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The European and African (EAU) operation of Transocean has standardised on FLIR Systems infrared cameras for conditioned-based monitoring.

Transocean installed a FLIR Systems camera on each of its rigs last year.

Thermal imaging has become a vital part of Transocean’s predictive maintenance procedures.

It is a non-contact method that can be used without powering down, allowing the company to maximise its up-time.

For Transocean, having a potential upgrade path for its cameras was also important.

Now, as a result of the merger between Transocean and Globalsantafe (GSF), this technology is being investigated for implementation on the remaining legacy GSF rigs.

Bob Speirs, an operations engineer with Transocean, has previous experience of using infrared for mechanical inspection.

In his previous job, he was called to a gas-processing rig to investigate a glycol pump, which removes water from the gas-stream.

The maintenance team couldn’t determine the location of knocking from the unit against the ambient noise on the rig so decided to strip down the pump unit to locate the defect.

Speirs said: ‘With my FLIR camera I was able to prevent this unnecessary procedure.

‘By looking at the thermal pattern on the second healthy glycol pump and using that as a benchmark, I was soon able to pinpoint the problem to the suction valve.

‘A quick examination of the suction valve soon revealed one of the guides was cracked.’ The faulty component was swiftly replaced, saving about 12 hours of labour.

One pass of a FLIR Systems camera also proved its worth on a semi-submersible rig survey.

These rigs rely on hydraulic accumulators to stabilise their drilling equipment in the water.

They compensate for the rise and fall in the ocean swells.

These are pressure storage reservoirs in which a non-compressible hydraulic fluid is held under pressure by a neoprene bag filled with nitrogen.

Twenty of these accumulators were used on this particular rig and the FLIR Systems camera demonstrated that the bag on one of these units was exhibiting different thermal characteristics to the others.

Speirs added: ‘Further inspection revealed that the bag was actually full of hydraulic fluid rather than nitrogen.

‘In other words it had a substantial leak.

‘As a result, the accumulator was not doing its dampening job.

‘Although there were many other accumulators to compensate for this failure, it was certainly not a problem we would have picked up with the naked eye.’

FLIR Systems specialises in technologies that enhance perception and awareness.  The company brings innovative sensing solutions into daily life through its thermal imaging and visible light imaging technology and systems for measurement, diagnosis, location and advanced threat detection.  Its products improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance productivity, increase energy efficiency and make the workplace safer.

FLIR Systems has six operating segments – surveillance, instruments, OEM and emerging markets, maritime, security and finally, detection. Of these six, ‘instruments’ is of greatest interest to trade and industry and the second largest segment in the company’s portfolio. This division provides devices that image, measure and assess thermal energy, gases and other environmental elements for industrial, commercial and scientific applications.

These products are manufactured across five production sites, three in the USA and two in Europe; Sweden and Estonia.

A model to suit every application and budget
The options that FLIR Systems provides for measuring temperature and studying thermal performance have never been greater.  Not only does the company offer a huge range of models to suit all thermal application needs but the technology is also affordable and very easy to use.  Thermal cameras now come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of sophistication and FLIR continues to invest heavily in the development of new and complementary technologies to differentiate itself from competitors.

An important milestone in the development of thermal imaging has been the introduction of the FLIR Lepton® core, a micro longwave detector, the size of a mobile SIM.  This has allowed thermal imaging to be repackaged to meet the needs of an even wider audience and, in combination with another new technology called Infrared Guided Measurement – IGM™ – has led to the development of a range of test and measurement meters with imaging capability.

Another important growth area for FLIR thermal imaging is in continuous monitoring to assure quality and safety.  Through its introduction of discrete fixed mounted thermal cameras which are fully compliant industry standard plug-and-play protocols, FLIR Systems has provided industry with infrared machine vision which is instantly ready for quick and easy network installation.

Protecting assets and people from fire is an area for which thermal imaging is least known but, thanks to FLIR Systems’ development, it is now one of the most cost-effective methods available.  Its application flexibility and rapid return on investment present an attractive proposition for any site or safety manager.

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