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GEBE: Engine shutdown trip caused country-wide outage

18 JANUARY 2017

PHILIPSBURG–A “shutdown trip command from a sensor” on an eight-megawatt engine from utilities company GEBE resulted in the lengthy country-wide power outage that began around 9:15 on Monday night and continued into the wee hours of Tuesday morning for most districts.
GEBE stated in a press release issued late Wednesday that the “trip” resulted in an unstable power grid which caused other engines to react to stabilise the grid. “The process took place in a very short time frame. As a result it triggered the high voltage system to open which protects the equipment’s systems,” GEBE said in the release.

Power plant personnel resorted to the plant’s protection in order to ensure a smooth start-up which has to be done with safety for all.

GEBE said the restarting process took some time as it first needed to be assessed as to what caused the total black out. “Some equipment was isolated to be sure that everything was in order when restarting the engines. Once it was clear that it was safe to commence with the starting-up process, the restoration plan was put into motion.”

The first cable to be restored was the Cay Hill area as GEBE always gives priority to the St. Maarten Medical Center located in that area. In the process of restoring the power GEBE encountered some challenges and the plant went back down.

Upon restarting the plant again the process to restore all cables continued. By around 3:00am all areas were restored with power. “The power-plant crew continued to rectify the entire system after the last cable was operational again, this entails full restoration of the cooling water system, the steam system, the fuel system, etc.”

GEBE said it is looking into this matter to avoid a recurrence and limiting the outages in the future. “It is our intention to minimise the effects such loss of power has on the island.”

The company thanked its staff who came out to assist with the restoration of power during the night. The company also apologised to its clients who were inconvenienced and affected during the power interruption.

GEBE said also that on Tuesday afternoon a software glitch resulted in one of its engines shutting down and a number of areas were without power. “This matter was quickly resolved and power was restored to the affected areas.”

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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