Remote monitoring software prevents damage and downtime related to sealing problems.
by Brandon Perkins

At every oil and gas facility, the ability to detect leaks and related problems quickly and accurately is a top priority. Leaking equipment can slow production, lead to costly damage and create unsafe working conditions. Incorporating remote monitoring software solutions and accompanying technical support is an important step in reducing faults and failures that can compromise the success of an oil and gas operation.

Leaking Pump Seal

In late December, a software monitoring solution at an oil and gas facility detected fluctuations in barrier fluid seal supply pressure on a pump equipped with a pressurized double seal. This pump had recently been started after several months of outage.

Figure 1. Actual values (blue) and expected values (green). The seal supply pressure is shown in the top two graphs, and the pump discharge flow is shown in bottom graph. (Graphics courtesy of GE Intelligent Platforms)

Values for the barrier fluid seal supply pressure were expected to remain at approximately 580 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) or 41 bar. Actual values, however, fluctuated between 520 psig (36.9 bar) and 600 psig (42.4 bar) (see Figure 1).

The end user was out of the office at the time, so the software provider’s industrial performance and reliability team notified the user at home about this issue.

While investigating the problem, the user discovered that a seal on the pump was leaking, which was causing the rapid fluctuations in the barrier fluid seal supply pressure. The user was able to take the asset offline and fix the seal.

If this seal had continued to leak and proper barrier fluid seal pressure was not maintained, contaminants from the process fluid could have been introduced into the barrier fluid. This contaminated barrier fluid would have resulted in instantaneous seal failure or latent seal failures. In addition to causing an outage and revenue loss, a seal failure could have resulted in serious environmental and safety repercussions. Because of the monitoring solution, the user was able to prevent these secondary and tertiary effects by repairing the seal before it failed.

Figure 2. Pump non-drive end seal charge supply pressure took a step change up to around 638 psig. The user investigated the issue and discovered a leak in one of the seal oil accumulators. The tank had to be removed for weld repair to address the leak.

Leaking Seal Oil Accumulator

In mid-July, this same monitoring solution detected a significant step change upward in the non-drive end seal charge supply pressure on a water injection pump at an oil and gas facility. Given the speed and load on the machine, the non-drive end seal charge supply pressure was expected to remain at approximately 385 psig. Actual non-drive end seal charge supply pressure reached 638 psig (see Figure 2).

The software provider’s industrial performance and reliability center sent a high-priority notification to the end user and began tracking the issue on weekly calls.

When they received the high-priority notification, the user’s engineers took action immediately. When they investigated the issue, they discovered a leak in one of the seal oil accumulators. To fix the leak, the user had to remove the tank for weld repair.

The end user employed the early notification of increased non-drive end seal charge supply pressure to identify a seal system issue. If the issue had not been addressed, it could have caused excessive seal face loading/distortion, which could have led to seal failure.

By showing that actual values returned to expected values, the software provider helped the end user verify that the maintenance action they took was successful.