Case Study: When the Machine is Not to Be Blamed for the Vibration

Albie Schoombee, Engineering Lead Rotating Equipment


Rotating equipment Vibration Analysis can usually explain the majority of dynamic behaviour and anomalies in typical asset installations. Then, every now and then, there are those intriguing and non-textbook cases which requires a deep-dive and wider look into the system to find the cause of an asset condition upset.

A case study will be shared on one such event of a business-critical centrifugal compressor where the usual vibration diagnostics could not obviously explain the phenomenon of a high vibration and elevated acoustic symptom. During the investigation multiple system aspects were considered, adjusted and tested with eventual discovery of the element responsible for the symptom, although the scientific cause still remains contentious.

The vibration and acoustic abnormality could be eliminated and led to various discoveries and learnings around connected piping systems, their influence on sound compressor operation, and how design aspects that can have a significant impact on acceptable operation can easily be omitted.

Learning Takeaways:

  • Centrifugal compressor vibration signatures and excitation sources
  • Piping vibration excitation sources
  • Turbulence and flow-induced pulsations in compressor systems


He is a mechanical engineer with more than 18 years of petrochemical experience at the Sasol South African Operations. Earlier years were spent on providing engineering plant support to various business units within operations including Gas Production, Gas Processing and the Refinery plants, and the remainder to date spent in the specialist field of rotating equipment providing engineering support on turbo machinery and multistage pumps.

He has dealt with unique equipment and technologies over the span of his career in encountering new as well as ageing plant challenges. He has worked in the capacity of plant support engineer, project manager for renewals of pressure equipment, team leader of a mechanical engineering group in the Refineries and leading a team of specialist engineers providing technical and multi-disciplinary support to the rotating equipment assets, and associated systems, of the company. He is passionate about continuous improvement of asset management and condition monitoring, developing specialist engineering skills and competency, digitalization and data analytics to enable machine prognostics and improve efficiency.