Ultrasonic multipurpose device SONAPHONE proves successful in maintenance of a power plant

The ultrasonic device SONAPHONE is a truly multifunctional device: With its help, the tester can not only detect compressed air leaks, but also check valves, test bearings and inspect electrical installations. This is especially useful for maintenance work in power plants – Fortum Service Germany GmbH can testify to that.

The company Fortum Service Germany GmbH is part of the Finnish energy group Fortum and operates in Germany since 1993. Headquartered in Hamburg, Fortum offers an independent service for the operation and maintenance of power plants, but also provides support in the field of turbine revisions as well as consulting and IT systems for the optimization of power plant processes. In the division “Power Solutions” – the technical operation of power plants for third parties – Fortum is a leading global provider. “Our Group is in charge for a power plant fleet with 14,113 MW of installed electrical power and 24,494 MW thermal power worldwide”, said Pascal Schulte, responsible for mechanical maintenance at Fortum Service Germany GmbH. “We have decades of experience with the operation and maintenance of different types of power plants.”

One of the supported power plants is the gas and steam turbine power plant of “Trianel Gaskraft Hamm GmbH & Co. KG”. Fortum is responsible for the technical operation and maintenance in this plant since 2007. Pascal Schulte is part of the maintenance team: “As part of our daily work we continuously monitor the system and conduct some maintenance work during short downtimes. Our activities include the annual audit as well as the long-term maintenance planning.”

SONAPHONE – Perfect support for maintenance

Fortum conducts the maintenance work at the power plant in Hamm with innovative technology from SONOTEC: The experts use a SONAPHONE for some time past. The ultrasonic testing devices of the SONAPHONE series are suitable for fast and reliable detection of compressed air and gas leaks, tightness testing of different systems, wear-monitoring on bearings and the detection of partial discharges on electrical insulation damages. A further application possibility of the mobile devices is the valve inspection in and out of action.

If a leak occurs in compressed air systems, it emits ultrasound, which can be detected accurate to the millimetre far before it is even heard by humans. These ultrasonic signals are audible via headphones and visible on the display of the devices. The located leak will be tagged and after that repaired. Hence, the advantage of using the ultrasonic method is its convenient handling.

There are five different SONAPHONE designs and several smart accessories to ensure a large application range. Fortum has chosen a SONAPHONE E, which is also suitable for use in areas with risk of explosion. The multi-purpose device has an integrated data logger allowing long-time tests on pre-defined test locations. Through USB interface all data can be transported to a computer and evaluated quickly and easily in Excel charts. “This is very useful for us, especially in the long-term monitoring of drain valves. The collected data gives us information about the condition and wear of a valve”, says Schulte.

Check of valves and steam traps

The check of drain valves and steam traps is the main task of the SONAPHONE at Fortum. Therefore, the company uses additional equipment. “With a special body sound probe and a surface temperature sensor valves and steam traps can be easily and thoroughly inspect”, explains Christoph Schimmel, sales manager for maintenance devices at SONOTEC. The body sound probe enables experts to carry out noise measurements and follow them acoustically through the headphones. Based on the noise generation the experts at Fortum can assess the condition of a valve or a steam trap.

Measurements of steam traps can be made with the ultrasound probe at predefined points and lead, with some experience, in fast and safe results. An additional temperature check makes sure that the steam traps are really tight. Things were different, Pascal Schulte reminds: “In the past temperature measurement took up a lot of time – seals had to be drilled out and the temperatures were not that clear like flow noises. With the SONAPHONE everything goes very quickly and the results are much more reliable.”

Multi-purpose device for many applications

However, the SONAPHONE can do a lot more than checking drain valves: Fortum also applies it to detect gas and compressed air leaks and check bearings of pumps or motors. Pascal Schulte and his team monitor the running noises of bearings and take steps immediately if abnormalities occur. “You hear when a bearing starts to hit or grind,” Schulte describes. “To interpret the sounds correctly the user must already have little experience.” In this regard, the training in the power plant, conducted by SONOTEC, was very helpful.

Fortum is currently approaching another application field of SONAPHONE – the Electrical Inspection. With the help of the probe, which measures air leakages, the check of electric cabinets is possible as well. Although this application is currently not used intensively, the multifunctionality of the ultrasonic testing device is a big plus for Fortum. “There are many devices that check only steam traps. The SONAPHONE can be used for various applications and this assists us greatly in the daily maintenance,” says Schulte. ”Another advantage is that measuring works incredibly fast. Now we can carry out different measurements on one valve in a minimum of time.” Flexible, efficient and easy to handle – from the power plant specialists the SONAPHONE gets top grades.

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