Proceedings PaperOverview of infrared in the petroleum industry
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Infrared Thermography has been found to be a very valuable tool in the petroleum industry. It has had focus in surveying all the types of equipment in its asset base. This includes electrical distribution systems, pumping systems, piping systems, exchangers, flares, process fired heaters and many other types of equipment. The petroleum industry is divided into three basic operating areas; Upstream, Midstream and Downstream. Upstream operation covers the exploration, drilling and production of natural gas and crude oil. Midstream operation in the petroleum industry is the distribution and storage system between the Upstream to the Downstream systems. Downstream operations make the finished energy product and are the refineries and chemical plants. As in other industries, the petroleum industry has mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, pressure-containing equipment, and fixed structures. In addition to this equipment, there is some specialty equipment which includes items such as fired heaters and specialty process vessels. The industry has put in place infrared programs as a predictive maintenance tool in many of their operating areas. Using infrared to monitor the operating integrity on equipment is one of the synergies now being better developed. The opportunity is to define measurable thermal patterns that can be used to define defects and predict failures. Infrared technology is a mature reliability work process and been around for many years. The first commercial infrared camera was available in the '70's. These radiometric cameras and the support equipment have had many improvements since then. The use of the technology has also been improved with synergies incorporated from many type of industries, including the military. Infrared is a technology that has been added to the predictive & preventative maintenance toolbox of the petroleum industry reliability focus. An important part of any reliability work process is to have predictive tools to define equipment defects as early as possible. Early detection of a defect allows for better failure analysis to improve the equipment’s service life performance. It also assists in identifying the true problem rather than a symptom of the problem. In many cases, what we see as the failed component is a symptom of what the true cause of the failure was. Infrared can assist us with seeing the true cause. It is seen as a predictive tool that supports other predictive technologies, such as vibration analysis and compression analysis.