Transformer safety is paramount, but are we acting on it?
Transformers insulated by mineral oil are particularly at risk since mineral oil fires burn intensely and are notoriously difficult to control
From the inconvenient to the catastrophic, a transformer failure can mean anything from a slight glitch to months of business disruption. And those businesses that depend on transformers insulated by mineral oil are particularly at risk. With a high calorific value, mineral oil transformer fires burn intensely. They are notoriously difficult to control – posing significant health and safety risks. This is before the consequences of transformer failure are felt by the operator or owner in terms of downtime, business continuity, loss of revenue, and site damage – all of which can extend into millions of dollars in expenses. With all that said, the importance of businesses having the ability to accurately assess and mitigate transformer risk cannot be overstated.
Rightly, senior managers are concerned about business continuity and the safety of the operations that underpin it. But are these business priorities being translated into action on the ground? Our research – The MIDEL Transformer Risk Report 2020 – highlights a gap.
Conducted to enhance the understanding of transformer-related risk, our research analysed the key concerns and risk-mitigation trends as well as garnering opinion on board awareness and priorities. It revealed that, while lowering the risk is given universal priority and engineers are diligent in making recommendations to that end, many of those recommendations are not being implemented.
Engineers are making a good spread of recommendations to mitigate the transformer-related risk
Recommending risk mitigation
It is clear from the results that engineers are making a good spread of recommendations to mitigate the transformer-related risk. Switching to condition-based monitoring stood out as an emerging preference with nearly half of survey respondents (49 %) stating they had proposed it. Maintenance regime changes, asset replacement, asset repair and reconditioning, and substation upgrades were also prevalent. However, many of these recommendations are not being implemented fully, only 44 % are, to be precise, with a further 41 % of businesses choosing to take only some of the recommendations forward.
A combination of factors stands in the way of senior managers pursuing all relevant avenues to mitigate the transformer-related risk. Indeed, CAPEX was cited as the most significant barrier (56 %). However, more pressing commercial (38 %) and engineering (36 %) priorities were also cited frequently.