Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cause of New Orleans Superdome partial Blackout

The Superdome in New Orleans was hit by a partial blackout on February 03, 2013. Some six weeks later you can find a technical report on the causes of the interruption of power flow.

There are multiple reasons reported why the circuit breaker tripped:

  • Misoperation of the protection function under certain conditions
  • Using factory default settings that had not been adjusted for the application at the Superdome
  • Unclear technical documentation and communication between manufacturer and user

It is likely that the responsible technicians had a lack in experience and education or that they had to do the commissioning and testing in some haste. You know: Haste produces waste! Who knows.

Lessons learned: The electrical system requires highly experienced and educated protection engineers!! The application of more and more information and communication technology will require even more educated and experienced engineers!!

Click HERE to download the report [pdf, 560 KB].

There was another crucial “misbehavior” of technical people that caused a very crucial outage. Relay settings are very crucial … care must be taken to prevent outages … or you will see huge outages like the one in Europe Nov 04, 2006 which was caused by inconsistent alarm and trip settings (from UCTE Report, link see below):


The limits on both ends of a line must be the same (!!) … at least both sides need to take the values of the other side into account.

But what happens if you don’t take them into account? a big outages maybe the result (usually) as on Nov 04.

IEC 61850 would have help to prevent this situation: if each side gets read access to the alarm and trip settings … let’s say once a week, then you will figure out an inconsistent situation … or send an spontaneous report in case any setting value changes …

Click HERE for the Final Report of the Nov 04, 2016 outage [pdf, 2.8 MB] 

Information and communication technology can help to do routine tests and checks and help to get consistent settings. But it will not replace the well trained and experienced engineers.

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