Standby power for Rome airport

25 March 1998

Four gensets powered by Caterpillar 3608 diesel engines are providing standby power at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport. Like all major international airports, it has expanded steadily in response to increasing levels of traffic. Today, it is ranked as one of the world's 50 busiest airports, handling over 200 000 scheduled flights every year.

Growth of the airport over the past 30 years has placed increasing strain upon the local transportation and utility infrastructure. For a number of years, the airport has operated a bank of small standby gensets, ranging from 200 to 500 kW in size, to safeguard against power failures in the local grid.

But in recent years there has been growing concern about the reliability of these vital standby generators, so when the latest airport upgrading and expansion scheme was approved by the Italian airport authority, the replacement of the ageing units was given top priority. In 1994, the contract for a new standby generator system was awarded to Societa Consortile Fiumicino (SCF), a consortium comprising Sinco and Aristea from Bologna, and Cler from Rome.

The new standby power plant is located in the engineering area of the airport. It is built around four Caterpillar 3608 medium speed diesel engines, supplied with fuel from two 8000 l tanks. They develop their rated power of 372 bkW per cylinder running at 1000 r/min and the plant can achieve an output of 10 MW, with 1 MW of overload capacity. Power is generated at 6 kV and distributed via local step-down transformers.

Electricity from the four gensets is used as emergency standby cover for the lights within the passenger area of the airport. Although the units are not expected to run for more than 500 h/a, SCF recognised the need for long-term reliability, so specified a repair and maintenance contract with southern Italian Caterpillar dealer Maia to cover the engines over their operating life.

The package also includes the scheduled oil sampling (S-O-S) service offered by Maia's Rome branch. This helps to identify potential mechanical problems and prevent premature component failure, as well as offering the ability to extend the useful life of lubricating oils and thus minimize operating costs.

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