So you’ve had your Electrical Earthing System designed by a professional, installed diligently by a competent contractor and had it verified to confirm the Earthing will protect lives in the event of a fault! – Job done, right?
Nearly… but the story doesn’t stop there!
Electrical Earthing System
Electrical Earthing/Grounding systems are an integral part of equipment protection and safety protection, usually these ‘should be’ measured and inspected every 12-60 months. But we all know it’s more like 12-60 years in reality because Earthing is one of those things that doesn’t shout at you. Until you have to rely on it and it falls over!
Hey, we all have extremely busy working lives and if the media is to be believed. The modern person is getting loaded to do more each year (sometimes with less resources in the process).
So, it’s completely understandable to see non-urgent items drop down the list of priorities. In 1954, President Einsenhower is credited for raising the profile of those things that are ‘important’ but ‘not-urgent’.
“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” (President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
For asset owners worldwide, knowing how your critical assets are being protected is a universal challenge. In a past blog I introduced another recent ISO standard that is growing in credibility ISO 55000 Managing Critical Assets … well guess what? … the Electrical Earthing System IS a critical asset. Its prime purpose is to “prevent injury or death” on all electrical systems! (EN 50522).
BUT, once installed an Electrical Earthing System just sits quietly in the dirt ready for that event when it will be called into action and save a life (potentially).
My father (Sidney) passed away this year. But still I can recall one of his gems he would say to me was “Nothing lasts for ever, son… everything must change!” – and he’s right! Even a shiny new Earthing System made of copper WILL NOT LAST FOREVER!
Some ground structures (geologies) have a pH that is hostile to copper, so even the shiny new copper rods/conductor may be corroding away – have you checked your ground pH??
Sometimes, there can be an outside influence… for example, a digger going through a section of the earth electrode, or a nearby source of energy that causes “enhanced corrosion”, or an OHL (overhead line) or DC traction system.
So, the message is simple – don’t assume that just because you have had a safety Electrical Earthing System installed that the story stops there! Mother nature alone will be picking away at every joint, conductor and connection… breaking it down over time. Add other sources of degradation into the mix and this process can speed up dramatically without you even knowing!
What to do …
In pretty much every known, accepted standard published across the globe there are sections covering ‘Maintenance’ or ‘Inspection’. These sections did not come about by accident. The Maintenance sections are forged from the accidents, injuries and deaths of history. They are formed from the learnings from the lives lost as a result of neglect.
Unfortunately, sometimes the sexier, higher profile items find their way into the regular planned maintenance schedules because they move, rotate, whine, werr, or explode if you don’t maintain them… but spare a thought for the other static, silent, passive – but nevertheless ‘important’ items that save lives – the Electrical Earthing System(s).
Don’t let the story stop here for you!…
The good news is – there is a breakthrough technology being launched this year that can put Asset Protection at your fingertips 24/7. An automated remote monitoring of Earthing assets that can alert you to changes in its condition – howsoever caused!
Imagine having a browser based portal giving you condition data hourly if you want it. In reality, alerts can be set to notify you if the condition drops below or above a certain threshold (inductance), so that you are alerted to a trend in corrosion or degradation, a theft event, even an accidental digger-event… not to mention ongoing condition status.
I’m a great fan of utilizing good technology in a smart way that automates or systematizes as much as possible. So having another set of eyes in the form of an automated monitoring system watching your back for changes in the critical assets you own, is a no-brainer for me … does it appeal to you??
What better way to ensure compliance over time, without the hassle of trying to remember, organize or manage maintenance/inspection tests? What if the site is a secure facility? – with a remote monitor, there’s no need to have outside people risking your security integrity.
OK, so this is where you come in. Like I said, this monitoring technology is at point of launch for Earthing Systems, which is really exciting. But there could also be more applications that my team simply haven’t thought about just yet. So please, give it some thought and come back to me. Is there a piece of equipment or system that you know has an inductance. Which can be monitored to provide you with information about its condition or status??
Ian is a Principal Consultant at GreyMatters, with 26 years experience solving HV earthing, EMC, and lightning problems for clients worldwide. When he’s not busy studying problems and designing solutions, you can find him mountain biking, sailing and racing motorbikes in the summer. In the winter he tends to head off to the mountains chasing the snow with friends and family. Ian holds a Master’s Degree, and Degrees in both Mechanical and Electrical disciplines, and is one of the top 1% accredited CDEGS consultants and advisor to international utility companies, data-centre and infrastructure developers globally.
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