Switchgear Survival Guide: Tips to Optimise Switchgear and Enhance Reliability

With increasing dependence on computers and automated processes, most modern facilities cannot afford operation downtime. Electrical equipment failures account for millions of dollars in damage and lost business every year. On top of this, budget constraints on capital improvement projects will mean more reliance on existing equipment maintenance and ensuring its longevity.  Performing proper maintenance on a facility’s switchgear can reduce the risk of an unplanned outage and is key to extending the life a facility’s assets.

One important aspect of ensuring switchgear longevity is choosing from an established brand that can ensure quality. Schneider Electric’s extensive range of switchgear provides a selection that accommodates for any environment within the Oil and Gas sector and beyond. After the implementation of good products the best method for continued productivity is optimising switchgear and enhancing reliability.

Here are three practical tips to ensure a long and productive lifecycle for your electrical switchgear equipment.

Use of a comprehensive maintenance program

Implementing a comprehensive maintenance outline and checklist is important to keep switchgear functioning at optimum levels. Switchgear should be cleaned, inspected, tightened, lubricated and exercised on a regular basis. The frequency of this maintenance depends on the environment, the condition of the equipment and when the equipment reaches its critical point. Moisture and heat should be considered when determining the frequency of inspections because they speed up the deterioration of insulation, conductive materials and protective devices. Switchgear in Oil and Gas facilities that are properly monitored reduce the chance of equipment downtime as they last longer and are replaced more effectively.

Performing infrared inspections

Performing infrared inspections is one of the most valuable methods to identify loose bus connections within switchgear before they result in a full or partial outage. Having infrared viewing windows installed allows infrared inspections to be done quickly and maintenance can be scheduled where necessary. Although not a substitute for a maintenance program, infrared is a valuable tool  in identifying minor bugs in the systems that can escalate quickly.

Modernising ageing equipment

While maintaining satisfactory switchgear may seem like a cost cutting exercise, this is not always the case if it approaching a non-functional level. Upgrading ageing or obsolete equipment may be necessary to ensure operations are aligned with current technology. With the advancements in the circuit breaker designs, those with older technology may no longer be considered sustainable solutions. To take advantage of the more advanced technology, the switchgear could be replaced to reduce the probability of downtime. A more cost feasible alternative would be to leave the switchgear in place and upgrade the existing equipment with the latest state of the art circuit breakers. Schneider Electric has developed methods for adapting the latest technology circuit breakers into a switchgear or switchboard. This allows for an upgrade of the active components and extending the life of the switchgear.

Switchgear in Oil and Gas plants are often in a condition between satisfactory performance and non-functional. Non-functionality becomes the norm as equipment approaches the end of its expected design life. Without proper maintenance this less-than-satisfactory condition can come about sooner and can result in a shortened life of the switchgear. Contact Schneider Electric for more expertise on switchgear products and  extensive knowledge of equipment maintenance within the Oil and Gas sector.

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