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Magnetic circuit breakers reduce gas pipeline maintenance


Drivers in Manhattan may not ever realize it, but they owe a little horsepower appreciation to Colonial Pipeline’s Lead Technician Kevin Holland and a new type of medium-voltage circuit breaker.

Colonial Pipeline operates a petroleum pipeline from Texas’ Gulf shores to New York Harbor with a control and distribution centre in Pasadena, TX. Westinghouse DH air breakers made in the 1960s and 70s were used to help control critical motor control systems. In the 1990s, the breakers were retrofitted with then-state-of-the-art compact vacuum interrupt controls. Today, the heavy-duty operational cycles for these vacuum breakers had led to a maintenance nightmare. 

“We were having a lot of nuisance alarms and maintenance calls on the retrofitted breakers,” explains Holland. “Even with the retrofits, the breakers still had a lot of moving parts: springs, clamps, shafts, switches…hundreds of moving parts. It was a major effort to keep all these parts working happily together.”

At the end of 2011, Holland started looking for replacement breakers and turned to his long-time supplier, Lee Heine, President of Circuit Breaker Sales & Repair Inc. (Deer Park, TX) for suggestions. Heine mentioned his company’s new line of magnetic latching medium-voltage breakers, called MagVac, which replaces more than 100 moving parts with a magnetic latching linear actuator device that greatly simplifies breaker controls. Holland reasoned that fewer moving parts means fewer chances for failure, so he installed three of the MagVac breakers.

Thanks to a innovative, simple and robust design, MagVac medium voltage breakers are guaranteed for 30,000 operations or 5 years, which is unprecedented in medium voltage circuit breaker product lines. “In the 1980s and 90s, tens of thousands of air breakers were retrofitted with vacuum control systems, but those interrupters are nearing the end of their 20 year expected lifetime,” added CBS&R’s Heine. “The problem is particularly bad for installations that have high operational cycles.”

Thanks to an innovative, simple and robust design, MagVac medium-voltage breakers are guaranteed for 30,000 operations or five years, which is unprecedented in medium-voltage circuit breaker product lines.