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RussianJournalof Nondestructive Testing, Vol.36, No. I, 2000,pp. 64--67.Translatedfrom Defekwskopiya,No. 1, 2000,pp. 83--87.

OriginalRussian TextCopyright9 2000by Giller,Mogirner.


Ultrasonic Testing of Welded Joints in Pipelines.

New Techniques and Instruments
G. A. Giller* and L. Yu. Mogil'ner**
*VNIIST Stock Company, Moscow, Russia; **Polytest Resarch and Production Company, Moscow, Russia
ReceivedJuly 12, 1999

Abstract--The paper describes a technique for ultrasonic testing of welded joints in pipelines of small
diameters (10 to 530 mm) with thin walls (2 to 10 mm). A highly efficient technique of ultrasonic test-
ing using "chord" transducers with elastic protective covers in combination with general- or special-
purpose flaw indicators is suggested. The technique has been practically tested for several years.
Possibility of recording results of ultrasonic tests with the help of specialized portable instruments is
discussed. Results of practical utilization of the developed techniques and instruments in detecting real
defects are given.

Pipelines connected to power-generating facilities are usually treated as hazardous objects. In order to
guarantee their operation without accidents, modem techniques for testing the quality of welded joints are
needed so that accident-prone defects could be found in the processes of pipeline construction, recon-
struction, and repair. The need in such techniques is especially urgent in the case of small-diameter
pipelines, which are traditionally deemed "inconvenient" for flaw detection.
Our research performed during the latest years has enabled us to develop instruments for fast ultra-
sonic testing of welded butt joints with diameters of up to 500 mm and wall thicknesses of 2 to 10 mm.
Such pipelines are commonly used for feeding oil and petrol products, in gas-supply networks in pop-
ulated areas, in thermal power plants, and in other industrial facilities characterized as highly haz-
Traditional radiography methods cannot be used sometimes in testing such pipelines, and available
techniques of ultrasonic testing are characterized by an insufficient flaw detection probability. Therefore,
development of reliable and fast methods of pipeline testing has become a topical problem.
In developing this method, we did our best to take account of specific conditions in which the
pipelines are operated and of some structural features of their welded joints. In particular, these
pipelines have thin walls, the repair of their welded joints is relatively easy and inexpensive, and cri-
teria of their quality have been described in detail in official documents (at least, this concerns steel
After analyzing these factors and a set of others, we based our ultrasonic technique for detecting flaws
in welded seams of pipelines on the following ideas:
defects should be detected only in the main cross section of a welded seam;
- - defects are detected in welded seams without measuring depths at which they are located in the walls;
- - testing of welded seams is performed at two levels of the instrument sensitivity of, namely, the detect-
ing and sorting sensitivities;
- - at the sorting level of sensitivity, a decision is made by choosing from the following alternatives:
either "the zone contains no defects with amplitude characteristics higher than the acceptable level"
or "a defect with an amplitude characteristic higher than the acceptable level has been detected in
the zone";
- - at the detecting level of sensitivity, either "the length (extension) of the detected defect is no larger
than the maximum acceptable value" or "the length (extension) of the detected defect is larger than the
maximum acceptable value," besides, a measured amplitude characteristic higher than the detection
threshold only prompts the inspector to measure the defect length.
Our investigations led us to a conclusion that a technique based on these principles can be implement-
ed using transducers of a special sort, namely, separated-combined ultrasound transducers of the "chord"

1061-8309/00/3601-0064525.00 9 2000 MAIK"Nauka/lnterperiodica"



configuration. They generate an acoustic field in a pipeline wall. The directivity parameters of this field
enable an efficient detection of defects in a fused metal of a welded seam and provide a relatively low
intensity of signals due to reflections from irregularities in enforcing beads of a seam.
The figure shows an acoustic diagram of a separated-combined transducer of this type illustrating fea-
tures of its operation.
The input angle t~ of an ultrasonic wave and the turning angle tp of the central beams, as well as the
emission and reception points A and B, are selected so that the central beams of the beam patterns of the
emitting and receiving ultrasound transducers (AD and BD, respectively) and the chord AB are in the plane
Q passing through the middle of the pipeline wall. Moreover, owing to the large flare angle of the ultra-
sonic beam, the entire cross section of the pipeline wall (welded joint) is sounded almost uniformly.
The basic geometrical parameters of the separate-combined transducers are calculated using the fol-
lowing formulas:

COS(/, =
R4 / 2 +m 2 '

4 12 + m2

A B _ 4 4R8-~2
2 2

where 21 is the length of chord AB and m is the distance between chord AB and reflector D on the axis of
a welded seam.
During several previous years, a practical application of this peculiar configuration of acoustic testing
was very difficult because transducers that would be optimal for this very promising technique had not
been designed9 In particular, the high curvature of the tested pipeline surface resulted in generation of
intense Rayleigh surface waves, which gave rise to a noise of high amplitude.
The design of the "chord" transducer with an elastic protective layer suggested and patented by our
team solved these problems. These transducers operate at a high signal-to-noise ratio of no less than 20 dB
for samples with implanted reflectors and no less than 12 dB for welded seams.
Investigations of the detection probability of holes with flat bottoms in fabricated tube sections have
shown that the effective dimension of detected reflectors is no larger than 3-4 mm at a signal level of
6 dB relative to the maximal detected signal when the instrument is moved towards the reflector on the
sample surface (in the direction perpendicular to the seam axis). This means that testing of real welded
seams can be performed by moving the transducer only along a welded seam, whereas transverse dis-
placements are negligible (within :1:2 ram), which makes the testing procedure much easier in comparison

with traditional techniques. In addition, the conditions for operating parameters of instruments are less
demanding, and the technique reduces the time required for testing.
It is also important that utilization of the transducers under discussion provides:
a high sensitivity in detection of both two-dimensional (such as incomplete fusion) and three-dimen-
sional (spherical pores and pipes, compact and extended slag inclusions) defects of welded seams;
a high wear resistance of the transducer.
In addition, note that we have manufactured a special reference sample shaped as a tube segment with
a flat bottom and a hole in the butt for calibration of ultrasound flaw detectors built around "chord" trans-
ducers. Such samples are always used in manufacturing and operating transducers, and this is the solution
to the problem of metrological monitoring of the instruments and tuning of their sensitivity prior to the
After several years of operation of the transducers described in this paper, we have observed that in
inspecting welded joints of heated pipelines at thermal power plants, one transducer can test no less than
3-3.5 thousands of welded joints during its service life. The testing time of one welded seam is no longer
than 2-3 min.
In 1993-1995 we analyzed the defect detection probability with the "chord" separate-combined trans-
ducers using the technique described above. After comparing the data of ultrasonic and radiographic tests
of more than 100 pipeline joints and after destructive monitoring of a fraction of them, we obtained the
following results:
- - plane defects (incomplete fusion, cracks) were detected in almost all cases (more than 90%);
- - the detection probability of isolated objects (pores, slag inclusions) is 61%; the detectability of pipes,
chains, and clusters of pores and slag inclusions is 79%; the detectability of bulk defects that are inad-
missible, according to radiography data, is about 80%;
the fraction of defects detected by the ultrasonic testing and missed by radiography is 10-15%; it
includes mostly plane defects (such as incomplete fusion) that were not detected by the radiography;
porosity in enforcing beads and reciprocal beads of welded seams, alongside admissible irregularities
of beads (sags and shrink holes), was not detected in most cases.
An important point is that the ultrasound transducers described above can operate in combination with
any commercial ultrasound detector of flaws. The underlying ideas of our approach to the ultrasonic test-
ing given above have enabled us to design and use in testing the special-purpose portable ultrasound detec-
tors of the UD-I series.
These instruments do not have conventional displays with pulsed indication of A-type. Instead, they
use the sound and light indicators (ASD). In practical ultrasonic tests, these instruments are used in fast
monitoring of welded seams in pipelines. They are relatively inexpensive, and their small dimensions
allow one to operate them in extreme conditions, for example, in repair works inside boilers of thermal
power plants, where access to joints is quite difficult, or at sites of pipeline construction at ambient tem-
perature ranging between -40 and +50~
Moreover, the principles suggested in this paper have enabled us to continue R&D with a view to cre-
ate new portable flaw detectors. It turned out, as was noted above, that the important feature of our instru-
ments is almost complete absence of transverse displacements of transducers.
We produce the flaw detectors of the UD-R series, which are based on this technique and include built-
in microprocessors alongside electromechanical path meters, offer the following opportunities:
to record all signals due to reflections from welded seam defects as its perimeter is scanned at two lev-
els of sensitivity;
to determine linear coordinates of defects (those of end-points of defects and their extensions);
- - to determine the defective parameters of each defect using the reflected signal amplitude and defect
extension, in accordance with the standards;
to determine the defective parameters of a welded seam as a whole using all its detected flaws, in
accordance with the standards;
to enter into the data processing unit all parameters of a tested pipeline and all data required for com-
piling a report about the results of tests;

- - to store all derived information in the memory unit of the instrument and, if necessary, to print them
as a Report of a prescribed standard form or to create a data base about the inspected facility.
We have promoted the ultrasound detectors of the UD-R series for inspection of pipelines at some
power generating facilities. The defectograms obtained using these instruments record the preliminary data
of tests (who, when, and with what instrument performed an inspection), characteristics of detected defects
(coordinates of end points, effective length, admissibility), and the recommended decision based on the
determined quality of a joint.
In operation of flaw detectors that record the results of tests, attention should be focused not only on
the detection probability of defects, but also on the reproducibility of measurements. The flaw detection
technique and its instruments should be designed in such a way that the data resulting from repeated tests
of one joint should reproduce to within a certain measurement error. Otherwise the measurement data can
only confuse the operator, and they cannot be used in decision-making concerning quality of welded
joints. Our investigations of the measurement data reproducibility involving studies of about 30 real
defects in welded butt joints in pipelines with diameters of 57, 114, 168, 219, and 325 mm have demon-
strated that the instruments of the UD-R series measure the coordinate (along the seam line) and effective
length of a detected defect with an accuracy within +1 mm.
Thus, the technique and instruments for ultrasonic testing of welded joints in pipelines of small diam-
eters have proved to be efficient and are extensively used at power generating facilities in the countries of
CIS (former USSR).
According to our estimates, the total number of welded joints in pipelines with wall thicknesses of 2 to
10 mm tested over the recent years using the suggested instruments for ultrasonic testing is more than
1.5 million. The major fraction of them includes manually welded joints of tubes fabricated from a low-
carbon steel of the pearlite variety. However, the technique has also demonstrated its efficiency in testing
joints of stainless-steel tubes, pipes from steels of the austenite and austenite-ferrite classes, as well as
fused joints of both steel and polyethylene pipelines.
The technique and instruments have been certified in accordance with Russian standards for industrial
utilization and training of specialists in ultrasonic testing at some training centers in CIS countries.
The authors are grateful to the workers of Research Institute of Welding Technologies, PolyTest, and
Engineering Center in Kaliningrad for the data supplied for writing this paper.