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Acoustic Emission (AE) testing is a method for evaluating the condition of pressure vessels, storage tanks, and structures. Many codes exist (ASME, ASTM, and DOT) for AE testing vessels, from transportation gas cylinders and stub-sill tankers, up to 30,000 ton storage tanks.

The method uses sensors which detect high frequency signals resulting from deterioration in the structure when subjected to stress. The signals may be due to local overstress (yielding), crack growth or corrosion product fracture and de-cohesion.

AE testing is usually carried out during controlled increase in operating pressure or level, or during cool down or controlled temperature change where thermal defects and deterioration results in AE. No time is wasted on inactive defects, which are not threatening structural integrity.

Cost Reduction of AE

The appropriate use of AE, like all condition-based maintenance strategies, results in a considerable reduction in plant maintenance cost whilst at the same time increase the meaningful information available about plant integrity thus reducing plant downtime. For spheres, the cost is typically 20% of the cost of internal scaffold and 100% MPI Inspection.

Rapid Inspection of AE

The actual AE test takes a matter of hours, in some cases considerably less. There is no comparable method which can provide 100% volumetric inspection for structurally significant defects.

Capabilities of AE

- 100% of the pipe is inspected (within the diagnostic length of a test)
- Pulse echo type operation provides information on feature position and approximate size
- Can be performed without taking the pipe out of service
- Sophisticated analysis aids interpretation of results
- Particularly useful for areas where pipeline is not easily piggable

Application of AE