Smart Monitoring Solutions

Online Editor

Marek Lukaszczyk explores remote monitoring technologies for oil and gas assets

Unplanned downtime is a major challenge for the oil and gas industry, costing an average of US$84 million per facility annually. Unplanned downtime is not only a financial problem but also an issue of safety, with oil and gas facilities being among the most hazardous working environments in the world. It’s no surprise that around 82% of oil and gas businesses have identified predictive maintenance as a strategic priority.

Oil and gas facilities represent some of the most demanding industrial environments, with many machines expected to run continuously under the stresses of extreme temperatures, dust and dirt and vibration. Not only that, but ageing infrastructure is rife – 42% of offshore facilities are over 15 years old.

Unplanned downtime is a serious and costly challenge facing the industry, but it’s also one that’s tricky to circumvent. The sheer number of motors, drives, gearboxes and other assets in just one facility makes managing maintenance a mammoth task, and this increases the likelihood of machine failure. Moreover, the remote location of many sites makes transporting maintenance teams a costly exercise, and with many demands on their time, the teams’ work schedule must be carefully considered for maximum efficiency.

Better, Connected

One solution is the implementation of digital technologies – in particular, condition monitoring. Many of the issues that result in unplanned downtime in oil facilities can’t be picked up in a visual inspection. For example, common causes of motor failure include bearing wear, shaft misalignment and winding insulation, which can all only be identified by vibration and temperature analysis.

Condition monitoring sees smart sensors connected to industrial equipment such as motors, where the sensors capture data regarding vibration, heat and other outputs of industrial assets. Feeding this data into an industrial software platform means that it can be analysed and transmitted anywhere in the world. This enables facility managers to spot issues long before they cause disruption, and then perform appropriate maintenance measures to prevent unplanned downtime.

Many industries have already successfully adopted condition monitoring technologies – particularly manufacturing. But the adoption rate in the oil and gas sector has been much slower. This can be ascribed to a lack of cost-effective and easy to install solutions, as well as the difficulties surrounding the connectivity of remote sites.

Now, the development of low-cost telecommunication options as well as much wider availability of smart sensors and monitoring technologies mean that oil and gas operators can take advantage of much more frequent data collection and the ability to monitor the condition of their assets from anywhere in the world.

In hazardous areas, having insight into asset performance is crucial. It increases safety by limiting worker exposure to dangerous environments, as well as reducing the potential for human error during maintenance – as all the necessary performance data is at the team’s fingertips, it is highly unlikely for signs of machine faults or above average wear and tear to be missed.

Repair operations in hazardous areas can also be very time consuming, often requiring specialist equipment, procedures or permits. With a comprehensive plan of maintenance procedures in advance of a site visit, maintenance teams can ensure they have all the right procedures in place, preventing unnecessary delays and making remote monitoring even more advantageous.

The Bigger Picture

Ultimately, condition monitoring enables oil and gas businesses to take a predictive, rather than reactive approach to maintenance. It equips facility managers with a comprehensive understanding of the performance of their assets, enabling them to make better informed decisions about the need for maintenance and ultimately preventing costly disruption and downtime.

WEG has recently launched its Motion Fleet Management (MFM) platform, a control and monitoring tool that can be deployed in oil and gas facilities. The technology is used for operation and maintenance of fleets of motors, drives, gearboxes and other industrial equipment.

MFM has the ability to process data both on edge and in the cloud, allowing for fast reaction-time at device level without sacrificing comprehensive data analysis. The tool also boasts specialist modules with artificial intelligence (AI) allowing for automated fault diagnosis based on historic reports and trends.

MFM works with Motor Scan and Drive Scan to monitor the operation of industrial assets. Motor Scan is a smart sensor that can easily be fitted to the fin of a motor, where it will record vibration, surface temperature, running hours, speed and lubrication, while also identifying any misalignment. Drive Scan, as the name suggests, obtains operational data from drives via Ethernet or serial connection, and transmits it to MFM in the cloud. There, MFM analyzes the data and sends alerts if any measurements fall outside operator-set tolerances, letting facility management know there may be a problem.

Valuable Insights For Operators

Alongside its condition monitoring capabilities, MFM offers a suite of valuable insights, enabling better asset management for improved performance, efficiency and availability. At an offshore oil and gas facility, the digital tool can provide a holistic view of the performance of motors, drives and other assets across the entire industrial infrastructure. Regardless of the geographical span of the site, data is presented in the same place, in an intuitive dashboard with indicators, graphics and a history of measured data for easy analysis.

Plus, particularly relevant for the oil and gas industry, Motor Scan also has Inmetro, ATEX, IECEx and MASC hazardous area certifications Ex ia I Ma, Ex ia IIC T4 Ga and Ex ia IIIC T135°C Da. These certifications mean the tool is classed as intrinsically safe for Category 1 environments with a continuous risk of explosion due to the presence of gas or dust.

Downtime can be incredibly costly for the oil and gas sector, but a comprehensive maintenance plan is not without its challenges, due to remote facilities, hazardous conditions and a multitude of assets to manage. Digital technologies such as remote monitoring help businesses of all industries implement a predictive maintenance strategy and prevent disruption due to machine failure.

WEG’s range of digital solutions help the oil and gas industry better manage its motors, drives and gearboxes, helping increase efficiency, prevent the escalation of minor faults and prolong machine life.

Marek Lukaszczyk is with WEG

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