LITE plans to revolutionize safety measures for the energy industry using smart sensing and monitoring technologies. By Kam Ng

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012

Here at Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise we have been busy with defining how our mission, which is to catalyze economic development through innovation and technology, will support our community and the industries that make us the “Hub City.”

The oil and gas industry is alive and thriving here, and one of our main focuses at LITE in the near-term is to provide services to an industry that is such an important part of our community and livelihood. We have made it our priority to ensure that the oil and gas industry can do its business better and safer.

Working with our partners in university research and the private sector, as well as the immersive technologies and expertise that are available in our facility, we have plans to revolutionize safety measures for the oil and gas industry using smart sensing and monitoring technologies.

In 1999 I published an article in the International Journal of Rotating Machinery titled, “Integrated Diagnostics and Prognostics of Rotating Machinery.” The focus of this article was to bring to light the development of sensing and monitoring technologies and how they had the ability to detect a problem before it could cause significant damage to machinery.

The article describes a condition-based monitoring system, which could be used to monitor the overall health of air vehicles, power generation systems, automobiles, helicopter gearboxes and other rotating machinery systems such as motors, fans, pumps and compressors. The concept involves using sensors to measure vibration, acoustics, flow or other measurable physical properties and combining predictive models to detect and classify abnormal conditions such as faults and precursors. The outputs to the operators are warning and recommended corrective actions.

It is likely that you are using some kinds of monitoring systems daily for safety measures, too. Have you ever been in your vehicle when the ‘check engine’ or ‘low tire pressure’ light comes on? Deep inside the engine of your car these sensors are constantly monitoring the health of your vehicle and are programmed to let you know before a problem arises.

In most industries, oil and gas included, any downtime associated with machinery breakage can reduce operational effectiveness and eventually profit. But even worse, having problems can jeopardize operational safety and endanger the organization’s greatest asset — its workforce. Using sensors and condition-based monitoring technologies, we can catch major problems and solve them before they occur.

Immersive technologies and visualization is where LITE can enhance the capabilities and take the condition-based monitoring to the next level. There are always safety and monitoring systems in place on the platforms and other oil and gas equipment, but by using LITE’s capabilities in data visualization and simulation we can create a real-time warning system that will provide safety indicators for an entire operation.

Smart sensors, such as micro-electromechanical systems sensors, remote sensors and biosensors combined with advanced signal processing algorithms can be used to develop a robust fault detector to detect an abnormal operation. Even the slightest change in a normal operation will trigger and then classified what type of fault occurred. Because the data is available in real-time and online, one can compare it to the predictive models that show what a normal running system should look like, and if they are outside the threshold of normal operational conditions, the operator is notified instantly.

With our visualization and simulation capabilities coupled with our expertise in handling large and complex data sets, we give our oil and gas platform operators the opportunity to use these technologies to catch problems before they arise and prevent large-scale disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010.

The American Petroleum Institute is developing recommended practices on safety indicators for the oil and gas industry. These condition-based monitoring technologies combined with safety performance indicators can be used to minimize catastrophic effects such as personal injuries and fatalities, as well as economic, property and environmental damage.

Blending sensing and monitoring technologies with safety indicators is the next smart move that offers safety and maintenance-cost improvements to ensure the future of the oil and gas industry.

Dr. Kam Ng (pronounced ing) is CEO of LITE. He most recently was deputy director of research for the Office of Naval Research and holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from Marymount University. For more information on LITE, visit www lite3d.com; send questions regarding LITE and our Smart Sensing program to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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