Associated British Ports (ABP) is Britain's largest and leading ports group, handling around 120 million tonnes a year and employing nearly 2,000 staff across the business. Its Port of Immingham, jointly operated with its sister-port of Grimsby on the South Bank of the Humber, is one of the UK’s largest by tonnage.
It is essential that ABP maintains a robust supply in order to ensure continuity of electrical supply to its customers. ABP’s network has grown steadily over the years and ABP recognises the need for continuing investment in order to ensure reliability of its electrical equipment.
Following a study by ABP’s engineers and after consultation with Switchgear Support Ltd (SSL), which assured ABP that its original Brush Switchgear VSI equipment was suitable for at least a sixty year lifespan, ABP decided to retrofit its entire range of VSI OCBs with vacuum circuit breakers (VCBs).
SSL was requested to supply, install, and test 24 VCBs. In addition to giving the original VSI units a new lease of life, ABP now has the option of full remote control of the VCBs and the benefit of the improved safety features that VCBs provide.
The VSI switchgear retrofit involved using a number of housing designs, ranging from 1968 to 1986 manufacturing dates, which necessitated varying degrees of mechanical modifications to the housings. One original VSI panel also had TLF protection, which was converted to microprocessor-based relay protection, thus providing complete interchangeability of all 24 VCBs.
Although SSL has been involved in over 4,000 VSI retrofits, we still encountered mechanical issues on the first install with the maloperation of the shutter linkages in the housing. After quickly assessing the situation, SSL redesigned the VCB shutter operating mechanism. After proving the new design on the first install, the ensuing 23 VCBs were installed and commissioned with no problems. Working very closely with ABP, we ensured circuit outages were kept to an absolute minimum to avoid disruption to many of its critical supplies.
Dave Johnson, Director of SSL, says, “Even after the direct involvement with approximately 4,000 Brush Switchgear VSI retrofits, it just goes to show that no two retrofits are the same. The key with successful retrofitting is in understanding the whole retrofit package – the certified replacement VCB is only a small part of the solution. Just as importantly, first-hand knowledge of the original switchgear design variants is essential to ensure the successful installation of the complete retrofit package and that all mechanical interfaces are taken into account”
Mark Hennessey, Electrical Engineer at ABP, says “Following the installation of nine retrofit VCBs in 2009, approval was given to retrofit our remaining twenty four Brush Switchgear VSI panels at our ports of Immingham and Grimsby in 2010. We had no hesitation in employing the services of SSL again to supply, install and commission the VCBs.
“Due to the nature of our operations and the critical supply requirements of our customers, SSL was often required to install individual circuits at short notice. SSL met our expectations and the installation team provided a professional and efficient service.”
“Over the past few years SSL has also assisted us in the supply of spares and provided valuable technical advice on our original South Wales Switchgear equipment”
Photos courtesy of ABP