Singapore split-second power dip wreaks havoc : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

MAR 29, 2000 Split-second power dip wreaks havoc

Worst-hit were plants on Jurong Island which suffered shutdowns, production delays and huge losses


IT LASTED a mere 0.3 seconds. But the effects of last Friday's power dip on some petrochemical and wafer-fabrication plants lasted for hours if not days.

Production was set back, hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost and hundreds of workers were mobilised to work over the weekend to start up the plants again.

The dip also played havoc with computer screens and ATM machines.

But the worst hit was Jurong Island, Singapore's petrochemical-manufacturing hub where several plants were shut down at Merbau, Chawan, Sakara and Seraya.

Fifteen out of 20 petrochemical plants on Jurong Island and three wafer-fabrication plants at Woodlands contacted by The Straits Times reported varying degrees of damage -- from delays in production to huge losses.

At Seraya Chemicals Singapore, its plant manager said the dip crippled equipment, seriously affecting production and causing loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another petrochemical plant at Sakara suffered a six-hour delay in production when two of its three major equipment failed. Its losses were put at slightly more than a quarter million dollars.

Phillips Petroleum Chemical Asia suffered a 75-tonne production loss.

Many plants had to resort to emergency shutdowns.

"From my vantage view at Pulau Ayer Chawan, I could see flare stacks being fired from a few plants," said engineer K. T. Low.

Flare stacks are normally fired to signify shutdowns.

One plant in Merbau mobilised its staff round-the-clock to restart the plant. Key engineers were called in over the weekend to supervise the start-up.

But not all plants were equally hard hit.

Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore reported only a partial impact.

It said two plants were shut down temporarily. They were restarted on Sunday.

Ethylene Glycols Pte Ltd, which had installed the Unlimited Power Supply (UPS) system, remained relatively unscathed.

According to Singapore Power, the dip was the result of equipment failure at the PowerSeraya power station.

A Singapore Power spokesman said such dips were common in many countries.

"Singapore is actually quite fortunate because it rarely happens here."

Singapore Power has asked PowerSeraya to investigate the matter and come out with a detailed report.

Singapore Power says its future action will depend on the findings.

There was a power dip earlier in January this year and eight transmission-voltage dips last year, Singapore Power said.

Resourceful engineers and plant managers are quick to offer suggestions to prevent similar production snags.

"One way to minimise the damage would be to install protective devices like a dip voltage-restorer," said chemical engineer Tan Yew Meng, 32.

"Another would be to have a sort of backup generator that can provide emergency electrical supply when such things happen."

-- Martin Thompson (, March 28, 2000

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