Palomo Martínez
Director General
Radiografías de Campeche
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Insight

X-Ray and Ultrasound for Inspection

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:56

One of the most important changes currently being undertaken in PEMEX’s marine regions is the maintenance and replacement of offshore infrastructure that is now reaching its second or third decade in service. While some of PEMEX’s offshore pipelines are over 30 years old yet continue to work in a perfectly safe fashion, ignoring the maintenance issues that some of these assets present remains an important safety risk. To ascertain which maintenance needs are to be prioritized requires accurate and reliable information regarding the state of the physical integrity of these assets. Unfortunately, workflows in the marine regions are very hard to halt due to their essential position in Mexico’s production strategy. This means that non-destructive testing (NDT) remains an important option for PEMEX to acquire the information it needs when making maintenance decisions.

Radiografías de Campeche specializes in X-ray and ultrasound methods to execute its inspections and tests, which are mostly applied to pipelines, high pressure containers, and other components of maritime infrastructure connected to these two types of equipment. These technologies have the capacity to detect certain flaws or maintenance issues that conventional inspection methods are unable to identify. “Several types of flaws can be detected in 20 or 30 year-old infrastructure. While external corrosion can be detected simply by looking at the infrastructure with the naked eye, the detection of internal corrosion requires certain skills, specialized equipment, and testing methods. We have equipment that performs digital X-rays on the infrastructure to measure the thickness of the pipeline and variations throughout the structure, which is how we can detect internal corrosion,” says José Fernando Palomo Martínez, Director General of Radiografías de Campeche, a provider of maintenance services that specializes in NDT.

Despite its modest size, Palomo Martínez is quick to detail the technological advantages that Radiografías de Campeche possesses over other larger companies that might advertise the in-house provision of these NDT services. “In terms of high-technology equipment volume, we are the number one company in our niche, and we own all this equipment. The competition usually rents this equipment for specific projects, while we actually possess it. The high quality of this equipment does make it more expensive to use, which obviously has an influence on the way in which clients in the cost-driven offshore industry perceive the technology,” says Palomo Martínez. “Since the equipment represents a large expense for companies, some may resort to simpler technologies for thickness testing. This cost-driven attitude towards testing and maintenance can have negative results when maintaining a safe working environment in offshore facilities.” Palomo Martínez frames the use of Radiografías de Campeche’s NDT technologies as a question of safety: “These technologies play a crucial role in ensuring operational safety, since lives depend on the quality of those tests and inspections. We perform welding inspections through ultrasounds and X-rays, without which infrastructure flaws could be missed. Nondestructive testing plays a really important role in keeping people safe in each of PEMEX’s facilities.” Needless to say, due to the sensitive nature of the radioactive materials used in these inspection services, Palomo Martínez is also quick to explain that his concerns with safety extend to the execution of Radiografías de Campeche’s activities. “We have internal regulations and codes governed by SENER and the National Commission of Nuclear Security and Safeguards’ (CNSNS) rules. Our staff also has the obligation to monitor their health by wearing plates that are developed on a monthly basis and sent to CNSNS in Mexico City.”

“Radiografías de Campeche’s success in being a part of the offshore maintenance processes illustrates how serious PEMEX is about the rehabilitation, renovation, and modernization of its aging marine infrastructure. This represents a tremendous business opportunity for Mexican service providers that can take advantage of the coming growth in offshore investment,” says Palomo Martínez. “Our success is a clear example of the way in which local expertise can be an important competitive advantage for Mexican maintenance service providers when entering this particular market.”