GENERATOR FAILURE AND THE NEED FOR SITE INSPECTIONS, OF DIESEL FUEL SYSTEMS, BY RISK MITIGATION/ LOSS PREVENTION CONSULTANT/ EXPERTS
Mission critical facility failure frequency is growing. Public utility power outages occur so often that data centers, in the U.S., see an average of over 2.5 outages per year. Other countries surpass these statistics, with some as high as having daily power outages. Power surges and the aging utility components cause the majority of U.S. public utility outages.
Enter backup generators. According to the Uptime Institute, the generator system on a data center is actually the ‘primary’ power system. It may very well have redundant generators to support it, and have a public utility power source as an added ‘convenience’.
Recently, companies such as Amazon, Yahoo, SalesForce, Intuit, and many other data centers and hospitals have had their businesses interrupted because of loss of power. This means that the public utility, the generator system and whatever redundancy there was in the generator system all failed to keep the business online.
Mission critical facilities sell guaranteed uptime, and count on it to make money. Customers pay highly for it. Generator failure, due to poor designs and installations, is in the news regularly. Data centers and hospitals have been going ‘dark’. Without power, businesses and people suffer. When loss is incurred due to a power failure – customers feel misled, and do not understand how better planning and proper maintenance wouldn’t have prevented the incident. After all, Utility power failures are not a surprise. They have been going on for as long as there has been distributed power, and will continue. The total costs of down time are difficult to estimate. Immediate sales impacts are more tangible then long term effects, such as reputation and dissatisfied customers.
Aside from common maintenance items, such as generator battery, low coolant level, low coolant temperature and having the generator switch in the ‘off’ position, the vast majority of generator start failures are accredited to the diesel fuel system. Items such as pump cavitation, no fuel, poor fuel quality and high fuel level alarms are among the causes of failure. Generator manufacturers state that 95% of the time generators fail – it is due to a failure within the diesel fuel system. This is true, not only during generator start, but also failures while the generator is running.
The diesel fuel system is a unique one. It requires contracting expertise in many fields; general, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, computer, national and local code compliance etc. Few people possess the knowledge to correctly design, install, run or analyze these systems.
Due to its complexity, the interactivity between many fields and the fact that it is so important to business continuity, it is critically important to know every detail about the diesel fuel system. The knowledge needs to be in the hands of, not only the facility personnel, but the upper management, IT department, business continuity personnel and redundantly stored off site so that is permanently available to the company.
New facility diesel fuel systems are usually designed by engineers. Engineers have many ‘hats’ to wear and do not, normally, have enough knowledge about diesel fuel systems, their overlapping disciplines and ever changing codes, to design one. The construction specification lists the diesel fuel system as the responsibility of the mechanical or plumbing engineer. These engineers then turn to specialty vendors to help them out with the designs. The vendors may be pump suppliers, day tank or control manufacturers, fuel suppliers etc. Vendors have agendas of their own, and definitely want to move their products even if it is not in the project owner’s best interest. Add in the fact that they have little training in areas other than their own products, and that no one in the group knows anything about risk, redundancy and recovery… and you are guaranteed an inadequate installation.
The systems seem to work fine at first, because they are forced to. The general contractor and plumbing contractor don’t get paid unless it seems to work. New systems typically haven’t been through extensive commissioning or risk and failure analysis. The documentation is poor, and initial personnel training on the system, if any, consists of 1 to 8 hours training during start up – a month when the facility personnel are being trained for every other system in the plant. These personnel are added to and transferred often, so most knowledge of the system is quickly diluted or lost.
Facility upgrades, expansions, purchases by new owners etc. add layers of complexity. Commonly, facility managers only have minimal knowledge about their diesel fuel system and the risks associated with it, but upper management, IT management and the business continuity departments are relying heavily on them.
There is an enormous gap between what most companies need to know about their diesel fuel systems, and what they actually do know about it. The solution is to hire a third party expert to analyze the system and provide a detailed audit and recommendations/ solutions. The resulting information needs to be disseminated to the facility manager and to upper management so that individual goals can become aligned. If there is risk exposure because of a substandard installation, component or sequence of operation – corrections can be planned and executed prior to a failure.
The number one item, on Janco’s “Baseline for Best Practices” – List of 10 Commandments of Disaster and Business Continuity Management, is:
Analyze Single Points of Failure
Single points of failure, within a complex diesel fuel system, can exist in many places.
‘Loss prevention consultants’ who are experts in diesel fuel systems provide onsite inspections to identify potential failure points. The results of the inspections identify risk by providing detailed analysis of the system, its capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and compare the findings to a certain standard.
These are the same consultants that insurance companies, who write loss prevention due to power failure, utilize. Hiring a third party expert ensures an unbiased study of the system is being conducted.
“Diesel System Experts” is the leading diesel fuel systems expert company in the world. We are risk mitigation/ loss prevention consultants and are experts in diesel fuel system design and inspection. We have designed over twenty five hundred diesel fuel systems, installed hundreds, and possess the knowledge you need to have applied to your diesel fuel systems. Our site inspection program includes an over 1,500 point checklist. Our reports provide weighted recommendations tailored to fit your risk tolerance goals. Working globally, our business contributes to the business continuity that your business needs. To set an appointment for inspection, receive a proposal, or to interview us, please call: (1) 650-265-1111