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Precision Acoustics

Case study: Precision Acoustics revolutionises pipeline inspection with novel ultrasonic transducers

5 April 2024

Precision Acoustics Ltd, a leading innovator in ultrasonic and underwater acoustic measurement solutions, proudly announces a groundbreaking collaboration with Cereus Ultrasonics to deliver state-of-the-art ultrasonic transducers for use in pipeline inspection tools.  These advanced transducers, crafted from high-performance materials, mark a significant leap forward in pipeline integrity assessment, particularly in hostile environments encountered in the oil and gas industry.

Cereus Ultrasonics Ltd, renowned for its cutting-edge pipeline inspection technologies, has chosen Precision Acoustics as its partner in manufacturing ultrasonic transducers tailored for demanding applications.  The probes, designed to operate in environments with extreme conditions, including pressures up to 8,000 psi (550 Bar) and temperatures reaching 185°C, are essential for ensuring the safety and reliability of oil and gas wells.

One of the key challenges in developing these probes was creating transducers capable operating effectively in both pressurised gas and liquid environments.  Precision Acoustics met this challenge head-on by engineering ultrasonic transducers with exceptional performance characteristics, leveraging their in-house materials development to produce a new passive acoustic material suited to the harsh operating conditions whilst maintaining high levels of acoustic absorption and damping. These transducers can effectively operate in pressured gas environments exceeding 435 psi (30 Bar), as well as in various liquids such as oil, water, brine, and liquid CO2.

Moreover, the collaboration between Precision Acoustics and Cereus Ultrasonics has resulted in the integration of unique algorithms into the inspection probes.  In conjunction with the novel use of impedance matching layers and new passive acoustic materials these algorithms, developed by Cereus Ultrasonics, enable the probes to operate with extreme bandwidth, giving them capability to extract enhanced and valuable data from the acquired ultrasonic signals, facilitating precise evaluation of pipeline integrity.

The journey towards developing these groundbreaking transducers saw initial prototyping efforts utilising metal housing.  However, rigorous testing revealed issues related to differential thermal expansion between the steel housing and the polymeric passive acoustic materials used to tune transducer performance, at temperatures above 110°C. To overcome these limitations, Precision Acoustics turned to Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK) polymer, a material renowned for its exceptional thermal stability and mechanical properties, to ensure compatibility between the coefficients of thermal expansion of both probe and housing. The decision to employ PEEK alongside their new high-temperature passive acoustic materials proved instrumental, ensuring the reliability and longevity of the transducers even in the harshest operating conditions.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cereus Ultrasonics to help deliver innovative solutions for pipeline inspection,” said Thomas Kelley, Sensors & Materials Manager at Precision Acoustics. “Our collaboration has resulted in the development of ultrasonic transducers that set new standards in performance and reliability in these demanding operating conditions, ultimately enhancing safety and efficiency within industry through effective condition monitoring.”

The partnership between Precision Acoustics and Cereus Ultrasonics underscores a commitment to pushing the boundaries of technological innovation to address critical challenges in pipeline inspection.  Through the deployment of advanced ultrasonic transducers, both companies aim to provide unparalleled capabilities for safeguarding infrastructure and ensuring the integrity of oil and gas wells worldwide.  It also highlights the breadth of technical expertise and capability with the southwest county of Dorset.  Both companies can trace a decades long lineage of involvement in underwater acoustics and ultrasonics.

“At Cereus Ultrasonics, we strive for the greatest acoustic results in the world.  Without expert transducer design gurus, this becomes difficult to achieve.  Precision Acoustics provides such expertise with its in-house acoustics, materials and mechanical specialists, working together to solve the challenges of operating in hostile environments such as high temperature, pressurised gas in a downhole well, while still producing industry-leading acoustics,” said Mark Tanner, Ultrasonics Engineering Manager at Cereus Ultrasonics.

“Precision Acoustics have always been helpful and open, enabling easy conversations through the full development cycle of our transducers.”

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