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An FAG Dtect X1 online vibration-monitoring system has prevented the failure of a steam turbine at a Scunthorpe Corus plant, and in doing so has saved thousands of pounds in lost power generation.

The central power station on the Corus site in Scunthorpe provides electricity for the site by utilising works-arising gases.

There are six steam turbines generating up to 53MW of energy for the plant.

The remaining required energy is drawn from the National Grid.

It was only when Turbine 5 was taken off-line for routine maintenance that serious cracks in the generator’s retaining rings were discovered.

The resident maintenance engineers immediately realised that the risk of a failure of this turbine would not only result in lengthy downtime and lost production but in serious safety risks to plant personnel.

To ensure the continued safe operation of an identical generator, the maintenance team decided to act fast and conducted a Hazop (Hazard and Operability Analysis) study on Turbine 4.

If this sister unit was discovered to have the same problem as Turbine 5, a more serious failure could have occurred.

Following the study, a protective cover was immediately put in place, but it was clear that early failure detection was also required.

Josh Mortimer, maintenance engineer for Corus, said: ‘We needed a quick-response vibration monitoring unit to provide protection not only for the equipment but for our personnel.

‘Having seen how successful the Corus PCM (Plant Condition Monitoring) Team had been at Teesside and in other areas of the Scunthorpe plant in preventing plant failures, I was keen to identify a system that was quick and easy to install and that was also easy for our operators to understand.’ The Dtect X1 system was installed on the exciter end bearing and the turbine end bearing of Turbine 4.

Shortly afterwards the online vibration-monitoring device detected a problem with one of the rotor blades.

Chris Smith, Scunthorpe’s PCM engineer, said: ‘Our attempts to protect this generator paid off.

‘By picking up the blade failure early on, we were able to prevent the failure of the whole turbine.

‘In lost generation alone, this machine is worth GBP35,000 a day.

‘Minimal damage and a quick return to service is obviously the preferred option.’ Wolfgang Hahn, manufacturing manager for the central power station at Corus Scunthorpe, has confirmed the company’s intention to continue the good work of the PCM department in recent years.

He said: ‘We get a good service from the PCM department and have saved the company a lot of money.

‘We are moving towards a full condition-based monitoring system as we recognise the considerable benefits to our plant.

‘Energy prices remain high so it is in our own interests to reduce the need to draw from the National Grid by maintaining reliable equipment in our own plant.

‘If we increase the reliability and availability of our equipment we can increase the power generated to the plant and reduce our costs significantly.’ This proactive approach to maintenance is welcomed by the Corus PCM Team.

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