Overheated Bearings Cause Compressor Failures

At Phillips Petroleum Corporation, overheated bearings have caused repetitive failures on three Elliot air compressors. These compressors are part of the plant air system. If they go down, the plant would lose air to critical instruments and tools. Within 30 minutes of a failure in the compressors, the entire plant could be shut down. Given the criticality of this equipment, management rented a spare compressor as a “just-in-case” back up.

An Action Team made up of area operators, craftsmen and an engineer reviewed the failure data and began by thoroughly cleaning one of the compressors. Once they saw the intake screen, they could see that the problem was due to deterioration of the insulation and soundproofing material.

The material was breaking down due to moisture and the corrosive effects of the product manufactured in the area. The team cleaned out the disintegrated soundproofing and installed a different type of insulation. The new insulation was rubber based instead of foam based and therefore was not prone to deteriorate under the same conditions.

The impact of this team has been to eliminate the failures on the compressors (typically a work order every week) and to reduce the cost to maintain the compressors by over $60,000 annually. The spare compressor, that was being rented at over $100,000 per year, has been sent back to the vendor and most importantly, a potential source of total plant shut down has been eliminated.