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Balancing Safety and Efficiency: The High-Stakes World of Offshore Oil Platforms
Off the coast of Africa, one of seven supermajor oil companies operates an oil platform the size of three soccer fields. Isolated in the ocean, this city-like structure relies on its self-sufficient power grid fueled by the black gold it extracts.
But on every oil platform lies a lurking danger. It’s highly flammable and vulnerable to the merest spark. Even the slightest electrical mishap could ignite a catastrophe. The balance between energy generation and safety is razor-thin. Undetected overheating, if left unchecked, can damage critical equipment like switchboards, causing downtime and impacting operations. Such events can significantly disrupt operations and require costly repairs or replacements. Beyond overheating, any downtime on an oil platform represents a huge financial loss. Minimizing these disruptions is key to maintaining efficiency and profitability.
Driven by the imperative of safeguarding lives and averting financial ruin, the oil company embarked on a mission to reinvent its approach to electrical network management. Their vision was clear:
1. Fortify asset integrity and bolster worker safety;
2. Slash instances of electrical failures and the ensuing operational downtimes;
3. Minimize the on-site workforce, reducing human exposure to hazards.
This use case explores the journey towards achieving these goals through a strategic shift in electrical network management.
Preventing overheating and safety risks in high-voltage electrical circuits for offshore platform operations
Every time the electrical circuit fires, there’s a chance it will light a spark. Maintaining uninterrupted power supply to the process can be a challenge. Circuit breakers and contactors play a crucial role in safeguarding the entire electrical network and equipment, ensuring detection when unexpected events happen, and protection of the power network. A problem in this process is the unexpected overheating of connections due to incorrect installment of the equipment. This can cause a thermal runaway, leading to an explosion or a power outage.
Traditionally, the platform’s electrical network – a vital nerve center of power – was a beast tamed by reactive measures. Traditional methods, like periodic thermal camera inspections, were mere band-aids, offering limited foresight and fraught with risks of electrocution. The network, a labyrinth of high-voltage circuits, was a constant dance with danger, where overheating could spell disaster.
Despite these daunting challenges, the landscape of electrical network maintenance is undergoing a revolutionary change. In this new age of information and technology, innovative solutions that address and transform these risks into opportunities for enhanced safety and efficiency are emerging. Schneider Electric introduces the digital-enabled services plan EcoCare membership*.
Implementing Schneider Electric’s thermal sensors and digital-enabled Services Plan for proactive electrical network management
There has never been a way to maintain the electrical network proactively. But this has changed in the age of information. Twenty-first-century technology has developed tiny yet mighty sensors. These thermal sensors collect data from the electrical network. This digitalization of electrical network surveillance allows companies to predict and prevent vulnerabilities in their network. Ultimately, this increases their safety and prevents loss of income through power outages.
Data is gathered by thermal sensors installed at critical locations in the electrical network. These two-centimeter guardians, powered by the current they monitor, are the network’s first line of defense. They collect different data types and use machine learning to create a predictive model of how the electrical equipment should behave. For example, it can predict the average temperature of a connection depending on the current flowing through it. All the data is collected in a dashboard and monitored by a remote team of experts called the Connected Services Hub. And herein lays the power to foresee the unseen.
Any anomalies in data indicate that the health of the electrical equipment might be drifting. Schneider Electric constantly evaluates the criticality of health threats by determining the impact of the equipment’s failure on the network. The results are interpreted by electrical experts, who can decide if a health threat is a false positive, if the alarm is redundant, or if the customer needs to be warned.
In 2021, the Connected Services Hub detected an anomaly: a fuse was running dangerously hot, 16 degrees above normal. This anomaly, invisible to the human eye, was a ticking time bomb. Swift action ensued, averting what could have been an inferno waiting to erupt. The culprit: a misassembled fuse, a flaw that once would have gone unnoticed, now caught in the vigilant gaze of digital surveillance.
Maximizing safety and efficiency: Achieving proactive maintenance and risk reduction with digitalization in offshore platforms
With the digital-enabled Service Plan, the customer reached its goals of
1.) ensuring the integrity of assets and more safety for workers,
2.) reducing electrical failures, unplanned downtime, and maintenance costs, and
3.) reducing people on-site.
Through digitizing the oversight of their electrical network, they now have a way to proactively prevent incidents from happening. Furthermore, the thermal sensors and the digital-enabled Service Plan managed to:
- Mitigate overheating of the equipment and ultimately fire;
- Minimize production downtime;
- Optimize asset lifetime;
- Optimize full field shutdown (FFSD) with Condition-based Maintenance recommendations.
This new way of approaching electrical network maintenance takes advantage of everything digitalization offers and revolutionizes how high-risk industries can operate more safely and efficiently. The transformation from reactive to proactive maintenance, enabled by Schneider Electric’s innovative technology, not only enhances operational safety but also ensures continuity in high-stakes environments.
This case study stands as a testament to the power of digitalization in addressing complex challenges, setting a new standard for industry practices. As we move forward, it becomes clear that leveraging advanced technologies in electrical network management is not just a strategic advantage but a necessity for ensuring safety, sustainability, and profitability in an increasingly complex and demanding industrial landscape.
*Please verify the availability of EcoCare in your region through a local services sales’ representative. If EcoCare is not yet available, you can start leveraging EcoStruxure Service Plan.