Critical commodity trades ride on copper and fiber cabling supported by reliable power systems.

With more than 800 clients, including virtually every major oil and natural gas company in North America, the Sempra Energy Trading facility in Stamford, Conn., is a major player in the electrical industry. Specializing in high-volume transactions (which typically involve more than 40 billion cu ft of natural gas on any given day), the amount of natural gas traded daily by this company equates to about one-half of all the natural gas consumed in the United States and Canada every day.

A subsidiary of Sempra Energy (a San-Diego-based Fortune 500 energy services holding company), Sempra Energy Trading buys and sells energy products, including natural gas, electric power, crude oil, and associated commodities around-the-clock. It's also one of the largest U.S. participants in marketing and trading physical and financial energy products. Needless to say, this facility depends on the latest telecommunications technology and ultra-reliable electrical power. How do they do it?

When it was time to remodel the existing 36,000-sq-ft single-story structure, which houses traders and support personnel, the architect (Roger Ferris & Partners, of Westport, Conn.) presented a challenging design for the construction project team. Working on a fast-track schedule, the team set up an efficient cabling system that the staff could easily administer or reconfigure, as well as one that could support critical trading functions without interruption. Let's take a closer look at the trading process to help you to better understand the complex networking demands of this application.

Trading floor background. Commodity traders use special types of communications systems, such as the trader turret, to do their jobs. Served by special wiring systems, this communications device allows a trader to deal with multiple brokers and keep a number of calls on hold.

Since minimum downtime and the flexibility to support technology changes were two important concerns in this project, redundancy, consistency, ease of management, sufficient bandwidth, and the potential for growth topped Sempra's list of priorities. Specific issues on this retrofit project included the following objectives:

Open office design. Traders needed a clear line of sight to other trading stations and television monitors/message boards.

Workstation flexibility. Modular furniture/desks in the trading area had to be flexible enough so an installer could reconfigure trading positions with minimal downtime and disruption.

Unique communications systems. Since traders use a number of communications systems (such as Bloomberg and Reuters business trading services and voice telephone systems), cabling management becomes much more complex. And since Sempra planned to adopt improved communications technologies and hardware in the future, flexibility and accessibility to cabling pathways and cabling cross-connect panels were key considerations in the electrical/electronic system design.

Minimize maintenance costs. A convenient method of handling cabling changes in the trading area was imperative to minimize downtime and avoid interference with trading operations.

Standards-based installation. To best accommodate moves, adds, and changes (MAC), the specifications on this project followed the TIA/EIA-568-A Commercial Building Telecommunications Wiring Standard, the EIA/TIA-569 Commercial Building Telecommunications Standard for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces, and the EIA/TIA-607 Commercial Building Grounding and Bonding Requirements for Telecommunications.

Anthony Nuciforo, principal at Robert Derector Telecommunications and the designer of the structured wiring system, responded to the challenge by specifying high-performance, enhanced-frequency unshielded twisted-pair (UTP), 100-ohm, copper cabling for the horizontal wiring. This cabling design exceeds the TIA/EIA Cat. 5e standard, and will support protocols like 622 Mbps ATM and Gigabit Ethernet.

Other components complement the 4-pair cable, including modular jacks, patch panels, patch cords, and cable management racks. In addition, a multimode optical fiber backbone network serves the high-bandwidth circuiting needs at the facility. As data rates on the network rise, optical fiber ensures the reliability and performance of the system.

Cabling installation details. A raised floor system is made up of 2-ft square panels, which provides access to the power and low-voltage communications cabling under the floor. Working with the design specification, E-JCS project foremen Ken Zarilli and Jeff Yatsko selected raceway for an economical method for routing cables within the trading floor area.

This design also uses an interconnection point within the horizontal cabling run from the communications room to the trading pit workstations. This interconnection point, mounted below the raised floor panels, allows the horizontal cabling to remain intact when installers change or reconfigure workstations.

Horizontal cables from the communications room terminate at the rear of this patch panel. One end of a cord then plugs into a jack on the front of a patch panel and terminates at the other end on a voice or data communications device (jack) in a workstation outlet. Each workstation outlet box, recessed into the access floor, holds three duplex receptacles and four communication device outlets serving voice and data circuits.

With the installation of this slick energy network, Sempra Energy Trading can continue to be one of the leaders in energy commodity trading.


Sidebar: Raceways - A Versatile Wiring Solution

Metal raceways have enclosed power and low-voltage conductors for decades. You can run surface-mounted raceways along the perimeter of walls and in other configurations - making this product category extremely versatile. And since you can easily remove and replace raceway covers, the system accommodates moves, adds, and changes (MAC) in telecom applications.

The mechanical strength of steel surface raceway makes this option a popular choice; however, it's not the only one. Surface raceway systems made from aluminum are also available for applications where you want an anodized type of finish. According to many users, aluminum raceway is ideal in a laboratory environment, where the potential for corrosion is a concern. However, the cost for aluminum is about three times that of steel.

Many installers use nonmetallic (plastic) raceways when appearance is important, since they're available in various colors with trim moldings and wood veneers. On a large project, a nonmetallic raceway system can result in a labor and installation savings of 20% to 30% compared to a metallic system. However, a nonmetallic raceway system costs about 10% to 20% more than a comparable steel product.

A user can specify a multichannel surface raceway with one channel dedicated to power conductors and the other for data cables. A twin-cover product prevents you from exposing power and communications cable when you remove the cover.

Typically, the single-channel capacity for one unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable begins at 1/4 sq in. and goes up to 11/2 sq in., for maximum of 15 UTP cabs. For a multichannel raceway, internal capacity is 4 sq in., but you can double that capacity.

Raceway manufacturers now offer bend-radius control fittings for the protection of cable, especially fiber optic cable. One manufacturer offers a multichannel nonmetallic raceway system. All fittings maintain a minimum 1-in. cable-bend radius, and other features include flush-mounted devices, and snap-in divider walls. Another manufacturer offers a nonmetallic raceway system in three sizes for two, six, or 12 cables. Each system includes seven fittings that comply with industry bend-radius standards for copper and optical fiber cable. The outside corner of the system has one short and one long end, which helps minimized gaps between the raceway and the wall if the corner isn't an exact 90ΓΈ in cross-section.