When a pump stops operating, an entire industrial operation can be halted. When they do go down, a level of troubleshooting is necessary before the operation of a pump can be restored. In some cases, an entirely new pump is needed due to the several kinds of erosion that pumps undergo. This hiatus in is always financially challenging.
However, strides are being made to ensure that troubleshooting is as quick and painless as possible. The technology to monitor pumps and their operation is improving thanks to newly engineered technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things.
Oil & Gas
Caterpillar has released an Electronic Monitoring System for oil and gas industries. Their performance monitoring system can assist in minimizing downtime, but also protect the pump from undergoing a catastrophic failure.
“Our well service customers want not only superior performance from their pump products but also the technology to help them incorporate innovative solutions into their operations,” said, Caterpillar Oil & Gas well service manager, Derek Kemp
Cavitation and valve leak detection is something the Pump Electronic Monitoring System (PEMS) is capable of. The ability to monitor these failures means that the pump’s life is extended. If pumps continue to operate without shutdowns whilst cavitation occurs, it can have debilitating effects on the impellers, and the overall health of the pump system.
The result is cavitation erosion, pictured below. Pump cavitation is when bubbles form around a pump’s impeller - the bubbles explode and send shock waves into the pump which cause microcracks that can be fatal to a pump.
The Internet of Things
The Industrial Internet of Things is also ensuring that industrial companies are able to monitor the health of their pumps through sensors embedded inside the pumps. Another company pioneering the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) for pumps through the Internet of Things is a company named ThingWorx.
Their virtual representation solution is able to show when air bubbles are forming and causing cavitation.
“Using our technology and integration with analytics tools we can take these actual values and we can pump them into a computational fluid dynamics simulation so we can see problems. We can actually use that data to perform not an idealized simulation, but visually represent what’s actually happening in the pump right now,” said Michael Campbell, Executive Vice President of PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform.
They hope one day to implement augmented reality on physical hardware so that operators can ‘see’ what is ailing a piece of machinery in real time.
When cavitation occurs high strength material is damaged by collapsing bubbles, and as a result microcracks are formed. In the past it was almost always impossible for operators to notice this process in enough time to avert an expensive shutdown of operations - the most likely outcome. With increasingly sophisticated virtual representations of the inner workings of pumps, the job of monitoring has become more effective, allowing operators to more easily pre-empt trouble and damage.
“What we would like to do, where we’re headed, is being able to present this on the pump itself in augmented reality so you can look at it and see what’s happening. You’ve seen a wind tunnel where they introduce smoke so you can see what the airstream is doing? Augmented reality is similar,” Campbell said.
Through immediate data and analytics of the operation of pumps within an industrial operation, those costly shutdowns could be a thing of the past.
"ThingWorx Analytics - Flowserve Pump Demo." YouTube. 01 Aug. 2016. Web. 17 May 2017.
Waters, Louise. "Caterpillar Launches Pump Electronic Monitoring System at OTC." Oil Review Middle East. Web. 17 May 2017.