Transformer asset management – do more with less
With an average age in industrial plants of 30 years and in utilities of 40 years, the world’s transformer fleet is aging – and is incurring associated increasing replacement and repair costs, and risk of failure. The economic pressures of deregulated and competitive markets, and the tendency to overload transformers, only exacerbates matters. Many transformers are now also operated beyond their recommended life span in order to smooth investment peaks. These conditions make it imperative to adopt life-prolonging measures and to optimize transformer maintenance. One significant maintenance optimization strategy is to replace simple time based maintenance that mitigates risk by doing everything, every year, for all transformers, with a more sophisticated condition-based maintenance strategy – i.e., focusing maintenance on high-risk transformers. It is estimated that a life extension of 5 to 15 years can be achieved with properly focused preventive maintenance programs. The ABB Ability Transformer Intelligence portfolio supports this strategy shift by focusing on three elements: monitoring hardware, interpretation software and expert service.
The benefits of condition assessment
On a long-term and strategic level, a condition assessment study gives top management a clear picture of the maintenance and renewal investments that are required over the next 20 to 30 years to provide asset reliability and availability. This type of insight provides solid information to compare different asset management strategies and choose the approach that best supports the overall technical and financial strategy of the company. In the medium term, a condition assessment gives asset managers the input necessary to make the best use of maintenance or replacement budgets. Funds can be allocated to units that show the best return on investment while reducing technical and environmental operation risks. And in the short term, the assessment can tell the maintenance manager how to apply the maintenance actions that secure the asset reliability required.
Plug and play devices to unlock even more value from the transformer
A CIGRE study has shown that transformer monitoring can reduce the risk of catastrophic failures by 50 percent and that early problem detection can reduce repair costs by 75 percent and loss of revenue by 60 percent. Furthermore, annual cost savings can amount to 2 percent of the price of a new transformer – i.e., approximately $40,000 to $80,000. Transformer monitoring, then, makes good financial sense.