Oil & Gas Companies Prevent Surprise Downtime Using Remote Monitoring & Diagnostics

  • June 08, 2015
  • GE Digital
  • Feature

By: Jeremiah Stone, General Manager, Industrial Data Intelligence Software at GE

Not too long ago, diagnosing a problem with a critical asset was a cumbersome process for the automation industry. Outside of scheduled maintenance – which was at best a decent estimate of when maintenance should actually occur – operators generally were only able to diagnose and resolve problems after there had been a failure. The amount of time spent resolving the failure depended on exploratory disassembly, parts availability, as well as the expertise of the maintenance personnel onsite. The Oil and Gas (O&G) industry where downtime carries a hefty price tag, the guess-and-check repair approach and potential for backordered parts, could quickly spell additional risk to the asset as well as millions in lost productivity.

The Industrial Internet is making the diagnostic process much more straightforward and manageable, particularly with the advent of powerful Remote Monitoring and Diagnostic (RM&D) capabilities. With RM&D, assets can be monitored around the clock from a central location, partnering powerful software solutions with predictive capabilities with analytics experts trained to convert small anomalies in industrial data into actionable early warnings of potential failure. Instead of waiting for problems to occur and then scrambling to find solutions, RM&D service providers now can flag problems before they become failures, saving time and money.

The Oil and Gas industry in particular has been quick to recognize the benefits of RM&D. These companies have very expensive equipment deployed in disparate locations around the world, often in challenging to reach locations and difficult operating conditions. This makes top-flight monitoring and diagnostics systems critical to ensure that these operations can continue without interruption.

So what does RM&D look like in action? At our own RM&D center, we remotely monitor assets for many industrial operations and routinely uncover small anomalies – we call these “catch of the week” -- that could have had serious consequences if left unchecked. Here are a few recent examples from real-world Oil and Gas companies:

  • Pressure loss at O&G facility: Our software flagged a drop in pressure for a pump at an oil and gas facility. Experts immediately sent a high-priority notification to the company alerting them to the problem and allowing them to replace a filter to prevent any damage to the seals. When the problem reoccurred on a second pump, our RM&D experts collaborated with the organization and its partners to uncover the underlying issue: contaminated seal fluid. As a result, the company was able to make the necessary repairs to prevent damage to all the pumps at its facility.
  • Temperature anomaly at natural gas compression facility: A compressed natural gas organization was alerted when our software detected an unexpected drop in temperature in a cylinder of a CNG (compressed natural gas) engine. While operators believed the problem was due to a glycol leak in the coolant system, our RM&D experts determined otherwise. After further investigation, the problem was discovered to be a faulty fuel valve. The company was able to replace the valve avoiding damage to the engine that would have resulted if the problem had not been corrected.
  • Mercury rising at offshore platform: When temperatures begin to rise slightly in a water injection pump bearing at an offshore platform, the organization was immediately notified. Operators inspected the pump and found that a lube oil cooler failed, threatening to cause failure and damage to the whole pump. By correcting the issue, the offshore platform was able to get out in front of the problem to minimize cost and downtime.
  • Fluctuating compressor pressure at refinery: Software detected fluctuating pressure on a reciprocating compressor at an oil refinery. Based on historical data and industry knowledge, our RM&D experts diagnosed the problem as liquid being entrained in the system. Further inspection uncovered a problem leading to the fluid entrainment and allowed the maintenance team to plan corrective action for the next planned maintenance of the compressor. Unchecked, the problem would have compromised the performance of the compressor and potentially resulted in a total failure.

In each case, the early warning signs were fairly inconspicuous: small drops in temperature or pressure, or slight deviations from normal fluctuation ranges. The value of RM&D for these oil and gas operations was finding these early warning signs in a sea of noise and potential false alarms. By partnering cutting-edge software that can predict issues with industrial expertise, RM&D cuts through the data clutter to identify problems before they become critical, and helps counsel the operators on ways to quickly resolve the issues.

While Oil and Gas companies are generally ahead of the curve when it comes to RM&D, the trend toward remote monitoring is spreading across many industries which involve expensive machinery whose performance and ROI is dependent on optimal operations with no unplanned downtime.  The good news for these companies is that RM&D gets more advanced every year as experts continue to learn from the data collected from thousands of high-value assets around the world. Now is the time to start taking advantage of RM&D. The cost of failure is too high to leave up to chance, and the sooner high-value assets are plugged into an RM&D solution, the quicker expert analysts can begin to understand the asset and how to keep it performing at optimal levels. 


Jeremiah Stone is the General Manager of GE’s Industrial Data Intelligence Software business unit that focuses on helping Industrial companies achieve equipment and business-performance goals via use of advanced data-management, predictive-analytic, and process-optimization solutions and services to effectively access, manage, and leverage industrial data.  

Before joining GE, Jeremiah was Vice President, Natural Resource Industries and Sustainability Solutions at SAP, where he was responsible for strategy, market research, investment cases, and development for SAP’s Sustainability, Oil & Gas, Chemicals, Mill Products, and Mining industry portfolios. Additionally, Jeremiah was a leader in SAP’s cross-functional adoption of Lean and Agile software development and continuous improvement of solution and system-oriented design.   Prior to joining SAP Labs, Jeremiah started his career as a programmer and systems administrator with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. 

Jeremiah is a graduate of the University of Colorado's Mathematics program, Summa Cum Laude. He is an inventor or co-inventor of multiple U.S. patents and several publications and is a founding member of the NextGen Advisory Board at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

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