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The modern engine control environment

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

2-44aThe nature of gensets and UPS back-up systems and the work they do is critical. With the demands of modern hospitals, data processing centres and many other important facilities, power failure is not an option. 

Gensets get much of the credit for keeping systems running when grid power has failed; however, it is the engine control products that keep these vital back?up systems ticking over. More and more companies are developing and supplying controllers which enable the end?user to manage gensets and UPS systems from anywhere in the world; the market is advancing significantly to meet the demands of users. 

The engine controls marketplace has become increasingly demanding and highly competitive over the last few years; with technology progressing ever faster, keeping up?to?date with new products and monitoring can become a job in itself. A multitude of components now on offer to the generator maintenance engineer and facilities manager is making a difficult and demanding task far easier. 

Web-based communication solutions are now able to bring operators closer to their equipment, helping to simplify the management of remote and mobile assets wherever they are located. Such technology is changing the way operators view and control their major power generation equipment. 

Controls suppliers are now beginning to understand that while some companies have the luxury of centralised monitoring and control suites, sometimes it is important to get information to people on the move. Being able to interface easily, receiving up to date information and alerts can help operators to stay connected and in control. 

With the recent economic slump meaning financial struggle for many in the industry, and many genset operators now having a global reach, theft has become a highlighted issue. High value generators, compressors, pumps and other expensive relatively mobile pieces of equipment are often going missing; and these items rank third in the list of most stolen plant equipment, according to insurance companies. 

New systems have recently become available to track equipment locations; should items move from their expected positions, the systems can help by tracking movements and automatically alerting owners to its new location. Easy to use tracking systems proven to discourage theft, therefore, are vital in keeping costs resulting from crime to an absolute minimum. 

Web-based monitoring phone apps

Smartphone apps have also become a monitoring option which is both accurate and cost-effective. ComAp’s WebSupervisor iPhone app, for example, connects the operators directly to their engine controllers. A process which only takes a few minutes, allowing engineers and operators to receive updates on all genset systems directly to their phone, at all times. These developments in technology are making vital system management a walk in the park and offer a precise ability to monitor multiple gensets, in multiple locations. 

2-45aWebSupervisor is a web-based system designed for monitoring and controlling ComAp controllers via the Internet. This system offers a number of beneficial features that help optimise revenue for machinery fleets, as each piece of equipment can be individually monitored for all?important operation values. The system works when the controller sends regular updates to a remote secure server, which then safely stores the information ready for users to view. 

Connection to the server is easily accessible to any registered user through an Internet-enabled device such as a desktop PC, netbook or even a smartphone, enabling equipment monitoring at any time or place. The flexible system provides a high level of security, with the central administrator able to determine users’ access rights for specific equipment within the fleet as well as appropriate information. 

2-45bIn addition, event-generated e?mail can be created and sent to specific users to give fast and efficient notification to improve decision making or react to additional revenue generating opportunities.

WebSupervisor offers equipment owners a number of reporting tools allowing monthly summaries of availability and revenue creation ensuring that maintenance scheduling and asset utilisation can be maximized for individual equipment and the whole fleet. The information generated from each controller can be archived on the central server for future analysis and trend evaluation.

Tomato grower ripe for mains protection


One of the largest tomato growers in the southern hemisphere – D’Vine Ripe, commissioned ComAp Power and Drive Solutions to design, supply and install a power control system that provided failsafe management for five onsite generators used to supplement mains power and provide back-up in the event of grid failure.

The facility located near Adelaide in Australia grows in excess of 10 million kg of vine?ripened tomatoes each year in a 17 hectare area under glass. It is estimated that power failure to the pad and fan climate control technology and irrigation pumps, even on a moderately hot day (32ºC), would result in significant loss of produce.

2-46bThe project features a range of ComAp dedicated hardware and pre-configured software and represents the largest application to date for ComAp’s MainsPro, the new mains protection relay. The generators operate in parallel and in harmony to the mains utility supply of 400 kW, delivering additional power through a combination of three diesel generators comprising two 1 020 kW CAT 3512 and one 400 kW Cummins QSQ15 package. 

These are complemented by two CAT 3508 gas?fired gnesets providing 480 kW – all of which were managed via a central control room. The power configuration is designed so the two CAT 3508 gas generators run in permanent parallel with the mains supply, as the site load increases through the day the three diesel generators start and run in parallel with the mains and gas generators in a form of peak lopping operation.

2-46aThe diesel generators also provide the additional benefit of site stability when the site load is higher, as they are more responsive to load fluctuations. There are four stages of load shedding which are employed if the load increases dramatically before the diesel generator is on?line.

The control package features 5x InteliSys NT, 1x InteliMains NT, 6x InteliVision 8 colour displays in main control panels, with 5x IS-Displays located on each engine for local control. The system also features 5x MainsPro, the new mains decoupling relay that provides statutory protection when working in parallel to the mains. The new model incorporates true RMS measurement for increased accuracy, combines vector shift and rate of change of frequency (ROCOF) protections in one unit and records last trip information about failure events. 

Web-based monitoring solution

The whole power application is monitored continuously to ensure no interruption to the combined supply using 3G modem linked to InteliMonitor and WebSupervisor software, which provides online monitoring of the controller and direct access to all measured values and history records. The integrated software is designed to monitor multiple power applications, automatically generate reports and provide immediate access on any web enabled device such as a PC/netbook or smartphone with both e?mail and SMS notification of alarms.

ComAp provided a turnkey solution building the entire power house which included the supply of the five generators, main switchboard, ComAp control software and hardware all the necessary electrical installation, commissioning, testing and supporting the power operation on?site.

Engine control technology, therefore, is advancing far beyond the basic needs of yesterday’s back-up systems. With the benefits including accurate engineering and programming, remote monitoring and various forms of web?based monitoring and control now available, the job of managing the service of critical applications has never been so convenient.