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Increase Plant and Operator Safety by Monitoring Equipment Health

Increase Plant and Operator Safety by Monitoring Equipment Health

To keep operations running smoothly, plant operators safe and unplanned downtime minimal, monitoring the health of equipment is critical. When equipment fails it typically results in loss of production, loss of products, and ultimately loss of profits. In the past, a shift operator would walk the line and visually inspect or audibly listen for faults along the equipment, such as a conveyor belt. Manual inspections expose personnel to hazardous environments, is difficult to do in harsh weather conditions and is very time consuming. Now there is a safer, more efficient and reliable method to monitor equipment health and protect assets, a Fiber Optic Sensing System.

This revolutionary technology has the capability to monitor conveyor health, pipeline leak detection, monitor ground disturbances, identify manual and machine excavation, vehicle movement, hot tapping both above and underground, perimeter security monitoring and power cable monitoring. Rather than traditional point instruments, the Fiber Optic Sensing System is distributed alongside the equipment, thereby the entire cable is able to sense disturbances to the application. The intuitive Fiber Optic System can sense sound (acoustics and vibration), acting as a hyper sensitive microphone at every point in the fiber, listening for potential problems. It can also sense temperature, acting as a thermometer to detect heat or thermocouple at every point along the fiber, feeling for potential problems. The Fiber Optic System can also sense strain, detecting tiny changes in stress and strain in the application therefore predicting breakages and failures before they have a chance to occur.

When the Fiber Optic Sensing System is installed on a conveyor belt, it has the ability to immediately detect which idlers have failed or will soon fail, identifies the exact location of each idler, and reports it to the control system or operator. Not only does this real-time smart solution detect which idlers have failed, but it also prevents a failure from ever happening in the first place. The Fiber Optic Sensing System reports when an idler is going to potentially fail (in some cases, up to 20 days in advance) so it can then be replaced, drastically minimizing or completely eliminating downtime. This kind of preventative maintenance saves thousands. It provides the convenience to predict and schedule a plant shutdown instead of having an unexpected shutdown, where the need to hire a contractor on emergency is extremely costly. In order to keep equipment running smoothly and production operational, the need to monitor equipment health with a reliable and intelligent technology is imperative.

When the Fiber Optic Sensing System is installed on a buried or unburied pipeline, it can immediately detect pipeline leakage, ground disturbances, manual and machine excavation, theft, hot tapping and vehicle movement. The Fiber Optic System continually monitors large spans of pipeline, looking for vibration and temperature changes. Once a detection occurs, the system alerts the operator or security personal to the exact location of disturbance in the pipeline. This type of real-time intelligent monitoring is critical to operating efficiently and protecting valuable assets.

When the Fiber Optic Sensing System is installed along a fence or perimeter, it can detect, identify and report any movements. This system has limitless applications and can be installed on anything from explosive storage areas to farms and ranches. The fast processing speed and pulse rate allow the Fiber Optic System to detect minute interferences that may otherwise go unnoticed. Some examples of detectable activates include intruder movement along a perimeter, intruders cutting or climbing a fence, vehicle movement along a perimeter and digging, excavating or trenching. The Fiber Optic Sensing system is crucial for keeping valuable assets secure and protected.

The Fiber Optic System is modular in design and can monitor up to 50 miles (80km) at the same time. With its flexible design, the Fiber Optic System has the ability to be routed around an entire plant or operations to cover multiple conveyors, pipelines, fencing, or rails. Installation is easy and there is no maintenance or calibration required after commissioning. The Fiber Optic System is built with self-diagnostics to monitor the unit’s condition and maintain optimum performance.

The Fiber Optic Sensing System requires no infield resources such as power and requires no additional data storage or data processing IT assets. Without the need for additional power or communications to be installed in the field, the system can be installed and commissioned for a fraction of the price of traditional instruments and removes the requirement for ongoing periodic inspections.

The Fiber Optic Sensing System uses a combination of Rayleigh backscatter and time of flight technology to determine the presence, location, intensity and frequency of vibrations along an optical fiber in real time. The Fiber Optic Sensing System has a built-in Human Machine Interface (HMI) and can be operated directly or connected to an existing Control System such as a SCADA. The Fiber Optic System can provide alarm notifications (red, amber, and green) depending on the condition of the components. Reporting and alarms can be sent to smart phones, tablets and computers via SMS and email alerts. The report includes the location of an alarm, the alarm classification, its longitude and latitude, the alarm intensity as well as the time and date.

Monitoring equipment health is essential to keeping operations running smoothly, assets protected and employees safe. The ability to monitor the condition and performance of equipment reduces downtime and increases productivity and profitability. Incorporating smart technologies to predict and prevent maintenance is the cornerstone to running a successful operation.   

Hawk Measurement (HAWK) specializes in Fiber Optic Sensing and Asset Protection.

Unlike other Fiber Optic Sensing Systems on the market, HAWK’s modular hardware and software are unique and has world leading specifications, minimizing false positives and maximizing flexibility. Along with the extreme sensitivity, HAWK has spent years perfecting the use of filtering and using algorithms to eliminate false positives and unwanted alarms.  Utilizing a highly stable fiber optic laser, HAWK is able to achieve extreme signal stability and increased range. By reducing laser fluctuation, even the smallest signals are able to be detected at great distances, leading HAWK to have the best sensing capability on the market.

A major natural resources company responsible for mining and mineral development was having issues with conveyor belt breakage so they contacted HAWK for a solution. The mechanical nature of conveyors makes them highly prone to wear and tear that can lead to failure of components and cause failures that can shut down the entire conveyor. Since conveyors are often the main form of locomotion for raw and saleable material within a plant; it follows that when a conveyor goes down, so too does the profitability of an operation. HAWK’s solution was to install the Praetorian Fiber Optic Sensing System throughout the site. Based on a series of comparisons between the detections and manual belt inspections (called “Belt Walks”) this solution successfully proved the functionality of the Praetorian Fiber Optic Sensing system in an infield environment to be able to detect all idler fault conditions along the conveyor. They were then confirmed as faulty by subsequent inspections. Furthermore, there were multiple cases where additional idlers were detected as faulty that could not be confirmed by manual inspection.

HAWK’s Praetorian Fiber Optic Conveyor Health Monitoring Sensing System uses three main principles to detect the health of the conveyor; Rayleigh Backscattering, Time of flight and Bearing vibration principles. In a fiber optic core, backscatter is the light that reflects off natural imperfections within the fiber and returns to the light source. The return light consists of a Rayleigh’s backscatter component which allows HAWK to sense the vibration. In the conveyor monitoring system, the mechanical coupling of vibrations to the optical fiber cable at each idler frame returns a Rayleigh backscatter signal. The idler running vibration signal is picked up by the fiber cable. The amount of vibration determines the intensity of the backscattered light. The intensity and frequency of the vibration is measurable by recording and analyzing it in time. Time of Flight is used to calibrate the distance along the fiber from which a backscattered signal has originated. The change in the vibration frequency content along the entire length of fiber attached to the conveyor is captured, and time of flight is used to identify the location of the good and faulty idler signals. The signal captured is analyzed in time and frequency using Bearing Analysis and vibrational signal processing techniques to automatically and accurately detect and prioritize the idler faults and predict the maintenance in advance. Using these three principles HAWK’s Fiber Optic System can monitor the entire length of the conveyor and offers a full distributed vibration sensing system. 

As part of the delivery of the instrumentation outputs, Hawk has developed a user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI) that gives different levels of information to predetermined user levels. The design is expandable and modular, enabling multiple belts at multiple sites to be fully interconnected whilst still visually displaying individual idler alarm notifications both locally and remotely.  

The outcome of this solution proved that when monitoring the entire conveyor length with the Praetorian Fiber Optic Sensing System it continues to lead to a significant reduction in unplanned shutdowns and proved the capability and reliability of the Praetorian Fiber Optic Sensing System’s long-term operation for automatic conveyor monitoring. HAWK’s solution implemented remarkable profitability and unsurpassed value for this company, with the ability to predict and schedule maintenance, keep operations running smoothly and plant operators safe.

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