Pipeline seam welds are often inspected using ultrasonic In-Line Inspection (ILI) technologies. The measurement performance specification of an ultrasonic ILI tool is based on simple, planar, machined notches which are very reproducible, but are not representative of the complex flaw morphologies that occur naturally in seams such as hook cracks and tilted lack of fusion flaws. In order to assess ILI performance on naturally occurring flaws, “in-the-ditch” Nondestructive Testing (ITD NDT) is performed to validate a subset of the population of ILI reported features.

Due to the limited number, type, and dimensional (height and length) uncertainty of these flaws, the field validation approach has limitations in terms of efficiency and accuracy in determining ILI detection capabilities and sizing performance.

Recently, specialized synthetic flaw fabrication technology has been developed and provides complex, natural crack-like morphologies with reliable and reproducible size dimensions. Effective validation spools with flaws (of representative geometries) can be achieved through engineered designs that consider the number, size and shape of manufactured flaws. This enables owners to quickly and reliably assess the performance of both ILI tools and ITD NDT operators.

Assessing performance with the synthetic flaw approach provides results that are more comprehensive and cost-effective compared to the typical field validation approach alone. This is because the flaw population is designed rather than randomly selected from excavation data.

This paper addresses the design, use and field experience with validation spools. This paper will present the performance of ILI tools and UT examiners based on synthetic flaw qualification exams, and how this supports related ILI and operator validation work.

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