India faces a copper supply shock after a state government ordered billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd. to shut down a plant permanently following deadly protests in a move that will slash nationwide output and stoke demand for imports. The company’s shares fell.
Copper theft continues to be a problem around the area and across Alberta. Infrastructure authorities are urging residents to call police if they spot something suspicious near electrical substations
Amsterdam, NE Next week kicks off one the biggest events in energy and utilities-European Utility Week http://www.european-utility-week.com/visit.
Cresatech CuTS® www.cresatech.com has been rolling out with new to market copper theft detection technology in the U.K. and U.S. with favorable results. There is a strong outlook for CuTS® proprietary sensing device. Metal theft is a worldwide problem. CuTS® is an innovative system designed to protect and monitor service environments where safety and continuity are paramount.
The solution provides immediate notification of the disconnection, removal or disturbance of site grounding or other power infrastructure. As a result, it is a highly effective tool in the battle against copper theft – minimising the operational, service and safety impact of theft on critical service networks.
The CuTS® product family encompasses a number of applications and variants to enable monitoring of metallic infrastructure at risk from removal. The most popular product is CuTS® ZM, which is a completely scalable solution, capable of monitoring large sites such as electrical substations, where the grounding infrastructure is extensive both in area and complexity.
he implementation of CuTS® ground infrastructure monitoring technology divides the site into a number of individual monitoring zones. This allows the detection of the removal of grounding material from all areas of such sites and provides more accurate location details of the alarm event.
With mounting interest in CuTS® ZM, Cresatech Advisor and industry expert Brian Shewan and Product Manager Iain Warner will be available at European Utility Week to answer both industry and engineering questions from the marketplace. Find Cresatech in the Innovation Hub.
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Publicly owned energy distributor Western United Electric now offers new to market technology that detects substation copper theft as is happens. CuTS® from Cresatech, Inc. is proprietary sensing technology that detects changes in substation grounding infrastructure as the theft occurs.
October 29, 2014
Western United Electric Supply Corporation (WUE) is a member-owned not-for-profit electric utility wholesale supplier. Their members and customers are rural electric cooperatives, municipal electric utilities, investor owned electric utilities and electric utility contractors located in a seven state Rocky Mountain region.
Cresatech specializes in technology and service solutions that address high cost, high impact operational issues within power transmission & distribution, mobile telecoms, transport and other critical service markets. Our innovative products monitor exposed service sites and infrastructure in a variety of complex operational environments, providing real time monitoring for service interruption and disruption due to removal of copper grounding and other power delivery infrastructure.
Prime targets for copper theft are rural substations that often have little security or safety measures installed. WUE customers are rural energy providers and likely to benefit from CuTS® technology. The new partnership compliments the extensive WUE Line Card.
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Application of the Cresatech CuTS® system to tackle the safety and service risks caused by removal/theft of grounding material on substation sites.
The worldwide metal theft epidemic has significant impact in many service environments. This impact on safety and service provision is particularly acute in the Electrical Transmission and Distribution industry. While theft of valuable metals causes inconvenience and financial loss in most environments, we are regularly reminded of the consequential damage, power losses, fires, death and injury to both public and power company employees associated with metal theft from electrical networks.
The attraction of substations for theft is well known; the presence of large quantities of high-value copper used to ground infrastructure, which is seen as an easy, low risk target. While this is often the case, the grounding network is not always so benign, as is too often demonstrated through severe injury or worse. To combat this activity, network operators have deployed many types of security solutions. Such solutions either aim to stop access to site (e.g. fences, locks), detect a perpetrator on site (e.g. movement sensors, cameras) or identify the perpetrator after the event (e.g. DNA dyes, cable etching).
These solutions are applied on substation sites commensurate with the size and criticality of the site, with large core transmission sites often having comprehensive camera and movement sensor systems. Due to their numbers, small distribution sites are often limited to fences and locks to prevent access. All these approaches are complementary and can be effective in their specific purpose, though the more costly technologies can have limited deployment due to cost. Substations are physically complex environments and often provide a challenging environment for the more active of these solutions.While the majority of these solutions serve a specific and useful purpose, they do not detect whether the most regularly recurring event has actually happened: removal of material from the grounding infrastructure. Since this event makes a substation inherently unsafe, detection is imperative. The CuTS® system was developed at the request of electrical network operators that, having researched available technologies, could not find a practical and cost effective solution. The design brief for CuTS® that resulted can be summarised as follows:
- Real time detection and notification of removal of grounding materials
- Practical deployment methodology that does not disrupt service delivery
- Suitable for deployment on old and new sites alike
- Suitable for deployment on small and large substations
- Minimal false alarms
- Does not compromise site grounding grid/safety
- Cost effective asset: both capital cost and lifetime costs
- Difficult to circumvent
Working from this design brief, the CuTS® system was funded by and developed in collaboration with the industry, both in the UK and the USA. The resulting system is now being deployed in both markets.
A typical substation theft usually starts with the easy to remove copper connections between the grounded grid under the substation and the equipment and supporting physical infrastructure above ground. Whether steel or reinforced concrete is used for physical support of bus bars, insulators and other site elements, the tapes or cables to the underground grid provide the grounding connection. Some thefts stop at the removal of much of these easy-to-harvest connections on a site. This renders large parts of the site ungrounded. While these are not expensive to replace, their removal renders the site unsafe.
However, many theft events are more comprehensive and the perpetrators move on to more difficult to reach or more challenging infrastructure, which takes time to steal and can cause significant damage. Thieves are often very knowledgeable and know the areas of danger to avoid. Less informed perpetrators will try to harvest cable right up to insulators that support HV bus-bars, often resulting in severe burns or fatalities. Another trend is that of removal of the grounding grid approximately 18 inches/450mm under the surface. After digging down to the grid, hooks are attached to the grounding, the other end of the cable to a vehicle, and as much of the material is hauled out of the ground as they can manage. While this has varying degrees of success in terms of material removed, it does cause significant damage.
At larger substations where there are more security resources deployed, removal of material presents more of a challenge due to movement sensors and thermal cameras, though the more effective of these systems can only be deployed at large sites due to cost. Again, some perpetrators seem remarkably well informed and manage to harvest areas of the site where detection is less likely. A large transmission site that had a significant number of up-to-date cameras and other security resources had more than 40% of its grounding connections removed over a period of time, prior to detection through chance sighting of the damage by security staff (will take two years to re-instate). While the appropriate layers of security for a site can make the theft more difficult to carry out, organised groups continue to carry out damaging raids.
The resulting safety and damage risk
The primary concern raised by copper grounding theft is safety implications. An unsafe site is a danger to the network operators’ personnel, the public and customers at the power delivery points. There are regular reports of substation grounding theft causing power related damage and sometimes fires at customer sites, not just at the substation.
The grounding infrastructure is designed to manage and dissipate faults, both minor and major, and high energy events such as lightning strikes to both lines and the substation itself. When all exposed metal work and equipment is grounded correctly and the grounding grid in place as designed for that specific substation, touch potentials are at safe levels and fault routes operate correctly and have the capacity to manage extreme events. Grounding design and analysis is a complex science and removal of even a part of the grounding infrastructure can have unexpected results.
Most operators have had multiple theft incidents of varying seriousness. Unfortunately a lot of substation engineers have been injured or worse over the years by walking onto sites that have had grounding removed. While awareness is high now and walk round inspections prior to entry common, the more organised perpetrators are careful to steal where visual detection is unlikely so that the maximum material can be harvested from a site over time. While visual inspection does detect the more obvious theft, monitoring of the grounded infrastructure itself is necessary to reduce the risk further. Whether the equipment whose grounding is compromised is a transformer, an automatic or manual switch or other typical site plant, the risks to personnel are clear.
The safety risk to the perpetrators is a less popular discussion, but a liability risk nonetheless, dependent on the country in which the crime is committed. In most countries it is accepted that the operator should do all it reasonably can to protect the criminals from themselves, though this can be difficult to achieve in reality. A fast response once the issue is detected is a significant step forward. While risk to personnel safety is well understood, there are many examples where theft at the substation has caused unstable or faulty power delivery. In rare circumstances this can be dangerous for customers, due to high voltages and/or currents and the possible fires that result (e.g. domestic appliances). While these occurrences are not common, they are a real risk which requires swift action upon detection of the grounding theft at the substation. When they do occur, these events can be quite widespread and the damage and resulting compensation quite costly.
While the safety of people is primary, the resulting potential for damage to operational equipment on and off site is also of concern. While damage usually does not occur upon removal of grounding from a transformer or switch, a voltage imbalance or other fault can stress equipment and cause a fault immediately or over a period of time. Equally a high energy event such as a lightning strike can cause significant widespread damage if the substation equipment is not grounded.
When assessing the costs of a theft event, often only the cost of the copper and its replacement costs are taken into account. The real and potential safety and damage risks and hence costs are variable, but occasionally far higher. Upon assessment of these safety risks and service related costs, the return on investment on roll out is generally between two to four years.
Utilising the CuTS® system to detect and alert upon substation grounding theft as it happens
The CuTS® system, models ZM and ZS were specifically developed in collaboration with the industry for the task of detecting and alerting to grounding theft activity on small and large substations. The primary purpose of the CuTS® system is to help mitigate the safety and operational risks that result from this activity. While it does provide a real time alarm upon such theft activity, its security function is secondary to its capability of notifying an operator when a sites’ safety has been compromised.
The CuTS® system detects removal of material by monitoring for slight but steady changes in inductance of the site grounding infrastructure. This technique is used for its environmental stability and for its minimal cabling required on the site for installation. Since substations have complex grounding infrastructures, the CuTS® methodology breaks a substation into detection zones. This is required so that the slight inductance changes that occur upon grounding removal do not get diluted beyond detectability through looking at too much infrastructure with one sensor.
Very small substations can be monitored with a CuTS®ZS single zone unit. This comprises a single zone card, identical to a ZM zone card. Usually one, maximum two sense wires are distributed to each zone, depending on the topology of the site, ensuring minimal installation work.In conclusion, the ubiquitous safety and service continuity issues generated by site grounding theft have driven power network operators requirements for a cost effective method of detecting such theft activity as it happens. Any approach considered has to be suitable for wide network deployment at both large and small substation sites, since existing protection systems do not alert to theft unless virtually all grounding from site is removed, which is rarely the case. The aim is to alert as theft events occur, so safety and service risks can be mitigated in the most suitable and effective manner. Occurrences of undetected theft at transmission sites through to pole transformers have been responsible for some of the worst safety scenarios for operators and public alike, and have been the cause some of the most damaging and public service interruption events. The scale and cost of undetected theft has led to the development of the CuTS® Solution.
Cresatech U.S.A. Office: 1 303 221 9033
Cresatech Europe Office: 08452 33 55 77
At Cresatech, our business is copper theft detection. This story from San Francisco last year illustrates the hazards of undetected copper theft on a substation.
It can be expensive to do, but the cost of doing nothing is worse than the cost of doing this.
Investigators noted “experienced thieves” (look for a discussion on the types of copper thieves in a later article) only stole $100 worth of copper.
It would be considered pretty-theft and relatively simple to repair. In this case, however, the actual copper theft wasn’t the major problem. What happened when the theft went undetected could have been tragic. After some U.C. Berkley buildings lost power and explosion erupted. Onlookers could see flames two stories high. Fortunately, only minor injuries were reported.
It is noted that energy companies are frustrated with the ongoing copper theft, and until recently there has been little strategy and no investment to solve the problem. When the founders of Cresatech CuTS® began beta testing, the goal was to develop technology that would meet many ideals. CuTS® suite has many talking points- minimal false positives, low cost, easily deployed- but the most important may be real time alerting.
As substation copper theft struggles in the marketplace are ongoing, demand for CuTS® products are growing to protect assets but more often now, as a security investment and capital improvement.
San Francisco, CA
Cresatech recognized for leadership innovation in Outage Management Services
Denver, CO – Cresatech announced today that it has been recognized by this year’s Fierce Innovation Awards: Energy Edition, a unique industry awards program powered by the publishers of FierceEnergy and FierceSmartGrid. Cresatech received top honors in the “Outage Management Services” category.
Cresatech recognized for leadership innovation in Outage Management Services
October 2, 2014
Judges evaluated submissions based on technology innovation, financial impact, market validation, ability to integrate into existing network environments, and end-user customer experience.
Cresatech is being recognized for its industry-leading and innovative product, CuTS®, which provides power network operators with realtime notification of the removal of substation grounding material.
“Cresatech’s suite of products and services greatly improve safety and efficiency in electrical distribution networks,” explained Paul Mumford, CEO of Cresatech. “We are working with power transmission and distribution companies in North America and Europe to address the safety and operational impacts of infrastructure theft and damage, both in substations and elsewhere within the delivery network. We have created solutions that are truly needed in distribution, are cost effective and provide valuable tools to allow energy companies, to deliver the most reliable and efficient energy available to their marketplace.”
Winners were selected by an exclusive panel of judges which included: Kevin Dasso, Director of Technology and Information Strategy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company; Lisa Davidson, Director of Customer Programs, San Diego Gas & Electric; Conrad Eustis, Director Retail Technology Strategy, Portland General Electric; Robert B. Frazier, Director of Electric Technology, CenterPoint Energy; Stuart Laval, Manager of Technology Development, Duke Energy; Bryan J. Olnick, Vice President of Distribution Operations in Power Delivery, Florida Power & Light; and Joseph E. Svachula, Vice President of Smart Grid and Technology, Commonwealth Edison.
Cresatech was thrilled with the award news. Paul continued, “This award is a testament to the innovation of our CuTS® technology. We are minimizing the vulnerabilities of energy distribution substations, and mitigating potentially disastrous risks for the operating company. It was an honor to receive the award amongst such a great group of peers. Energy technology is evolving and it’s exciting to be a part of this innovative industry.”
CRESATECH specializes in technology and service solutions that address high cost, high impact operational issues within power transmission & distribution, mobile telecoms, transport and other critical service markets. Our innovative products monitor exposed service sites and infrastructure in a variety of complex operational environments, providing real time monitoring for service interruption and disruption due to removal of copper grounding and other power delivery infrastructure. In combination with our Advantage services, our solutions provide meaningful network wide status and service delivery information, driving improved levels of customer service, reduced site safety risk and reduction of field engineering costs.
To learn more about Cresatech, visit www.cresatech.com
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Established in London in 2011, Cresatech develops monitoring technologies and services for use in challenging operational environments such as electricity distribution, mobile telecoms and transportation. Our innovative products and services provide real time monitoring of such operational sites exposed to infrastructure removal and damage, and can be extended to deliver service delivery status intelligence within electrical distribution networks.
Cresatech now has two group companies covering Europe and North America, based in the UK and in Colorado respectively.
The executive team have a wealth of experience in the electricity and technology sectors and the group is supported by a non-exec and advisory board that brings experience from across the energy sector, including government advisory and regulatory as well as previous board roles in public energy companies.
Copper theft is still a mounting problem for utility companies. During Doble Conference Expo hours, we met with substations managers and technicians who shared some of their own experiences with copper theft.
From petty thieves cutting grounds for a $250 trade-in profit, to organized crime stripping an entire substation for a loss of $250,000 in copper alone. For the utility provider, such losses are devastating. With copper theft reports coming to us weekly from the U.S, Canada and U.K., the interest and demand for Cresatech CuTS technology continues to swell.
One important take-away from the conference was the response to our cost outlook. With some utility substation managers citing failed theft prevention costs already into +$100,000, our CuTS technology rollout cost of between $3,000-$20,000 was a real eye opener. CuTs technology is a low cost solution to copper theft.
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