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The Benefits of Using the Highvec Method of Dry Cleaning and Condition Monitoring for Maintaining the Integrity of Power Distribution

Underground Mining is possibly the worst environment for high voltage power distribution. In this environment, there are three major factors to take into account. High contamination from the dusty day to day workings and diesel exhaust from the equipment. High moisture content from the ground water and ventilation system. Damaged electrical components from concussion caused by long hole blasting.

The contamination settles on all the electrical components inside the switchgear thus lowering the insulation values and compounded by the moisture being trapped in the contaminant lowering the insulating values even more thus increasing the electrical stress to the point of eventual flashover in the equipment.

In order to clean any high voltage electrical equipment, condition monitoring must be performed prior to cleaning by qualified personnel. This entails infrared thermography, ultraviolet imaging and airborne structure born ultrasound. This can only be done during energized conditions. In performing these functions, we are protecting the workers and the equipment by understanding what condition the components are in, thus knowing it is safe to work on and prevent a catastrophic event from taking place. Condition monitoring must be done whether the cleaning is done energized or deenergized.

Highvec Canada Inc. has been cleaning electrical equipment for over twenty years with zero accidents and we have evolved on a continuous basis. Our underground mobile equipment is all custom designed with blast cleaning equipment, air drying and dust collection system. What we have found over the years is that using ground corn cob at the proper grind has enormous abilities to clean fragile electrical components, attract and pick up contamination and most of all absorb moisture. After cleaning by qualified personnel, we know that we have improved the integrity of the electrical equipment and made it safe for mine employees.

Highvec Canada Inc. is always looking for ways to improve and it is never ending. We have investigated the use of CO2 / dry ice blast cleaning and found that it has less effective cleaning abilities. The dry ice method also develops moisture from condensation due to the change in temperature change that it produces. CO2 / carbon dioxide does not contain moisture but, the air around it does. With the addition of moisture, the situation has now become dangerous. For instants, the Highvec method for cleaning metalclad switchgear can be done while the equipment is energized and with dry ice, it cannot be done.

CO2 cleaning has it place but, not in electrical equipment. It should never be allowed.

Xstrata Copper asked us to get involved in an experiment to find out what cleaning method is the best. They set up a demonstration at the Xstrata Nickel smelter complex. There was a contractor on site for dry ice blasting, also high pressure water blasting, plus Highvec for corn blast dry cleaning. The Highvec dry cleaning system turned out to be the best method.

One of our customers tried dry ice to clean some 15kv switchgear de-energized. The contractor cleaning the equipment hand wiped all the insulators prior to energizing and it flashed over when energized because of condensation.

Also, keep in mind the fact that CO2 displaces Oxygen and if you are cleaning switchgear underground without proper ventilation it could create a serious health problem. I passed this info onto the Ministry of Labor but, never heard anything back.

Over the years, we have tried to establish a value on our service for our clients. Besides preventing unscheduled outages and lengthy down time plus improving safety for the workers, We believe the dollar value pay back is tenfold for our customers.

So to recap, I firmly believe that the Highvec dry cleaning method is the best way to maintain the integrity of high voltage power distribution and dry ice should never be used for this purpose, it’s unsafe.