Monitoring Your Medium Voltage Switchgear

When I worked in the offshore oil & gas business many years ago, production platforms typically had low-voltage electrical systems running motors no larger than 480VAC. Over the years as the process sophistication grew and motors with variable speed drives replaced engine-driven compressors and other assets, the need for medium voltage systems (between 1KV and 35KV) grew. For most other industries with access to an electrical grid, these medium voltage systems are common.

Emerson's Craig Abbott


Like other assets in a plant, these electrical systems should be monitored to avoid unplanned downtime and operate more reliably. In this 19:21 YouTube video, IntelliSAW – Safely monitor medium voltage switchgear, Emerson’s Craig Abbott describes how medium voltage switchgear should be continuously monitored to avoid safety, reliability and lost production incidents.

He opens citing some numbers showing that plant assets, often designed for a 20-year lifespan, exceed 25 years in age. He describes the cost to fix failed assets being 50% higher than servicing that asset before the failure condition occurs. And the earlier the problem is identified and resolved, the less the cost. He also notes that 20% of power disruptions are due to failure of electrical system components.

Craig shared several examples of where a component failure has resulted in millions of dollars in lost production, so the business case for continuous monitoring can be very strong.

Three types of typical switchgear faults include thermal breakdown, partial discharge and humidity which leads to corrosion and insulation breakdown. Thermal breakdown is typical monitored manually with periodic thermography testing. Partial discharge conditions are uncovered by highly-trained engineers performing periodic analysis. Cabinet heaters are used to manage humidity levels to avoid condensation.

Watch the video to see how IntelliSAW Critical Asset Monitoring (CAM) wireless components can continuously measure for indications of thermal breakdown, partial discharge and air dielectric breakdowns caused by humidity.

You can also connect and interact with other wireless and power experts in the Wireless and Power groups in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

Posted Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 under Power, Wireless.

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