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Wireless technology

Wireless vibration
monitoring in a UScoal-

Gary L. Gbur, Wane Wier and Torsten Bark
Dynegy's Baldwin Energy Complex

Choosing a reliable wireless system able to provide data on vibration magnitudes in a coal pulverizer was never going to be easy, so two systems

weretestedalongsideeach other.
he Baldwin Energy Complex located close to Decartur, Illinois, - a coal-fired plant that generates about 1761MW - was the site of a joint-venture pilot project which aimed to demonstrate a wireless vibration monitoring solution for a coal pulverizer. The partners in the project were the Electric Power Research Institute and Dynegy, an organisation which provides electricity, natural gas, and natural gas liquids to customers throughout the United States, and owns power plants that cumulatively provide up to 12,000MW. A versatile wireless solution was decided upon mainly because the costs associated with installing conventional LAN cable or fibre optics are higher. The objective was to identify a reliable wireless system which was able to provide overall vibration magnitudes to Dynegy's OSI PI Historian at one-minute intervals. The data collected by the PI data historian software would eventually be routed to display monitors in the control room to provide the operator with simple vibration data values as well as alarm indications. Dynegy took a proactive approach to monitoring vibration levels on mission-critical assets, focusing on early detection and the notification of abnormal machine conditions. The ultimate goal was to enhance equipment reliability and the safety of personnel. A previously installed wireless pilot system had failed to deliver reliable data and was taken out of service after six months. However, Dynegy still considered that a working solution for a wireless vibration monitoring system was the way forward. It selected two new vendors for evaluation, one being SKF Reliability Systems. Both vendors' solutions w,ere employed

side-by-side, each system monitoring different parts of the pulverizer.

A single CE-Raymond model 923 RP pulverizer equipped with eight Wilcoxon 786A accelerometers - one of six on the site - was chosen for monitoring. Accelerometers were positioned on two motor sleeve bearings, two worm screw rolling element bearings, one bearing at the

bottom of the bull gear vertical shaft, and every grinding roll. The accelerometers were mounted on each of three grinding roll journal assemblies. Figure 1. In order to challenge the wireless solution, the pulverizer located the furthest away from a wireless access point (about 200 feet) was selected. Although this distance is acceptable in office environments it can be difficult in an industrial environment that has walls, I-beams, pipes, and other metal structures that serve as attenuating obstacles for wireless signals. In this case, the wireless system needed to be

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Ceramic Inner Cone Interior Liner

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Figure 1: Sensor configuration

on pulverizer


Wireless technologv
chaining of MCTs allowed additional multi-parameter measurements to be made without the need to install more sensors. Figure 4. All of the MCTs measuring velocity were configured for a 1 inch per second full-scale range; all of those measuring enveloped vibration were configured for a lOgE full-scale range. The MCTs provided a 4-20mA processed output that was representative of the overall channel value. By using a 16-channel analog to digital converter, the 4-20 mA signals could be converted to ModBus Ethernet (RS-485), and sent wirelessly to the access point. The converter used was an RM 16Al, supplied by SKF's custom products partner, STI.

Figure 2: Accelerometer Wear Sleeve



Figure 4: initial measurements were taken with a Microlog handheld vibration data collector and used to determine the most effective types of machine condition transmitters (MCTs) for the application

Figure 3: Side view of the grinding

roll showing

the sensor


able to transmit through a path that included 5ft x 5ft metal air ducts connected to each of the pulverizers. The typical indoor range of the wireless radios used was between 500ft and 1500ft and up to 16 miles outside with line-of-sight and high-gain antennas. In addition to the wireless obstacles, the environment itself was subject to harsh conditions including seasonal temperatures ranging from 40F to 100F, fly ash, and water wash-downs. In addition, some monitoring points were looking at equipment running speeds of between 45rpm and 600rpm.

During the pilot period, half of the accelerometers were connected to the

SKF system and half to the system supplied by the other vendor. Figures 2 and 3. Working from the sensors up, the test began with machine condition transmitters (MCTs) measuring velocity and enveloped acceleration. In general, these transmitters provide an indication of machine health, such as imbalance and misalignment; measurement of enveloped acceleration provides an indication of bearing degradation. Although only eight accelerometers were employed ten MCTs were used. Two were doubled up, i.e., the system was delivered with the buffered output from one channel (the raw acceleration signal) serving as the input to another in two separate situations. This daisy-

The wireless transceiver selected for the project was the OS2400-485 Industrial Ethernet Radio manufactured by Locus, (now called RadioLinx). All of the devices were DIN-Rail mounted and fitted into a small, easy-to-mount enclosure. The system was installed and made fully operational in one day.

Discovering the failure

Five days after installation the pulverizer experienced a bearing failure on its number two grinding roll. The system was instrumental in notifying plant personnel that a change in the operating characteristics of the pulverizer had taken place. A review of the PI Historian showed the correlation between changes in


pulverizer motor current and the vibration trends on the inboard motor bearing, outboard worm shaft bearing, and the number one and number three grinding rolls prompting the predictive maintenance engineer to take more indepth vibration data with a portable analyser. Motor current also was plotted along with vibration data from the number one and the number three rolls. This data was obtained from the SKF system. Even though the failure did not occur within these rolls, the vibration from the failed roll was strong enough for the MCTs to detect it. Figures 5 and 6. The vibration data collected by the predictive maintenance engineer, coupled with an unsuccessful attempt
Fluctuation in Motor Current

to adjust the grinding roll, forced a visual inspection which revealed that the number two grinding roll bearing had failed and that the roll had dropped into the bottom part of the grinder and come into contact with the cone assembly. Both bearings in the roll had failed and disintegrated. The cause was suspected as being a lack of oil in the journal - which would contribute to the relatively rapid failure. The journal shaft was distorted due to the heat, and the inner races of the bearing were stuck to the shaft. Furthermore, the bolts holding the upper journal housing to the grinding roll were sheared off causing the grinding roll to slide and hit the centre feed pipe - breaking a piece out of it. Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7: The failed bearings




Figure 8: The damaged

centre feed pipe






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Increase in Vibration Observed on Motor Inboard Bearing and Worm Shaft Outboard Bearing

Figure 5: Plot showing the correlation between motor current and bearing-related vibration data

The measurements taken from grinding roll number two were being fed into the non-SKF system but, even then, the MCT system detected a higher vibration level. If the SKF system had been monitoring this particular channel it is believed that the enveloped readings would have detected the fault earlier and would have shown that a drastic change had occurred. It was thought likely that this would have been soon enough to prevent a catastrophic failure. After eight weeks of tests the SKF system (Wireless MCT-System) was chosen to provide the wireless vibration monitoring solution. The other system tested failed to provide reliable and continuous service.



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Increase in Vibration Observed on Number 1 and Number 3 Rolls Figure 6: Plot showing the correlation between motor current and the grinding roll vibration data

Gary Gbur, Wane Wier, and Torsten Bark are with SKF Reliability Systems. Further information from Colin.Roberts@Skfcom 17