Kittiwake Developments Ltd. - PRODUCT NEWS

The Future is Online Sensor Technology

Historically, oil analysis has been associated with sending samples to a laboratory for analysis. A few pioneering sites have adopted an on-site strategy and utilise portable test units for various oil test parameters in order to gain more control.

However, when one looks at the varying approaches to maintenance, it is apparent that companies investing in profitability through reliability rely heavily on an "inspection" approach. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Approaches to Maintenance

Therefore, in terms on oil analysis, the shift has to be away from infrequent oil analysis with a predictive focus, towards real-time condition monitoring via on-line sensor technology, particularly so on critical plant.

Figure 2 illustrates that the more frequent the sampling strategy the more likely it is that on-line sensors would be adopted.


Figure 2 - Oil analysis sampling frequency dictates the approach.

Whilst there are on-site tools currently available capable of permanent on-line analyses, until recently, few, if any, were available at a price that allowed permanent mount for surveillance, so were restricted to critical or capital intensive systems. However, with the current progression in technology, more low-cost sensors are appearing on the market. These new sensors set new ground on lower pricing and now start to be feasible as an option to many sites. These sensors will become more common and initially, will most likely form part of a walk-around Planned Maintenance (PM) inspection route using a hand-held data collector that can plug into and provide power to the sensor. However, the long-term goal will be to link the sensors as part of a networked surveillance system.

The purpose of these sensors will be to measure the system lubrication and wear rate conditions in real time and provide the analyst with much more information across the machine with significant benefits to the reliability and engineering groups. In addition, the real-time nature of the on-line sensor will mean that the frequency of laboratory analysis can be reduced, but this should not be dropped entirely, rather viewed as complementary.
Major benefits offered by the on-line sensors include:

* Improved oil analysis trending through vastly better consistency of sampling.

* The amount of time and manpower currently required to run an effective oil analysis programme will be reduced.

* The health and safety hazards associated with the sampling and handling of the lubricant will be eliminated.

* Risk-based costs are reduced as the sensors go beyond the historical protection devices, and instead offer failure prevention through root-cause monitoring.

* OEM warranties can be better supported through new build fitment of the sensors.

* Inaccessible facilities that find it difficult to ship samples to a laboratory will now have the benefit of real-time monitoring with remote surveillance by an experienced team of analysts.

Whilst current oil analysis software systems rely heavily on human interpretation artificially intelligent software systems that will do the initial analysis will be more common in the future. In fact, it is quite feasible that in the longer term oil analysis laboratories will offer a monitoring service whereby the surveillance and reporting is undertaken remotely, whilst the laboratory benefits through not having the overheads of larger automated test systems, and the hazards and costs of shipping samples is eliminated.

Whether it is critical, or high capital cost plant or large lubricant capacity systems; whether it is in the power generation, offshore, or pulp & paper industry, or any other business, for that matter, reliability engineers and asset owners can now benefit from the opportunities with on-line sensing technology.

Author: Martin Williamson, BSc CMRP MLA1 MLT1
KEW Engineering Ltd,
Tel: 01244 683331
web site:

May 2010

Home - Website - Search - Suppliers - Links - New Products - Catalogues - Magazines
Problem Page - Applications - How they work - Tech Tips - Training - Events - Jobs

Why not submit your Application Story ...
Contact Mike Coope - Tel: +44(0) 1902-700973 or Email: