ABB technologies power a record-breaking bridge-tunnel-link in China

ABB provides state-of-the-art technology for Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

Constructing a 55-kilometer-long water crossing destined to become a vital transportation link for a region of 11 major cities is an engineering challenge of breathtaking proportions. This remarkable feat of structural design, a landmark bridge and tunnel combination that spans the Lingdingyang waters of China’s Pearl River Estuary, was made viable in part through innovative solutions pioneered by ABB.

Officially opened October, 2018 the bridge shortens travel times between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and Macao, trimming a three-hour drive to a more-efficient half-hour trip. The hybrid bridge-tunnel roadway design avoids interference with flights using the nearby Hong Kong International Airport, and by routing a 6.7 km stretch underwater, ships can pass through the Lingdingyang channel, one of the world’s busiest waterways, in open water.

The tunnel section, burrowing as deep as 48 meters below the sea bed, presented daunting operational challenges. Most critical was the need for a ventilation system that assures the air inside will remain breathable despite the constant flow of exhaust fumes from vehicles driving through. Multiple sets of powerful jet fans, suspended from the tunnel ceiling, help extract unhealthy engine exhaust and circulate fresh air.

The development of ventilation systems that are highly effective under demanding conditions is an area of particular expertise for ABB. The company’s innovations employed in the construction of the 57 km Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Swiss Alps – which included supplying the tunnels “muscle and lungs” – served as a basis for the design of the Chinese project. Experience gained in the engineering, installation and testing of the Gotthard systems enabled ABB to complete the project efficiently and with an assurance of top level reliability.

Similarly, ABB medium-voltage drive products used in the tunnel’s ventilation system feature a design that assures turn-off times 100 times faster than conventional components. The benefits of this equipment include decreased rate of fuse-caused failures, lower energy consumption and mechanical wear, and extended service life. ABB’s compact and reliable low-voltage drive products (supply, switching devices and soft starters) are also installed in the climate control and water systems of the equipment buildings.

The electrical load imposed by the operation of this equipment required further measures that ABB addressed by installing capacitors in underwater substations at each end of the tunnel. These improve power efficiency and ensure high quality power transmission and equipment uptime.

Moreover, ABB offered this world-class project a variety of medium- and low-voltage power distribution transformers, systems and services including gas insulated switchgear, control products, covering such areas as communications, electrical safety and building automation. The ABB products help the different functional areas of the project to achieve reliable power monitoring and energy management, supporting its efficient and dependable operation, and are environmentally friendly with low maintenance cost.

Beyond its status as the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge, the new road passage between the east and west banks of the Pearl River provided by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is expected to boost the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, an enormous market with a population of 70 million and a GDP of 1.5 trillion US dollars.

"We are honored that ABB has been engaged in this marvelous project,” said Dr. Chunyuan Gu, ABB President of the Asia, Middle East and Africa Region. “Powered by a broad array of leading products, solutions and services, ABB’s participation in its construction exemplifies the company’s commitment in becoming a partner of choice for the Chinese customers and its efforts in supporting the fast development of China’s transportation infrastructure.”

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