Better power transmission helps stabilises manufacturing process

Paul Boughton
LSIS, a South Korean contractor and manufacturer of electrical equipment, has ordered a flexible AC transmission system (FACTS) worth US$8.5m from Zurich-based power and automation technology group ABB.

The system, for an SVC Light rated at -10/+90Mvar at 22kV, will be used on a Japanese steel plant for stabilising the voltage feeding an electric arc furnace, as well as for mitigation of electric disturbances emanating from the steel making process, and if unremedied, detrimental to power quality in the feeding grid.

The plant is Asia Special Steel Company in Fukuoka Prefecture. The main contractor is POSCO E&C which is a sister company of POSCO, Korea's largest steel producer. The order was booked in the second quarter of 2008. "The contract is a breakthrough for ABB's FACTS technology on the important Japanese market," says Per Eckemark, head of ABB's FACTS unit in Vasteras.

SVC Light is part of ABB's FACTS portfolio. The term FACTS covers a number of technologies that enhance the security, capacity and flexibility of power transmission and distribution systems, as well as enhance productivity and power quality in industry.

FACTS consists of two main technologies: series compensation and dynamic shunt compensation.

Series compensation was invented by ABB in 1950. It made possible the world's first 400 kV transmission in 1952 by resolving the issue of how to transmit power over long distances. The solution lay in making the distance between the power-generation plant and the end-users of electricity seem shorter, in an electrical sense. As a result, power can be transmitted at levels considerably higher than the natural loading of the transmission lines.

Dynamic shunt compensation is a technology that uses high-power semiconductors to automatically adjust the voltage level in a specific area of the power system if necessary. This helps avoid sudden surges and improves the stability of the grid.

Electricity is lost during transmission and losses can be minimised by increasing the voltage. FACTS technologies provide a fast and effective way of increasing the capacity of electrical grids by offering remedies for voltage and stability issues and allow the transmission system to run more efficiently.

FACTS therefore enables more power to reach consumers with minimum impact on the environment and at a fraction of the cost compared with the alternative of building new transmission lines or power plants.

Building a new overhead transmission line takes several years and has a huge impact on the environment, whereas a FACTS installation requires no or limited access to new land and is normally in service 12 to 18 months after a contract is awarded to the supplier.

SVC Light is a novel power semiconductor technology based on power transistors (IGBT, insulated-gate bipolar transistors). In the steel metallurgical industry, due to its very high dynamic response, ABB says the technology is unrivalled - particularly as a mitigator of incandescent lamp flicker.

ABB is also providing process automation and power management systems for 10 of Petrobras's 12 refineries in Brazil - solutions that will help increase production by 40 per cent and produce new low-emission fuels from renewable sources of energy.

The solutions are part of a modernisation programme to boost production capacity at Petrobras refineries in Brazil and produce new high-quality, low-sulphur fuels and biofuels to meet growing global and domestic demand for cleaner forms of energy. In addition to building new units for distillation, hydrotreatment, cooking, desulphurisation and other processes, Petrobras is constructing 50 new substations and modernising about 40 others to the new IEC 61850 global standard for interoperable substation automation devices.

ABB process automation and power management systems are already installed at six of the 12 refineries and power management systems at an additional four refineries. Over the next five years ABB will upgrade and expand the systems to incorporate the new and revamped production units and IEC 61850 substations.

The 10 refineries have a combined refining capacity of about 1.6 million barrels a day, equivalent to almost 80 per cent of Petrobras's total refining capacity