During the past 40 years, the Oil & Gas industry has progressively transitioned from relying upon good workmanship standards in welding acceptance criteria to the use of Engineering Critical Assessments (ECAs). ECAs are a "Fitness For Service" (FFS) assessment that have become increasingly important in mitigating and preventing pipeline failures. On the one hand they have become an essential tool in witnessing welds subject to automatic inspection techniques in a production environment and on the other, an aid to determining structural integrity when unexpected defects are discovered.
ECAs are designed to evaluate the significance of any flaws within a structure or component with respect to structural integrity, achieving this by determining the maximum flaw size that can be tolerated with respect to fracture, fatigue growth or plastic collapse under specified loading conditions within its intended design life. These techniques can provide FFS assessments for projects with a range of differing installation methods and operational environments, including deep, intermediate and shallow waters.
To successfully deliver an ECA, a multidisciplinary approach must be taken at all times, involving materials engineering, fracture and fatigue analysis and NDT expertise. Element’s ECA services are fully integrated, with its advanced materials testing facilities in Houston, Aberdeen and Breda assisting in the production of essential materials input data, delivered to internationally recognized codes and standards.
High quality data and analysis within an integrated service ensure more reliable modelling of installation and service conditions, thus optimizing weld flaw acceptance criteria and minimizing costs and time spent on unnecessary repairs, while ascertaining overall integrity of the pipeline. This is why Element's material testing, bespoke acquisition and analysis routines are tailored to provide the highest quality data in the Oil & Gas industry.
Innovation in ECA testing and analysis methods is constant and remains an ongoing strategic priority for Element. An integrated, internationally standardized service from partners with equal expertise in both the testing and assessment areas of ECAs will provide benefits in terms of data and analysis accuracy, speed of delivery and cost whilst giving increased confidence in the overall integrity of a pipeline.