IN little more than two years a local engineer has developed a new system for Alcoa World Alumina to store its pipeline measurement readings, attracting overseas interest in the process.
Called Signature Point Referencing, the system has proven so successful in the risk management and prognosis of faults in Alcoa’s pipelines that Paul Peterson, the system’s creator, formed a company called SigPoint and has a patent pending on the technology.
SigPoint is now poised to take its Signature Point Referencing technology to the world and is in talks with distributors in the US, Europe and South-East Asia – a task made somewhat easier having proven the system with a raft of heavy weight clients in Australia including Alcoa, Shell and Anaconda Nickel.
An award winning web-enabled software system, SigPoint NDT was initially used by Alcoa World Alumina in Kwinana to manage the process of measuring the thickness of pipes and predicting the corrosion in sections of pipe.
However, according to Mr Peterson the system can be used in any type of maintenance or production environment to detect change such as wear and tear.
Mr Peterson said he was also in discussion with multinational clients such as Woodside, Worsley Alumina and WMC Resources, who are interested in utilising SigPoint NDT.
Mr Peterson describes his system as extending existing principles of non-destructive testing to make it more efficient and more accurate.
“We have basically put NDT into overdrive to provide a far more accurate and widespread means of predicting possible outcomes, for example, in maintenance it might be failures,” Mr Peterson said.
“Initially, the applications are in the maintenance field, but it could also be used in a variety of other vertical fields such as the production environment.
“We can see a wider range of applications for the technology including salinity, roads, aeronautical, shipping and forestry industries, for example, growth rates on trees – growth rates in the agricultural industry generally.”
He said the potential annual savings offered by the system were substantial.
“There was a report done by AMEC in Alcoa in one section of a plant and in one year they saved about $380,000 in labour as a result of using SigPoint NDT,” Mr Peterson said.
Plant shutdowns at Alcoa due to pipe or vessel wall failures had reduced from an average of one per month to none in the two years since it had implemented the first version of SigPoint NDT, he said.
According to Mr Peterson, the second implementation of the system at three Alcoa refinery sites over a six-month period resulted in up to 95 per cent savings in data collection and management costs.
Mr Peterson said the SigPoint system works by mapping out a system of signature points and the relationship between those points in a complex algorithm to determine the status of the entire system.
“A signature point is a measured point that is indicative of changes that have occurred elsewhere in a system of points or known variables,” he said.
Mr Peterson and partner Frank Schoutert have each contributed about $150,000 of their own money to develop the system and are now seeking funding.
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