It was 6 PM on a sunny Thursday evening. Our service manager had just left the office when his cell phone rang. It was one our long-time customers on the line. Disaster had struck. They had a fierce fire, and they were struggling to keep their factory going. They needed our help immediately.
This customer has a large Hitec Diesel UPS installation that has provided uninterrupted power to their plant since 1998. Their production process is critical, and any interruption in power causes huge losses.
Their factory fire brigade is well prepared for calamities. Though the fire raged through one of the diesel UPS rooms, they were able to extinguish it quickly. The fire was short but violent and had damaged one unit; cables were burned and wires were shortened. The bad news was that the fire had not only damaged the daily fuel tank for that unit—the diesel supply to the other units was out of order, too. The operators had to switch off all units as a precaution. The factory was still operating, but on raw mains power without protection.
The first thing we did when we arrived on site was to secure the operation of the remaining units to protect the factory. Then, we investigated the damage to the burnt unit.
The fire started in the unit room, which is next to the daily fuel tank room. That room was used to store fuel tanks for four of the eight units. Therefore, before the customer could restart the remaining units, they had to repair and modify the fuel system to allow them to run off the unaffected diesel tanks.
The diesel UPS system was running in diesel operation when the fire started. A unit does not immediately stop turning when it receives a ‘stop’ command. Instead, the machines slowly run down, which takes about half an hour. Meanwhile, the machine’s internal fans were sucking in hot air, smoke and the foam and water used by the fire brigade to battle the blaze. Given this situation, we knew we would have to dismantle and overhaul these machines in our workshop.
The unit’s control panel appeared to be damaged, though the foam and water treatment made the internal parts look clean. Still, plastic parts of many components appeared brittle and fell apart when touched. The control panel was no longer reliable, if functional at all, and we knew we would have to rebuild it.
The diesel engine had taken the hardest punch. It did not seem feasible to repair the engine, so our client decided it must be replaced.
Hitec Electric delivered the new diesel engine to the site, along with the overhauled electrical machines and control panels. We also supplied new daily fuel tanks. Hitec Electric’s engineers assembled the unit on site, testing it thoroughly before putting it back into operation.
No one wants to experience a disaster like this, but when one happens, they offer invaluable lessons:
- Always be prepared.
This customer has a fire detection system that worked well, and its fire brigade knew what to do. They prevented the spread of the fire to the rest of the system or, worse, to the factory.
- Redundancy is valuable.
In a system with multiple units, it makes sense to have at least one redundant unit. That allows the system to keep running if one unit is out of operation for any reason. Rebuilding a unit, like in this case, takes time. The redundancy in their system ensured the continuity of the production.
- Design is important.
When designing the room layout of a diesel UPS installation, it is important to take fire safety into consideration. The placement of components in separate rooms helps, but fire separation measures and the selection of fire-resistant materials for cabling and piping are also important.
Hitec Electric is a rotary UPS systems specialist. Building on years of experience, we can design and install your rotary UPS system to be robust and reliable. Should disaster ever strike, we’ll be around to help you maintain your business and recover as quickly as possible.