As many of us witnessed – or experienced the blackouts resulting from – the exploded substation in Jet Park, you may be wondering whether explosion proof components could have prevented the incident.
What Does Explosion Proof Mean?
To understand what is meant by explosion proof, we must look at the context of the term and the organization that defined it. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began publishing the National Electric Code (NEC®) in 1897. The NEC® is also known as NFPA 70 and ANSI/NFPA 70 from its inclusion in the body of NFPA codes.
The NEC® has defined several types of protection techniques acceptable when designing products for use in hazardous (classified) locations:
- Explosion proof,
- dust ignition proof,
- dust tight,
- intrinsically safe, and
- hermetically sealed.
Components installed in hazardous (classified) locations must meet the criteria set for each of these definitions.
To meet the standards for the explosion proof rating, an enclosure must:
- meet the temperature requirements of the specific application in which it is to be installed,
- be able to contain any explosion originating within its housing, and
- prevent sparks from within its housing from igniting vapours, gases, dust, or fibres in the air surrounding it.
So, in terms of electrical enclosures, explosion proof does not mean that it is able to withstand an exterior explosion. Rather, it is the enclosure’s capacity to thwart an internal spark or explosion from triggering a much larger blast.
All components are labelled on their nameplate with the distinct classification in which they have been tested and approved for installation.
In conclusion, the Jet Park substation suffered a direct lightning strike during the vicious storms of Monday afternoon. As this was an exterior explosion, all the explosion proof components in the world could not have prevented it. However, explosion proof electrical enclosures would certainly have prevented an internal spark or explosion from causing a much larger blast.
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