ABB Power Services

Our aim is to increase systems reliability and extend the life of their equipment with concomitant gains for our customers’ competitiveness. We support our customers with high-quality services in preventive and corrective maintenance to improve risk mitigation and improved safety. ABB's service portfolio allows utilities and industrials to maximizing the return on all assets by ensuring a high reliability, reducing life cycle costs and ensuring optimized performance while lowering environmental impact.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Radiography: The NEW sliced bread of circuit breaker maintenance

Lower cost. Shorter outages. Higher reliability.

Click here to watch a brief video of ABB’s diagnostic expert explain the benefits of using radiography for circuit breaker maintenance

 Frequently Asked Questions:

1.  What is Radiography?

Radiography is the latest x-ray imaging technology, employed in an external environment, to capture detailed images of a circuit breaker’s critical internal components.  These images are then reviewed by a diagnostic expert, who checks dimensions and tolerances against original component and assembly drawings.  Radiography eliminates the need to breech the sealing system of the equipment being diagnosed; increasing equipment reliability, making infiltration of external contaminates a non-issue.  This technology can be deployed for half of the maintenance cost when compared to the more traditional, conventional and invasive maintenance practices.

2.  To which ratings or types of equipment does this service apply?

Radiography can be applied to all SF6 gas circuit breakers and GIS from 38 kV to 550 kV.  ABB can perform radiographic inspection on all brands of SF6 breakers and GIS.

3.  Where is radiography most useful?

Shorter Outages
  • Generally speaking, radiography is very useful to all industrial, commercial and utility customers that operate distribution, transmission, or generation networks.  Outages are, on average, 50% shorter using radiography.

  • From an application standpoint, those breakers that must have 100% reliability or critical switchgear that cannot be taken out of service for more than 4- 24 hours at a time but yet must be maintained to verify the integrity will gain the most value from radiography.

Lower cost maintenance
  • When combined with five year maintenance, an internal and external inspection is completed in one day (versus three days for a traditional invasive interrupter inspection).  Not only is this significantly less expensive, it is a proven and accepted practice that meets NERC maintenance standards – i.e. this is a low cost maintenance practice that will extend equipment life and prevent fines.  Using this practice allows you to check the inside and outside of the circuit breaker or GIS all at once.  You will know the condition of the interrupters and breaker contacts in slightly more time than it takes your dealer to change the oil and do a 27 point inspection on your car.

  • I&C customers that do not have on-staff expertise to maintain their breakers quickly “see” this diagnostic tool as the most useful way of quickly inspecting breakers.
  • Customers that have limited O&M budgets but must maintain or improve the reliability of their equipment use radiography to safely stretch their resources.

4.  Why do customers utilize ABB for radiography services?
  • To reduce O&M expenditures by focusing resources on the particular equipment that needs maintenance
  • To reduce O&M expenditures by using a smaller maintenance crew and eliminating the need for a crane or gas cart
  • To benchmark circuit breaker or GIS integrity by using verifiable external testing
  • To verify reliability when you can “visually” see the condition of the critical, internal components of the circuit breaker
  • To reduce outage times (see below chart)

Outage Times


38 – 145kV
2  hours
2 days
3 hours
3 days
3 hours
4 days
6 hours
5 days

  • To eliminate the risk of SF6 emissions
  • To extend maintenance cycles by combining radiography with five year maintenance and SF6 gas decomposition analysis
  • To benefit from our in-depth technical knowledge and industry-leading experience.

5.  Who do I contact for questions regarding this service?

High Voltage Service will assist you with any radiography questions you may have, from technical inquiries to scheduling radiographic inspection:

Office: 724-696-1370

6.  What are the total benefits of radiography?
  • Overall lower cost to discover the general condition of a breaker or GIS
  • Outage time is reduced from days to hours
  • Non-invasive internal inspection
  • No disassembly of switchgear required
  • Increased reliability from not exposing the internal components to the atmosphere
  • Extensive review of internal components
  • Extends maintenance cycles

7.  Where would I find use for this service?
  • Breakers that are at, near or beyond five years or more of service
  • Where limiting outage times is a must
  • Critical breaker installations, i.e. generation plants, must run stations
  • Where lack of retained expertise resides
  • Where a fleet assessment study recommended that more data be acquired (quickly)
  • When O&M budgets need to be reduced
  • When O&M spending is out of control
  • When an employee bonus is directly tied to reducing expenditures, and reducing outage times

8.  What problems does this service solve? Long-term or short-term?

Remedy to those that adhere to the maintenance philosophy of “I’ll fix it when it breaks” by providing a low cost reliable method of determining expected reliability.

Quick and responsive testing to determine immediate and continued expected health of the circuit breaker for the particular application in which the circuit breaker is being used.

9.  What experience has ABB had in providing this service?

ABB retained the many years of experience of performing radiography services by employing an ex-nuclear Nondestructive supervisor responsible for performing radiography at the nuclear plant where he was located. ABB groomed our diagnostic expert for a several years (performing circuit breaker maintenance) before going to market. ABB has cultivated a true diagnostic expert! 

10.  What do I get as a deliverable for this service?
  • Standard report (.pdf format)
  • Executive summary
  • Detail observations
  • Recommendations similar to those found in fleet assessments
  • Detailed inspection report per breaker
  • Detailed images to support findings (pinpointing observations)
  • Delivered via CD or internet (e-mail)

11.  How does this service positively affect my business?

Strengthened supply of reliable flow of electricity to customers.

12.  How does this service make my life easier?

Asset Manager – large numbers of breakers or GIS bays can be scanned in shorter outage times, for fewer dollars.

O&M Supervisor – no chance of human error as compared to internal inspection, enables you to deploy resources to other tasks, and reduces the risk of an emergency outage.

If you would like more information, please contact High Voltage Service at 724-696-1370 or visit us online at

Click here to download our white paper or brochure for additional information.

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