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Ultrasonics, Corrosion and SHM - the Story of Permasense Ltd.



The oil and gas sector produces fuels that meet more than 50% of the world’s energy demand. It handles unrefined fluids that come straight from a reservoir deep in the earth’s crust. The crude oil often is an unpredictable cocktail that constantly corrodes and erodes the plants that have been built to refine it. While corrosion costs the world about 3% of GDP/annum, the oil and gas sector proportionally spends much more to guarantee integrity of its assets. Unexpected shut downs cost millions of dollars per day in lost production alone, however catastrophic failures can be even more costly. Historically, to mitigate the risk of failures, refineries carry out wall thickness surveys at regular intervals by performing manual spot check ultrasonic thickness measurements. These infrequent measurements had poor repeatability. Our research at Imperial College London resulted in the development of the first wireless, permanently installable ultrasonic thickness gauge, delivering precise on demand measurements. The spin-off company Permasense Ltd was formed to develop and commercialise the technology with the aim to make a complete SHM system available to industry. To date the company has supplied more than 15000 sensors to the O&G industry and more than 15 million wall thickness measurements have been made. In 2016 Permasense Ltd was acquired by Emerson, a multi-national corporation. This talk will describe how the system works and challenges we encountered when bringing the technology from the lab to the field. Finally, we will reflect on general lessons that can be learned from the process.


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