The impact of digitalization on the oil & gas industry
An interview with Bently Nevada’s Terry Knight
Terry Knight is president and CEO of Bently Nevada Corp., a Baker Hughes business, known for its condition monitoring software and associated hardware. As such, the company is deeply involved in the ongoing digitalization of the oil & gas industry. We recently caught up with Knight to get his perspectives on his company’s and the industry’s progress.
Oil & Gas Engineering: How is digitalization impacting the oil and gas industry?
Knight: As I meet with some of my key customers in the oil & gas industry, it’s clear that cash and cashflow have become more important in their investment decisions. This is where digitalization can have a big play. Whether upstream, midstream, or downstream, more and more plant operators are looking to implement digital technology which can help them manage their assets more efficiently and improve productivity and reliability in the long run. Now they are looking into technologies that can give them more plant visibility, more flexibility and quicker insight on how to manage their machines.
This is where Bently Nevada, a Baker Hughes business, comes in. Bently Nevada is a world leader in condition monitoring and asset protection solutions, with more than 60 years of innovation. The technology we provide can give customers insights in to how their machines are operating. This then allows them to make smart decisions to optimize performance and diagnose problems quickly and efficiently and of course we can augment their own operators with our global services team.
With Bently Nevada, we can enable customers to move from traditional practices of time-based maintenance to predictive maintenance. None of us want to see failures, so with the right solution being able to see or predict something is going to happen, it allows for a safe shutdown verses a plant trip worse case or allows for detailed planning if not such an immediate concern.
OGE: What are the benefits of edge computing and what does it mean for the industry?
Knight: Today we already provide a complete solution with high–speed processing to give machinery protection, coupled with System 1 that can provide customers with analytics to make smart decisions. Orbit 60 takes it to the next level. First, Orbit 60 brings in the very latest technology and even faster processing which enables us to couple many systems together so customers really can have true synchronization of assets for the ability to make better fleet decisions. There are times when cloud-based analytics are fast enough to make fleet–wide decisions, but if a customer has a problem that is difficult to diagnose for a given asset and needs real–time analytics, Orbit 60 brings the ability for our customers to write their own code download to Orbit 60 in our “Sandbox” and run their own diagnostics.
OGE: Many automation and process-control suppliers embracing IIoT are learning that they must offer higher level of services in support of their solutions – to educate the users on what the technology can do and how to use it. Has this been the case with Bently Nevada?
Knight: Bently Nevada has been around for just over 60 years (hence the “60” in the name “Orbit 60”). We have been a trusted partner with many customers for many years, so we’ve been on a journey together as technology has improved. For me this is just the next step in the journey. It is a critical and potentially a more dramatic step than some, but our deep domain expertise and our customers knowledge of how their plant and equipment works means we can work together and utilize the Industrial Internet to give even better insights, especially at the enterprise level with customers who may have many plants globally.
OGE: How will best practices for asset protection and management evolve, with future advances in sensor technology, connectivity and analytics?
Knight: Future advances in sensor technology, connectivity and analytics will heighten the need for increased flexibility and visibility, and our newest products Orbit 60 series and System 1 are excellent examples of how we are preparing for it. Orbit 60 series is our next–generation machinery protection and edge computing platform that is built on a fully distributable architecture and has the flexibility for future expansion. For customers who want to manage their assets at the plant-wide level, Orbit 60 series can help them create proactive maintenance and fleet management programs for maximum productivity and cost reduction. System 1 is the software platform that connects to Orbit 60 series and other Bently Nevada equipment to give full visibility of the plant — giving customers the complete picture of their plant and making it easier for them to make the right decision.
OGE: What’s unique about System 1 diagnostic software?
Knight: For me this is simple. We first take the domain expertise we’ve developed over many years; we couple it with the learnings we find in working and helping our customers solve problems and build it in to System 1. We are always learning, so we release a couple of versions of System 1 each year to capture that new knowledge we’ve developed. Many customers I visit talk about an aging workforce and the lack of skills, so we see that customers with large dispersed fleets have adopted centralized monitoring centers so they can harness the skillsets they need in one location to support multiple sites. This fits right in our wheelhouse and our replication solution enables them to centralize.
Many customers I visit talk about an aging workforce and the lack of skills, so we see that customers with large dispersed fleets have adopted centralized monitoring centers so they can harness the skillsets they need in one location to support multiple sites. This fits right in our wheelhouse and our replication solution enables them to centralize.
OGE: What makes vibration a key parameter in determining machine health? What type of advances are being made here?
Knight: Vibration is a key indicator in predictive maintenance, especially for rotating equipment, because early signs of machine failure can be detected through vibration. Other signs like smoke, heat, noise, and pressure changes come as the faults progress. Continuously monitoring vibration information against historic data gives customers the confidence in the reliability and productivity of their machines.
At Bently Nevada, we are always innovating and finding new ways to maximize value for our customers. This includes our sensor technology as well. We are researching ways to not only refine the detectability but also looking for alternative parameters we can measure with new technology – to give customers greater visibility and understanding of their machines.
OGE: Will Baker Hughes’ joint venture with C3.ai eventually contribute to Bently Nevada’s use of that machine learning capability in its solutions?
Knight: The Baker Hughes-C3.ai joint venture alliance is a huge milestone for the company, with more oil and gas operators looking for artificial intelligence and deep learning solutions to improve their productivity. At Bently Nevada, we are already actively leveraging decision support algorithms and an extensive collection of machine data to analyze and diagnose machine problems. With the integration of a powerful machine learning technology, we will be able to expand our capability to monitor and diagnose and to think more creatively about asset management for all of Baker Hughes’ customers.
OGE: Of all the concepts and technologies being introduced into industrial enterprises, which interests you the most personally?
Knight: We are certainly coming into an age where processing power, edge technology and cloud-based solutions means we are entering into an exciting time for our industry. Bringing these different facets of advanced technology together and seeing how we can help customers solve complex problems, drive greater efficiency, and drive productivity is what excites me the whole team at Bently Nevada and Baker Hughes.