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The 15 Hottest Electrical Problems Youll Find Lurking in Facilities


The 15 Hottest Electrical Problems Youll Find Lurking in Facilities
Oct 8, 2015
By JR Smith, Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Co. | Electrical Construction and Maintenance
COMMENTS 1

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2,000A Breaker
This 2,000A breaker has an obvious over temperature condition on the C-phase terminal. A high resistance or loose bolted connection is causing this
problem. Early detection and correction of this problem will prevent a major plant-wide power outage. The advanced warning from the thermographic
image will also prevent a significant unplanned business interruption.

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Bad Fuse Clip


This fuse clip, on the load-side of the C-phase, has lost its tension. The loose spring tension creates a high-resistance joint that produces excessive heat
(as seen by the infrared camera). Fuse clips can be accidentally bent during rough fuse changes. Fuse clip mounting screws can be accidentally torqued
and loosened if fuses are twisted during removal or insertion. Heating at this fuse clip can also cause many nuisance blown fuses due to the internal fuse
element heating from this local bad connection.

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Bushing
This transformer bushing is showing a concentration of heat at the bushing itself and at the internal bushing/transformer connection. You can see that the
bolted cable lugs are much cooler than the bushing. Using thermography to detect this condition allows for a planned maintenance shutdown to further
investigate and repair the problems. A transformer loss is typically accompanied by a long plant outage for repairs and parts procurement.

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Fuse Clamps
The A-phase and the C-phase, line-side fuse clamps, are showing excessive heat. These fuse clamps are the bolt-down style. Most terminals and
electrical connections have factory-designated and required torque values listed on equipment stickers. It is important to properly seat the fuse blades and
the bolted wedges before tightening the fasteners with the torque wrench. If you are not following the factory torque specifications, you may have many
connections in your facility that look like this. Overheating of the fuse mounting parts can cause annealing of the metals and loss of strength.

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Hot Breaker
This single-pole, 277V lighting circuit breaker has an overheating problem caused by a loose terminal screw. This breaker was overheated to the extent
that it had to be replaced. The excess heat produced at the loose breaker terminal also caused the THHN, 90C conductor insulation to overheat several
inches away from the terminal. The temperature-damaged conductor lengths should be cut back and re-terminated when possible or replaced when too
short.

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Loose Wire
The B-phase, load-side wire on this control panel contactor was not installed properly. After the panel was de-energized and locked and tagged out, the
plant electrician only touched the wire. It was so loose that it actually fell right out of the wire clamp. It is ironic that this contactor and wire supplied power
to one of the machine safety devices. The wire was cut back and properly re-terminated to allow for continued plant production.

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Old Fuse Holder


This is an old-style fuse pullout with two cartridge fuses installed. One of the fuse clips is producing way too much heat. The infrared camera can only
detect the surface temperature of the pullout device. The fuse and the fuse clip are both on the underside of the insulated housing. The fuse clip and fuse
barrel temperatures are actually much hotter than the measured pullout surface temperatures. General age, corrosion and repeated fuse changes could
account for the cause of this overheating condition.

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Old Switch
This is a 3-phase knife switch mounted on an open-type switchboard. There is no enclosure covering the energized parts. These switches are still in use in
New York City and other large cities that date back to the early days of electrical installations. The A-phase knife switch blade is overheating at the hinged
joint and at the blade-to-line-side connection. If these switch parts are annealed from overheating, they may all need to be replaced. It may be very difficult
to find replacement parts for equipment this old. Many of these switches were designed with cupped Belleville washers to hold tension on the knife blade
joints. Overheating can cause the Belleville washers to lose their spring and flatten out.

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Power Feed from Plant


This is the connection point between a renewable resource power plant and the local utility grid. A medium-voltage cable termination is showing excessive
heat compared to the other two phases. Since this connection is high atop a utility pole, it would be hard to smell or see any smoke if it developed. It is also
far away from the areas where anyone normally performs work. If you are not including this type of equipment in your electrical maintenance program, you
are risking a complete and unexpected outage. Review the scope of your own electrical maintenance program. It should include inspection and service to
all equipment and possible points of electrical failure, including the medium-voltage distribution systems.

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Power Plant
This power plant has multiple problems with overheating terminations on the network. A single thermographic image can see all of the hot spots in one
viewing and at a safe distance away from the medium- or high-voltage equipment. The criticality of any system is based on the consequences of a
failure. In a manufacturing plant failure and outage, only one customer is typically affected. On the other hand, when a utility electrical connection fails,
entire geographic areas can be affected by the resulting outage. Use this analogy to decide where to apply thermography to your own facilitys internal
network of equipment and power distribution. What are your most critical system components that could take your whole facility down?

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Renewable Link Fuse


This is a 3-phase fused switch using three renewable-link fuses. The replaceable fuse link inside has two bolted connections to hold the link to the fuse
blade ends. Each of these bolts is field-tightened when the fuse link is replaced. This adds two more failure points and two more potential higher-resistance
connections. This type of fuse is a code Class-H fuse. They are usually rated for only 10,000A interrupting capacity (AIC). Over the years, utility network
upgrades have typically increased the available short circuit current to values that exceed 10,000A. It is wise to replace these older renewable link fuses
with modern current-limiting fuses such as code Class-K or Class-R fuses (as appropriate).

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Solar Panel
This is a thermographic image of a solar module. Many individual solar cells make up one solar module. The solar cells are the squares within the grid of
dots on the module. You can see the cells that are giving off a much higher heat signature. The hotter cells are not supplying energy to the grid system
because they are locally dissipating their energy as heat. As new renewable energy technology advances, new uses are found for the thermographic
camera. Viewing the thermographic image needs to be combined with the wisdom of a seasoned thermographer to properly interpret and diagnose
conditions.

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Switchgear
This 3-phase, fused switch in a lumber mill switchboard is showing over temperature problems on the B-phase, line-side connection of the fuse. Poor
connections can cause enough heat to destroy the internal parts of the electrical equipment. If not corrected in time, the metals can melt and cause an
arcing-fault within the enclosed equipment. Arcing ground faults and phase-to-phase faulting can completely destroy multiple switchboard
sections. Thermography is a great tool to see heat produced by electrical equipment where is unsafe to use your sense of touch to feel the heat
directly. Special safety precautions are defined in NFPA 70E for personnel who perform thermographic testing.

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Transformer Connection
These three single-phase transformers are connected to provide a 3-phase service to a manufacturing facility. You can see that two of the secondary
terminal connections are overheating. One bad connection is on each of two transformers. Since this is the main service supply for the facility, a failure at
this point in the system means a total unexpected plant shutdown. If the production equipment is running at the time the termination fails, the 3-phase
equipment will single-phase and is likely to cause additional production equipment damage beyond the failed termination.

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Transformer Low Oil


This is a very interesting image. This padmount transformer has a liquid level gauge installed in the transformer tank. The gauge is working properly, telling
the owner that the oil level is at the minimum level. Does the electrical maintenance program call for someone to inspect items like the transformer liquid
level gauge? Is it checked monthly? Yearly? Ever? Luckily, in this case, an inquisitive thermographer viewed this transformer through the infrared
camera. The oil cannot circulate if the radiator supply, and return pipes are not both below the tank oil level. For every 10C that this transformer
continuously operates over its temperature rating, its life is reduced by one-half. Luckily, this potentially catastrophic failure was reduced to a low-cost
maintenance activity.

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Are you using thermography as part of your electrical preventive maintenance program? If not, you should see what youre missing.
JR Smith is director of thermography services for Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. and a Level-III thermographer.
With the help of Bill Viot and Norm Gaver (both HSB Level-II thermographers), they have combined more than 50 years of experience
in the thermography business to show how 15 electrical disasters were averted using thermography. The success of a thermography
program critically depends on the skill level of the thermographer interpreting the image.
After seeing these examples of impending disasters, youll be wondering what invisible disasters are lurking in your facility!
For more information on thermography check out:http://www.munichre.com/HSB/thermography/index.html.
JR can be reached at Ronald_Smith_Jr@hsb.com.
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Protecting Yourself from Arc Flash Hazards


Oct 18, 2014Dave Kreger | Electrical Construction and Maintenance

Arc flash is the leading cause of serious injuries and deaths on the job in the electrical industry. In fact, as many as eight out of 10 electrical
injuries are caused by burns that result from exposure to energy released from an arcing fault. Additionally, the Institute of Electrical and

Electronics Engineers (IEEE) reports that 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers for extended injury treatment caused by arc flash each
year. Even someone standing more than 10 ft from the fault source can be fatally burned. If your work requires you to install, inspect, operate,
or maintain live electrical equipment or work near such equipment then youre at risk for arc flash-related accidents and injuries.
The frequency of arc flash-related incidents and the severity of the consequences have incited organizations, including the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), to create new and more stringent requirements
to protect employees and contractors working on or near live electrical equipment. Specifically, OSHA recently published its first-ever arc
flash protection requirements for the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry, making significant changes to
electrical safety requirements in high-voltage environments.

Electrical workers need to play an active role in protecting themselves when working near energized equipment.

In addition, the latest version of NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace has made changes to safety, maintenance, and
training requirements. Changes were made to the ways in which electrical risks are evaluated to help prevent exposure to electrical arc flash
hazards and to support compliance with OSHA requirements.
RELATED

How to Reduce Electrical Hazards in the Workplace


Managing Arc Flash in Your Facility
While employers are obligated by law to follow OSHA regulations for creating a safe work environment, electrical workers need to play an
active role in ensuring their own safety on the job. This includes adhering to OSHA requirements and following the specific safety procedures
and practices for working on live electrical equipment as outlined in NFPA 70E. The following best practices reflect the latest codes and
standards. Keeping these in mind can help keep you safe at work and could even save your life.

Tip 1: Know what youre dealing with, and get it on paper.


Obviously, choosing to work on or near live electrical equipment increases your risk of exposure to an arc flash. You have both a right and a
responsibility to understand those hazards. While OSHA and NFPA have long required employers to meet with contractors prior to work
starting in order to communicate those hazards, NFPA 70E added a requirement in 2012 stipulating that the meeting between the employer
and contractors must be documented. Documenting the meeting helps to ensure and validate that you have the information you need to stay
safe on the job.

Tip 2: Understand arc flash severity and calculated boundaries.


As part of the meeting between employers and contractors, employers must now provide contractors with information they need to make
safety-related assessments, including arc flash severity and calculated arc flash protection boundaries. NFPA 70E requires employers to
complete an arc flash risk assessment to determine if an arc flash hazard exists and to determine the arc flash boundary. This information
allows contractors to make decisions related to the use of safe work practices and techniques and to select personal protective equipment
(PPE) necessary to mitigate the risks.

In the past, NFPA 70E was ambiguous about if it was sufficient to use tables supplied by the standard for the arc flash boundary distance
(flash protection boundary) or if the distance would have to be calculated. However, several provisions in the latest version of NFPA 70E
make it more difficult to defend the easier method of using the tables, especially for locations where the voltage is greater than 50V.
The newest revision to 29 CFR 1910.269 requires owners/employers to estimate incident energy and even recommend the methods to use in
certain circumstances, such as adhering to IEEE Standard 1584 for equipment operating up to 15,000V and using special analysis software for
higher voltages. By calculating the boundary and providing you with the information, your employer ensures you understand when and at
what distances PPE and safe work practices are needed to protect against arc flash hazards.

Tip 3: Be sure you are qualified for the job, and get training if you need it.
NFPA 70E 2015 defines a qualified person as one who has demonstrated skills related to the construction and operation of the electrical
equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved. Per revisions to NFPA 70E in 2012,
only qualified persons can perform testing and maintenance within the limited approach boundary.
Employers need to make sure that employees and contractors who work around (not just on) energized electrical equipment are safety
trained, that retraining occurs at least every three years, and that the training content is documented. Electrical equipment operators, who
may not necessarily be considered qualified electrical workers, need specific training to identify when PPE is required to operate (switch)
electrical devices. Additionally, managers need to assess the safety training program effectiveness through auditing field work at least once a
year to ensure compliance with NPFA 70E.
While both OSHA and NFPA 70E require employers to provide and validate safety training, it is ultimately up to the individual worker to
determine if he has the knowledge and skills needed to safely perform work on electrical equipment. In other words, if youre not qualified for
the job, dont do it until you are properly trained.

Tip 4: Look for a sign. Read and understand arc flash labels.
The 2002 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) introduced the requirement for marking flash hazards on electrical equipment in the
field whenever the possibility of energized work exists. The information on these labels is designed to help workers make intelligent choices
when selecting appropriate PPE.

The latest editions of NFPA 70E spell out the types of equipment that need to be labeled, specifically switchboards, switchgear, panelboards,
industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control panels that are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or
maintenance while energized. Furthermore, the language of NFPA 70E 2015 has been slightly modified regarding what information needs to
be included on field labels, stating that the labels should include:
Nominal system voltage
Arc flash boundary
At least one of the following:
Incident energy and working distance or arc flash PPE category (but not both)
Minimum arc rating of clothing
Site-specific level of PPE.
If this information is not clearly available, contractors should inform the owner of the electrical equipment. NFPA 70E clearly indicates that
electrical equipment owners are responsible for documentation, installation, and maintenance of the field-marked labels.

Tip 5: Dress the part. Use new arc flash PPE tables to choose arc-rated clothing and other PPE.
NFPA 70E 2015 introduces a new format for selecting the appropriate arc-rated clothing and PPE for both AC and DC systems. In the past,
the table method was somewhat cumbersome, and the new format is designed to simplify the process.
Specifically, new task-based tables have been added for determining when arc flash PPE is necessary. For each task, the table indicates if there
is an arc flash hazard (yes or no). The new table addresses risk but not severity of the exposure. For example, when you are operating a power
circuit breaker after it has tripped and no true reason for the trip was discovered or corrected, PPE is required. However, it will take further
engineering analysis by you or your employer to determine what type of PPE is required.

Tip 6: Make it safe. Verify an electrically safe work condition.


Workers need to test and verify that a system is de-energized, including the lockout/tagout procedure. During this work, equipment is
considered to be energized and workers must be informed of the level of PPE necessary for the job.
Furthermore, NFPA 70E 2015 stipulates that workers need to use an adequately rated test instrument to test each phase conductor or circuit
part to verify it is de-energized. Before and after each test, workers need to verify that the test instrument is operating satisfactorily through
verification on a known voltage source.
Test equipment manufacturers are labeling their equipment with the energy category for each device, and only Category III or IV instruments
should be used on industrial electrical systems. While there might be many available live sources for verifying operation of a low-voltage
instrument, higher voltage test points may not be available. The manufacturers of high-voltage measuring and detection devices also offer a
separate portable test source to verify operation.

Tip 7: Get permission. Know when an energized electrical work permit is required.
NFPA 70E 2015 states that an energized electrical work permit is required to be within the restricted approach boundary (RAB) or when
interacting with an increased risk of exposure to an arc flash. This permit is a critical tool in helping workers determine the risks involved in
performing a specific job or task. The permit needs to be carefully reviewed and signed by those authorizing the task, especially in instances
when the work is not routine in nature, meaning that its performed less than once a year.
The need for an energized electrical work permit is exempted when qualified persons are performing tasks such as testing, troubleshooting, or
voltage measuring; thermography and visual inspection up to RAB; access/egress with no electrical work within the RAB; and general
housekeeping up to RAB.
Keep in mind that these exemptions are contingent upon the worker being qualified and on following appropriate safe work practices and
using the necessary PPE.

Tip 8: Be well equipped. Use GFCI protection where required.


In 2012, NFPA 70E added a requirement for the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) where required by local, state, and federal
codes or standards. The 2015 version of the standards adds to the requirement by stipulating that GFCI protection needs to be provided for

operating or using tools related to maintenance and construction activity with 125V/15A, 20A, or 30A circuits. At voltages greater than this,
either GFCI protection or assured equipment grounding conductor program must be provided. Ask to review the written description of this
program that is required by OSHA to be at the job site.
The description should not only outline the required equipment inspections, tests, and test schedule, but should also include specific
procedures adopted by the employer. If any questions or concerns arise, you may want to follow up with the person who has been designated
by the employer to implement the program.

Tip 9: Know the status. Make sure electrical equipment has been maintained.
To ensure safety, NFPA 70E added requirements in 2012 for conducting maintenance on electrical equipment. Previously, maintenance was
only specified for overcurrent protective devices.
Per the new requirements, a single-line diagram needs to be kept current and maintained in a legible condition, and all electrical equipment
must be maintained in accordance with manufacturers instructions or industry consensus standards to reduce the risk of failure and the
subsequent exposure of employees to electrical hazards.
In addition, documentation is now required for overcurrent protective devices to show they have been maintained, tested, and inspected in
accordance with manufacturers instructions or industry consensus standards such as ANSI/NETA 2011 Standard for Maintenance Testing
Specifications for Electrical Power Distribution Equipment and Systems and/or NFPA 70B: Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment
Maintenance.
Per NFPA 70E 2015, the equipment owner (or the owners designated representative) is responsible for maintaining the electrical equipment
and documents. To help employees assess the overall status of electrical equipment maintenance, test or calibration decals can be applied to
the equipment to indicate the test or calibration date and overall condition of equipment. Contractors must consult these decals to see the last
maintenance date and whether or not the equipment was found to be acceptable at that time.
OSHA requirements and NFPA 70E are designed to reduce arc flash hazard risks and save lives. Employers are required to provide workers
with safe working conditions along with the information, tools, and PPE they need to stay safe on the job. However, it is the responsibility of
each individual worker to play an active role in ensuring his or her own safety. Understanding the latest NFPA 70E requirements, working
together with your employer to better assess electrical risks, and complying with safety requirements will go a long way in keeping you
protected at work and reducing the potential for devastating loss.

Kreger is a licensed power engineer, NETA Level III certified technician, member of the National Fire Protection Association (electrical
section), and master instructor for the training group of Emersons Electrical Reliability Services, Columbus, Ohio. He can be reached
at david.kreger@Emerson.com.

Rodent Goes Rogue


By Scott J. Carroll, Spectra Energy Corp. | Electrical Construction and Maintenance

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Location of the Incident


Using large electric prime movers to compress natural gas through underground pipeline, Spectra Energy has many stations in its system. This particular
station is equipped with two 5kV, 3,250-hp prime movers fed from 5kV, 2,000A switchgear with closed transition reduced voltage starters fused at 600A.
The photo above shows the scene of the arc flash incident although this is obviously the front view of the medium-voltage starter. Arc flash analysis had
been completed for this station, and the incident energy available at this switchgear cubicle was 6.29 cal/cm2.

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Arc Flash Aftermath


The author received a phone call early one morning from an electrical technician asking for help. An arc flash event had occurred in MCC-050 on circuit C100, which is the primary feed for one of the companys 5kV, 3,250-hp prime movers, and tripped breaker 52SB in MCC-025 in the substation. Note: 52SB
is the main breaker that feeds MCC-050. While helping the technician troubleshoot over the phone, the pair concluded that the incident was isolated to the
C-100 circuit breaker. The author instructed the tech to lock and tag out the motor disconnect and reset the 52SB main breaker to re-energize MCC-050
prior to his arrival on-site the next day. Carroll also brought along a certified testing representative hed called for assistance. The on-site visual inspection
began the next morning, starting with the C-100 breaker and starter cubicle. The two photos above show the condition of the disconnect and fuse cabinet
as they found it.

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A Closer Look
Pushing forward with the investigation, the group of troubleshooters promptly disassembled the contactor and started testing the fuses, control power
transformer, control wiring, protective relay, and 5kV cables. It was obvious that the pressure from the arc blast bent the bottom of the door; however, the
top also showed signs of bending. The cables running from the load side of the reduced voltage starter to the running contactor also had to be replaced.
In addition, the contactor was beyond repair, as were all three vacuum bottles, which had been destroyed. Plus, the internal copper bus had been melted

and damaged, and the insulators had been damaged. The left photo shows damage to the back of the contactor, while the right photo illustrates where the
melted copper started dripping from the bus bars and damaged vacuum bottles.

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The Unlucky Mouse


During the investigation, the culprit was quickly found a poor little charred mouse that was still attached to a section of the vertical copper bus. Because
no phase barriers separated the horizontal copper bus on the top of the contactor, everyone involved agreed that the rodent probably caused this incident
mostly likely when the critter made his way across two of the horizontal bus bars and initiated an arc between phases.

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Cubicle with Completed Repairs


In preparation of repair and remediation efforts, the author called the manufacturer to get a parts list and ordered the necessary items to replace the
damaged components. These included a new contactor, fuse clips, copper bus (to connect the fuses and contactor), new cable (from the starting contactor
to reduced voltage contactor), new wiring harnesses, disconnect operating mechanism, and all new hardware. The door (damaged from the pressure of
the arc blast) was sent out for repair while the technician cleaned and repainted the cubicle. This photo shows the cubicle after all repairs were made.

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New Contactor with Phase Barriers Installed


After completing repairs, the author noticed that the new contactor had slots on the top running from the front to the rear. This prompted him to immediately
call the manufacturer to see if phase barriers could be installed between the horizontal bus that connects the fuse clips to the line side of the contactor.
Because this was not a stock option from the factory, he had to ask for that option when the equipment was designed and ordered. The left photo shows
the new contactor with the new phase barriers installed, and the right photo shows the entire MCC-050 cubicle with repairs completed. Note: The author
explored the possibility of trying to seal the MCC to prevent rodents from entering. However, because most of the bottom of the MCC is open to cable
troughs, that solution proved too difficult.

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Preventing Future Critter Catastrophes


Following this incident, the author was called to another regional station where similar equipment was installed. This time, technicians performing annual
maintenance to the MCC found a dead mouse on top of a motor contactor without the installed phase barriers (photo above). Once again, Carroll
contacted the manufacturer immediately to order a set of phase barriers for this equipment and considered himself lucky that the little guy who had
worked his way into this equipment did so without causing serious damage like his earlier counterpart.

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An electrical technical specialist for Spectra Energy, Scott Carroll works with 22 electrical technicians, covers 57 natural gas compressor
stations, and focuses on installation, maintenance, testing, and project management of electric power distribution equipment and
systems. One day, while one of his technicians was performing his daily maintenance and troubleshooting tasks, the maintenance team
learned firsthand the importance of having phase barriers in place on medium-voltage motor control centers (MCCs).
As you will see in this photo essay, the author and his technician tracked down the culprit behind an arc flash incident in one of his
facilitys newer MCCs that cost the company $500,000. Following some investigation and analysis, he discovered that due to the fact
that there were no phase barriers in place on a motor contactor a field mouse had entered the MCC and come into contact with a
section of the bus that connected the fuses and the contactor, ultimately prompting the arc flash. At this point, he immediately
contacted the equipment manufacturer and purchased the materials necessary to complete repairs from the arc flash incident. During
his conversation with the manufacturers representative, the author learned that phase barriers can be installed with the new
replacement contactor and prevent this type of incident in the future. The incident cost Spectra Energy $125,000 in materials and labor
a hefty price to pay when the phase barriers could have been installed during manufacturing for approximately $75 each. Note: While
conducting research on this subject, the author learned that several manufacturers do not install phase barriers on this type of
equipment from the factory but can be purchased as an option.
Later on, while performing annual maintenance on similar MCCs in the companys system, he found the same situation (i.e., lack of
phase barriers). Using the data hed gathered previously, Carroll was able to convince station supervisors to allow their technicians to
purchase and install similar phase barriers a proactive step that will avoid similar arc flash incidents from occurring at these sites.