Life Support Systems for Power Networks

UKPN LogoResponsibility is a serious matter, as you’re accountable for your actions. To be truly responsible, you need to plan for all eventualities, minimise risk and seek expert advice. When the consequence of something going wrong is critical, the responsibility level is even greater. This is the case for UK Power Networks (UKPN).

An electrical substation can be just a moment away from catastrophe due to the complicated processes that take place and the variety of combustible materials on site. The damage to commercial premises, public services, residential developments, the environment or life can be horrific and confirms the enormous level of responsibility for UKPN.

Therefore, it is essential that UKPN provide the highest level of fire and blast protection for any new or upgrade project. UKPN recognise this and partner with Promat UK Ltd, using their DURASTEEL® product - among others - on many projects.

DURASTEEL® is a composite panel of fibre-reinforced cement with punched steel sheets mechanically bonded to both outer surfaces, which allows it to deliver the strength and resistance required to withstand high impact and blast pressures. The board is classed as ‘non-combustible’ to BS 476: Part 4: 1970 and A1 to Clause 10 of BS EN 13501-1:2007 providing 4 hours fire protection.

It is a tested and proven solution suitable for use in walls, door, ducting and ceiling applications as well as stand-alone barriers. Under fire conditions compartmentation is maintained - essential in preserving the building and its contents, making it ideal for maximising the protection of power networks and minimising the consequences of a major incident.

Transformers are a vital part of electrical distribution but are dangerous due to the quantity of oil they contain and their contact with high voltage elements. They can explode or catch fire without warning and this is a key reason why insurers and corporate risk managers consider them a major risk.

Commercial, industrial buildings and most large residential developments have substations with power distribution transformers installed either within the building or in close proximity. Many are critical energy networks and with the implications of a total power failure (for even a few seconds) to the banking, government, transport, defence, hospitals or business sectors, we can see how vital it is to install a system which maintains power supply, with little or no interruption.

A series of adjacent transformers can lead to a total loss of power distribution if a fire and blast in one creates a ‘domino effect’. DURASTEEL® barriers are used to prevent catastrophic damage in the event of power transformer blasts and can be installed between transformers, isolating the blast and minimising subsequent disruption.

DURASTEEL® can also be used to encase high voltage cables, compartment tunnels and provide fire-rated natural ventilation ducts or shafts.

The comfort gained from turning to Promat UK Ltd for dedicated and industry-specific specialist advice and support during the design of a fire protection system - including helping with the development of working drawings and through regular site inspections - is priceless. Support does not end there, as DURASTEEL® is only installed by an experienced and carefully trained, fully accredited and licenced installer. This ensures the system is fitted correctly for its intended application and that the experience and expertise Promat UK Ltd has of working on similar projects is fully utilised.

After the work is completed, each system undergoes a thorough check before the installation is issued with a Certificate of Conformity, demonstrating the commitment of Promat UK Ltd to provide a fully tested and third party accredited, ‘fit for purpose’ solution.

The devastating effects of an incorrect specification or product failure do not bear thinking about, but partnering with a company like Promat UK Ltd allows UKPN to feel comfortable that they have done all in their power to minimise risk.

There are many other features which make DURASTEEL® a must-use solution for UKPN.

Its modular nature means it can be added to and is quickly demountable and re-mountable, making it reusable and ideal for upgrade work or if full access is required during transformer maintenance. It also allows for bespoke layouts to be created for complex projects and enables work to take place in confined spaces.

DURASTEEL® uses simpler and lighter foundations than in solutions such as poured concrete or concrete block barriers, resulting in significant cost savings, especially with applications where existing equipment is being upgraded or existing underground service foundations can’t be disturbed.

As a ‘fit and forget’ and durable installation it provides longevity in use and is free from the detrimental effects of adverse weather conditions, as we’ve experienced this winter with the wind and rain. Unlike many other solutions, it is fully moisture-resistant, so performance under fire conditions is never in doubt. It will continue to perform unaffected when sprinkler systems are engaged or when fire fighters use high powered hoses. It can withstand extremes of temperature, making it suitable for almost any environment.

It absorbs large levels of impact, so is not affected by falling objects during a fire or other risks such as falling trees from strong winds. The high resistance levels mean that concerns over damage from collisions or other hazards are minimised. The strength of the board also helps a building to remain stable until repair work is carried out.

A 150mm dense blockwork wall will fail under a 4000J impact due to the weakness of the mortar joints. Likewise, low levels of blast pressure will destroy a shear block wall (14-21 kN/m2) and shear solid 225mm brick walls (49-56 kN/m2). Whereas, a DURASTEEL®barrier will maintain its integrity following a 180 min. fire test and 4000J impact and is blast tested to 237 kN/m2.

Recently, with specialist fire protection contractor and DURASTEEL® Licensee, Sharpfibre Limited, Promat UK Ltd has been involved with a major UKPN power substation at the Limeburner Lane substation in London. This involved the construction of a new substation to house three large oil-filled power transformers.

UKPN worked closely with Promat UK and Sharpfibre to design and install a passive fire protection system to satisfy the stringent regulatory requirements of this demanding project. A number of design and construction challenges were overcome, including the need to provide both fire resistance and blast protection to the equipment and structural frame, by utilising the combination of Promat UK products and the expertise of the Promat UK and Sharpfibre technical teams.

Without doubt Promat UK and UKPN take their responsibilities very seriously and do everything in their power to generate the high levels of confidence required in this critical sector.

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