How can transformers run longer and safely given today's supply chain issues? What service is available when expired maintenance intervals need to be reactivated? How can transformers be monitored more easily to detect potential failures more quickly or to avoid outages? What services will be needed in the future due to the alternative energy producers that are on the rise? Energy suppliers are facing major challenges in these dynamic times with massive delays in the delivery of new transformers, the supply uncertainties of raw materials and due to the energy transition. Electrical Oil Services (EOS) has addressed these issues and offers new services to move into the future together with its customers.
This article has been published in the German magazine Netzpraxis 11-12 2022.
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Complex challenges today and in the future
The challenges in the energy market and thus for energy suppliers - from transmission system operators to distribution system operators to municipal utilities - are manifold. The idle supply chains require an increased focus on the maintenance and repair of electrical equipment. Transformers that were supposed to be replaced now have to remain in service significantly longer and unscheduled maintenance intervals are resumed. Since the beginning of 2022, the price spiral of raw materials such as copper or oil has been a key daily issue with an uncertain outcome. These uncertainties and the social as well as economic concerns about the energy situation that currently need to be addressed pose new challenges for energy suppliers with regard to the trouble-free operation of their transformers.
Key drivers for change in the energy sector
Many businesses are facing the customer needs and challenges of our time. But which levers can already be set in motion now, at which points do you create significant added value for your customers and at the same time contribute to future objectives such as climate protection or resource conservation? The energy supply industry in particular has to deal with the change to more sustainable business models and a reduction of the CO2 footprint for a sustainable security of supply today more than ever. In this context, three key drivers in the energy industry have become evident - sustainability, digitalisation and renewable energies.
Electrical Oil Services has also addressed these three future clusters as important building blocks of its sustainable business model:1. Sustainability - insulating oil processing and circular economy for more climate protection
Today's situation makes it necessary to take a closer look at the issues of energy supply and security of energy supply. The fact that this must be done with a view to sustainable solutions is not only demanded politically, but is now part of the own strategic orientation of energy suppliers and energy-intensive industry. Transformers play a central role in this: process failures and downtimes must be avoided and stable production processes must be guaranteed.
EOS recognised the potential of resource conservation and sustainable action as an important business model more than 60 years ago, due to the challenging post-war situation in the UK, and supports its customers in achieving their climate goals with the sustainable EOS Closed Loop model, among other things. In this process, used transformer oil is reprocessed in the company's own production facility to a virgin oil quality in accordance with the IEC 60296:2020 standard and can then be reused with the highest quality - this sustainable concept promotes the circular economy. In addition, EOS offers mobile oil regeneration directly on site and while the transformer is in operation. The advantage here is that the entire insulating system of the transformer can be treated and thus the service life of the transformer can be significantly increased.
Treated insulating oils make an important sustainable contribution in several respects:
- Improved running time and performance of the transformers
- Ensuring the operational safety and stability of the production processes
- Conservation of resources through efficient use of insulating oil
- Cost-efficient solution
2. Digitalisation - transformer database for fast analysis and higher safety
To ensure smooth operation of transformers, regular maintenance, a good overview of all collected data as well as an analysis for a reliable assessment of the condition and measures to be derived from it are required. Since the condition assessment of a transformer depends on various factors, data collection over as long a period as possible is of great importance. However, this is often not the case: Required data is missing, not correctly sorted or processed, stored in different decentralised locations, not correctly assigned or simply incomplete. However, digital processing and visualisation are the key to rapid analysis and assessment and thus to trouble-free and safe operation of transformers.
Electrical Oil Services has identified this need through intensive cooperation and in many discussions with its customers and now offers additional added value in the area of digitalisation:
- Consolidation of all relevant data in a table or map view
- Bundling and management of all plant documents such as test reports and documentation
- This results in concrete recommendations for action regarding the next maintenance requirement.
Due to its long business history, Electrical Oil Services already has an extensive database with over 50,000 transformers and related data. Authorised customers can access a wide range of their transformer data and inspection records and get a quick and comprehensive overview of their assets. The integration of all common platform interfaces simplifies data transfer while still offering full data protection. In this way, the EOS digitisation service closes the gaps that often exist in the area of data management and analysis and contributes significantly to the safety of transformer operations.
3. Renewable energies - new service with particular expertise for offshore operators
Electrical Oil Services has expanded its service radius and now also offers its service to customers in the offshore sector due to its many years of expertise with transformers and insulating oils. The current project at an offshore wind farm was nevertheless a major effort for the special task force and illustrates all the more how important transformer expertise is, especially for renewable energy plants.
The energy generated by the offshore wind farm in question is bundled in a power collection plant in the North Sea and fed into the European transmission grid. A larger repair measure and the replacement of important parts of the transformer were now due. This was technically very complex, as many regulations and standards had to be complied with. The execution also required precise planning, the staff had to operate at the highest technical level and had to be specially trained. Here, neither mistakes in the execution nor missing parts in the procurement were allowed, as the offshore platform is located at a great distance from the mainland and a new procurement was almost impossible.
The EOS experts were responsible for extracting the insulating oil and refilling it under vacuum after the repair and maintenance work. In total, the special teams spent 20 days offshore. Electrical Oil Services was able to prove that it is a reliable and competent partner also in the offshore sector, from the planning of the work, procurement of the required parts and provision of the equipment to the training of the fitters and their diligence and workmanship during the almost three-week assignment.
Energy suppliers need strong partners for sustainable orientation
The energy supply industry has a lot to implement today: its own sustainability strategy, the energy turnaround through the procurement of so-called green energy products or digitalisation. Security of supply remains the top priority, especially in uncertain times - transformers play an outstanding and decisive role in this. For this sensitive area, partner companies are needed that focus on sustainable concepts while offering interlocking services that keep an eye on megatrends and offer practicable and cost-conscious solutions.
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