Ten Best Practices: Planning Critical Power Utilities for Plant Turnarounds

Ten Best Practices: Planning Critical Power Utilities for Plant Turnarounds
When considering critical utilities, the earlier a plant can consider a few key items, the more successful a safe turnaround can be, says manager with Aggreko.

This commentary presents the opinions of the author.
It does not necessarily reflect the views of DownstreamToday.

Turnarounds are a stressful time for plants. The safety of hundreds to thousands of personnel and additional contractors, the movement of equipment onsite, coordinating maintenance activities and ensuring the turnaround finishes on or before schedule are all factors constantly being monitored and assessed by plant management. 

Early planning is a pre-requisite for turnarounds, but in many cases, crucial aspects of a turnaround are not addressed until just a few months before the planned start date. When considering critical utilities, such as power generation, the earlier a plant can consider a few key items, the more successful (and less stressful) a safe turnaround can be.

Based on years of experience with petrochemical and refining plants, here are the top 10 best practices to know when planning critical power utilities for turnarounds:

  1. Ensure proper safety labelling and PPE protocols will be followed

ARC flashes present a scary situation for plants, especially when electrical equipment and panels are not properly labelled. Even the smallest of panels can severely injure a person and cause damage if not handled properly. Ensure all electrical equipment come with ARC flash decals, which allow plant personnel to quickly understand system configurations and PPE requirements.

  1. Determine electrical needs such as kW, voltage and large loads

Operating voltage, kW and other parameters are needed to understand the amount and type of equipment needed.  Identify all the loads and size power requirements accordingly. Without right-sizing generator equipment, you could be left with either too little power or too much power.

  1. Choose a location or locations and cable routing

After choosing the means by which you will connect your generator(s), you should determine its optimal placement at your facility. Depending on the size and scope of the turnaround, site to site power may be ideal. However, for bigger turnarounds, a distributed, mini-grid style power configuration may be more optimal.

  1. Choose a connection

There are several ways to connect a back-up generator to a plant's power supply, and the connection chosen should be appropriate to the needs of the turnaround.

  1. Create detailed one line diagrams

Prior to the start of a turnaround, ensure detailed one line diagrams are created for your electrical power needs. The best one line diagrams contain information regarding identification of all generators, circuits, and panel and cable sizes. These one line diagrams ensure equipment goes to the right locations and ensure life-critical systems stay active in case of faults. Having these drawings in place can also reduce labor hours, since everyone knows what to do and where everything goes.

  1. Plan to provide service access

Service access is an additional point to consider in situating a generator or generators. All generators need periodic maintenance and service and may need to be refuelled on a scheduled basis. Generators should be easily accessible throughout the duration of a turnaround.

  1. Prepare to refuel

You should organize your generator's fuel needs in advance—plants often overlook this aspect of critical response planning. The last thing you want to deal with during a turnaround, is the lack of power available at a particular site (or the whole plant) while you are waiting for a refuelling truck to arrive. If possible, utilize the generator's on-board remote monitoring service and associated smartphone app to receive low fuel alerts.

  1. Secure the site

Like all high-voltage electrical equipment, generators and cables in a plant can pose risks of injury and should be only accessible by trained personnel. In order to increase safety, utilize fencing and secure cables to decrease any potential hazards during a turnaround.

  1. Obtain the necessary permits

Many jurisdictions require operating or emissions permits to use a temporary generator. Plants may not need it for emergency power, but if there are permit rules and restrictions, they should secured in advance.

  1. Identify key contacts

With power equipment in place, plants need to prepare a list of key contacts to reach in case of an emergency. These are the plant personnel who will be responsible for managing on-site electrical equipment and should also include contact information from any contractors or vendors you are working with to support any electrical needs.

For a safe and successful turnaround, electrical power requirements must be planned as early as possible. By utilizing these 10 best practices, plants can achieve a higher level of efficiency. Do not let equipment just show up at the plant. An engineered power solution can offer a tremendous amount of value to a plant and hopefully, ease some of the stress that comes with planning and executing a plant turnaround.

Louisiana-based Kenny Delahoussaye is a technical services power manager with Aggreko North America.