By Srivats Venkateswaran, Technisch Engineer HyTEPS | Juni 2022
Arc Flash studies for one of the world’s largest pharma companies
"The American parent company of a pharma giant that also operates in the Netherlands has to comply with around 40 mandatory safety standards (SNs), and standard SN23 concerning 'electrical safety' requires arc flash studies. US legislation around Arc Flash is more developed than in Europe. Everyone understands the importance of measurements. Awareness around Arc Flashes in Europe is increasing but still seems to be limited to large companies."
Mapping the installation
The amount of work was daunting: the installation consists of two 6MW electrical substations with some 25 transformers and more than 400 main distributors and sub-distributors. The installation was mapped out in detail and we entered all data into our modeling system. That allowed us to define required PPE levels at each distribution board, identify unsafe boards, offer recommendations for tackling unsafe locations and provide Arc Flash labels with corresponding parameters. Certification needs to be continuously revised and updated! Even the smallest change can affect arc flash risk and invalidate the label.
Why are arc flash studies so important?
Arc Flash studies and advice from HyTEPS allowed the customer to prevent all kinds of problems: dangerous situations with very high energy release in the event of a fault, PPE that doesn’t offer enough protection, selectivity problems, overly long power cables… Of course, it’s important to make sure employees understand what’s on the labels and why, to make the most of arc flash studies. We broadly use two different methodologies for AC and DC Arc Flash studies, based on European and American suggested standards. We basically use two different calculation types for AC arc flash and 4 for DC arc flash. Within DC arc flash, we can choose from a European method and three American-based methods.
This project is a constant learning curve, because we are indirectly involved with any changes in the electrical installation. Any time a change is made, we have to perform arc flash studies to identify the appropriate arc flash PPE levels. This sometimes leads to challenging situations, where solutions have to be crafted for unsafe locations based on engineering knowledge, sometimes with technical constraints limiting possible solutions.
The scale of the operation and the frequency with which studies need to be performed make this project special. It’s not a singular simulation study, but uses several models over several transformers. This involves constant tracking of changes which have been, or will be, carried out at both ends - the customer’s and HyTEPS. This can be incredibly tedious yet critical for efficient operation of the arc flash study project.
Challenging and interesting!
In short, two aspects were especially challenging and interesting:
- The engineering challenge involved in making suggestions to the customer in order to enhance safety in a particular location with appropriate PPE in case of an arc flash event. This helped me learn more about arc flash theory, and what factors can effect the energy released if an arc flash was to occur.
- The project management side, which led to HyTEPS implementing a proper structure for streamlining information changes and tracking all modifications taking place at several locations simultaneously. This helped me learn how projects can be organized for greater clarity and clean distribution of tasks.
Knowledge and solutions
Our highly trained, qualified and enthusiastic team of technicians help our clients to improve energy efficiency and optimize electrical energy quality. We do this by means of measurements, analyses, knowledge, services and technologically innovative solutions. In this way, we help our customers navigate the energy transition, get much more out of existing installations, achieve their own sustainability goals and make a contribution to meeting national targets.