ABB leaps to rescue as converter fails

21 July 2009

United Utilities Operational Services (UUOS) in Wales supplies thousands of homes throughout the country with clean water. The company recently turned to ABB, when a converter unexpectedly failed, in search of a speedy resolution to the halt in the treatment process.

The clean water treatment plant, operated by UUOS, supplies water to approximately 10,000 homes across Wales. UUOS uses I/P converters in its control panel to control valves on its treatment line. When the existing converter failed, the resulting halt in the treatment process jeopardised the water pressure and supply.

‘Having become aware of the situation our priority was to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible,’ said Adrian Laskey, UUOS technician. ‘The potential consequences meant that our supply of water to part of the network could be lost. Although there is a back up store of water in place, the system has limited storage capacity.’

I/P "current to pressure" converters convert an analogue signal (4-20 mA) to a proportional linear pneumatic output. Their purpose is to translate the analogue output from a control system into a precise, repeatable pressure value to control pneumatic actuators/operators, pneumatic valves, dampers, vanes, etc.

The previous I/P converter had failed due to a by-pass valve which had closed on the I/P converter module. With the converter offline, the aeration plant was unable to function, which in turn meant shutting down the treatment plant.

Although the plant has a limited emergency supply, a long-term failure could have potentially resulted in homes losing their water supply. Had this situation arisen, UUOS would have faced the huge financial and time-consuming repercussions of having to bring in water tankers to supplement the restricted supply.

In a bid to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, UUOS approached a number of manufacturers to enquire whether they had a replacement converter in stock that could be supplied and fitted within the tight deadline. The company claims that only ABB was able to locate a part in stock and guarantee immediate delivery.

Paul McLaughlin, ABB engineer said: ‘Having spoken with a colleague regarding United Utilities Operational Services’ urgent predicament, I was sure there was a way to help. We were fortunate enough to be able to locate a part and then proceed in delivering and installing it in just two and a half hours.’

Laskey added: ‘The rapid response from ABB surpassed that of any of their competitors and even beat our own expectations. Often parts can be very slow to get hold of, but with a few hours ABB had the converter delivered and installed. We are thrilled with the overall speed and professionalism the company displayed.’

UUOS has now also ordered another I/P converter from ABB, as a spare for future peace of mind.

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