Generators and Apeks Supercritical Systems

April 5, 2018

We want our customers to be successful. To that end, Apeks does not recommend using a generator to operate our extraction systems. In addition to the added expenses associated with using a generator (fuel cost, maintenance, and repair) there are several risks associated with generators that fall into two categories.

Safety

Generators require gasoline or propane to operate, and both are flammable. Keeping large quantities of flammable fuel on hand increases the risk of an accident. Attempting to refuel a generator while it is running can be extremely dangerous due to the ignition potential created by hot parts in the compressor. When the fuel burns in the generator, carbon monoxide is released. If not properly vented, this can create an asphyxiation hazard.

There are also shock hazards when using generators in wet conditions. While it’s unsafe to operate a generator indoors due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, operating a generator outdoors can expose the user to electrocution hazards if cables and connections get wet.

Additionally, there are a great number of brands, sizes, and styles of generator. If the wrong generator is selected, the risk of fire increases, due to overloading. If a generator shuts off in the middle of an extraction cycle because it runs out of fuel or there is a mechanical failure, the extraction system could be left in an unsafe condition with pressure in the vessels and no control system to vent excess pressure. The only level of protection left is the mechanical relief in each area of the system.

Voltage inconsistencies

Utility providers typically do a great job of maintaining consistent voltage and frequency of the electricity they provide. When using a generator, the end user has to make sure the power they’re generating is appropriate for the task. We’ve seen systems connected to generators that were sending voltage to the system that was too high because the transformer at the generator wasn’t connected correctly. The programmable logic controller in that machine failed a short time after it was connected. The control electronics in the machine are comparable to a personal computer, and connecting them to incorrect voltage levels will cause damage that we may not cover under our standard warranty.

Undervoltage conditions can also cause premature failure of components. When an electric motor is run on a lower voltage than it was designed for, the motor will draw more current and excessive heat is generated inside the motor. This heat breaks down the electrical insulation and can also cause a reduction in the life of the bearings. The manufacturers of the chillers and air compressors we use with our extraction systems have also made it clear that they do not recommend running their equipment using generators, and we cannot guarantee that they will approve warranty claims on equipment that is being operated on generator power.

Depending on the size, type, and quality of the generator selected, the power generated can be inconsistent in voltage and frequency. Unpredictable results follow inconsistent electrical input to the system and this type of problem often very difficult to diagnose. It’s impossible for us to duplicate the conditions under which this type of problem becomes apparent.

Summary

Safety factors should be of paramount importance in extraction facilities. Don’t become a statistic! Be safe and use the system the way it was designed to be used. Most of our customers have had their Apeks systems for years, which is our goal. The only time we like to see an Apeks out to pasture is when it’s being traded up for a larger Apeks system!