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Diesel Powers Critical Infrastructure Systems; Improvements Enhance Readiness and Resilienc



Published November 26, 2013
With November 2013 proclaimed as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month by President Barrack Obama, the Diesel Technology Forum  issued the following statement to recognize improvements made in clean diesel power that aide in strengthening our nation’s infrastructure and enhancing our homeland security and resilience.

“Critical infrastructure is something we all take for granted - until it isn’t there or doesn’t work. When the computers go down, the water stops flowing and cellphones don’t work is not the time to begin thinking about protecting our critical infrastructure.  Whatever the cause, each of these kinds of interruptions to communications networks, electrical supply or public drinking water or waste water treatment systems is not only inconvenient, but results in economic damages and lost productivity as well as real risks to public health and safety,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the non-profit group.

“Diesel engines and equipment are the unsung heroes of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Schaeffer.  To the average person, they may be invisible much of the time, but behind the scenes, diesel engines stand ready to respond in less than 10 seconds to ensure uninterrupted electrical supply, water pumping and other capabilities key to these critical infrastructure systems.  Diesel is the only energy source that provides full strength backup power within 10 seconds of a power outage which is vital to keep critical services in operation at hospitals, data centers, communication, and drinking water and sewage treatment facilities.”

“In honor of President Obama’s proclamation, we want to raise the awareness of key strategies for improving resilience and offer tips for maintaining a high state of readiness and support of our nation’s critical infrastructure,” explained Schaeffer.

“It’s timely because engine manufacturers have made major advancements to their engines and machines that power these critical infrastructure systems and contribute to our national state of security and readiness.  For example, many new emergency backup diesel generators have increased power output and load-carrying capabilities in addition to near-zero emissions and lower fuel consumption, enabling extended operation of units during extended outages. New transfer switches and switchgear designs have even further increased the reliability and readiness of these systems.  Manufacturers have also upgraded and hardened their power systems command and control technologies to offer greater monitoring and security hardness,” noted Schaeffer.

Strategies to Support a Resilient Electrical Grid and Ensure a Stable Electricity Supply

Stationary emergency backup generators are deployed at thousands of key facilities and systems around the country, ready to respond to interruptions in grid power and handle full emergency loads in less than 10 seconds.  Diesel is the technology of choice due to its reliability and rapid response time and load carrying capabilities.   Some of these units can be activated during periods of peak energy demand to reduce the stress and likelihood of grid blackouts.

Readiness Tips:

Review Fuel Storage and Resupply Plans

Owners/operators should review adequacy of fuel storage and resupply agreements in the event of extended outages, such as in Superstorm Sandy when generators ran 24/7 in some settings for over a month.  Generator owners are advised to consult with their local engine and equipment dealers and bulk fuel suppliers annually to review and update agreements.  

Also, some states (MD, NY, NJ) are offering financial incentives or cost-sharing grants for certain kinds of businesses (e.g. fuel service stations, apartment buildings, assisted living facilities) to install equipment such as electrical wiring and switchgear to make their facilities “generator-ready” – for installation of stationary units or the ability to hook up to mobile rental power systems in anticipation of severe weather events.  Facility owners should explore these unique options.           

Distributed Generation (DG) systems produce power at the point of consumption rather than relying on the nation’s electrical grid to transmit power to a facility.  This can be accomplished through burning fossil fuels such as natural gas, diesel fuel, waste landfill gas or other on-site technologies.

Combined Heat and Power Systems (CHP) offer commercial buildings and other larger energy users a means to generate their own power independent of the grid that is up to 90 percent efficient to ensure more stable electrical supply through transforming waste heat into usable electric power.  CHP systems account for about 12 percent of electricity generation in the U.S. and are among the most efficient forms of distributed generation. 

Ensure Readiness with Routine Maintenance

In every instance, critical infrastructure support systems must receive proper preventive maintenance and be monitored and tested to ensure their state of readiness.  For example, emergency backup generators must be “exercised” weekly or on a custom schedule designed to assure response time and readiness.  Service agreements with qualified diesel engine and equipment dealers provide the best peace-of-mind solution for system readiness.

"In communities all around the country, local diesel engine and equipment manufacturers and their dealers are proud to be key partners to state and local leaders and emergency planners and responders.  One of the great enhancements in recent years is the upgraded capacity to coordinate, rapidly mobilize and deliver key assets to incidents impacting critical infrastructure.  For example, during Superstorm Sandy that impacted the Northeast, national dealer networks sprang into action dispatching available emergency back-up diesel generators, water pumps and other machines and equipment within hours to the New York region, pulling assets from as far away as the west coast,” noted Schaeffer.


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