2020 AFPM Summit: Improving petrochemical operations with continuous condition monitoring

Improving petrochemical operations with continuous condition monitoring

JACOB SWAFFORD, Emerson Automation Solutions

 

 

While countless machines and equipment in a petrochemical plant can be monitored continuously, pumps and compressors are generally some of the most critical. Yet, while plants regularly recognize the importance of monitoring pumps and compressors, and often make periodic checks of these machines part of regular rounds, they are often overlooked as key candidates for continuous monitoring.

Manual collection of vibration data on pumps and compressors requires excessive manpower and only results in recording intermittent values, making it quite possible to miss important data. In contrast, when an organization monitors pumps continuously, maintenance personnel are immediately alerted of any changes. The lower cost of sensing and computing also makes it possible to not only deploy condition monitoring, but also predictive analytics at the asset edge for better, faster insights into asset health and performance.

Predictive analytics provide much more than just peace of mind. In many cases, unexpected service of a pump can require finding replacement parts, not always readily available. In the most serious cases, equipment failure can mean taking equipment offline for a period of months for repair. Access to continuous data means maintenance teams have advanced insights and can arrange service on their schedule, rather than out of desperation.

Continuous maintenance in action. A large U.S.-based petrochemical company needed a solution to avoid equipment failure, and in the worst case fires and explosion. They turned to Emerson for continuous monitoring technology to improve personnel and process safety. The primary goal was to lower the risk of explosion caused by failure of pumps at the plant.

Because safety and reliability are very much intertwined, the maintenance team knew that by implementing the right solution to meet safety goals, they could gain reliability benefits, as well. They anticipated early detection would reduce pump damage, yielding lower overall repair costs.

Before implementing a continuous monitoring solution, maintenance crews were evaluating the pumps every 30 days, but the time between detection and failure could be much less than 30 days. Adding more maintenance routes was not an option, so maintenance personnel determined the optimal solution was installing wireless transmitters for data collection every 30 min. By implementing an automated solution, the plant gained the benefit of advance warning and time to react, without the expense of frequent maintenance routes (FIG. 1).

FIG. 1. Wireless transmitters collect critical data more frequently than manual operator rounds, helping plant personnel quickly detect changes that can signify underlying asset health issues.

Because of the extreme safety risk associated with petrochemical processes, the organization needed to ensure the reliability of the data collection over a wireless network, achieved with a redundant system. In the facility, pumps are grouped in A-B sets.

For each set, two transmitters were installed, each with two accelerometer sensors. One accelerometer was installed on one pump and one on the other. Each transmitter communicates through a separate gateway, so the system is completely redundant.

The sensors deliver data into the process historian every 30 min, and it selects the highest value of the two sensors and triggers alarms. When a high alarm limit is triggered, operators switch to the spare pump.

Maintenance personnel can review full spectral and waveform data from the wireless transmitters from their desktops, using vibration monitoring data to service or shutdown equipment as required. This remote data access capability increases safety and saves time by enabling faster decision-making.

Continuous monitoring also yielded information in unexpected ways. When maintenance installed one set of transmitters, they received an alarm on a pump that was not running. This pump reported vibration levels two times higher when the pump was not running than when it was operating.

After examining work order notes, maintenance discovered a history of false brinelling on the pump, a finding that would not have emerged had maintenance continued to rely on manual measurements. After tracking the source of the vibration to piping resonance, the organization developed a long-term solution to prevent premature failure of the bearings.

Advanced technologies can even embed expertise into the device and use predictive analytics to determine if the cause is bearing defects or lubrication related, for example, using Emerson’s AMS Wireless Vibration Monitor.

The operations/maintenance connection. A reliable, redundant continuous monitoring solution plays a pivotal role in keeping petrochemical companies operating at full potential. However, it is important to recognize that a good continuous monitoring solution goes beyond recording data considered to be simply “maintenance related.”

While vibration is the most common measurement for continuous condition monitoring solution, other variables—such as temperature, pressure, and flow—can be equally important. These are often thought to be operations-related rather than maintenance-related. However, monitoring both types of values will ensure the right information is collected, and then sent to the right people.

When tracked vibration data is coupled with temperature, flow, pressure and even tank level data, maintenance and operations can see how changes in processes can act as catalysts for hardware failure. This linking of maintenance and operations functions offers more visibility to operators, letting them know if what their actions are having a negative impact on plant equipment.

Because the condition monitoring software can detail exactly when a problem arose, maintenance can compare that data with logs to see if a change in process conditions occurred at the same time. This gives the whole organization peace of mind that any deployed process changes, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will be low risk to operations.

Having access to the right machinery health data at all times puts an organization back in control of its own equipment. Providing operators, maintenance personnel and engineers with valuable data on the health of their equipment allows them to perform their jobs much more efficiently—and helps the organization effectively plan for scheduled shutdowns. This added efficiency and predictive insight translates into much improved reliability throughout the organization.

For more information, visit http://www.emerson.com/AMS.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JACOB SWAFFORD is the Director of North America sales for the DeltaV Platform. He worked for Emerson for nine years and has held various roles throughout the Emerson Automation Solutions business, ranging from technology development to supply chain to business development and sales. Mr. Swafford has focused on the areas of equipment reliability and digital transformation (DX). His experiences around DX and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) give him a unique approach to solving automation challenges. He earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee and an MBA from the University of North Carolina.

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