Robinson Research Institute hosts workshop on non-destructive testing for the power industry

Organisations are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of non-destructive testing (NDT) methods when it comes to monitoring and managing the health of their assets. This is especially true of sectors that involve huge capital investments, maintenance and replacement costs.

In September, the Robinson Research Institute hosted a workshop on the application of NDT to the power industry.

The workshop was attended by more than 40 participants from 24 organisations representing various aspects of the power industry—electricity distribution and transmission companies, plant owners, domestic and international NDT testers, and other organisations such as the Heavy Engineering Research Association and Worksafe New Zealand.

Speaking about the workshop, Robinson Research Institute director Dr Nick Long says: “Our work with NDT is an example of the path-breaking research the Robinson undertakes. With applications across a range of industrial sectors, NDT is particularly significant in industries where the failure of even a single component can lead to significant hazards or huge financial losses.

“A valuable takeaway for us from this workshop is a better understanding of the commercial landscape the power sector operates in. Who are the key stakeholders across the value chain? What are the key regulatory implications they need to monitor? What are the key barriers to adopting new technology they need to address—these are some of the conversations we’ve had, all of which has significant bearing on the development of the technology.”

The workshop included a panel discussion where participants discussed aspects of NDT technology in the context of the power industry, including the increasing importance of NDT data, the promise and challenge of applying artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, and key challenges relating to the adoption of NDT in the industry. A quick survey of commercial technologies, solutions and tool providers for NDT asset management was also provided.

Robinson staff are currently researching three application areas for NDT as part of the institute’s programme on tuneable magnetoresistive sensors for asset management. At the workshop, Robinson engineer Joseph Bailey presented his work on non-destructive eddy current testing for corrosion under insulation in pipes and steel-reinforced concrete structures. Based on discussions initiated at the workshop, Bailey plans to test his eddy-current NDT tool on insulated pipes being removed at an NZ energy plant, and on power poles in the networks of two domestic electricity distribution businesses.

Robinson principal engineer Dr Fiona Stevens McFadden led the organisation of the workshop and also presented her work on developing technology for non-contact monitoring of overhead powerline currents and detection of electrical faults.

“The workshop has played a key role in building better relationships with the potential end-users of this technology,” she says. “It has also given us an opportunity to review the current status of the NDT technology and better understand its relevance to business.”