Protecting electronics for pipeline maintenance

Jul 30, 2019
5 min read
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By: Zsolt Pulai, executive VP for engineering and technology at HZO

Regardless of industry or application, infrastructure and equipment need to be properly and proactively maintained. In the case of chemical pipelines for example, continuous and in-depth monitoring is done to ensure operating standards and conditions are being met. Traditionally issues like corrosion, when not addressed in a timely manner, can lead to premature failure. This can result in leaking pipes that release potentially harmful and toxic chemicals into the surroundings. This leads to increased downtime, costly repairs, fines and what could be life-threatening situations for workers.
But it’s not just corrosion that can compromise the integrity of a pipeline. Systems that manage and monitor every aspect of the pipeline operation rely on electronic components that can quickly be undermined in environmentally challenging or industrial harsh environments. The substances that course through ducts, like lubricating oils, chemicals and hydrates, are typically highly corrosive and toxic. If not properly protected, the equipment used to monitor these critical assets may be subject to damage, compromising effectiveness and reliability, and resulting in significant costs to companies for repair and replacement. Next generation thin-film protective solutions, namely nano coatings, are fundamentally changing the way organisations are ensuring continuity of operation in a safe, stable, reliable and repeatable fashion for all their electronic monitoring and operational needs.
This is especially true when it comes to pigging, the practice of using electro-mechanical devices to perform routine maintenance operations, like cleaning or inspection, in a pipeline without stopping the flow of product. Since chemicals flow continuously, “pigs” are inserted and completely submerged in whatever substance a pipeline contains, whether it be oil or corrosive gases. Submersion can last for minutes, hours, days or extended periods of time, making protective measures essential to the task at hand.
While pig manufacturers are taking steps to protect equipment from hazardous materials, many of the available solutions are not suited to prolonged liquid or gas exposure, let alone withstand the challenge of highly corrosive environments. Using traditional methods to protect sensitive circuitry like rubber, seals, gaskets or conventional conformal coatings significantly increases the chance that equipment will break down and fail. This sets off a chain of events, not the least of which inhibits a company’s abilities to proactively monitor, maintain and repair pipelines, let alone collect essential data, before catastrophic failure occurs. Once pipelines fall into disrepair, companies face even more downtime and additional costs.
This was the case for one of the leading pipeline equipment and services companies in the world. The company was experiencing delays in data collection caused by equipment that had been compromised. Employing traditional approaches to protecting equipment, the business fell victim to frequent breakdowns, data interruption and inefficient operations. It found that its pigs could only travel a short distance through ammonia-filled pipes before requiring extraction. Not only was this increasing the time it took to inspect a single pipe, but it also limited the amount of data collected during a single pass.
To solve these issues, the company adopted protective nano coating technology for its smart pigs’ internal circuitry, namely a thin-film solution applied over all the electronic components, leveraging its natural water and corrosive-proof nature. The protective coating, combined with the pigging company’s proven mechanical capabilities, increased the system’s run time exponentially and decreased repair costs considerably. After implementing the right solution, the amount of time the company’s equipment could be submerged while monitoring the line increased by as much as 200 per cent, allowing for longer pipeline inspection periods and more robust data collection.
Leading OEM’s are turning to 21st century materials to ensure business continuity, performance and predictable operations. Protective nano coatings, like those provided by HZO, can serve as long-term, condition-proof options for companies looking to protect their pigs and critical circuitry from water, gases, salt, petroleum and other liquid and corrosive elements, decreasing downtime and failure.


Zsolt Pulai is an expert in the use and advancement of nano coatings used to protect and ensure the integrity of electronic components and devices. He joined HZO in 2017 as vice president of engineering. Prior to HZO, Zsolt was the CEO of ZPL Technologies, a manufacturing system deployment partner that proved critical in the development and deployment of proprietary HZO protective equipment into various manufacturing settings. Zsolt’s experience includes more than 10 years designing deposition equipment for the thin-film solar industry. Prior to this, Zsolt was a software engineering consultant leading manufacturing control systems and other software development initiatives. He holds degrees in software engineering, embedded programming and factory automation engineering from Szecheny University in Gyor, Hungary. He has an MBA in business strategy from the MBA Institute and is a Scrum Master Certified Engineer.