Features, Innovation, Repair and maintenance, Safety systems and solutions

Keeping current with electrical safety


The current-limiting protector from CSE Uniserve is a proven solution to a complicated problem.

Australia’s transition towards electrifying the energy grid has been hard and fast, and that ethos is well underway in the mining industry with the development of renewable energy, duel energy outcomes, and complex site generation. 

These developments expand electrical infrastructure and increase electrical outcomes, requiring a proven solution to enhance protection and safety. 

In an evolving energy landscape, it’s common for mine site electrical infrastructure to become outdated and no longer fit for purpose, with higher fault levels than potentially dated systems can safely manage.

“Electrical infrastructure, both in terms of power and capacity, has expanded dramatically,” Martin Zuiderwijk, major projects lead at CSE Uniserve, a leading supplier of electrical equipment, engineering and support solutions, told Safe to Work. 

“And because high-voltage [HV] equipment typically has a 20-year lifespan, it’s easy for it to become outdated, bringing challenges to remain operationally safe and within design limits over its life.

“By changing your infrastructure, or adding renewables or additional supply, it’s possible that your equipment and therefore your personnel are no longer completely protected from high or extremely high electrical fault events.”

If an incident such as a fault occurs on underrated HV equipment, results can include arc flashes and switchgear destruction, which can be devastating to production, potentially extending supply outages and risking the safety of personnel.

So how can miners manage this changing electrical hazard landscape? 

A complete overhaul of a site’s electrical infrastructure is one option, although perhaps not an appealing one. In addition to being extremely costly, an overhaul would significantly disrupt production until works are finished.   

Another option is for an operation to gradually implement new electrical infrastructure, introducing a second circuit into the site. This option also has issues, including long-time risk exposure. 

CSE Uniserve’s current-limiting protector (CLiP), however, has emerged as a proven solution, providing comprehensive peace of mind. 

Ideal for HV or low-voltage networks and downstream electrical devices, the best way to think of a CLiP, according to Zuiderwijk, is an upstream, automatic, high-speed electrical insurance, preventing damage and losses over a 20-year service life. 

Developed by G&W Electric and supplied by CSE Uniserve’s local specialists, CLiPs are a cost-effective retrofit solution that are helping the mining industry navigate an evolving energy landscape.  

CLiPs can protect a switch yard for up to 20 years. Image: CSE Uniserve

“Many sites have a mix of old and new electrical infrastructure, which normally benefit from an outdoor, compact, HV CLiP solution,” Zuiderwijk said. “Equally, during a breakdown situation, HV switching and in-the-moment re-configuration of the supply can expose downstream circuits and equipment to the full supply capacity, potentially causing an extreme high-energy incident. 

“This is a time where we see a CLiP at its best and providing safety to personnel; when the situation on-site changes the electrical infrastructure configuration, you now have over-current insurance.” 

By tripping in the event of extreme high-energy events, CLiPs are preserving significant equipment investment, minimising product loss and saving lives. The unique technology also helps electrical infrastructure reach its lifespan without early replacement.  

“CLiPs allow sites to retain older infrastructures at a safe level without excessive financial investment,” Zuiderwijk said.

Once set up, CLiPs can protect a switch yard for up to 20 years. In the event of a trip, CLiPs have a self-contained fuse element that mine sites can easily replace. 

“A mine’s existing HV personnel can change the fuse element, so the reset time is driven by the needs and the expertise of the end user rather than requiring a third party,” Zuiderwijk said.

With an ingress protection rating of IP66, CLiPs are built to handle Australian mine sites.

“Switch yards are exposed to high temperatures and dust, but the CLiP takes those conditions head on,” Zuiderwijk said.

“It’s designed to be treated the same way as any other piece of HV equipment found in a switch yard.”

As technology evolves and mine sites continue to electrify, it’s more important than ever for site operators to ensure they are protected against electrical faults. Despite the complexities of a changing environment, CSE Uniserve’s CLiP solutions present a straightforward path to electrical safety and maintaining production forecasts. 

This feature also appears in the March-April issue of Safe to Work.

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