A stable and reliable electrical generating source serves as the backbone of operations across any facility or manufacturing plant. Similarly, a well-designed, professionally installed and effectively bonded earthing system is seminal for any plant location, to ensure that no one is exposed to the dangers of an electric shock. Though earthing occupies a very important position in the safety clause while awarding a contract, it seldom receives the attention it deserves. Earthing is often neglected, as there is no direct and immediate impact of earthing into electric systems. The impact is felt at a later stage when the system earth points get corroded due to prolonged use and no longer have the capacity to take the imbalance in the load.
Nature’s most precious gift to mankind is earth, which, by its inherent nature easily absorbs the electrons and improves the durability of the plant and machinery, in case of machine failures or contingencies. In technical terms, earth is a Natural Potential Zero – a point where electric charge becomes neutralized or sunk. It is therefore critical that during the design stage, adequate attention is given to earthing in order to safeguard the machinery and systems.
There are different types of earthing and that is dependent on the functionality of the equipment. During the construction phase, two surfaces that are not perfectly matched or welded as per the requirements can result in faulty earthing. This can have an adverse impact on the operational efficiency of the plant at a later stage. The solution is simple. Joints at the contact surface and moisture content are two major thrust factors responsible for providing appropriate earthing point. Perfect contact between two overlapping surfaces using a combination of joints, bolts and clamps can help solve 80 per cent of the problem arising during the construction phase, with proper laying of cables, strips, pits, base plate and electrode joints solving the remaining. Charging of the earth pit with water and salt is an effective solution during the maintenance phase. Both these techniques are inexpensive and are effective enough to improve the plant life.
A very popular non-conventional source of maintenance is the use of customized mineral salts in the bore along with electrode tube. Though this addresses the earthing needs by maintaining moisture content for a long time, the chemical reaction can lead to corrosion in electrodes, which needs to be replaced periodically.
Maintenance is essentially a relative function of time and cost and holds its own importance in the lifecycle of machinery. While there is enough awareness about the importance of maintenance, all of us in the business need to ask ourselves are we investing enough in this direction?
Also Published in ETEnergyworld.com.
Contributed by Mr. Atul Raaziada, Vice President, Operations and Maintenance, and Projects, Hero Future Energies