Wirelessly Monitoring Essential Assets

by | Jul 13, 2011 | Asset Management, Industrial IoT


We’re entering that time of year where draft presentations have been developed and submitted to the Emerson Exchange organizers. The 2011 event will be held October 24-28 in Nashville, Tennessee USA.

A few weeks ago, I caught up with Emerson’s Pete Sharpe who leads our industry applications team and I asked him about his presentation for this year’s event. In past Emerson Exchanges, Pete has shared his experiences applying advanced process control in applications such as distillation columns.

At this year’s Exchange, Pete will share how to monitor essential assets via wireless technology. He starts by defining essential assets in plants as any asset whose outage could cause a significant process disturbance, slowdown, or shutdown. Examples include pumps, exchangers, blowers, tanks, fired heaters, simple compressors, fin-fans, and cooling towers.

Essential assets are a step below critical assets, which are usually already equipped with wired predictive, protection systems. These essential assets often have spares in which to switchover in the event of a problem. They are typically monitored manually by visual rounds once per shift or day and have periodic handheld vibration and performance audits performed.

Pete will cite a statistic that 25% of unplanned outages are related to equipment failure. Moving from manual to continuous monitoring can catch a significant portion of this equipment failure—on the order of 80%. For a small sized refinery, this could be around 2% of production capacity worth more than $3 million USD annually.

It’s not just lost capacity, but it can also involve safety. Pete will share some headlines from the news of equipment failures which led to fires, atmospheric flaring, and extended downtime from flaring during restart conditions. These incidents impact public image, incur regulatory fines, and increase regulatory oversight.

I know from my days on offshore platforms that retrofitting equipment with vibration and temperature sensors was a difficult proposition, mainly due to the wiring involved and available room in junction boxes and wire trays. IEC 62591 (WirelessHART) vibration and other sensors avoid these installation issues and can monitor cavitation, high vibration, bearing temperatures, seal conditions, and process conditions such as suction and discharge pressures.

Essential Asset Monitoring Assessment GridPete will provide a methodology based on failure frequency versus failure impact to help determine which essential assets should be candidates for continuous monitoring.

His team has developed and is developing additional essential asset applications around key pieces of process equipment including pump health, heat exchangers, blowers, fin-fans, cooling towers, simple compressors, and fired heaters. These applications include engineering, installation, commissioning, and training services coupled with the wireless devices, gateways, and connections with asset management and automation systems.

The goal is provide a way to quickly address the essential assets that require continuous monitoring without being a major custom project effort. Also by benchmarking current performance, the return on investment due to reduced downtime and slowdowns, failure avoidance, and reduced safety and environmental incidents can be captured and shared. This measurement process can help fund additional essential assets to continuously monitor.

If you’re headed to Nashville for this year’s Emerson Exchange, you may want to add Pete’s presentation to your schedule.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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