A Miniature Pipeline Inspection Tool
MCM Technology Size Reduction Opens Up New Exploitation Potential
Technologies used

    Multi Chip Module

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Energy production and distribution, gas and water supply
    333 Industrial Process Control
    41 Gas Production and Distribution

The UK gas distribution network consists of 265,000 km of pipelines, which vary in size from 63mm to 1200mm diameter. The effective management of this infrastructure demands the availability of a range of high resolution, in-pipe, non-destructive testing (NDT) tools. These tools are used to detect and determine the size of significant instances of metal loss and cracks in the pipes. These results are then used to prioritise essential pipeline replacement and maintenance programmes.

Part of the BG plc group, BG Technology, employs over 600 people and had a turnover of 66 MEURO in 1997. The company supplies a range of research and technical consultancy services in gas exploration, production and transportation. BG Technology is responsible for the design, manufacture and operation of non-destructive pipeline inspection equipment for the low-pressure gas distribution market. Current electronic expertise applied in these product developments includes field programmable gate array (FGPA), microcontroller and surface-mount component technologies.

BG plc currently uses a range of in-pipe inspection vehicles, based on magnetic sensing to revalidate its gas transmission network. These devices are supplied by an external inspection company that services both oil and gas undertakings world-wide, concentrating on large diameter pipes. However existing technology prohibits the use of this type of equipment for low pressure pipes of less than 150mm diameter and is limited to ferrous materials.

The objective of the application experiment was to miniaturise the current tethered in-pipe tool to allow the inspection of currently inaccessible pipelines. This would enable pipeline inspection to take place under live gas conditions in pipe of 100mm diameter containing bends of centre-line radius equal to the pipe diameter (1D) and protrusions up to 15mm.

The technical objective of this application experiment was to use Multi-Chip Modules (MCM) to reduce the size of the electronics within the existing product, thereby reducing the overall system size.

The use of MCM technology resulted in:

  • High packaging density enabling testing of smaller diameter pipes combined with more powerful data analysis.
  • Increased reliability of the electronic subsystems through a significant reduction in interconnections and more versatile on board calibration and diagnostics.
  • Economic benefits in:
    • Construction (reduced component count)
    • Operation through built in programmability
    • The sales area by the potential exploitation of the smaller diameter inspection market.

The Application Experiment commenced on 1st May '98, with a planned duration of 8 months. By the end of 1998, sample MCM sensors had been delivered and tested. However, additional production runs were required in order to incorporate design corrections and to provide sufficient units for the field evaluation process to be completed. The total duration of the experiment, including field evaluations, was 12 months.

The improved product is expected to provide a potential increase in sales of inspection services in pipe diameters less than 150mm. Current projections indicate that the MCM development costs of 92kEURO will be recouped after approximately 16 months of operation. The return on investment throughout the product life is estimated to be 490%.


    BG Technology,
    Gas Research & Technology Centre,
    Ashby Road,
    LE11 3GR
    United Kingdom.

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

MCM technology provided BG Technology with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
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