Videos give a glimpse into maintenance program progress

Dec. 13, 2010
Mike Bacidore, chief editor, says plant reliability is a journey, not a destination.

I love a parade. Maybe it’s the splendor and the celebration. Or maybe it’s the giant pageant-queen float with the mechanical dancing penguins.

I suspect what I like most is the movement — the marching bands, the miniature-car-driving Shriners, the lawn chair drill team. The parade is all about the journey, not the destination, much like the way most plants move from reactive to predictive maintenance and beyond.

In 2011 on, we’ll be including new videos that will show the remarkable progress that plants are making. In fact, a couple of them already are posted.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities in Kentucky is an older facility, originally built in 1964. “We have older reciprocating air compressors,” says Russell Evans, PMP, plant technical services manager. (Watch the video) “One of the biggest challenges we have is with the cylinders. But when we do a return-on-investment study of putting in a new air compressor, a lot of times you can’t justify it because even if you spend $20-25,000/yr on maintenance on these reciprocating air compressors, a new compressor may be a half million to a million dollars by the time you get the new equipment and the piping put back in and try to sell it to your company that this is a good idea, but it’s not going to pay back for 20 years.”

The utility company has a performance engineer who does the heat rate studies on its units. “It takes a lot of key indications and gives us an alert when we have abnormal pressure changes or temperature changes,” explains Evans. “It gives us these flags and says it’s seeing a degradation — maybe feed water heaters. We can take that information and see what kind of impact there is and whether it justifies taking any action. It takes into account ambient temperatures and the environment. It learns as it goes and really is a valuable tool.”


Evans’ department is relatively new. “Most of us have been there less than a year,” he says. “We’re developing a reliability program. Currently, the primary PM we perform is vibration analysis. We want to go further and go into the thermal imagery and motor current analysis to try to expand our program and really try to help us prevent any catastrophic failures of equipment and try to identify problems before they happen, to be proactive, rather than reactive.”

At the Shell plant in Louisiana where Doug Husen is mechanical team supervisor, there are 14 large reciprocating compressors doing all kinds of services with very important machines. (Watch the video) “We need to maintain the reliability of those systems as much as we can,” says Husen. “Right now the predictive technologies we have aren’t frequent, but we bring people in who do beta trap analysis. It’s the type of machine that uses valves that you screw into the top of the compressor to measure the pressure and take that output and, knowing the other dynamics of the machine, develop a PV relationship curve to help you understand the performance of your compressor vs. design. So it helps give you indications of potential problems with internal working parts or valve issues.”

Husen says his plant is looking at online temperature measurement, vibration data for continuous monitoring and ultrasound technology. “It seems like an easy, efficient and ready-to-use technology that we could have at the site for data whenever we wanted it, vs. having to schedule for someone to come in and give us the beta trap analysis that we’re doing now,” he says. “One of the other benefits of having the ultrasound would be to help other areas outside of mechanical, whether it be for air leaks or exchanger inspections or electrical inspections. It’s technology that we’re not using, but I’d like to say we’re not using it yet.”

If you’d like to share a glimpse of your organization’s journey, contact me. I’ll be standing along the parade route.