In the previous issue of Pump Engineer, Umeet Bhachu discussed the importance of having a reliable foundation prior to the automation and optimization of pump systems. In part two of this interview, he discusses the variables pertaining to pump automation and preventing various obstacles. Pump Engineer had the pleasure of speaking with Staff Rotating Equipment Engineer Umeet Bhachu, concerning his 20 years of experience, his outlook on the industry and what smart systems might look like in the future.
By Shopia Ketheeswararajah
From pump selection and design to facing potential obstacles in the installation stage, Umeet discusses a set of key points he had learned along the way when working with pumps for new projects.
Pump Selection and Design
Meeting the industry standard is paramount for safety as well as the reliability of production and people. “A crucial part of my work involves evaluating rotodynamic reports for critical pumping applications,” shared Umeet. This is completed to check compliance with standards such as API 610 requirements but most importantly, to ensure the safe and reliable operation of a pump that can be running at a very high speed. “If there are gaps in the design and selection process, or if the unit does not comply with the API 610 standard, I enforce the compliance to standards so that we do not have a safety incident or compromise the reliability of the pump.”
“Design engineers who work in the office might have a hard time understanding the pain points of pumps that are operational on-site. I utilize my years of experience to make sure that the selected equipment for the plant is the right fit and includes the lessons learned from plant experience,” he shared. “When engineers do not have much site experience, there is a lack of foresight into issues that can arise which plague plant’s operation and reliability.”
Preservation and Installation
Personnel must consider the potential possibility of failures in the pump during transportation, storage, and installation. Preservation practices are vital for the pump’s longevity and its accumulative lifecycle cost. “Proper practices must be maintained once the equipment is on-site,” revealed Umeet. “Vendors and operators must make sure the preservation of the equipment is kept in accordance as per manufacturers and other standard preservation practices, prior to installation on-site.”
All designs and fabrication requirements of the pump could be met to the best of its ability, and obstacles may still arise. “During the mechanical testing of the pump, there can be a presence of moisture in the air or water inside of the pump. Proper cleaning and preservation after a mechanical run test becomes critical,” explained Umeet.
Making certain the installation procedures are not overlooked during project installation and ensuring appropriate API or company standards are referenced helps avoid troubleshooting complex issues during operation. “It could be as simple as making sure proper grouting techniques are utilized and no voids are left within pump bases while installing. API and other industry-regulated practices must be followed to achieve consistency in managing pumps.”
Automating Pump Systems
“In the past, when data and monitoring were not common there was a very different approach within the industry pertaining to servicing assets.” Automating pump systems and pump monitoring became more relevant when the industry began looking for ways to increase efficiencies and mitigate catastrophic events that compromise operational safety.
Additionally, proactively predicting failure modes improve the reliability of pumps and other rotating assets. “Today, there are two main ways in which pump automation can benefit processes; by utilizing smart systems for safety and monitoring purposes, such as important vibration trip systems for when a pump operation goes out of its vibration envelope, as well as collecting data to predict when a pump system may fail,” shared Umeet.
Manually predicting a pump’s variability becomes increasingly challenging, especially in a refinery. Automating systems can make specific maintenance and operational decisions for the end user and ease the task of manual data processing.
One of the key challenges in implementing smart or automated pumping systems is cost. “To mitigate this, experienced engineers can make a business case towards automating systems for optimization purposes,” Umeet advised having a discussion with leadership and explaining the different ways in which cost should be allocated. It is easier to stage this process over a span of a few years to implement optimization.
Bettering the Pump Industry
“Pumps are essentially the heart of the plant, and it is vital that these components are taken care of.” The industry is moving with the global push of controlling fossil fuels, and from a mechanical standpoint, components such as sealing systems of pumps should be improved. This controls the emissions in a meaningful manner, and it can reduce leakage rates.
Umeet shed some light on the importance of bridging the knowledge gap. “I do my best to encourage young engineers to get into the field of rotating equipment and pumps because there is so much to discover. There are a lot of challenges in this growing field.
Regardless of the industry it serves, complex pump applications exist everywhere. It is important to ensure that there are more leadership conversations and seminars that are provided for engineers in the pump community.”
The future of the pump industry is seeing an influx in data due to various instrumentations and automation practices; machine learning strategies and artificial intelligence (AI) should be the next evolutionary phase in the life cycle improvement of pumps. “We need to start looking at intelligent monitoring, and deep neural networks.”
A plant that produces continuous data which represents suction pressure, discharge pressure, temperature, and more around a pumping system, can be extremely beneficial. This makes it easier to utilize data analysis and automated machine learning systems to help guide decision-making, as well as improving the quality of safety and reliability around pumps in a plant. Engineers and leadership should be excited to entertain such approaches since this would help in reducing overall operating costs, aiding in taking the next step for pump and turbomachinery improvements fueled by technology.