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SKF condition monitoring system to boost reliability at biomass electricity plant

As a global bearing and rotating technology specialist, SKF South Africa is committed to assisting companies to achieve their productivity goals whilst remaining environmentally friendly. The Multilog On-line System IMx-M was the perfect solution for condition monitoring at a biomass electricity plant in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

The biomass plant will produce electricity using the waste generated by the neighbouring paper plant during the paper making process. This waste will be used to fire the boilers to generate steam which will drive a turbine, generating 25MW.

SKF received a proposal request for a condition monitoring system with 4-20 mA outputs from the customer who is in the process of designing the biomass plant. SKF proposed the sophisticated IMx-8 condition monitoring device. Lourens Zeelie, Online Condition Monitoring Specialist at SKF South Africa, explains that this device however does not feature the requested 4-20 mA outputs. “So we revisited our extensive IMx product range and determined that the IMx-M protection system which features
4-20mA output capabilities would be the ideal fit for the biomass electricity plant.” The protection module requires direct, fast and reliable communication to the DCS (Distributed Control System) and one of the communication methods commonly used on older DCS systems is 4-20 mA signals.


The Multilog On-line System IMx-M is a protection system designed to rapidly react to any deviations to protect the equipment it is monitoring. This game-changing IMx-M from SKF is the latest addition in a generation of powerful, cost-effective and reliable solutions which are suitable for an array of machinery monitoring applications.

Utilised in conjunction with SKF’s @ptitude Observer software, the Multilog IMx-M offers a comprehensive system for machinery shutdown initiation, early fault detection and diagnosis on machines and bearings.

Lourens points out that of the two IMx-M condition monitoring and protection modules, which are supplied as a pair, the biomass plant project only requires condition monitoring. “The protection module will therefore initially not be utilised but SKF will work with the customer post-commissioning to look into the possibilities of incorporating protection capabilities.”

Condition monitoring is fundamental to equipment availability and contributes to the prevention of unplanned downtime which can lead to great production losses. The extremely reliable IMx-M will be used in this biomass plant to monitor the general condition of the equipment such as machine balance and alignment as well as detailed bearing condition. Additionally, the IMx-M system will provide automated advice for correcting existing or impending conditions that can affect machine reliability, availability, efficiency and performance. This proactive approach offers the customer adequate planning time to arrange the necessary maintenance equipment, parts and labour. Lourens also notes that this method shortens operation downtime due to the fact that all the requirements needed to conduct repairs are already in place for plant availability.

As an environmentally consciousness company, SKF is proud to play an indirect role in this project which is poised to make a lasting difference on the environment. “Our focus is to present our customers with the best possible solution and when we are faced with a situation in which we do not have the exact product that the customer requires, we will go out of our way to find the best-fit solution that will meet their needs,” concludes Lourens.


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