Abstract In this paper are presented the results of the feasibility study for the application of non-destructive spectroscopic methods to the diagnostics of steel pipes in industrial environment. The activities here described are part of the LIBSGRAIN project, funded by the European Commission; the main aim of the project is correlating the probability of failure of industrial plants components with the results of space-resolved elemental analysis carried out with laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technique. Several simulations have been made in order to check the detectability of dangerous deterioration of steel pipes and to optimize some experimental parameters as the laser focal spot size and the traverse scanning step of the laser head. A design of a laser head which can operate in a real plant and can overcome the problems related to high temperature and vibration is proposed. The feasibility of remote controlled measurements at high temperature has been demonstrated in laboratory tests. The accuracy of LIBS measurements on steel target has been tested on NIST certified steel samples.