Wireless sensors for structural health monitoring in marine oil and gas

Oil & gas platforms are vulnerable to damage as they are continually exposed to extreme weather conditions and damaging forces. As building new platforms is not economically feasible, companies opted to extend the platforms’ lifetime for as long as possible while the oil reserve is still available. Regular maintenance actions are performed to prevent structural failures which may incur massive financial losses and threaten the safety of all on-site employees. However, as they are commonly located offshore and in remote locations, workers often found it challenging to regularly access the site to perform the required action. This increases the risks of accidents due to continuous exposure to hazardous environment. It also costs the company a fortune to do these necessary tasks just to keep the site alive. There is a need for monitoring systems that are capable of reliably monitor the structural integrity of the platform remotely over long period of time.

Wireless sensors introduction

Wireless sensors are one of the most sought-after technologies for structural health monitoring as they offer potentials to significantly reduce operational costs and capital expenditure. This is achievable as cabling is not required. This advanced monitoring system consists of combination of physical sensor technology to measure physical parameters, network coordinators, optional power supply and monitoring software. Wireless sensors have been widely used for structural health monitoring applications in civil engineering industry such as monitoring the integrity of dam and bridge, ground vibration monitoring in the construction environment as well as test and measurement applications in the laboratory. Integrated with data acquisition systems to log and analyze real-time data, operators can remotely monitor the platform without having to access the site. An early indicator of potential problem can be easily identified when anomaly presents in the received signals

Wireless sensors applications in oil and gas

Offering low-cost installation and capabilities to provide reliable measurement in a remote or difficult-to-access area, wireless sensors have unlimited potentials to be used for structural health monitoring in oil and gas platform. They have capabilities to store millions of data points which can be retrieved for traceability. The sensors are placed at the most critical equipment for early detection of undesired change in strain or temperature. As the equipment are monitored in real-time, safety of the site is enhanced.

Wireless sensors generally require built-in internal battery or energy harvesting devices, such as from solar panel. This can potentially be an ignition source and introduces undesired electrical risks in oil & gas and mining environment. As such, these sensors may not be readily available for monitoring structural health in these environment. For applications in these hazardous and explosive environment, an explosive proof casing, for example, should be used to isolate the sensors from the explosive substance. However, there is still a risk where the casing is not properly sealed due to manufacturing defect or degradation.

BeanAir solution for structural health monitoring in oil and gas platform

Partnering with BeanAir, Bestech Australia supplies the state-of-the-art wireless sensors technology for Structural Health Monitoring and many other applications in Australia and New Zealand. BeanAir has designed a remote monitoring system using wireless sensors for one of the leading companies in the oil, gas and chemical industries in the world. The outcome of this project is an integrated system that allows BeanGateway wireless coordinator and Beandevice wireless sensor to operate without internal battery. Therefore, they can be used safely in the explosive environment without being exposing to hazard.

The wireless sensor system implemented by BeanAir consisted of wireless passive SAW sensors for temperature and strain measurements, ultra-low power Wi-Fi sensors, self-powered systems with reliable and robust Aluminium-alloy enclosure. The SAW sensors provide stable and reliable measurements under harsh environments. No integrated battery and energy harvesting system are needed for this sensor system. Therefore, they are free from electrical risks and safe to be used under this circumstances.

Outcome

Upon the implementation of this state-of-the-art monitoring system, the company saw immediate increase in the efficiency of their process monitoring. They are now able to quickly gather data and detect changes at the most critical points and equipment as well as in remote/inaccessible area. This wireless system is also easy to operate and familiar to the operators as it utilizes standard Wi-Fi communication protocols. The company also enjoy the benefit of shorter down-time and improved ROI as the wireless system offers low-cost installation with no ongoing cost for operation. On-site operators also have extra safety assurance as the incidence of failures can be prevented through early detection of anomaly by continuously monitor the condition of critical equipment.

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