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Thermographic Protection for Oil Installation

The return on investment for AMEC on its new Flir Systems InfraCAM thermal imaging camera was immediate. During a pre-purchase trial the camera pre-empted a potential loss of power generation on an offshore oil installation, the plant maintenance of which is the responsibility of AMEC’s oil and gas business based in Aberdeen.

Manufacturing economies resulting from the worldwide demand for Flir Systems’ thermal imaging cameras have made this technology widely affordable and AMEC is one of many companies that have taken advantage of this cost benefit. The camera proved its worth from its first survey when it was used to investigate why a pump on a main power generator was tripping out.

Having replaced a fuse, run the pump for a short time and checked the temperature of the cables by hand the senior electrician decided to scan the unit with the InfraCAM. This showed the cable insulation on the red phase to be hotter than the others. As a result, the decision was taken to change the fuse carriers completely by isolating the board.

Without the benefit of this thermographic insight, the electrician might have re-started the generator without further cause for concern. This was the first example on this installation of just how effective thermal imaging can be in averting system failure.

This could potentially have been a costly operational failure as cessation of power generation results in loss of water injection in the mechanism by which oil is extracted when the natural pressure of the well declines. Fundamentally, loss of water injection results in loss of oil production and at $70+ per barrel this is a serious issue.

As a result of this incident, on-load imaging is to be included in all routine checks for motors and radiometric JPEGs added to the records for benchmarking. It is still early days for in-house thermography but there is already a host of applications deemed ideal for the technology. Typical examples are checking that the trace heating is on for the gas lift transmitters, investigating any blockages on crude oil coolers and potentially measuring the heat exposure on fan pulleys.

“We are very impressed by the capabilities of the InfraCAM,” explained one of the company’s Maintenance Project Engineers. “We are always looking for innovative ways of continuous performance improvement on our projects.” The swift payback of its first InfraCAM has now led AMEC to the purchase of a second InfraCAM® with SD card to carry out further trials for the routine inspection of plant on oil platforms; both were supplied by specialist instrument provider Alpine Components

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