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Sandy Hutchison

Technical Discipline: Vibration Engineering
Years in industry: 25
Years at Xodus: 10
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How did you get into the Vibration Engineering industry? 

I actually studied aeronautical engineering at university, however, the opportunity arose for a summer placement at a consultancy that specialised in pipework vibration. I then did my final year project on flow induced turbulence in process pipework which involved site based measurements and I have been involved in this subject ever since. This has enabled me to work in process facilities across the world and investigate and solve a varied range of fatigue problems.  

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give operators in this space? 

Don’t ignore the risk of vibration induced fatigue failure at FEED / DESIGN stage for both topsides and subsea systems. By performing vibration screening assessments, based on the Energy Institute Avoidance of Vibration Induced Fatigue in Process Pipework (AVIFF) guidelines, the risk of vibration induced fatigue failures can be significantly reduced and better managed through commissioning and early operational phases.  This can avoid costly repair and replacement work, as well as the implications of lost production, project delays and increased emissions. 

However, don’t let vibration limit your production without a detailed study being performed. Screening assessments, such as the EI AVIIFF guidelines are necessarily conservative but detailed FEA / CFD analysis, preferably in conjunction with site-based vibration and stress measurements, can give more accurate results and often permit higher flow rates. 

How has Xodus improved their approach to assessing risk of vibration? 

Xodus are at the forefront of developing industry guidelines and are currently co-authors of the next revision of the Energy Institute AVIFF guidelines, where we are bringing our knowledge and experience to improve the safety and reliability of process plant. 

Traditional assessment techniques using handheld measurement devices only capture a snapshot of the piping & structural response at the range of process operating conditions at that time. For excitation mechanisms that vary with time - such as environmental, flow, valve positions, machinery operation, flow regimes etc, short duration measurements may not adequately assess the response of the range of operations. This can lead to either an overly conservative or under conservative assessment of the risk and result in unnecessary costly mitigations, reduced production or in the extreme case lead to a fatigue failure. 

Xodus have developed multi-channel unmanned monitoring systems which we are using on several assets internationally (UK North Sea, Norway, UAE) to monitor the response of process piping and structures. These systems are ATEX certified and can therefore be located in hazardous areas which eliminates the need to install long cable runs back to safe zones - which can be prohibitively expensive. 

Vibration, dynamic pressure and stress levels (and other parameters) are recorded and monitored continuously along with the assets DCS data (flow rates, pressures, temperatures and valve positions etc), and are then analysed remotely with live results (fatigue damage) and made available to the operator to allow them to make informed decisions on any process changes to maintain or increase production. 

Benefits include;  

  • Increased production whilst limiting and understanding the integrity risk  
  • Capturing all process conditions and not just a snap shot  
  • Reduced costs of engineers on the assets  
  • Contributing to Net zero targets 


How can Vibration & Integrity Engineering assist in the energy transition and journey to net zero? 

Hydrogen and CCS process facilities are at risk of vibration induced fatigue failures, which should be adequately considered at design stage as well as managed through commissioning & operations. 

Our integrity engineering services are well placed to assess the re-purposing of existing infrastructure for use with Hydrogen or CCS, such as low temperature assessment, FFS, material selection & fracture durability. 

We already support the journey to net zero by reducing and preventing hydrocarbon releases from fatigue failures and the additional carbon emissions resulting from emergency shutdown, repairs, mitigations and production startups. 

How can Vibration & Integrity Engineering support renewables sector 

The Vibration & Integrity Engineering Division have a wealth of experience in the vibration and integrity field, not just in oil and gas but many other areas where our engineers have gained experience before they joined Xodus. 

We are already supporting several clients on renewable projects utilising our extensive experience and developing monitoring solutions for life extension applications as well as ongoing operational support for floating offshore wind. Our combination of measurement and simulation expertise enable us to support developers to optimise new floating structures. 

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