Moving Away From Physical Inspections - How Downstream Oil Refineries Can Use Thermal & Visual Monitoring Solutions

The Scenario - Periodic Inspections and Scheduled Maintenance 

A downstream oil refinery processes hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil each day before storing the various products and distributing them to customers. 

The refinery takes maintenance seriously, creating maintenance schedules for each asset and conducting regular physical inspections beyond what is required to comply with regulations. Technicians arrive on-site and use a variety of handheld sensors, optical gas imaging (OGI) cameras, sniffers, and other measurement tools to assess the condition of equipment, detect leaks or other signs of degradation, and record data for future analysis.

However, given the complexity of the facility and the potential for a failure to cause catastrophic damage, the oil refinery is seeking a more proactive approach to maintenance and repairs. Instead of relying solely on physical inspections, they need a solution that provides continuous, 24/7 monitoring of high-value refinery assets and components. 

The Challenge - Reducing Equipment Failure and Improving Operations

Oil refineries are difficult and often dangerous environments to operate in. Equipment is constantly exposed to changing temperatures, high pressures, extreme weather, corrosive chemicals, and other conditions that increase the likelihood of equipment failure. 

Crude oil distillation, for example, requires high temperatures and pressures that place significant stress on equipment. Similarly, cracking and other conversion methods can strain furnaces, heat exchangers, linings, and other components to the point of failure over time. 

Time-base periodic inspections most often find assets in good working order and are usually unnecessary. Maintenance teams may be unaware of a fault in between inspections, while minor issues may go unnoticed and undetected, sometimes for months at a time. Further, the cost and time required to conduct inspections increases the total cost of operations & maintenance while drawing scarce technical resources away from other initiatives. 

The Solution - Intelligent Thermography for Continuous Monitoring

Touchless™ Monitoring solutions from Systems With Intelligence provide downstream oil refineries with an alternative to manual inspections. 

The explosion-proof thermal and visual sensors detect potential hot spots, sudden or prolonged temperature variations, flames, or the presence of gas leaks. Automatic alarms alert the Operations & Maintenance team, allowing them to visually inspect the equipment, check gauges, and diagnose the issue using high-resolution cameras. Having verified the issue, teams can prioritize a repair based on the severity and expected time to failure. 

Multiple sensors can be deployed across the refinery, allowing operators to view the entire facility from a centralized location. Advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics enable root cause analysis and trend monitoring, improving access to data and strengthening decision-making.

Features and Capabilities

  • Certified explosion-proof and corrosion-proof sensors 
  • High-resolution video to remotely inspect equipment
  • Advanced thermal analytics to detect temperature anomalies 
  • Optical gas imaging sensors for leak detection & repair
  • Powerful analytics and advanced AI
  • Cloud-based storage for future analysis 


  • Reduced operations & maintenance costs
  • Improved safety of personnel
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Mitigated risk of catastrophic failure
  • Improved decision-making
  • Better allocation of scarce technical resources

The Results - A Proactive Approach to Maintenance & Repairs

The Systems With Intelligence team works closely with the refinery to identify business goals, determine the location of the sensors, and design the solution to optimize performance and reduce maintenance costs.

With the sensors deployed, the oil refinery can take a proactive approach to repairs and transition toward a Condition-Based Maintenance strategy. Operators gain greater visibility and control of equipment and processes between inspections, ensuring faults are detected and repaired before they grow into more severe failures. Technicians are dispatched in response to a known issue, minimizing travel-time budgets and allocating scarce resources more efficiently. 

While physical inspections will always be a necessary part of compliance and maintenance, continuous monitoring reduces the likelihood of catastrophic equipment failure, improves worker safety, and enhances the operations of the refinery.