Managing Lined Pipe and Tailing Lines with Robotics – Robotics Pilot Project

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Industrial mining sites use carbon steel piping lined with a non-metallic coating (often polyurethane or rubber) to handle their tailings.  Often, as the coating on the bottom of the pipe becomes worn, the lines are rotated so a section with less wear is on the bottom.   “Where is the coating becoming marginally thin and blistered?”, and “How good are the records as to which side remains well coated?”  These are the questions that Cameron Sjerve, from the Canadian robotics group, is trying to answer.  Through Cameron’s work, IRISNDT partnered with the robotics company Inuktun.  One of their existing piping robotic systems was modified by mounting a probe that measures plastic coating thickness values (based on eddy current) on the piping robotic system.  The system enters the pipe, navigates to a predetermined location and measures the coating thickness without people entering the pipe.

We hope that this successful pilot project leads to development of a full production robotic system.  Tailings management is a crucial step for extraction/mine processing plants.  Extraction by-products are processed and stored to minimize impact to our water and environment.  The lines that carry tailings have a challenging erosive service, since they often carry minerals, chemicals, organics, sand, clay, residual hydrocarbon, and salts.  Not surprisingly, the physical and chemical characteristics of tailings and their methods of handling and storage are of great and growing concern (see  As well, management of lined pipe in other corrosive/erosive applications in general is challenging and could be addressed with robotics.

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Figure caption – Testing the robotic scanner in the IRISNDT shop before going to the customer site; the customer pipe is the same diameter as the tracks (as shown), allowing for a tight fit in the field