Enhancing critical machinery monitoring

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    2016 May 05, 14:00 CEST

    Mark Dunn, Reliability Engineering Manager at SKF, explains how the company’s IMx-M system is gaining a foothold in the oil and gas market.

    What is IMx-M?

    IMx-M is a protection system with a difference: it incorporates condition monitoring. When people approach us they are generally looking for a protection system: we’ve added condition monitoring to that.

    The system protects and monitors critical and high-speed rotating machinery: power generation, pumps, aero engines, steam or gas turbines, motor-run systems – any machine that has high potential energy that could cause severe damage. It’s a sophisticated way of monitoring the condition of critical offshore machinery. Together with SKF @ptitude Monitoring Suite software, it enables end users to protect and enhance the reliability of assets and reduce machine downtime.

    It’s a complete system for initiation of machinery shutdown, early fault detection, and diagnosis – and is API670 compliant. The majority of IMx-M sales are into the Oil & Gas industry, followed by power generation and other areas.

    How is it set up?

    To configure the system, we use IMx-M Manager to set up all the protection values.

    The advantage over our competitors is that we can take all types of sensors into one card. Rival systems need a card for each parameter – such as temperature, acceleration, proximity probes, and so on. And, typically, they will only have four channels per card – whereas ours have 16. At the same time, the number of channels is creating a high rack channel density: that means fewer racks and cabinets, which reduces the size of the equipment room that you need.

    Each channel is then given an alarm and trip setting – such as 10,000ms to trip – and IMx-M is set up as a protection system.

    Then, we simply import this file into our Observer software, and that automatically creates the condition monitoring channels that take data from the inputs to the card. Our rack can take four cards, giving a total of 64 channels. And it has dual redundant power supplies – so if one fails, the other can fully support the system.

    Why is there a need to combine protection and monitoring?

    These days, there are fewer people running facilities – yet they have more to do. Safety has also improved, however, the greater your exposure to this type of machinery, the higher the risk. This is why protection systems are incorporating a monitoring aspect. It helps to cut the risk.

    It’s also very cost-effective. With a protection system, the user has already invested in the main infrastructure components such as transducers, cables and cabinets. Adding the condition monitoring function re-uses these components, adding key functionality at little cost.

    We recently supplied a system for a steam turbine in an oil power plant. The customer was already a user of SKF software – but, crucially, wanted a protection system that incorporated condition monitoring. Its existing system could not offer this, so we won the contract to replace it.

    Is SKF a major player in this market?

    It’s a very big market, dominated by one major player. If we can win a percentage of it, that’s huge. And this is already happening. Many installed systems have a lifespan of just 10-15 years, so there’s plenty of opportunity for us to replace competitor systems. We’ve done that recently with a Brazilian customer – where we replaced a competitor’s system with one of ours. We expect to do more of that in future.

    Of course, there must be an incentive to switch. We know that our systems must be cost-effective, and perform as well – or better – than the incumbent system. It’s the software and the ease of use that need to be the differentiator.

    It’s taken a while to build credibility in this market. A few years ago, oil companies were telling us: ‘Come back to us when you’ve made some sales.’ Now that we have, we’re going to do just that. We recently won a $20m contract with a major oil company, for example: working on that has driven a lot of the development of IMx-M.

    The latest release is designed to present the analyst with a powerful and efficient tool for analyzing and diagnosing machinery problems. IMx-M distills more than 30 years of SKF experience in critical machinery monitoring.

    Aktiebolaget SKF

    For further information, please contact:
    Press Relations: Nia Kihlström, +46 31-337 2897; +46 706 67 28 97; nia.kihlstrom@skf.com

    SKF is a leading global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems, and services which include technical support, maintenance and reliability services, engineering consulting and training. SKF is represented in more than 130 countries and has around 17,000 distributor locations worldwide. Annual sales in 2015 were SEK 75 997 million and the number of employees was 46 635. www.skf.com

    ® SKF is a registered trademark of the SKF Group.

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