Better data, better value operations, says GE Oil & Gas
Monitoring and diagnostics is a fast-evolving part of the oil and gas industry, and one which is becoming crucial for asset optimisation, writes Hasan Dandashly from GE Oil & Gas
The global oil and gas industry faces numerous technical challenges. Chief among them is the need for advanced technology solutions that enable oil and gas producers to get the most out of existing natural resources.
At the same time, operators are trying to get the most performance and profitability out of their installed fleet by lowering their lifecycle costs for operations and maintenance. Monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) has been part of the industry for more than a decade, evolving significantly in that time, so that the technology plays an increasingly vital role. Integrated with traditional oil and gas services, it is a key enabler for asset optimisation.
Services themselves have also evolved over this period. Retaining the core elements of parts, repairs and field services, some service providers are now able to offer genuine insight into their long-term customer relationships, using a pool of data gleaned from years of monitoring and advanced sensor technology.
The current economic climate drives industry operators to maximise the value of their assets. This means reducing the number of outages, as well as having cross-fleet visibility on operating conditions. Experienced product engineers use this information to take real-time decisions that lead to increased production, part-life extension and risk mitigation.
Operators are also seeking to change their approach to maintenance. The industry is moving away from a landscape of outages dictated by time intervals and is looking for service providers to give them more. The ability to anticipate issues and provide long-term maintenance strategies is the key to maximising value. Condition-based maintenance will become the industry standard. Closer collaboration with customers in this way allows them to make realtime decisions on their equipment, increase availability and plan for future asset needs. Reliably charting asset performance over a greater timescale means that the asset itself becomes a key element in a company’s financial calculations.
The advent of "big data" and analytics mean that to be a valuable partner, service providers must offer support akin to a consultancy. Insights into the information provided through M&D will give customers the information they need to run their business better. Recommendations will extend far beyond machine tuning and root-cause analysis to improving how entire production streams are managed.
Various M&D programmes can be created to address the needs of customers, ranging from advisory solutions to programmes tailored to reduce the number of unplanned outages to risk-sharing partnerships. M&D centres can advise on the best actions for the operators to take, without the need to be at the site, offering faster implementation, as well as greater efficiency.
Sensor technology now provides diagnostic engineers with more information across a broader set of performance indicators. Combustion dynamics, blade health status and clearance monitoring are some of the elements that can be monitored with advanced sensors on turbo-machinery equipment. The technology is available to operators looking for new units and also as a retro fit for existing equipment, allowing current machinery to be upgraded and give customers more information on its operating conditions.
Advanced sensory technology is of little use without the appropriate algorithm needed to elaborate and transmit the signal and correctly interpret it remotely. Platforms, such as GE’s System 1, and advanced software, such as GE’s SmartSignal, help to take the information from the sensors and process it into usable data. Advanced data mining tools are essential to the smooth operation of monitoring and diagnostics and provide engineers with the correct information.
All of this is of no value without the expertise and insight to take these outputs and turn them into real time advice and actions. It is the connection between these elements that will enable operators to work more efficiently and make the most of their equipment.
Long-term and lasting collaborations between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of machinery and end users are key to maximising benefits for operators. At GE Oil & Gas Global Services, our diagnostics engineers call on more than 11 million hours of accumulated monitoring experience when making recommendations to our customers.
This insight is not limited to providing recommendations about already installed equipment. Engineering is also seeing radical shifts, with the advent of true services engineers. These people are product diagnostic engineers, using and interpreting data to predict future failure modes of machinery. It is a new model that includes diagnostics and prognostics competencies that enables specific, accurate instructions to be provided to skilled field personnel carrying out implementation on site.
The evolution of sensors, big data and the competencies of personnel means service providers are now able to predict machinery behaviour better. This means they can offer operators more information, as well as more value, from their partnerships. The traditional approach to preventative maintenance, driven by time intervals, is no longer the main element in determining the lifecycle of an asset. Predictive maintenance will play a bigger role in the future.
Monitoring and diagnostics is not new to the oil and gas industry, but recent developments allow operators to enjoy more benefits from this service. Rotating equipment is increasingly communicative and intelligent when in operation, thanks to the application of advanced sensors that enable a richness of data to be extracted. New and advanced techniques in big data analytics permit ever-more targeted feedback to customers – a powerful concept when combined with the input of experienced engineers, able to interpret and directly act on the information. Operators enjoying such advances can maximise return on investment across the entire plant.
Customised for the Middle East
GE Oil & Gas’ monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) services have been delivered to date through the iCenter at GE Oil & Gas headquarters in Florence, Italy since 2004. Using sensors installed on the GE turbo-machinery, customer asset data is captured real time 24/7 and transmitted to Florence where it is processed and analysed by a team of experts, who communicate recommended actions to the customer. The installed machinery is monitored around the clock, facilitating swift interventions or adjustments when necessary.
Middle Eastern operators were early adopters, receiving customised maintenance support since being connected to the system in 2004.
Originally a remote service, with machines connected to a remotely located technical centre and the service provider’s base, M&D is now also available locally on site. GE’s iBox technology, designed to complement the existing M&D offering, has been developed to provide an equivalent service on-site, without the need to export data. The iBox is a platform for on-site M&D services for gas turbines and driven equipment, such as centrifugal compressors, pumps and generators.
The iBox collects machine data locally and processes it into useful information through the use of embedded advanced OEM “rulepaks”, which are at the heart of the iBox platform. They give the user an early warning of incipient failures, as well as a highfidelity assessment of the machinery thermodynamic performance levels.
For instance, a combustion rulepak might diagnose the status of the flame detector in the combustion chamber, while a centrifugal compressor performance rulepak will determine the delta between actual and expected polytropic efficiency of the compressor. The presence of an on-site diagnostic engineer is required to maximise the benefits of this information, turning it into action.
In addition to the iCenter and iBox, GE also deploys data mining tools such as Smart Signal. The Smart Signal tool is being used in a number of Middle Eastern oil and gas assets to provide trends in the vital parameters of turbo-machinery and plant equipment and early detection of anomalies.
As monitoring and diagnostics continue to develop, operators in the Middle East are combining a multitude of core elements with skilled personnel on site to reap the full benefits of this approach.