Avoiding Low Voltage Electrical Asset Outages - Emerson Automation Experts

Avoiding Low Voltage Electrical Asset Outages

Early in my career as a freshly-minted electrical engineer in the mid-1980s, I worked on projects on offshore oil & gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. These platforms required turbine or reciprocating engine gas generators with diesel engine backup for when gas was not available from the production stream.

Low voltage (LV) distribution systems, typically at 480VAC were used to power the pumps, compressors, motor control centers, lighting, communications and other electrical needs for the platform. The corrosive moist and salty air from the Gulf caused failures in the distribution systems every so often.

I mention all this because of a Power Magazine article, Temperature Monitoring Protects Low-Voltage Assets, by Emerson’s Jay Ganson. Technology has come a long way from back then and continuous monitoring is now available to help avoid electrical failures. Jay opened the article noting:

LV electrical distribution has a history of under-investment, which leaves companies exposed to an ever-increasing risk of failures and unplanned outages—events that could be prevented with available monitoring technologies. Asset failures always prove costly to operators and are far costlier than implementing technology to provide continuous monitoring.

Costs of unplanned outages not only includes financial costs, but:

…failures introduce serious safety concerns and unnecessary risks for employees and asset operators, carrying intrinsic costs impossible to measure but very significant.

One key indicator of impending failure conditions:

… is an unexpected increase in temperature most often caused by loose or failing connections, overloading, and corrosion.

Manually checking LV equipment has been the traditional approach, but:

…often does not capture the slow progression to failure.

Heat buildup of LV equipment may be caused by loose:

…connections, improper contacts, and corrosion [which] all reduce the current-carrying surface area…

Jay notes that an effective continuous monitoring system monitors:

…temperature, voltages, and currents together allows users to better understand if equipment has capacity for expansion.

Emerson’s wireless IntelliSAW compact surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensors continuously monitor:

…changes in ambient physical conditions, thereby providing a means to accurately and passively monitor local conditions.

IntelliSAW products

From a maintenance perspective, an IntelliSAW sensor:

…is wireless and passive, so it requires no maintenance in the form of battery replacement, and it contains no electronic components in the energized compartment that could fail.

Read the article for more on ways to install and an application example in a data center monitoring transformers, switchgear, power distribution units and transfer switches.

Visit the IntelliSAW electrical infrastructure continuous asset monitoring section on Emerson.com for more on this technology and family of products. You can also connect and interact with other IIoT and digital transformation experts in the IIoT & Digital Transformation group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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