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Conditioning monitoring prevents pump failure

Smart thinking recently prevented the breakdown and outage of a 50-year-old pump at SA Water’s Blue Lake pump station in Mount Gambier.

Water Engineering Technologies’ skilled Asset Maintenance & Reliability and Condition Monitoring teams discovered degraded pump seals during routine preventative maintenance services. This led to a condition-based assessment of the pump using portable vibration analysers.

Portable analysers enable us to internally ‘listen’ to an asset’s condition, similar to how a doctor uses a stethoscope, blood test, or thermometer to check a patient’s internal state.

The assessment revealed a shift in vibration readings, indicating that something wasn’t right, and that further investigation was needed to solve the issue.

After further data analysis and fault finding, using an advance machine health monitoring program, the team determined that specialists from our Mount Gambier, Berri, and Murray Bridge teams needed to perform a complete pump overhaul.

Considering the Blue Lake pump station high voltage motors (3.3kV, 650hp) and pump sets are more than 50 years old, a complete replacement would have been costly.

Manager Reliability Integration & Condition Monitoring Harvey Pantow said that “by predicting this fault early, we avoided a catastrophic failure and further degradation of this pump, as well as impacts to drinking water services for the Mount Gambier area from an unplanned shutdown which would typically incur more costs.”

Maintenance Manager Heath Bache said "the project involved Water Engineering Technologies people working in close collaboration with our water system operations team to safely isolate and remove the pump from service, before its handover to our pump refurbishment team."

The pump was then dissembled and inspected at our Mount Gambier workshop, and a detailed condition assessment report was prepared.  

Refurbishment included a complete overhaul and replacement of pump rotating elements, (such as the impellor shaft and assembly), neck brushes and sleeves, and bearings and seals.

Before releasing the pump back into service, the pump and repaired components were inspected by our project condition monitoring engineer for quality assurance before returning the pump to operation. The pump was then ‘wet’ tested and commissioned under normal operating conditions by our team, who monitored it for leaks, unexpected noises and smells, excessive vibration, and high temperatures.

Senior Manager Water Engineering Technologies Nima Gorjian Jolfaei, said reliability and condition monitoring services enable us to take the guesswork out of asset management.

“We now better understand how and why pump assets wear out, how they behave, why they fail, and how they respond to various operating conditions and environments,” Nima said.

“By keeping watch on asset condition parameters, such as vibration, temperature and pressure, signs of asset deterioration or significant changes, asset health can be readily identified and, where possible, rectified.

“We exist to extend the life of our assets and anticipate and reduce incidence of breakdowns by employing best practice maintenance strategies.

“Beyond reducing breakdown, WHS, and other risks, our advanced maintenance services also significantly increase asset reliability, asset performance and reduce our costs.”

Following the pump’s refurbishment, reinstallation and commissioning late last year, smart maintenance/vibration analysis sensors have now been permanently installed at our Blue Lake pump station. This means we can continuously monitor the asset remotely instead of testing the pumps on-site.

SA Water’s Blue Lake pump station in Mount Gambier.

The view from the Blue Lake pump station