It may risk becoming an overused term but equipment obsolescence is a very real problem facing an increasing number of operators. Many of whom are reliant upon a mature electrical infrastructure often sweated well beyond the intended and designed life. However replacement, modernisation, upgrade, or simply repair and maintenance proves to be never as easy as it first sounds says Phil York general manager PBSI group
An electrical network; whether a distribution network on a housing estate, a petroleum refineries internal network, or the electrical power systems within a generating station all share one unifying truth. They are all part of the same utility service which when interrupted the effect can range from a downright inconvenience to an almost incalculable financial loss.
Electrical utilities are simply expected to work, all of the time, faultlessly. Of course this isn’t the case, electrical power distribution is a complex system relying upon a variety of equipment to ensure safe delivery of electricity and to inherently protect the wider network from damage when faults do occur.
The expectations placed on our electrical networks put operators and those entrusted to maintain these systems in a precarious position.
Unplanned outage risk, or planned intervention.Both choices involve expending time and money weighed up against the economics of the equipment being intentionally or unintentionally out of service.
The obvious answer would be to plan to take equipment out of service with controlled effect than if something unplanned and catastrophic occurring.
However, intervention may not be a viable option, all too often the original equipment manufacturer isn’t around any longer to offer expert assistance or parts, or the modern alternative to the equipment which is available today, is totally incompatible with any previous design.
This is a reality which we all live with as result of our ageing, creaky infrastructure. Obsolescence.
The typical UK coal fired power station is a good example, much of the electrical infrastructure that was installed when these stations were built are still in use today. Hats off to our forefathers for building in endurance right? Well, the picture isn’t that simplistic.
Quite often motors have been changed, circuits are now supplying different loads, yet the original protection relays remain and quite possibly unable to operate fast enough to protect a modern motor from being damaged under a stall condition.
There is a further disadvantage, these electromechanical relays can really only provide one measurement – what is happening at this precise moment.
It cannot for instance predict what may happen in the future or indeed tell you what did happen in the past.
Contrast to a modern protection relay which can provide lists of past trip logs and. It has been a much more useable tool to diagnose events and provide valuable indication before a serious fault occurs.
Equally modern relays do more than just protection, they can provide a means of remote control of a circuit and measured data can be communicated to systems that couple both process operations and electrical control.
So when a 40 year old relay does eventually fail, or the engineer discovers a pitfall, there is yearning for better technology. But because of cost, incompatibility, time pressures and the difficulty with installing new equipment….nothing changes.
P&B has created a range of direct retrofits for the replacement of older protection relays. The retrofits use the latest available technology yet are packaged to be electrically and mechanical identical to enable simple and rapid replacement.
The retrofit option provides a very effective way to modernise the electrical equipment without facing heavy capital investment costs for new equipment or lengthy outage whilst new equipment is commissioned. The retrofit route allows operators to leapfrog the technology barrier and inherit the advances modern protection equipment offers almost instantly and very with little effort.