Keeping the power on in Africa is key to the continent's economic success and the well-being of its people.
It's a 24/7/365 job largely performed by Eskom, which produces approximately 60% of the electricity on the African continent and is the 10th biggest power generating company in the world. And it carries with it enormous responsibility, not least of which is the prevention of fire at its power stations, which could lead to death, injury and the destruction of the facility, says Brendon Cowley, New Business Director of C3 Shared Services, an industry leader in the design and implementation of intelligent video, fire and perimeter security solutions.
For this reason, in 2012, Eskom approached C3 Shared Services, whose list of blue chip clients includes various mines and national key points, to upgrade its Mpumalanga power station, a vast entity with a generating capacity of 2100 megawatts of electricity and an impressive average availability of 92.07% over the last three years.
"Our mandate was to supply Eskom with an early warning system that would detect not only smoke or steam but also flames, so that in the event of an emergency we would be able to evacuate staff in the quickest possible time," Cowley explains, adding that while all Eskom's power stations are strongly committed to safety, the Mpumalanga facility has taken "two steps into the future".
The problem with most of the many detection systems on the market today is they're are activated once the fire is blazing and consuming its surroundings, the resultant smoke being the alarm trigger, he explains. "Often, it's not the actual fire that endangers lives but the suffocating smoke caused by the fire, which makes it very difficult to evacuate people."
"Most smoke detectors are limited in that there must be smoke to trigger an alarm. In large areas, the height and volume of the air flow can severely hamper a sensor's ability to detect smoke."
These were all factors taken into consideration when C3 designed the new system for the Mpumalanga Power Station, the result of is a bespoke video-based fire and smoke detection system comprising nearly 400 cameras.
"The cameras are programmed to detect and react to flames, which is critical for a power plant as it cannot afford downtime caused by fire damage," explains Cowley. "The system's early warning technology gives staff time to react to the fire before it gets out of hand by pinpointing the specific location of the fire."
Able to detect the presence of flames within their various view fields, the cameras have a built-in intelligence that picks up fire light reflected by other objects which might be in the path of the blaze.
The system's on-screen event display signals, which look similar to CCTV footage, include details of the fire while highlighting flames, smoke, steam and / or reflective heat with blue and red blocks, in keeping with the workings of video analytics.
Each camera can be configured with multiple detection and exclusion zones within its field of view. These zones are set to detect specific events such as fire, smoke and motion. The activation of a zone can also be linked to a time schedule, so for example, an area that releases steam at certain periods of the day can be defined and linked to a schedule, thereby avoiding false alarms, says Cowley.
Because each algorithm runs independently on the camera, operators have wide-ranging flexibility concerning video flame and smoke detection options. Facility managers can easily adjust the sensitivity settings to low, medium, high and even ultra (smoke only), or even turn off an algorithm altogether.
And for post-event investigation purposes, the visual footage allows security managers to identify the cause of the fire, even if the camera is destroyed. Additionally, notes Cowley, the system offers an intruder detection component, making it a valuable asset for security and operational managers.
"Our video-based fire detection camera system has proved to be extremely reliable in the field, saving our clients time and money, not only in terms of reduced downtime but also the costs associated with repairs to damaged equipment and facilities. It's a powerful and effective alternative to conventional fire products."
"Since partnering with C3 Shared Services, our perimeter has not been breached in seven years."
So says Fritz Pauley, Manager of the Blue Valley Golf and Country Estate, who adds that the residential estate has become hugely sought-after, partly because of its crime-free environment. "I would recommend C3SS to any estate or security manager as a result," he says.
Named for the blue skies and open country that characterise its surroundings, the Gary Player - designed Blue Valley Estate is a perfect blend of hospitality, sport and nature. Conveniently situated between northern Johannesburg and Pretoria, this acclaimed residential and golf estate is home to 3 600 residents. Currently undergoing a massive new development phase, it will, on completion, comprise 10 000 units.
According to Fritz, crime-related incidents generally take up 70% of a residential security estate manager's time. This, however, is not the case for him, and even the South African Police Service (SAPS) says Blue Valley is one of the most secure and quiet estates in the area.
Pauley says that from the very beginning of the security collaboration with C3SS, the company's service has been phenomenal. "As with every new relationship, there were some challenges, but the fast resolution of problems illustrated their strong commitment towards Blue Valley. Today, residents enjoy great peace of mind, knowing that they live in one of safest estates around."
Recalling his first days as estate manager, Fritz says he envisioned creating a military-style security operation. "The detection of threats is paramount to the prevention of crime," he explains, adding that he struggled to find the right security partner to help him implement his plans.
One after the next, he sat through presentations by security companies. But it was C3SS's concept of intelligent perimeter security, along with their knowledge, relevant expertise and technological acumen that won them the contract "hands down", he remembers. "It was the best security decision we could have made for the estate and for the safety of the owners and tenants living here – the Homeowners' Association is as happy as I am with C3SS."
Talking about the estate's 7km perimeter, Fritz says he needed a system that would give him instant visual verification and early identification of the exact location of possible breaches, day or night, and without the need for additional lighting. C3SS recommended a combination of high-end static and PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) thermal cameras, which were strategically placed along the perimeter, allowing for the entire area to be monitored.
Though there have been many attempts to breach the perimeter, none has been successful, he says. "Every time the criminals try their tricks, our security officers quickly position themselves on the opposite side of the wall. The criminals then move along to other spots which they think are unprotected, but after being repeatedly discovered, they eventually gave up and left the area. Some came back a few weeks later only to experience the same results."
Fritz credits the zero perimeter breach in seven years to the technology deployed on the luxury estate, acknowledging that his staff can only perform at their peak with its help. "The technology minimises human errors and missed incidents, and through real time situational awareness, allows us to keep Blue Valley safe."
In addition to keeping Blue Valley safe, Pauley says the thermal cameras, with their long range capabilities, also protect the nearby electrical sub-station. "Ongoing cable theft from that substation kept rendering us without power, but since the installation of the cameras, we're able to pick trespassers and quickly notify the police, which has put an end to the problem."
The cameras even identified a criminal trying to jump the perimeter of a nearby estate, which allowed Blue Valley security staff to contact and warn their neighbours and so prevent an incident.
"Selecting the right partner for your security needs can make all the difference to whether you are continuously chasing criminals, as some estates do, or simply detecting them early, watching their behaviour and, when the time is right, making your presence known in order to prevent a breach. That's become the order of the day at Blue Valley," concludes Fritz.
Partner with us today to have the same peace of mind on your estate, plant or facility - 011 312 2041 or email us at email@example.com
"Industrial fire detection and suppression" was the theme of a hugely successful event organised by C3 Shared Services on 13 September 2016.
Attended by clients from a range of industries, including mining, precious and base metal refineries, electricity, telecommunications, government and tobacco, the fire event provided the perfect platform for engineers, plant, operations and security managers to get the inside track on the world’s latest fire detection and suppression technologies.
In-depth presentations and live demonstrations on the various technologies ensured rapt attention from the audience.
Solution experts from C3SS started by taking guests through plant-wide fire detection technology capable of providing real time temperature readings along a 10 kilometre fibre optic cable configurable into a 1000 zones. This gives plant managers a bird’s eye view of heat build-ups at any point within their facility.
Next up was the Rapid & Robust Linear / Overheat Detection, a device able to detect within 100 milliseconds the overheating of equipment before it reaches ignition temperatures.
Video-based smoke and fire detection technology followed. Guests learnt that through the use of intelligent video analytics, these cameras could continuously analyse the pixels within an environment and use the resulting information to compare stored flame and smoke templates. On detecting smoke or fire, the cameras would generate an alarm, thereby providing a critical early warning and visual verification of the exact location of the fire / smoke event.
Suppression was the next subject on the agenda. C3SS introduced the audience to a 10 year certified wet chemical fire suppressant designed for transformers, diesel generators, hydraulic systems and mobile machinery, a non-pressurized, non-corrosive suppressant that is unaffected by the orientation of the suppressant canister.
Up next was an environmentally-friendly aerosol fire suppressant system, designed for medium and low voltage control equipment, enclosed transformer rooms, variable speed drives, cable trenches and cable rooms. Installed inside the enclosure it protects, it fights the fire at the source using next-generation stable non-pyrotechnic SBK aerosol forming solid compounds and is suitable for class A, B, C and F fires.
New to the South African market, the experts from C3SS introduced guests to a non-pressurised clean agent fire suppression system. Based on nitrogen technology that, on activation, releases gases slowly at room temperature, it doesn’t damage fragile hard drives and other electronics and is specifically designed to tackle fires in server racks and server rooms.
Aware of the importance of providing people with live demonstrations in order for them to fully understand the technology, C3SS designated a special area complete with industrial DB board, an engine block bay and a conveyor belt. The Rapid & Robust Linear / Overheat Detection was showcased in the DB board, engine block and conveyor belt, the aerosol fire suppressant was used on the DB board and the wet chemical suppressant demonstrated in the video-based fire area as well as on the engine block and conveyor belt.
As the first smoke emitter was triggered, the delegation was able to see, via the monitor, the video-based smoke detection kick in. The screen immediately highlighted the smoke plumes in a blue analytic graphic, which triggered the alarm. Most smoke detectors can be hampered by stratification, but the video-based smoke detection impressed with its ability to pick up the smoke soon after it started and track it as it rose.
A mixture of diesel and petrol was then added to the fire pan and set alight. Once the camera had verified the fire through on-board analytics, a built-in relay triggered the wet chemical suppression, which extinguished the fire with ease. This showed the value of an early warning fire system that identifies the fire at source and allows for much faster reaction time, vital if a fire is to be prevented from spreading to the rest of the facility.
The next demonstration was the industrial electrical distribution board. Specially built to recreate an environment vulnerable to shorting or wire over-heating, the Rapid & Robust Linear Overheat Detector, which is designed to pick up temperature changes in 100 milliseconds, showed the jump in temperatures on the monitor as the electrical fault was triggered. The fibre optic plant-wide detection showed the increasing build-up of heat within the DB board, and the intelligent fire system, recognizing the danger, released the aerosol fire suppressant system. Guests could see that as a result of the quick intervention, there was minimal damage to the DB board, allowing for the fault to be fixed quickly and with limited downtime to operations.
Then followed the engine block compartment demo. Both the plant-wide fire detection and the linear overheat detector showed temperatures within that environment to be stable at an ambient level. The fires were then set in the pan below and both detectors immediately went into a fire condition as a result of the massive increase in temperature. Once the fire was burning rapidly, the fan connected to the engine block was switched on to simulate a moving vehicle, giving the fire more fuel. When the temperature reached around 500 degrees Celsius, the wet chemical suppressant was released. Characterised by a high heat absorption rate and a film-forming effect, it was able to cool off hot materials and accordingly prevent re-ignition and flash over.
The last demonstration was around the conveyor belt system. Multiple bearings and idlers within the conveyor belt system were heated individually, with the purpose of simulating the most typical failing parts. The plant-wide fibre optical detection and the linear overheat detection picked up each failing part as it was heated, which in a real-life situation if left unattended, would eventually lead to combustion. In situations where the fire had already broken out, whether due to combustible material on the conveyor belt or as a result of a failing mechanical part, the linear overheat detector was able to identify the fire and trigger the release of the wet chemical fire suppressant to successfully arrest the fire and cool down hot bearings or idlers.
It was, by all accounts, a very successful and hugely informative event, made even better with mouth-watering refreshments prepared by the talented Chef Nelis.
Isabella, Safety and Risk Manager Eskom: "Congratulations on a very successful event! I truly enjoyed the day with C3 Shared Services, other guests and fellow Eskom employees. The presentations and live demonstrations were GREAT! I love the fact that the systems discussed and demonstrated are proactive with detection and suppression – you can literally detect the problem area and cool it down before there is a fire!
The power generation system engineers who attended with me are excited. You can bank on my support from Safety Risk Management – Emergency Preparedness - during the process of motivation and procurement of new fire systems as may be required."
Pravin, Plant Manager: "Well organised and informative. Very interested in your new products."
Skollie, Protection Services Officer: "Thanks for having us. It was really informative, well organised and I definitely think you guys will attract a lot of interest from companies with this particular range of products."
In the case that you have missed out on our event, please contact us to demonstrate how these technologies can protect your plant or facility - 011 312 2041 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org