Interview Series: Stuart Kenny on Tank Inspection

Priscilla Johnson

Content Marketing Lead

Having started his NDT career in 2003 at TWI, Eddyfi Technologies’ General Manager – Silverwing, Stuart Kenny, has a strong background in NDT services and academics, holding a master’s degree in NDT and industry Level III’s in UT, PAUT, and TOFD. His work history includes advanced NDT at power stations and 10 years at Oceaneering where he started as a principle engineer in UT and left as the global manager of the advanced NDT division. Given his deep understanding of the industry, he provides insight on the future of tank inspection here.

Having spent so much time on the service side, what brought you to Eddyfi Technologies?

When involved within the department of advanced NDT at Oceaneering, tank inspection was a subset of the division and regarded as a target sector of growth potential. Having used Silverwing products exclusively for this sector, it was an exciting opportunity to join the Eddyfi team and get involved with technology implementation from a different angle. I have witnessed tank inspection technology employed locally in the UK but also in more exotic locations like Nigeria and felt I could contribute to the business ambitions within the Eddyfi group. When I joined Eddyfi two years ago, I was excited by the prospect of different challenges encountered from the manufacturing side having already established relationships with the Silverwing team.

What would you say industry has taught you stepping into the equipment manufacturing side?

A lot of technology that is being designed at the moment attempts to fix a specific industry problem and sometimes this design hasn’t considered other problems that could simultaneously be addressed and solved. Development projects require lateral thinking, and I find myself being challenged by non-NDT people within the group to think further and to consider other problems that could be addressed with a similar approach. I also have learnt that although it is vital to address our immediate client requirements, we must also understand what their customers need as a final product.

With Eddyfi Technologies offering multi-technologies, how should technicians approach tank inspection knowing when to use what?

That’s actually one of the great benefits of Eddyfi Technologies. Because we offer all modalities of NDT, all aspects of tank inspection are covered from a trusted provider. The Silverwing product line carries a long history of providing conscious effort tank inspection and integrity solutions. The tank floor is the largest part of the tank and it is vital to maximize coverage and reliably detect defects within the load bearing annular section of the floor plates. The Silverwing Floormap tank bottom inspection system combines Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL) and Surface Topology Air-gap Reluctance Sensors (STARS) to ensure complete coverage. When it comes to the tank shell, we offer the Silverwing Scorpion 2 dry-coupled remote access ultrasonic crawler, while some clients use the RMS PA phased array corrosion mapping scanner for 100% tank shell coverage. Across other technologies, ACFM for tank weld inspection offers cost savings without surface preparation. And remote visual inspection with the Inuktun MaggHD is a great option for tank roof inspections.

How has COVID-19 impacted tank integrity assessments?

It has not had a huge impact on the tank inspection product portfolio. Essential work is permitted and although deferment is an option, it creates a backlog for inspection. It is interesting, I took part in an online conference recently where a health and safety advisor spoke about three asset owners who tried to defer inspection because of COVID. In one case, the asset owner was required to take the asset offline until inspection could be performed. It’s our job to ensure our solutions make inspection efficient with high probability of detection, user friendly GUIs, and easier inspections.

With an increased demand for inspection to enable recommissioning tanks, another consequence of this pandemic, sales have remained consistent. We’re also seeing regular rentals through Ashtead and Oceanscan, a great option that replaces CAPEX requirements.

Automated work with remote access is coming to the forefront. I wrote an article that talks about an inspection performed 3,000 miles away remotely. This is the new pattern going forward. There’s an opportunity to save costs without mobilization and remote work.

On that note, how big of a role do robotics play in tank inspection?

Automation and robotics undoubtedly make equipment manufacturing efficient and offer working improvements. That being said, we need to be careful that we do not promote robotics just for the sake of robotics. We’ve seen a trend within industry that sometimes appears as people looking for problems that robotics could fix, instead of focusing on maximizing the use of robotics in the areas in which they can benefit. Oil companies always used to ask if the solution could go on a robot – whether or not it was more productive and cost efficient. We need to make sure we avoid the risk of overengineering solutions and concentrate on the applications where robotic solutions can have a real impact.

There’s a role for both, and there needs to be a balance. We should continue to focus on removing humans from risky environments and using robotics to improve data consistency and reliability. It is clear that robotic technology is developing at a rapid rate and there is a real opportunity to collect data in difficult-to-access environments.

What other trends have you witnessed in tank inspection?

We’re moving away from manual inspection that can often rely on subjective reporting and inconsistent results. The NDT industry now expects to use accurate, automated, and recorded datasets to help maximize the efficiency of integrity assessments and maintenance programs. In-service inspection allows technicians to check throughout for changes and calculate differences in real-time.

Automated defect recognition or ADR has become a popular target for asset owners, allowing for the software to make decisions on defects and acceptance levels. However, the trust in software to make the final decision will take some time to build up and I believe the main driver should be towards ‘assisted’ defect recognition platforms that guide the qualified inspector and not totally replace them. Inspection and detection are a shared responsibility, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What’s driving these changes?

Right now, reports are mostly paper based featuring recommendations by the technician. There has been a goal to go paperless and there’s a new technology on the horizon that’s accomplished that. We’re moving into an age of inspection where no pen or pencil will be required. We all know that the standards for operating tanks involves two main codes, API and EEMUA. There are historical practices with known repair and maintenance requirements. But at the end of the day, traceability is what gives confidence to asset owners. They want more reliability and Silverwing products offer that by identifying areas of concern through software with traceable work for the end user and the ability to audit results.

What else can you tell me about this new technology?

If you’re involved in tank inspection, then you’ll want to save the date, November 10, for a big announcement. Without getting too specific, we’re changing the game with the ability to inspect curved and straight sections with the same tool – which is an industry first – and provide the exact features needed that speak to the traceability I mentioned. It all comes down to better coverage, minimum detectability, and smaller defects found presented in a coherent way. All asset owners have their own integrity management system they input data into, and we have to be mindful that our software integrates with theirs. The output needs to be as user friendly as possible.

So often the engineers making decisions are not in NDT. It’s our job to provide the final NDT dataset in a way that makes it easy for decisions. We’ve accomplished that with a reporting package that stitches data together and automatically provides a list of defects. It paints a picture for non-MFL users, and engineers can request repairs confidently.

What final piece of advice would you offer newbies and seasoned veterans in tank inspection?

When you’re considering new equipment, Eddyfi Technologies isn’t just another manufacturer. It’s so important to look for a supplier that is also a company of NDT experts who can offer sound advice on NDT practices. Our after-sales support and experience from all product lines are strong, and the company’s acquisitions have contributed to this expertise. This is very different from the competition. A purchase doesn’t end at the sale here – we’re here to discuss techniques, design, standards and more.

I appreciate your time and thank you for your insights here, Stuart!

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