IIoT, Industrie 4.0

High-speed engine monitoring IIoT-enhanced

Analytics improve performance of remote assets.
By Kevin Parker March 30, 2019
Sensing capabilities are retrofitted by attaching what are described as peripheral universal connection (PUC) modules to an engine. Four PUCs can monitor high-speed engine components and characteristics that include power cylinder, valve train, turbo health, main bearings and frame vibration. Courtesy: Apergy

The advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an opportunity to introduce digital innovation into long-established oil & gas functions and processes.

In the midstream sector, where remote installations present special challenges, equipment and machine suppliers are leveraging sensing, connectivity and analytics advances to improve reliability and optimize performance.

A case in point is an array of IIoT-enabled products, services and software from Windrock, Inc. to monitor, manage and optimize reciprocating and rotating industrial equipment. An oilfield monitoring system combines sensor data and machine-to-machine communications with cellular technology, Cloud data storage and machine learning to track the health and performance of essential mechanized equipment, including compressors, and most recently, high-speed engines (HSEs).

“HSEs drive compressors used in midstream gas gathering,” said Dylan Abel, product director at Windrock. “High-speed engines are commonly defined as engines having a rated speed of at least 1200 revolutions per minute.”

Use cases and benefits

Windrock’s Spotlight Monitoring system for high-speed engines can alert the onset of common faults that include piston slap and detonation, exhaust blowdown, valve events, compression leakage, and loose pin or bushing.

“With ‘Spotlights’ installed on the compressor and engine both, the level of insight into machine health is unprecedented. People leave money on the table by ignoring the health of their machines. It was understandable in the past because there was no way to know something was wrong till it was too late. We can predict failures 21 days in advance,” Abel said.

The primary benefit of the system is the cost-effective collection and analysis of performance data from field assets for real-time transfer into the hands of executives, operations managers, finance and other type analysts.

Even prior to the advent of IIoT, the oil & gas industry was moving from integral installations, where the compressor and engine are a single unit, to separable compressors, where the compressor and engine are separate.

According to the on-line resource PertoWiki, integral compressors are efficient, but must be field erected. They require heavy foundations and a high degree of pulsation and vibration suppression.

Units where the compressor and engine are separate, on the other hand, are easier to install, can be moved to different sites, and are available in sizes appropriate to field gathering. However, higher maintenance costs may be involved.

How it works

The monitoring system works as follows. Sensing capabilities are retrofitted by attaching what are described as peripheral universal connection (PUC) modules to an engine. Four PUCs can monitor high-speed engine components and characteristics that include power cylinder, valve train, turbo health, main bearings and frame vibration. On a compressor, monitoring can include head-end pressure, crank-end pressure, suction temperature, crosshead vibration, vibration bias voltage and vibration raw time waveform.

Sensing capabilities are retrofitted by attaching what are described as peripheral universal connection (PUC) modules to an engine. Four PUCs can monitor high-speed engine components and characteristics that include power cylinder, valve train, turbo health, main bearings and frame vibration. Courtesy: Apergy

Sensing capabilities are retrofitted by attaching what are described as peripheral universal connection (PUC) modules to an engine. Four PUCs can monitor high-speed engine components and characteristics that include power cylinder, valve train, turbo health, main bearings and frame vibration. Courtesy: Apergy

A single cable transmits sensor signals from the four PUCs to the controller. Data gathered at the edge is wirelessly transmitted to a gateway for upload to a database, either in the Cloud or on-premises. The software stack uses Microsoft IOT Client for MQTT-based communication. Machine learning and other type analytics can be applied to the Cloud-based data to generate real-time performance alerts as well as key performance indicator and other type reports to users’ PCs, workstations and mobile devices.

Beyond basic monitoring, analytic capabilities include for remote analysis, fleet-wide benchmarking, daily status reports, and use of asset artificial intelligence (AI) and enterprise AI models.

Changing job functions

Advances in technology lead to changes in job functions.

“The older generation of analysts that began as operators and rose through the ranks are retiring. Their job was to drive from plant to plant recording machine data for generation of quarterly reports. The emerging generation knows what these new technologies are capable of. Instead of quarterly reports you can get data on an hourly basis. A single analyst can be responsible for hundreds of machines,” Abel said.

Fleetwide reports compare high-level KPIs, including a heat map of highest and lowest performing units. A health report might cause a customer to shut down two under-performing units and start-up another that is operating closer to peak performance.

Automatically generated daily reports address component issues such as magnetic pickup stability, transducer calibration, bias voltage, and hardware communication issues. Data analysis uses the calculated trend data to compile a daily health report. These rules were compiled by Windrock subject experts with hundreds of years of combined experience with oil field equipment and machines.

Windrock is a part of Apergy Corp., a provider of highly engineered equipment and technologies that help companies drill for and produce oil & gas, including artificial lift solutions for rod pumping, electrical submersible pump systems and other type drive and pump systems. Automation and digital solutions include for downhole monitoring and asset integrity enhancement.

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Kevin Parker
Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media