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Development of an Innovative Inspection Tool for Superheater Tubes in Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Fossil fuel power plants are complex systems containing multiple components that require periodic health monitoring. Failures in these systems can lead to increased downtime for the plant, reduction of power, and significant cost for repairs. Inspections of the plant’s superheater tubes are typically manual, laborious, and extremely time-consuming. This is due to their small diameter size (between 1.3 and 7.6 cm) and the coiled structure of the tubing. In addition, the tubes are often stacked close to each other, limiting access for external inspection. This paper presents the development and testing of an electrically powered pipe crawler that can navigate inside 5 cm diameter tubes and provide an assessment of their health. The crawler utilizes peristaltic motion within the tubes via interconnected modules for gripping and extending. The modular nature of the system allows it to traverse through straight sections and multiple 90° and 180° bends. Additional modules in the system include an ultrasonic sensor for tube thickness measurements, as well as environmental sensors, a light detecting and ranging (LiDAR) sensor, and camera. These modules utilize a gear system that allows for 360° rotation and provides a means to inspect the entire internal circumference of the tubes.



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