WPI performs speedy installation of replacement switchgear at Secunda’s Albany substation

Jackie BenceWhat’s Watt

WPI Power Solutions brought together all management and technical personnel from three of its branches to form a single large team to perform an unusually rapid installation of new switchgear panels at Secunda’s Albany substation early this year.

Albany, the main supplier of power to Secunda residents and businesses, including the town of Trichardt, had to have all its aging medium voltage switchgear replaced by new switchgear, comprising a total of 32 panels – 14 for its Main Sub 1 and 18 for its Main Sub 2.

Sasol, as the town’s largest employer, arranged by agreement with the town council to foot the bill and two years ago commissioned ACTOM MV Switchgear to manufacture and supply the 11kV replacement panels comprising its SBV4E switchgear, while WPI, ACTOM’s business unit specialising in repair, maintenance and installation of electrical networks, was contracted to remove the old panels and install the new ones.

The installation part of the contract was however put on hold until early this year, when Sasol and Govan Mbeki Municipality gave WPI the go-ahead to proceed with it, but stipulated an extremely tight time-frame in which to carry it out.

“Under normal circumstances each set of installations – for Main Sub 1 and Main Sub 2 – would take five to seven days each, but we were allowed only two days for each separate shutdown to limit the inconvenience to the community and businesses.  This necessitated deploying a much larger installation crew than normal working round the clock and requiring very careful planning and coordination to ensure the work was completed as required,” said Marius Lombard, Regional Manager for WPI’s eMalahleni (Witbank) and Secunda branches.

A total of 39 managers and technical staff – comprising 16 from WPI’s eMalahleni  branch, 12 from its Secunda branch and 11 from its Carletonville branch – were assigned to the project. The old switchgear panels in Main Sub 1 were removed and the 14 new panels installed and commissioned within a shutdown lasting 43 hours between February 18 and 20. The same procedure was achieved during a 40-hour shutdown to install the 18 new panels in Main Sub 2 from March 17 to 19.

“Taking into account the extremely limited time allowed for all the work that was involved, which also included replacing three 33kV outdoor circuit breakers and repairing an earthing system, this contract can be rated as one of WPI’s largest projects,” Marius commented.

Sasol expressed its appreciation to the WPI team by issuing special Certificates of Recognition to all team-members. “These very competent WPI teams really showed dedication and commitment, which ensured the success for this large project,” said Ryno Oosthuizen, Area Manager: Electrical Contractor Management, Secunda Synfuels Operations.

Caption: WPI technicians conduct final checks on one of the new sets of switchgear panels in Albany substation.

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