Application of Remote Field Testing Technology (Shell Canada 2010)

Shell Canada’s innovative approach to inspecting its HDPE lined sour gas and CML produced water pipelines using Remote Field Eddy Current (RFT) In-Line Inspection (ILI) technology. This technology was adopted following a significant internal corrosion failure in a sour gas pipeline in 2007 (Read full article here).


Shell Canada has a long history of using steel pipelines for sour gas transportation. The challenge arose with the HDPE lined sour gas pipelines and CML produced water pipelines, where conventional inspection methods like Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL) were ineffective due to the presence of non-metallic liners.

RFT ILI Technology

RFT technology, which operates without needing direct contact with the pipe wall, emerged as a suitable alternative. It was originally used in water & wastewater pipelines and then adapted for inspecting pipelines with heavy liners like HDPE. The technology works by detecting changes in an AC electromagnetic field, helping to measure wall thickness, electrical conductivity, and magnetic permeability of the pipe.

Implementation in HDPE Lined Pipelines

Following the 2007 failure, Shell collaborated with Russell NDE Systems Inc. to develop a customized RFT ILI tool for their lined pipelines. This tool could inspect through HDPE liners and identifying corrosion behind liners (CBL). Shell’s strategy shifted to prevent continuous methanol injection, a significant contributor to CBL.

Inspection Accuracy and Effectiveness

The RFT ILI tool demonstrated high accuracy in defect detection and sizing, as proven by multiple runs and verification digs. It also showed that CBL had been effectively controlled post the change in operational strategies.

Key Learnings

Shell’s experience yielded valuable insights, including the importance of calibration runs, speed control during inspections, and the need for pipeline designs accommodating ILI tools. They also developed techniques for dealing with liner restrictions and flange pair damages.

CML Produced Water Pipeline Inspection

Shell applied RFT ILI technology to inspect its CML produced water pipeline. After extensive preparatory pigging runs to clean the pipeline, the RFT ILI tool successfully navigated the pipeline, identifying areas of significant external corrosion and enabling timely repairs.

Inspection as Part of Integrity Management

RFT ILI technology is recommended as part of a comprehensive integrity management program, including various monitoring and sampling activities. It has proven effective in both HDPE lined sour gas pipelines and CML water disposal pipelines.

PICA Partnership

Pipeline Inspection & Condition Analysis Corporation (PICA) offers state-of-the-art inspection and analysis services, crucial for maintaining the integrity of critical pipeline infrastructure. Asset managers, pipeline operators, and owners should consider PICA’s services, as illustrated by Shell Canada’s successful implementation of similar technologies.

Comprehensive Inspection Services

PICA provides a range of inspection services, including Advanced Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), which uses cutting-edge technologies like Electromagnetic Remote Field Eddy Current Testing (RFT) Technology. This technology, as used by Shell in their pipelines, demonstrates high accuracy in detecting internal and external corrosion, a crucial factor for pipeline integrity.

Proactive Approach to Pipeline Management

PICA’s philosophy aligns with the proactive approach demonstrated by Shell in managing their pipelines. This strategy, focusing on early detection and maintenance, helps in extending the life of existing pipelines and avoiding costly replacements. It aligns with the growing need for sustainable infrastructure management.

Specialization in Aging Infrastructure

With a significant portion of the world’s pipeline infrastructure aging, PICA’s expertise in inspecting and analyzing older pipelines is invaluable. Their services are particularly relevant in dealing with various materials and conditions, as evidenced by Shell’s experience with lined pipelines.

High-Resolution Data and Accurate Assessments

PICA’s advanced NDT service solution technologies provide high-resolution data, enabling precise integrity assessments. This level of detail is vital for making informed decisions, like how Shell utilized RFT technology to accurately assess the condition of its pipelines and effectively plan maintenance and repairs.

Customized Solutions

Understanding that each pipeline system has unique challenges, PICA offers customized solutions. Their range of services can be tailored to specific needs, ensuring the most effective inspection and analysis, akin to Shell’s customized approach with RFT ILI tools.

Enhancing Safety and Reliability

Ensuring the safety and reliability of pipeline systems is a primary focus of PICA’s services. By identifying potential failure locations and the extent of damage, they help prevent catastrophic failures and environmental incidents, mirroring Shell’s commitment to pipeline safety through regular inspections.

Cost-Effective Maintenance Planning

PICA’s detailed inspections enable asset managers to plan maintenance and repairs more cost-effectively, avoiding unnecessary overhauls. This strategic approach to maintenance is both economically beneficial and operationally efficient, as demonstrated by Shell’s effective use of RFT ILI technology.

Expertise and Experience

PICA’s team of experts, with extensive experience in pipeline inspection and condition analysis, adds a layer of trust and confidence. Their insights and recommendations are grounded in deep industry knowledge and a commitment to innovation, akin to the expertise shown by Shell and its partners in managing pipeline integrity.


The successful application of RFT ILI technology by Shell Canada demonstrates its effectiveness in ensuring the integrity of lined pipelines. This approach has helped Shell to manage the risks of internal and external corrosion, validating its operational practices and enhancing the safety and longevity of its pipeline assets.

PICA’s comprehensive service offerings, advanced inspection technologies, proactive solutions, and expertise make them an invaluable partner for asset managers, pipeline operators, and owners. Their approach ensures the safety, reliability, and longevity of critical pipeline infrastructure while supporting sustainable, cost-effective maintenance strategies. The success of Shell Canada using similar technologies underscores the effectiveness of PICA’s services, making them a strategic choice for those responsible for managing vital pipeline assets.