Laser scanner provides high-tech pipeline safety


A new tool will provide Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) a more efficient and accurate way of determining the safety and integrity of their natural gas pipelines, working in conjunction with PG&E's other pipeline safety technology.

The hand-held, high-tech laser scanner -- EXAscan -- is held a few inches above a section of pipeline and produces a three-dimensional view of the pipeline. The device is accurate within 40 microns, or 0.0016 of an inch, and can detect potential safety concerns such as corrosion, dents or warping.

Traditional processes to determine pipeline safety are manual. Measuring pipeline corrosion involves digging down to a section of the pipe, drawing an extensive grid of one-inch squares on the pipe, and then measuring the effects of corrosion square by square.

Beyond gas operations, the scanner proved helpful to PG&E's electric operations and electric supply when hydroelectric engineers performed a stress test to ensure the structural integrity of newly repaired rotors at Helms Pumped Storage Plant in the Sierra National Forest.

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