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A Reliability Design Wins the Day at Absolute Energy

Grant Gerke | June 20, 2018

In a survey of our readers a couple of years back on how maintenance professionals receive industry information and pain points in their jobs, one reoccurring theme stuck out: reduced budgets for maintenance solutions.

Here are a couple of responses on this topic:

• “Funding of a budget and morale” ~ Maintenance Supervisor
• “Saving Money, But Getting The Job Completed”
• “Not enough money for predictive maintenance”

Now, in 2018, capital expenses may be loosening a bit but management is still looking to do more with less as recent case studies show. A recent case study presentation, see video below, via Emerson’s Automation Experts Blog discusses the issue of analyzing vibration around control valves for Absolute Energy, LLC, a producer of ethanol near the town of Lyle, Minn.

Travis Rosenberg, maintenance mgr. at Absolute Energy, received a directive from management: pursue plant expansion through optimization of existing equipment and systems.

Getting in the way of this directive was a legacy issue, vibration on the main steam letdown system, according to Rosenberg. After many unscheduled plant shutdowns, Emerson Automation Systems and Absolute Energy began adding many types of sensors for a downstream diffuser and control valve; then push this information into a cloud application for monitoring purposes.

“We shared information back and forth, Travis would get historian information that would line up with our vibration data and the results of our vibration information,” says Shawn Anderson, Sr. Research Specialist, Emerson Automation Solutions. We took data when it was behaving badly and Absolute Energy would modify the valves and we collect more data. We also tried it after a diffuser change. Basically, we had a lot of different information to tell us what impacts these changes had along the way.”

The project collected sound pressure loop data, process information from accelerometers and manual measurements of actual sound pressure levels. “We could correlate the high vibration areas back to the high noise areas as well,” says Anderson. The wireless remote monitoring solution included cellular, 4G LTE technology.

The big takeaway of the continuous monitoring solution from Emerson is the elimination of guesswork by Absolute Energy’s Rosenberg. Now, educated decisions could be made based on process performance versus vibration.

“By adjusting how the plant was running a little bit, the plant might lose a little bit of performance but provide better reliability,” says Anderson. When the reliability of that valve went down, it essentially shut down the whole plant. So the decision came down to a couple of percent performance versus not running at all. That became a pretty easy tradeoff.”

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Grant Gerke

Grant Gerke

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