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Online Wear Debris Monitoring of Wind Turbine Gearboxes with Poseidon Systems

Posted on by Kurz Industrial Solutions

Poseidon Systems offers sensors, oil conditioning monitoring and wear debris monitoring solutions to Wind turbine operators.  When Kurz Wind sat down with Stephen Steen – Vice President of Industrial IoT, they had installed 5,500 Wind Turbines with condition monitoring systems and queued up 6,500 more installations by the end of 2020 (reaching over 12,000 in the field!).  This technology is saving owner/operators major operational costs for turbines both under and out of warranty.

What is Online Wear Debris Monitoring?

Online wear debris monitoring allows Wind turbine operators to plan, prevent and predict the damage of gearboxes, main bearings, and other costly components.

For Wind (focusing on gearboxes), an Oil Quality Sensor is installed on the gearbox to gauge the life and health of your critical asset. Operators receive real-time data from the sensors to improve maintenances, catch damage missed by oil samples and vibration monitoring, and potentially prevent catastrophic asset failures.

As a real-life analogy, wear debris sensors are like the check engine light in your vehicle.  While you may feel your car is running smoothly, engine sensors alert you of potential catastrophic – and oftentimes costly – engine failures down the road.

Are Oil Samples Enough to Catch Wear Debris and Prevent Gearbox Failures?

Traditionally, 4 to 6-ounce oil samples are taken from Wind turbines to evaluate the concentration and iso-cleanliness of wear debris in the gearbox system.  This requires technicians to shut down the turbine, climb up-tower, and then collect the oil samples for laboratory review.

Here’s the challenge.

Shutting down the turbine and climbing into the nacelle takes 20-minutes or more.  Large wear debris particles, sometimes over 100 microns in size, can settle within the system making them difficult to catch with a small fluid sample. It can leave you vulnerable to excessive systematic damage and catastrophic failures.

EDF Renewables – A Case Study on Oil Samples and Oil Monitoring

In a study of 140 turbines with EDF Renewables, Poseidon was able to show that online wear debris monitoring can directly correlate to gearbox health.

As mentioned, oil samples are evaluated on the iso-particular counts and cleanliness.  For this study, the oil samples collected did not alert EDF of any damage to gearboxes However, the post-oil analysis borescopes indicated otherwise.  There was clear evidence of pitting and spalling.

Wear Debris monitoring caught the problematic gearboxes, and oil samples did not, proving online wear debris monitoring could identify damage oil samples might miss.

Does Online Oil Debris Monitoring Replace Vibration Monitoring?

Vibration monitoring, while a great technology, can miss key operational data points such as early detection of planetary bearing faults (which is nearly 50% of all gearbox failures), and the slipping and clocking of races.

However, this does not suggest you should replace vibration monitoring with wear debris monitoring. Poseidon recommends having both vibration and online debris monitoring as complementary preventative measures.

Considering some of the limitations with vibration monitoring, retrofitting your gearbox with an online debris monitor can further prevent catastrophic failures while saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars in operational and component costs.

What Should I do When I Identify a Damaged Gearbox?

For this section, we must identify two different groups:

  • Gearboxes currently under but exiting warranty.
  • Gearboxes already out of warranty.

Gearboxes Exiting Warranty Coverage:

If your gearboxes are coming out of warranty, you’ll most likely be performing an end-of-warranty inspection.  Using online wear debris monitoring, you can identify and illustrate (with data) which gearboxes fall under warranty for replacement or repair. This could save your site 6 to 7-figures in expenditures!

At one wind farm, Poseidon was able to identify and successfully file warranty claims for 6 turbines at a single site.

With such a low up-front investment, it’s highly recommended to pair condition and wear debris monitoring with gearbox inspections before you’re out of warranty.

Gearboxes Out of Warranty:

The most common solution for a damaged gearbox is performing a smart de-rate.  Using the sensor and SCADA data, operators can find the sweet spot of maximizing turbine output while keeping it below the threshold for additional damage.  You can continue generating power and revenue rather than put a full stop to power generation.

Additionally, sensor data can ‘buy’ you time to save on full gearbox replacements and prompt repairs up-tower.  While this might not always be the case, sensor data can give you a chance to inspect and catch problematic damage that you can repair without pulling the gearbox.

Lastly, wear debris monitoring can assist you in proactively planning for crane and mobilization costs for a full gearbox exchange.  Because the sensor acts as a life gauge for your turbines, you can schedule your gearbox exchange well in advance rather than wait for the failure to occur spontaneously.  This saves you turbine downtime, lost revenue, and the headache of rushing a gearbox replacement.

The Economics of Online Wear Debris Monitoring for Wind Turbines:

Starting with installation and product costs, wear debris sensors are a small front-end investment with the potential for massive returns.

Wear Debris Sensor and Installation Costs:

Poseidon wear debris sensors cost anywhere between $2,000 – $3,000 dollars per turbine, and installation takes anywhere between 30-60 minutes. Sites will typically install wear debris sensors during semi-annual and annual maintenances to circumvent the need for unnecessary turbine downtime.

System Data Monitoring:

Sites have a couple of options when integrating wear debris data into their internal software.

  • Use Poseidon’s low cost ($15-20 dollars per turbine) software to read and interpret data.
  • Use your own software and SCADA data to monitor without Poseidon’s software.

Even though Poseidon’s wear debris sensors tie directly into SCADA and site-specific monitoring software, you will still receive 6-months of monitoring with your sensors.  It is your decision if you’d like to continue using the service thereafter.

Planning and Preventing Failures Based on Wear Debris Data:

As highlighted in previous sections, the real return comes from the planning and preventing of catastrophic failures.  Through smart de-rating, life gauging, and measures to extend operational life, you can salvage the cost of multiple gearbox exchanges by using the data collected with wear debris monitoring.

As a thought exercise, write down the costs of a crane, gearbox, lost production time, and service hours to replace a failed gearbox. You could save $100,000+ just months after sensor installation.

Wrapping it Up:

As more turbines are installed across the globe, collecting accurate turbine performance and health data is critical to running your park without excessive costs for major component replacement and repair.

Online wear debris monitoring can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars while complementing existing turbine monitoring systems. As online monitoring transforms into other applications, like main bearings and generators, it will be essential for OEMs and Operators to integrate digital monitoring at their wind farms.

Want to learn more? Listen to our podcast with Stephen Steen, the VP of Industrial Internet of Things for Poseidon Systems.  He is a husband and father of four children and a Wind Industry leader with online oil monitoring. Read a case study here.

 

Dan Frantz
Outside Sales – Wind Division
15755 Rogers Drive
New Berlin, WI 53151
Mobile: 920-851-5066
Email: Dfrantz@kurz.com

 

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