Power plants act as the primary source of power for our homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, and many other locations.
Unfortunately, from time to time, these facilities can experience serious problems that result in power outages.
The affected areas of these outages can, in some instances, span for many square miles causing hazardous conditions when street and traffic lights cease to function properly. In preparation for such emergencies, many power plants will incorporate backup power infrastructure.
The backup power infrastructure for power plants usually consists of large independent generators housed in separate buildings. The power output from these generators must be significant enough to substitute for the primary source of energy while the troubleshooting and repair processes take place.
Supply for these generators are often large tanks of diesel fuel which are regularly stored in case of such events.
Should the diesel fuel become contaminated or begin to degrade while in storage, the diesel generators intended to be life savers may as well fail due to clogged filters or injector damage.
If such a situation were to occur, the affected areas may experience “black out” conditions for a number of hours while the power plant attempts to get back online.
As a facility manager, the goal is to maintain optimal facility operation. To do this, one must include planning for the mitigation of backup power failure risks.
To further understand backup power failure, one must understand the failure chain for a backup generator system.
With many backup power systems being equipment strictly for emergency operation, they are run seldomly in many cases.
Many would assume that because they aren’t run frequently that there would be less of a chance of possible mechanical issues.
However, this is not the case, and if anything, risks may be increased when backup generators are used infrequently.
This is because the stored fuel to supply the generator lays stagnant, in some cases leaving thousands of gallons of fuel to sit for extended periods of time.
Like perishables at the grocery store, fuel itself has a “shelf-life”. After a few months, diesel fuel particularly begins to degrade in storage.
This occurs through storage tank condensation and the introduction of water in diesel fuel storage tanks. This creates an environment where microbes can proliferate, contaminating fuel and growing worse over time without action.
As the contamination grows worse, an unexpected power outage could trigger the backup power system to activate. The generators would immediately be fed the contaminated fuel, leaving the equipment at an elevated risk of component failure.
This contamination could lead to catastrophic injector failure, leading to immediate generator downtime that must be resolved by a mechanic. Should a mechanical professional or the required parts not be on-hand, the equipment downtime could last for an unpredictable amount of time.
Through this backup generator failure, your facility is now powerless in an emergency situation for an extended period of time.
Where fuel quality is a concern, fuel polishing is the solution. With a fuel polishing system, stored fuel is able to be cleaned of fuel contaminants like water, sludge, and particulates.
In doing this frequently, stored fuel is able to maintain stability and quality until the fuel is needed by the demanding equipment.
This effectively mitigates the operational risk carried by storing contaminated fuel to be supplied to a backup power system.
The added reliability is critical in maintaining uptime through backup power systems in an unplanned power outage.
With the growing number of critical operations power systems must support, it is important that these backup systems are able to maintain continuous facility operation in the case of an emergency.
Failing to do so could result in disastrous loss, whether it be in safety, security, or business continuity.
AXI International has grown to be the globally recognized fuel maintenance and polishing leader, and with our expertise can help determine possible failure points of your backup power system and address them with achieving optimal reliability in mind.