Intelligent electric actuation adopted at a water adventure site

12 July 2022

Intelligent actuators have helped improve and modernise the flow control system at a white water centre in the north-east of England.

The Tees Barrage International White Water Centre is an activity and sports site. Opened in 1995, it was built to provide for the development and improvement of the area and recreational use of the River Tees by maintaining an upstream river level. It is looked after by Canal & River Trust who are undertaking a project to help to improve the performance of the existing control system.

The penstocks on site feed the water course with river water, prevent seawater from entering the park at high tide – seawater is undesirable for white water users and will lead to equipment corrosion – and maintain water levels into the park to prevent it from flooding in extreme weather conditions. 

The old control system was hydraulically operated and was proving unreliable. It was provided by linear hydraulic cylinders and a single hydraulic power pack without torque protection, no data or condition monitoring and limited position feedback. This caused broken penstock spindles, oil leaks and needed unplanned maintenance intervention. The existing power cabling had insufficient capacity to supply five actuators and required updating to comply with the latest regulations.

The customer chose to upgrade to IQ3 actuators from Rotork which offer high degrees of environmental protection and water ingress protection. They have a double-sealed enclosure (IP66/68) and are therefore suited to use in water applications. 

The customer was impressed with the benefits IQ3 actuators bring, including: the ability to capture historical performance data through the integrated data logger, accurate position and torque sensing, and integral controls. 

The replacement system supplied by Rotork includes both a mechanical interface and electrical control system. IQ3 actuators with Modbus TCP (via a Mitsubishi PLC) and vandal proof covers, Rotork IB gearboxes, electrical/control cabling, pedestals, a replacement electrical distribution switch and an ethernet switch were all supplied to the site. One of the penstocks and its actuator is difficult to access, so Rotork Site Services supplied a Rotork Remote Hand Station for an operator to control the actuator while standing up to 100 metres away, with access to a duplicate screen.

The IQ3 actuators with IB gearboxes (increasing torque to a maximum of 7,604 Nm) now operate penstocks to control the level within the facility, as well as ensuring that public facilities and areas are not flooded during tidal movements. The penstocks are also an isolation point to enable maintenance to take place within the white water centre. 

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