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Upgrading fire detection at GDF Suez Power Station
Published:  12 February, 2015

When a 15-year old control panel that activated a series of electric and diesel pumps failed in GDF SUEZ Saltend Cogeneration Plant, with a defect that was proving near-impossible to resolve, it became obvious to Site Services Engineer Simon Gott that it was time to take action. Jose Sanchez de Muniain reports.

There weren’t many options available however, explained Simon: ‘The control panels that had been in operation since the opening of the power station used a closed protocol system which had become obsolete, so we had no option but to look for a modern open-protocol replacement.’

The Saltend Power Station in Hull, northeast England, produces around 1,200 MW of electricity, powering 1.2 million homes. The main hazard for Saltend is the natural gas that comes in at 65 bar and which is pushed into the gas turbines at 32 bar. ‘The fire detection and automatic deluge system protects three large gas turbines and associated lubricating oil systems, as well as the overall building infrastructure.’

Following a competitive tender, the contract for a replacement system was awarded to Middlesex-based (UK) Chubb Fire & Security, part of UTC Building & Industrial Systems.

Over a period of eight months Chubb engineers worked around Saltend’s workers, installing a PC-based fire alarm system (ControlMaster 600) with a graphical user interface that incorporates Google Maps and site layouts.

According to Simon Gott, the front-end graphics display element is one of the biggest benefits of the new system – a feature that the old system couldn’t offer. ‘The Chubb engineers used Google maps to overlay the whole site, adding hyperlinks to key areas, which open up CAD drawings showing where the detectors and the zones are.’

The front-end interface is displayed on a 22-inch flat screen display that replicates all the functionality of the hard control panel: ‘One of the benefits is that you can link it to the system and drill right down to each individual detector and disable it, isolate it, or just see what it’s doing. You can see if it’s been on a fault status or fire condition. We can pull off historical alarm trends that list which detectors or call points have gone into alarm, which is critical as first line response for the site shift operations teams.’

The uploading of all the site’s layouts was a project in itself, adds Simon, involving numerous wiring diagrams and locations both in CAD and paper formats. ‘The Chubb engineers took them and re-engineered them and provided us with a full suite of drawings. It was a lengthy exercise.’

In addition to the installation of the new control system, Chubb replaced 20 local interface panels for deluge systems in critical areas across the site – in summary, all areas local to the plant, including the switch room, water treatment plant and stores building. Fortunately, the original detectors – manufactured by Apollo – were open protocol ones and therefore did not need replacement.

Looking back on the project Simon Gott is pleased with how smooth the installation went. ‘The engineers organised implementation so that it worked in and around our operational requirements, crucially ensuring there was no disruption to the power station’s productivity.’

Training for the new system has also run smoothly, with two Chubb engineers visiting each of the five shift teams over a structured period of time. ‘The service provided has been exemplary, we have had no issues at all.’