The Northampton Generating station is a 120MW solid fuel power generation plant. The facility moves solid fuel with conveyors into silos for storage. Conveyor reliability is critical to the operation of the entire plant. No fuel, no power. There are about a dozen critical belt conveyors that, upon failure, could starve the plant of fuel resulting in an outage. The main bearings on the conveyors were not monitored, leaving the facility unaware of pending bearing failures. Several failures occurred that resulted in load reductions. However, the failures could have easily resulted in a total plant shutdown at a cost of more than $100,000 per day.
Management decided to begin a regime of condition monitoring on the many large, slow-turning bearings. Vibration monitoring was feasible but cumbersome and impractical because of the low speeds involved. Infrared temperature measurement was considered to detect a failure-in-progress, but this would not provide the desired advance warning.
Various vendors offered suggestions, including the use of shock pulse monitoring (SPM) for lubricant and bearing condition assessment. SPM is a well-established technique. Initially, SPM was launched to enable the technician to cost-effectively track bearing condition. The tool proved effective as a method to assess general lubrication requirements as well."
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