and engineering solutions to an ever more demanding world market. 

With a background in acoustic emission technologies, the British division, based in Cambridge, and with offices in Aberdeen, Rotherham, Hartlepool and Bridgend, has grown over the past 10 years through a combination of organic growth and acquisition, and now offers a full range non-destructive testing and monitoring services to the oil, gas and other sectors.

Unique solutions
With its core business of inspection and integrity, Mistras’s unique portfolio of in-house designed advanced inspection equipment and integrity management tools solutions, meets the needs of aging assets affected by the degradation of structures and process systems. Another area being met is the demand for maintaining assets and plants caused by low oil and gas prices.

“Mistras is a technology-led company, and our core expertise is the application of our monitoring and inspection technologies and knowledge to the technical integrity challenges faced by our clients,” said Tim Walsh, Managing Director of the UK division.

“We provide monitoring and inspection services to the upstream and downstream sector, with a roughly 50/50 split between the two. Within the oil and gas industry, we have a strong presence in North America, UK, France, Netherlands and Germany. 

“We also provide specialist monitoring services in the Middle East and Scandinavia, and in addition to oil and gas we also operate in the renewables and infrastructure industries.”  The Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, 23km off the Suffolk coast, is among notable Mistras non-oil and gas joint projects.

Mistras’s advanced oil and gas operational technologies and techniques identify potential damage mechanisms in vessels, tanks, heat exchangers and condensers, rotating equipment and piping. Its world-class enterprise inspection data management and analysis software (PCMS) provides comprehensive and competitive products, systems and services solutions from a single source provider.

With the mechanical and structural integrity of offshore oil and gas structures requiring continuous monitoring to ensure the safety of personnel, asset and environment, Mistras provides both traditional and advanced NDT solutions to offshore industries to assist in these challenging efforts. 

These can determine the condition of piping systems and pressure equipment on-site and with non-invasive, on-stream inspection solutions that optimise both productivity and safety. 

Advanced structural monitoring techniques monitor the production plant and the offshore structure as a whole, including acoustic emission for directly monitoring crack activity and strain gauges and other sensors – all integrated into a real-time, on-line monitoring solution.

For the refining and petrochemical industries, Mistras offers an array of monitoring, inspection and data management services from construction through to operation and maintenance, all underpinned by a 40-year background in the onshore sector.

Asset protection solutions
“Our asset protection solutions enhance the ability of critical infrastructure to operate safely, extend life, minimise costs and meet regulatory requirements”, said Mr Walsh

One of the most prominent new service areas, said Mr Walsh, is technologies for assessing corrosion under pipe supports.

“This problem isn’t new, but recent applications of our technology have enabled us to provide new services that significantly help in managing this problem. In addition, we are also working with the Oil & Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen to support non-intrusive-inspection.”

The NDT inspection of pipework trunnions (pipe supports) within the oil and gas and associated industries has for many years been extremely difficult to achieve due to geometric and access issues limiting the inspection method to the use of mainly radiography.

With radiography requiring the use of ionising radiation, safe barrier distances and all associated safety implications and planning, an alternative method has been sought that negated the use of dangerous substances and does not limit any close by work scopes or personnel performing their duties.

Proprietary technology
Mistras solution to this NDT inspection requirement is the use of proprietary technology allowing the efficient scanning of the trunnion area by an ultrasonic-based method that provides a guided wave scan covering the trunnion footprint.

Depending on its size, it is possible to obtain a full trunnion scan in one take. While larger trunnions require scans from multiple sides to give full coverage, on average it is possible to fully inspect a trunnion within 30 minutes depending on the size of the trunnion and severity of the corrosion.

Advantages of the Mistras method include this fast screening time, minimal personnel (usually one to two technicians depending on the scope of work), minimal equipment (typically one UT set sized unit with probes and leads) and easy deployment by rope access. A and C scan images on a typical colour pallet allow for easy defect identification and categorisation.

Mistras Group’s global annual turnover is $700 million, and with the UK division currently £20 million and climbing, Mr Walsh sees his biggest challenge as developing the capacity to match the opportunity.  

“What has made us successful is our deep understanding of the technologies we use. It’s a strength that arises from our own product base and extensive research and development, enabling us to match the best technologies to the problem being addressed.

“Along with this we invest heavily in the development of staff, and unlike many in our sector, our priority is to build long-term staff resources, with a strong commitment from both sides.”

The go to provider
Catering for the exacting needs of its clients, and with the ability to tailor integrity inspection packages to meet exact requirements, Mistras continues to grow as the ‘go to’ provider of unique products and services that helps ensure the ongoing integrity of new and aging assets.

Meantime the push to new frontiers continues. The Aberdeen-based Oil & Gas Technology Centre has announced a ‘Call for Ideas’; the centre is now looking for robotic deployable technologies specifically directed at lowering the overall operational costs while enhancing, pressure vessel and tank inspections.

It is a vision of fast-evolving technologies which Mistras and Tim Walsh enthusiastically embrace. 

“We believe the sector has undergone a permanent change such that cost-effective and innovative solutions are the key to long-term sustainability.”

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