Efficient Plant March 2021 - 25

feature | solution focus

Monitoring
System Cuts
Fire Potential
Online continuous-monitoring system helps prevent
critical-pump failures and reduces maintenance costs.

A MAJOR NORTH American refinery
had an issue with their critical balance-ofplant pumps. When the bearings failed, it
was not just a matter of exchanging pumps
because a damaged bearing could cause a
seal leak, which could lead to a fire. The
plant owner decided that advanced warning
of bearing failure was necessary. The plant's
portable monitoring instruments provided
early warning for normal bearing degradation but not fast-developing faults. As a
result of two studies, the Setpoint online vibration-monitoring system from BK Vibro
America Inc., Gardnerville, NV (bkvibro.
com), was selected as a replacement.

FAILURE-PRONE PUMPS
The refinery's solvent booster pumps move
extraction solvent, under high pressure, to

MARCH 2021

EP2103fsolfocus.indd 25

The Setpoint online monitoring system provided continuous monitoring that greatly reduced bearing and
seal damage in refinery pumps, thus minimizing the potential for fires. (Photo is not the subject refinery.)

the mixer/asphaltene separator in the SDA
unit. There are three API 610 BB2 pumps,
two of which must be operating at all times.
There is no spare.
The pumps had a history of bearing and
seal failures. If the seals leak, a volatile
hydrocarbon stream escapes and can ignite
as it flashes across the hot bearing or seal
face surface. This occurred several times. As
a result, advanced rolling-element, bearing-monitoring capability was needed to
detect developing bearing faults with sufficient lead time to failure so maintenance
could be planned.
Originally, pump monitoring was carried
out weekly with a handheld vibration
instrument. This was sufficient, since the

advanced bearing-monitoring functionality
of the instrument provided a six-month
lead-time from fault detection to failure.
The solution was initially adequate until
pump-bearing failures started occurring
between measurement intervals.

STUDY 1
After several bearing failures in the solvent
booster pumps, it was determined that this
condition was caused by loss of lubrication. This was not detected by the portable
vibration-monitoring instrument. Lubrication starvation accelerated bearing degradation to only six hours, which was between
planned measurement intervals.
Additional investigation revealed that the
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Efficient Plant March 2021

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