Commercial barges stay afloat thanks to VFD controlled pumps

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Optidrive  E3 variable frequency drives (VFDs) from Invertek  Drives have completely automated the control of pumps used to fill and empty  ballast tanks on board commercial barges in the Netherlands – saving manpower,  time, energy and money.


Located at the bottom of the vessel, ballast tanks  are designed to add weight to aid stability when the vessel has no cargo, and  to enable the craft to pass underneath low bridges. They are filled with water  pumped from the river or canal and then emptied again as soon as the bridge has  been successfully cleared, or cargo taken on board.

As well as a faster and more reliable filling and emptying process, operators  of commercial vessels that use VFD controlled ballast pumps also benefit from  less fuel and energy consumption, which also saves money.

Automated control of the tanks mean they are emptied as soon as the excess  weight is not needed which reduces drag, whilst controlling the pump speed and  starting / stopping reduces the peak load on the vessel’s electrical system.  Reducing fuel and energy usage is a vital consideration in the shipping  industry which is required to adhere to strict international emissions regulations.

The Optidrive E3 from Invertek delivers reliability, high performance and  efficiency in a compact, easy to use unit which is ideal for marine  environments. Available in enclosure ratings IP20 and IP66,  Optidrive E3 offers conformal coating and is designed to operate trouble-free  in the 50°C temperatures frequently found in environments such as vessel engine  rooms.

John van der Lugt, Sales Manager at Hiflex, Invertek’s sales partner in  the Netherlands, explains, “We were approached by VDE Marine, who designed  the automated solution to control the ballast pumps made and installed by its  customer De Groot  Diesel Marine Services. The frequency of bridges on the Netherlands’ canal network means the tanks need  to be filled and emptied again as quickly and easily as possible, whilst the  volume of water used meant VDE Marine needed a high-performance variable speed  drive capable of consistently controlling the 11kW motor.

“It is simply not practical to manually control the  pumps every time the tanks need filling or emptying,” continues John.  “Remote control ensures the pumps can be activated from inside the wheelhouse  via the Optidrive E3 without the operator having to physically start and stop  them.”

Thanks to the remote control functionality, the barge’s operator is able to  switch the AC inverter on and off, change the setting on the pump from full to  empty, amend the pump speed, and open and close the valve relay whenever  required using the drive output relay.

When the valve is being closed, the Optidrive E3 drive controls the pump speed  to ensure water from the river or canal does not flow back in to the ballast  tank – a vital consideration when emptying the tank.

Variable frequency drives, including DNV  accredited products, from Invertek Drives are used in a huge  number of motor control applications including a wide variety of operations in  the marine industry such  as winches, pumps, cranes, bow thrusters and compressors.

John comments, “The pump motor, controlled by the Optidrive E3, enables  1.1 million litres of water to be pumped every hour if required. The complete  system was commissioned before being fitted on the barge to ensure the on-board  installation was as quick and simple as possible.
“The first  installation was so successful that VDE Marine’s customer has ordered  additional drives to enable it to supply a completely automated solution for  filling and emptying ballast tanks destined for a range of commercial vessels.”

Invertek Drives has extensive experience in energy  efficient pump control and can even manage multiple  pumps at the same time thanks to Optiflow technology.  Find out more by watching this short YouTube film.

Pump control system specification:

•    Mainswitch on cabinet
•    Invertek ODE-3 drive with motor (max 11kW)
•    Powersupply valve
•    Valve relay
•    Remote control with 20m cable
•    Feedback for valve on Remote Control
•    Capability: 1100m3/hour -> 1.1 million litre/hour

Please follow this link to find out  more about how Optidrive variable frequency drives from Invertek Drives are  used in the marine industry. More details about Optidrive E3 can be found by  downloading the E3  brochure.

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