Quartzelec’s new excitation control systems provide James Cropper plc with enhanced operational performance

2 July 2018

When an ‘obsolete’ 50-year old steam turbine generator control panel increasingly presented maintenance and reliability issues, Kendal based British master papermakers James Cropper plc turned to Quartzelec, one of the UK’s largest independent electrical engineering service providers and a globally recognised expert in rotating electrical machines, to design and deliver a viable and cost effective replacement.

Obsolete and failing control equipment is increasingly putting vital rotating plant at risk and with limited alternatives available from ‘traditional’ OEMs, Quartzelec, because of its experience and design flexibility, is frequently being approached to design, implement and support a range of Automatic Voltage Regulation, excitation control, protection and synchronising equipment.

Having previously delivered various maintenance and support services, initial customer contact in respect to this project was in Winter 2016, when Quartzelec was tasked with developing this upgrade solution. This entailed scoping the project, preparing new drawings, full system fabrication and build prior to detailed testing which included dynamic AVR testing using Quartzelec’s newly uprated in-house test capabilities, followed by installation and commissioning which was completed in late February.

The new generator protection system within the control panel delivers modern standards of equipment protection; replacing the old electro-mechanical relays, previously located in a separate circuit breaker cubicle.  The new control panel incorporates a dual channel DECS 250 based excitation system along with P343 generator protection, new synchronisers, a field switch and a Human-Machine Interface to provide operators with the necessary operational feedback along with automated data logging for easy operation and fault finding. The new excitation controlsolution also automatically maintains a fixed power factor at a set value whilst operating under varying loads and voltages.

“The new design developed by Quartzelec uses modern components to deliver increased functionality, performance and reliability whilst remaining true to the original control philosophy,” explained Alan McBirnie, James Cropper’s project manager. “We’ve been delighted with both the professional manner in which this entire project has been approached and the quality of the new system which has delivered a cost effective solution that should continue to meet our requirements for many years to come. The previous system only had a manual synchronisation facility for connecting to the network; the new one has provision for both automatic or manual synchronisation, so a true upgrade in performance was also part of the package.  Operator safety  and ease of operation were high on our list of requirements and these have been met by replacement of the old manually operated field switch with a modern equivalent which is operated automatically via logic circuits.”

Quartzelec has subsequently provided equipment to upgrade the gas turbine generator control panel, replacing another legacy system, and this will be installed and commissioned during the next scheduled plant shutdown this coming August / September.

Peter Stuchbury, who has overseen the total project for Quartzelec added: “The number of skilled companies now supporting legacy assets like this are dwindling, leaving us perfectly placed, with our long heritage and skilled engineering workforce, to identify, customise and implement a control system upgrade path and provide 24-hour service and spares support. In many instances the type of solutions we deliver would not be available from traditional OEMs, particularly when a new and sometimes ‘unconventional’ design and fabrication approach is needed to achieve the required solution.”

He continued: “Our heritage stretches back over 100 years and includes some of the most respected names in electrical engineering like; GEC, Alstom, AEI, BTH, English Electric as well as other major manufacturers.  This and our international operations means we can strategically advise clients and help them manage obsolescence and operational issues and recommend a suitable upgrade path.  Being able to specify and incorporate products from a choice of suppliers means we are not being restricted by standard products or solutions. It is essential to ensure that a practical and robust policy is in place for all rotating plant, ultimately minimising the risk of potential failure caused by obsolete control equipment.”  

As a leading independent company, Quartzelec initially qualifies what equipment is already in use and then designs a replacement component or upgrade path that suits individual applications based on modern ‘commercial-off -the-shelf’ (COTS) parts. Other bespoke elements are manufactured, as required.  These are supplied in a configuration to suit site specific requirements and can incorporate: individual components; back-plate mounted equipment; and a new generator control panel that includes protection and synchronising equipment. These systems are typically pre‑configured and tested before delivery; ready for installation and commissioning by the Quartzelec site team.

Suitable for single and dual channel redundant applications, a range of system architectures are available to satisfy all customer requirements.  Each new compact, modern excitation system offers many benefits including communication and data logging facilities and compatibility with current standards.  Quartzelec’s engineering and site support expertise can also be tailored to meet customer requirements and is supported by the appropriate certification. This flexibility of design also ensures minimum site disruption, limits machine downtime, significantly extends the operational effectiveness of the existing equipment and is cost effective.

Peter Stuchbury concluded: “Being able to develop and implement critical excitation control systems and retro-fit them to applications means that we are able to provide our worldwide customers with enhanced performance, protection and life extension across a broad range of generator sizes and manufacturers. We typically offer significantly more than that which is available via a traditional OEM. Our system configurations are flexible while remaining competitive within the market and customers are benefiting from the through‑life and life‑extension capabilities and system architectures that Quartzelec makes available.”

Success at Quartzelec

In 2017 Quartzelec celebrated 10-years of OEM independence and 100 years of heritage, building its reputation as a cost effective provider of electrical engineering services. Key to this was strong leadership, a dedicated and knowledgeable 600 plus workforce and a positive ‘can do’ approach that enabled the business to achieve a £63.4m turnover with continual global growth. Commenting on this Daniel Laval, Quartzelec’s MD concluded: “The past 10 years has given us the opportunity to flourish and truly establish ourselves as the competent partner of choice for reliable, responsive and cost effective independent support solutions and we are now consolidating plans to grow the business further over the coming decade and beyond.”

Quartzelec has the ability to design, manufacture, repair, refurbish and rewind large, project critical motors and generators with state-of-the-art production facilities along with an extensive library of design drawings and a full design department and has the ability to work on any OEM‑manufactured machine and/or equipment, including those built by its previous heritage companies such as GEC Machines, GEC Alsthom Large Machines, ALSTOM and Cegelec. It also has a rapidly expanding UK electrical contracting business that delivers both mechanical and electrical installation and maintenance services for an ever growing portfolio of prestigious projects.

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Quartzelec Ltd, Castle Mound Way, Central Park, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 0WB
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