The specialised subsea RTD INCOTEST control housing fitted to a remotely operated vehicle for work in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy Applus RTD.

ENERGY Services provider Applus RTD has expanded its Perth-based non-destructive testing (NDT) team following major contracts in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Africa, with the launch of its Advanced NDT and Subsea Inspection Division.

The new facility, at its Bibra Lake base, is designed to support global subsea operations with a re-energised and dedicated team.

The division joins the Advanced NDT Group, which for some 15 years has been providing a range of subsea inspection services supported by the company’s Applications and Technology Centre in Perth.

As the global market grows, the need for subsea inspection activities combined with asset integrity management has also expanded.

This has led to the creation of a dedicated division focused on this critical area for inspection services.

Key to the success of the new Advanced NDT and Subsea Inspection operation is the way inspection technologies can be used with deployment vehicles.

Working together with colleagues in Houston, Applus RTD Australia is currently exploring options for partners, and looking to maximise a greater share of what it says is a valuable and highly profitable activity.

The expansion and development planned to be undertaken by the group during 2014 will include assuming new responsibilities for interfacing and integration of equipment, modules and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) deployment, mechatronics, subsea advanced inspection methods and diver and ROV deployment tools.

Applus RTD will also look to increase the range of advanced inspection engineering for underwater applications, including conducting a full inspection of subsea welds, including discontinuities, anomalies, cracking, and weld corrosion, as well as a pipeline thickness analysis without the need to remove coatings among others.

The company recently recorded significant success with this in using its RTD Incotest eddy current testing system in a subsea inspection operation in the Conger and Penn State deep fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

The purpose of the inspection was to test for evidence of corrosion under marine growth plus external coating and internal wall loss at selected locations on a 13.5 kilometre subsea flow line.

This involved inspection of the various flow lines connecting subsea wells, manifolds and risers in a complex network.

The inspection took equipment down to depths of up to 500 metres below sea level, and as such used a third party ROV to deploy the specialised subsea RTD Incotest equipment which had been developed by the Australia-based Applus RTD Advanced NDT and Subsea Division team.

The RTD Incotest system has the distinct advantage over other NDT techniques in that the inspection could be performed without the need to remove any protective coating from the pipework, Applus RTD said.

To ensure that the RTD Incotest equipment would integrate with the ROV once offshore, an integration test was performed at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston.

This provided an exceptional opportunity to ensure a seamless integration between RTD Incotest equipment and the ROV, and to make certain that the project could be completed within the designated time frame and without incident.

The inspection operation was a great success – it was completed on schedule and within budget.

A second such operation saw the RTD Incotest system deployed 800 metres subsea offshore Equatorial Guinea.

Applus RTD said this contract was particularly challenging, being carried out by ROV-deployed RTD Incotest facilities in several hundred locations over a 9 kilometre length of subsea pipeline.

Most of the lines were in places that proved difficult to access, as well as being insulated by a covering of marine growth.

RTD Incotest proved to be the ideal solution for inspection requirements as it allowed testing of thickness profiles of the lines, bends and valve arrangements.

The RTD Incotest inspection was performed in-service, on eight inch and ten inch diameter pipelines and pigging loops located in the Subsea Field in Equatorial Guinea, West Africa.

The inspection was carried out using a third party ROV, and was intended to detect evidence of corrosion on the pipelines with insulation and external cladding up to 60mm thick.

The original scope of the work was extended to cover various jumper line intersections, and the complete project – which was carried out in 800 metre deep water – was a success and delivered valuable data and inspection results.