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Long-Distance Learning: When a Turbine Tripped on Nexen’s North Sea Oil Platform, GE Found the Cause from 500 Miles Away

Nexen’s Buzzard offshore complex is a system of three oil platforms anchored in the cold and choppy Atlantic some 62 miles northwest of Aberdeen, Scotland. Nexen, a Canadian energy company, designed the platforms to produce 200,000 barrels of oil per day, making the field one of the largest in the North Sea. But several years ago, one of Nexen’s three main power turbines generating Buzzard’s electricity experienced a series of “trips” – or power fluctuations that result in a turbine shutdown, putting production in jeopardy.

Nexen, however, had equipped its turbines with GE’s remote diagnostics software. A GE services team sitting 500 miles away quickly found the cause of the shutdowns and prevented severe equipment damage costing Nexen more that $10 million per day in lost oil output.

Remote Control: GE’s Industrial Internet diagnostics system helped fix Buzzard’s power turbine from 500 miles away.

The Buzzard turbines were monitored GE’s System 1 diagnostics software. The technology is part of GE’s Industrial Internet services solutions connecting people, data and machines. The software quickly gathered information from sensors inside the affected turbine and fed it for analysis to GE’s remote diagnostics centers in Aberdeen and the Netherlands. When GE service engineers went over the results, they noticed that some of the bearings sensors were reporting changes in temperature and voltage, tell-tale signs of bearing damage. A deeper analysis indicated that the control system in a lubricating pump was the likely culprit – a discovery that would not have been made until much later, or perhaps not at all, without accurate data about the exact time the incident occurred.

Acting on GE’s findings, Nexen fixed the bearing and corrected the pump’s control system, solving the problem and averting potential damage and downtime. GE and Nexen estimate the System 1 technology has saved the energy company millions over the life of their service contract by detecting faults outside planned maintenance schedules, avoiding lost production, and mobilizing personnel and back-up equipment during outages. After GE helped fix the broken bearing, Nexen reviewed all of its rotating machinery to prevent similar accidents. The software has been monitoring machine vibrations, temperature, performance and emissions for machines ranging from gas turbines, compressors, pumps, fans and heat exchangers.

“Intelligent” service solutions like System 1 make good business sense. A new report from GE on the Industrial Internet estimates that by reducing capital expenditures by just 1 percent in the oil and gas sector, Industrial Internet systems and services could save the industry $90 billion over the next 15 years.

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