A software solution alerted two end users of problems with their reciprocating compressors, saving time and money.
by Cynthia Stone
August 11, 2015

Every oil and gas facility is comprised of critical equipment and processes that must operate reliably for successful production. One loose bolt or faulty thermostat can result in equipment failure and downtime. To prevent these catastrophic events, many facilities are turning to modern software solutions that allow them to remotely monitor equipment conditions and detect faults before they result in costly damage.

The two examples below show how early fault detection using remote monitoring software can save oil and gas facilities valuable time and money.

Broken Valve Bolt

On March 13, a remote monitoring software solution identified a sudden and sustained rise in the number of impacts over time on a reciprocating compressor.

Values for this sensor were expected to stay near 0 for sustained periods of time. The software provider's reliability center notified the end user of this issue during their scheduled weekly call.

When the operators investigated the issue, they found that valve center bolts had broken on three separate valves. Parts of one of the bolts had fallen into the cylinder head and were damaging the piston.

The debris from the broken bolts could have caused a catastrophic failure of this compressor and could have resulted in the compressor requiring a complete overhaul. Because the issue was detected early, the user was able to replace the piston and valves and return the machine to service.

Faulty Thermostat & Low Oil Level

In early July, this same software solution detected a drop in lube oil pressure on a reciprocating compressor at another oil and gas facility well before the pressure reached the shutdown limit.

Given the operating conditions, lube oil pressure values were expected to operate between 55 and 60 pounds per square inch gauge (PSIG) (4.8 and 5.2 bar). The software provider immediately sent a notification to the user when the lube oil pressure dropped to 48 PSIG (4.3 bar) and discussed the issue on the next weekly call. Actual values for lube oil pressure continued to drop as low as 33 PSIG (3.3 bar). The shutdown limit for the asset was at 30 PSIG (3.1 bar).

When the facility investigated this issue, they discovered a thermostat that was getting stuck and causing the lube oil to not be properly controlled. The user replaced the thermostat and reported this maintenance action on the next weekly call.

However, the software provider's reliability center was not able to verify that the facility's maintenance action was fully successful because actual values had not returned to expected values. A follow-up maintenance action, performed by the user, identified a second issue—the lube oil tank level was low. The user refilled the lube oil tank.

Loss of proper lube oil could cause catastrophic damage to the reciprocating compressor, leading to a loss of production. In this case, the facility received several days of warning, which allowed them to investigate and correct the issue before any damage occurred to the machine or the drop in oil pressure reached the low-pressure shutdown limits. The user was also able to receive verification that both maintenance actions were effective at correcting this issue by seeing the actual values return to expected values.