Poor power quality can wreak havoc on business systems uptime impacting both safety and driving up operational costs. From a safety perspective, imagine a mine that experiences an outage and ventilation or degassing devices fail. The mine will need to be immediately evacuated to protect the miners from lack of oxygen or sudden explosion. Depending upon the specific industry, lost revenues that result from downtime can run into millions of dollars per day. In manufacturing environments, core process infrastructure is also at risk should the power fail. A plastics manufacturer experiencing an immediate power interruption will encounter a big problem within a very short time: the liquid plastic in the pipes will harden, requiring a labor intensive and time consuming clean out operation.
Although many considerations factor into the design of a reliable power system, a key element to consider is the appropriate type of UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to deploy. Within the broader electrical system, one of the main roles of the UPS is to provide a temporary backup power bridge to an alternative, longer-term power source (like a diesel generator, for example) when utility power is interrupted.
Today, across industries such as Oil & Gas, Water/Wastewater, Marine, Mining, Nuclear, conventional power generation, power transmission and distribution industries, we can find different UPS types: Standard UPS systems (that are often seen in office buildings/technical rooms) and industrial UPS systems (that are more often encountered in harsh, more extreme environments).
For global organizations looking to maximize safety and systems availability and to lower their costs without sacrificing reliability, it is important to understand the distinction between these two very different UPS implementations and to focus on the total cost of ownership over 20 or 25 years, rather than comparing Capex of different concepts.
Below is a partial listing of some of the fundamental differences:
- Physical appearance – Industrial UPS systems are often equipped with analog instruments, and therefore the instrumentation and HMI look different from that of a conventional UPS; and due to its ruggedized enclosures, filtering, and other factors, the industrial UPS also tends to be larger than a commercial UPS with similar power ratings.
- Design – A standard UPS is designed with a choice of options. Those options are enough to address the user needs in a more highly controlled environment (like a data center, in light industry applications) or in an electrical room within a building. The Industrial UPS can be customized and engineered to the user’s specification, and comes most of the time with a full set of detailed design documentation that is also built upon a customer’s requirements. Customers may want a detailed bill of material (BOM) for the customized UPSs, and in some industries, such as nuclear power, each major component typically requires its own quality documentation.
- Degree of resistance to harsh environmental conditions – In the case of a standard UPS, the temperature of the surrounding environment should not exceed 40° Celsius (104° F). The industrial UPS temperature range is broader, from -10 to 55° C (14 – 131° F). An industrial UPS must be able to withstand and perform in harsh conditions that may be hot, wet, or humid; to withstand dust or water splash in places like factories or mines; and to be certified for use in higher seismic activity zones. The industrial UPS is also engineered to withstand high degrees of vibration (think of below ground mining operations where dynamiting is a regular occurrence).
- UPS longevity – Typically, an industrial UPS experiences a longer lifespan (20-30 years). Electronic components are specifically designed for such a long life, and suppliers of industrial UPS systems guarantee the spare parts availability over that extended period. A system refurbishment can result in an additional 20 years of operation in some cases.
- Delivery schedules – Standard UPS delivery schedules are relatively short (a few weeks). In the case of an Industrial UPS, lead times are subject to a schedule that aligns to a customer’s project development plan. Since the customer has provided the unique specifications, each order is a new and unique UPS. These are typically longer delivery cycles than the standard UPS.
- Support and services contracts – The industrial UPS is often purchased with a comprehensive service program that supports the maintenance needs of the equipment for the entire equipment lifecycle. If a non-standard part on that UPS is modified and is on maintenance, that part will need to be recreated in a customized manner. Such a contingency is covered in a typical industrial UPS support and services contract. The standard UPS is upgraded with standard parts that are inventoried.
Both standard UPS and industrial UPS have their place in supporting the business needs of industries across the globe. Explore a variety of solutions to find what best fits your business continuity.