Wireless Continuous Pump Monitoring

Emerson's Brian Atkinson

Many of the pumps in process manufacturing and production processes are essential and their failure results in reduced or lost production and increased maintenance costs.

upstream-pumping-spring-2016In an Upstream Pumping article, Wireless Monitoring Reduces Pump Failures & Maintenance Costs, Emerson’s Brian Atkinson describes way to make use of technology to avoid these failures.

He opens citing some statistics on the economic repercussions of pump failures:

Pumps account for an estimated 7 percent of maintenance costs of a plant or refinery, and pump failures are responsible for 0.2 percent of lost production. While a pump failure in a refinery may only affect one part of a process, pump failures in an oil field can shut down a well or pipeline. According to one estimate, the optimal run life of an electrical submersible pump is five years, but the average run life is only 1.2 years.

There are several root causes of pump failures and each may have a different business impact. This illustration shows typical root causes, what change in the process might occur, the impact on the pump, potential impacts to the surrounding environment and the business impact these failures may have:


Costs and the difficulty to install have been traditional barriers in adding continuous monitoring to all but the most critical pumps. Maintenance has been conducted either through manual rounds by the plant staff or a run-to-failure mode of operation. The prior can be labor intensive and the latter expensive in terms of replacement and lost production.

As the Industrial Internet of Things, which includes wireless sensing technologies, has advanced, the barriers to online condition monitoring have fallen dramatically. With the addition of wireless vibration transmitters, other wireless sensors and analytics:

Many pump failures can be predicted using condition-based monitoring techniques, predictive technologies and reliability-centered maintenance best practices.

Brian shares several examples where online condition monitoring can be applied including pump seal monitoring, cavitation, and vibration. Pump seals are typically flushed with pressurized or unpressurized auxiliary seal flush systems. Monitoring the pressure and levels of these flush systems can provide earlier warning of leaks.

Compared with the traditional way on monitoring pump discharge pressure for cavitation:

…detection through pressure and vibration monitoring shows a more holistic view of pump health that can be achieved through a combination of process and equipment measurements.

Read the article for more on the types of issues continuous vibration monitoring can help detect and the financial benefits of preventing pump failures in terms of downtime & slowdown avoidance.

Brian concludes:

Predictive maintenance using online condition monitoring reduces maintenance costs and catastrophic pump failures associated with infrequent manual rounds by enabling proactive pump repair instead of reactive replacement. It also prevents unnecessary preventive maintenance activities, saving man hours that can be spent on pumps and other assets that need attention.

A critical factor in a highly effective pump monitoring program may hinge on the choice of software application used to analyze pump health from the measured variables and to provide timely, meaningful actionable information. Wireless sensors are often the lowest-cost solution, and they can be installed in hours, with payback periods measured in months.

If you’re going to the October 24-28 Emerson Exchange conference here in Austin, make sure to catch one or more of Brian’s presentations as well as workshop on Pervasive Sensing Apps. You can also connect and interact with other reliability and maintenance experts in the Reliability & Maintenance group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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