SKF has supplied specialist electrical testing equipment to Quartzelec that has enabled the company to offer value-added services to its customers.
With a heritage that stretches back more than 120 years, Quartzelec is a major provider of electrical engineering services for offshore oil and gas and marine industry customers around the world. The company's base in Aberdeen undertakes a broad range of services, including inspection, overhaul and rewind activities for a wide variety of high- and low-voltage electrical machines.
Quartzelec has continually evolved and upgraded its capabilities to meet the changing needs of its customers, and one of the most significant changes in recent years has been the introduction of advanced condition monitoring capabilities designed to improve the reliability and productivity of assets by predicting and preventing failures before they occur.
Paul Oliver, General Manager of the company's Aberdeen unit, states: "Until around three years ago, maximising output was the key concern across the oil and gas industry. But since the downturn in the oil price, the industry has started to look far more closely at reliability. Operators now understand the value of condition monitoring to help them conduct their maintenance activities in a more predictable, planned manner."
For Quartzelec, that change in focus by its customers presented a big opportunity. Oliver explains: "Increasingly, we want to be seen not just as a company that can repair equipment when it breaks, but as a partner that can help ensure assets continue to operate reliably."
Condition monitoring services
Over the past two years, the company has developed a portfolio of condition monitoring services for electrical machines, including temperature and vibration monitoring, online electrical monitoring and partial discharge testing.
One important tool in the company's armoury of test equipment is the SKF Static Motor Analyzer Baker AWA. The compact, automated machine is used to conduct a battery of tests on electrical machines to evaluate the condition of their windings' insulation and electrical connections, identifying weaknesses or developing problems that might lead to failure in service.
Quartzelec's engineers already have plenty of experience with the Baker AWA analyser, as it is used as a standard part of the company's motor overhaul procedures to evaluate the condition of machines that come into its workshops for maintenance and to check that repairs have been completed successfully prior to despatch. Oliver states: "The AWA analyser is a very user-friendly device, with a simple structured menu that guides our engineers through the required series of tests. It also produces detailed reports on the condition of the machine, and that is something our customers also appreciate."
These days, however, the company's Baker AWA analyser spends around 40 per cent of its time away from the workshop, conducting on-site tests on offshore platforms, oil industry support vessels and other customer assets. Oliver explains: "Typically our engineers will conduct tests on every machine on a customer vessel on an annual basis. Those tests allow us to identify problems immediately, and by comparing the results from different tests on the same machine over time, we can spot trends that might indicate the need for planned maintenance the next time the asset is scheduled for overhaul."
The global nature of its customers' businesses means Quartzelec may be called to conduct tests almost anywhere in the world. Oliver notes that engineers have recently worked on vessels in Turkey and Spain, for example. An oil service vessel may carry more than a dozen critical electrical machines, and the company's test regime regularly identifies issues for customers. "Only recently we had a machine fail a test while the vessel was in dry dock. Our engineers were able to pull it out of the vessel there and then, and after steam cleaning and varnishing some of the coils, they ran the tests again and could show that it was ready to go back into service with no further work required.
"The compact, portable design of the Baker AWA analyser is a further important benefit for engineers working off-site. When we go to an offshore platform, for example, we cannot always be sure what equipment will be operating until we get there. Our engineers can be prepared for on-line tests on running equipment, but having the Baker AWA analyser available means they can also conduct off-line tests if the equipment is not in use at the time."
For more information about SKF's testing technologies go to www.skf.co.uk.