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Gas & Oil Plant Traditional and Digital Inspection Essay

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2020

There are several operational risks tied to oil and gas leaks, given that wear and tear, which are a result of corrosion and erosion, begin immediately after plant constructions commence and go on throughout the life of the plants. Thus, all plants require serviceability and maintenance to make sure that they operate safely. Statistics show that managed maintenance is a cost effective approach to deterring the risks associated with these plants (Watermeyer, 2002).

This is because the chemical reactions corrode oil and gas pipes, which then leads to expensive losses in case of leakages and accidents. In this scenario, regular monitoring eliminates this catastrophe by propelling prior actions before damages occur. Either a digital x-ray system or conventional X-ray piping taking digital radiographs of the affected areas should be employed to assess material loss through accurate measurement of radiographic density (Watermeyer, 2002).

Thus, this project intends to investigate the advantages of using conventional X-ray piping to inspect gas and oil plants over digital x-ray criteria. This report will mainly cover factors related to cost, man-hours spent, and risk as well as safety.

Assessing available options

This section documents the results of this feasibility assessment of each of the two options.


Engineers acknowledge that digital x-ray imaging has the capability of delivering radiographic images at cost efficient prices (Watermeyer, 2002). There are reduced costs, which are associated with few inspection durations and involved personnel. In addition, the consistency in operator decision-making is higher as compared to operational decision-making in conventional imaging techniques. As compared to digital imaging, conventional x-ray piping is more involving and requires additional operational costs and increased number of personnel (Watermeyer, 2002). The table below shows the cost savings evident in using digital imaging over conventional x-ray piping.

Table 1: Cost comparison of digital imaging and conventional x-ray piping (Compare Costs, 2015)

Digital Radioscopy Film Radiography
Space cost (Computer workstation)
10 sq. ft. = $20/mo
Space cost (dark room, janitor, plumbing, processor, illuminator, film and checmial storage)
300 + sq. ft. = $500+/mo
Envision Scan 12×14 $ 102,365
CD storage rack $ 10
Equipment cost: $ 102,375
Amortized over 5 years: $ 1706 /mo
Film Processor 28,000
Film feeder 8,700
Dark room 25,000
Tank set 280
Silver recovery unit 2,000
Pump station 900
Twin illuminator 640
Film filing cabinet 900

Equipment cost: $ 66,420
Amortized over 5 years: $ 1107 /mo

Re-occurring costs per 1000 exposures:
1 CD-R disk 10 cents
Re-occurring costs per 1000 exposures:
Film, chemicals, waste disposal, processor maintenance, and other consumables
Re-occurring costs: $ 6000

First, conventional x-ray piping engineers require substantial knowledge of the technique if they are to review hard copy data. With this, relying on technicians to interpret a defect obtained from a conventional x-ray piping helps little in cost savings. Therefore, confirming a defect requires hand scans and manual backups. While more plants are likely to embrace the cost efficient nature of digital x-raying in the future, dismissing conventional x-ray systems is obscene and dangerous at this stage.

Man-hours spent

Another aspect that requires focus when evaluating the advantages of conventional x-ray piping over digital x-ray imaging is the number of man-hours spent (Watermeyer, 2002). Conventional x-ray piping takes on a rather elongated approach that requires additional personnel and man-hours as compared to digital techniques that are easily improved and enhanced with few personnel and with few man-hours.

In digital x-ray imaging, engineers are capable of adjusting the brightness of different regions to ensure maximum clarity and definition without involving more personnel or additional time. With a single pass, the digital x-ray imaging technique is able to show all defect structures, thereby eliminating manual adjustments associated with most conventional x-ray piping (Watermeyer, 2002).

This cost efficient approach streamlines the time taken to carry out imaging and the personnel required during the process. Historically, the inspection of oil and gas transmission has taken place using conventional x-ray piping because the technique is easy to interpret and can be operated with minimal training. Despite this easy interpretation, conventional X-ray piping is at a disadvantage because it uses manual reporting and its interpretation may take longer hours.

Risk and safety assessment of the two techniques

Conventional X-ray piping is extremely powerful and efficient to use, because of its ability to study internal composition of oil and gas pipes (Watermeyer, 2002). However, while many opt to use it, others are reluctant because of its high radiation dosage. It also leaves a contamination area that increases exposure rates to radioactive material. They therefore have strict exposure requirements that increase the costs of their use.

On the other hand, the lax exposure requirements of digital x-ray imaging are a result of their environmental safety and compliance. With all the risks and safety concerns addressed, the quality of inspection using digital x-ray imaging is enhanced because of the improved visibility associated with the technique (Watermeyer, 2002). Table 2 below summarizes the quality aspects associated with using both techniques.

Table 2: Image quality (AEA Technology PLC, 2005).

Technique Resolution/ sharpness Contrast Noise/ granularity
Fine grain film with lead screens *** ** ***
Fine grain film with fluorometallic screens ** ** **
Computed (filmless) radiography but without spatial image processing ** 1 ***
Computed (filmless) radiography with spatial image processing ** 1 * to **

Note: For this study, many stars mean better high resolution, sharpness, contrast, and reduced noise. The simple scoring system rates the best as three stars. The table above compares the results of using digital x-ray systems and conventional x-ray piping in relation to quality. The images obtained from both systems have a near similar quality when viewed against the processing parameters.

Apart from safety deficiencies, digital x-ray systems use flexible imaging plates that eliminate several shortfalls of conventional x-ray piping. This type of system provides higher accuracy and produces near similar image qualities. Additionally, digital x-ray systems have color codes that allow for instant interpretation of radiographic areas. This facilitates easy assessment of pits and material loss, which can be further analyzed before recommending detailed investigations.

Recommended options for further analysis

The results in the above section show that while digital x-raying may be more sensitive in capturing images, there are associated benefits of conventional x-ray piping in detecting weld defects. Digital techniques are advancements of conventional systems and from this essay; it is evident that engineers recommend using digital x-ray systems over conventional x-ray piping. This is because of its numerous advantages in relation to cost, man-hours spent, and risk as well as safety solutions as the data shows. However, the advantages of digital imaging cannot surpass the value laid on conventional mapping techniques. Thus, we suggest using digital techniques alongside conventional x-ray piping because the need for conventional x-ray piping will always remain.


AEA Technology PLC. (2005). . Web.

Compare Costs. (2015). Web.

Watermeyer, P. (2002). Handbook for Process Plant Project Engineers. New York, US: John Wiley & Sons.

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