Blog - SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR

Arnaud Magnier

Vice President at SERGI Transformer Protector

April2017:
The TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) prevents transformer explosions, and thus fire. To ensure such level of safety, SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (SERGI) has been investing for more than twenty years in research, development and testing. Today, with more than 2,800 installations worldwide and a 100 percent success in protecting transformers, the company is also in position to provide customers with a Liability Insurance of 15 Million-Euros.

The SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR company

SERGI has its headquarters in France, near Paris. As of Today, it is a company of more than 100 employees worldwide, operating two entities in France, one in India, one in Brazil, USA of course, and Peru. SERGI has two manufacturing facilities, one in France and the other in the USA. The U.S. facility was established because of the large SERGI customer base in USA and Mexico. SERGI sells approximately 400 TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) per year, averaged over the past three years.

A long journey to the ultimate safety

SERGI was created in the 1950s by Electricité de France (EDF), the French owned electricity generation, transmission and distribution company, which needed a solution for extinguishing fires caused by transformer explosions. At that time, SERGI used to design and manufacture a system called “Drain and Stir” to extinguish transformer fires.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the company decided to invest in preventive technologies to prevent transformer explosions, and thus avoid oil fires. SERGI was a small business of around ten employees then and only few people were dedicated to manufacturing the “Drain and Stir” fire extinguishing system, while the remaining staff were mainly researchers. This solely explain the strong, permanent, outstanding and up-to-date SERGI policy in R&D investments.
In line with this new approach, since 1995 SERGI conducted an intensive R&D program which led in 1999 to the first TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) patent application and the first TP on-site installation was done in Italy one year later.
In France, EDF implemented the TP for the first time in 2007.

As a manufacturer of the former “Drain and Stir” fire extinguishing system, in the 1990s SERGI invested in R&D to develop an efficient solution to prevent transformer explosions, rather than extinguishing oil fires.

Abundance of simulations and prototyping

To first explain the phenomenon, transformers explode primarily because of internal electrical arcs resulting from failure of electrical insulation. When occurring, electrical arcs generate immediately a large gas volume in the sealed transformer tank. These gases produce a first dynamic pressure peak reflecting inside the tank, creating pressure waves. Within milliseconds, the pressure waves superimpose to create static pressure, meaning that pressures become uniformly applied on the entire tank leading to explosion and fire.
Since 1995, SERGI developed its own numerical solvers to simulate the behavior and properties of electrical arcs, the associated gas generation inside transformer oil, first dynamic pressure peak propagation, pressure wave creation and static pressure build up inside transformer tanks. These investigations allowed SERGI to understand the transformer explosion phenomenon and design the TP to be activated, depending on arc location and transformer size, within 0.5 to 20 milliseconds by the first dynamic pressure peak to avoid transformer explosion before static pressure increases.

Over time, the SERGI R&D knowledge on these phenomena has improved significantly, thanks to information gathered during successful TP activations, enabling R&D solvers to steadily improve, resulting in increasingly accurate numerical simulations.


Once the R&D numerical solvers were operational, SERGI decided to perform TP validation tests. These were conducted in two different programs. A first series of 28 live tests was conducted in 2002 at the EDF High Voltage Laboratory, Les Renardières, three years after filing of the patent application.
These 28 live tests were performed on small transformers, but the main objective was to validate the concept only, proving that the TP was functional and depressurizing the transformer before static pressure built-up.

Having validated the concept, the next step was to seek a high voltage laboratory that would accept the ignition of powerful electricals arc inside transformers on live test conditions to observe the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) behavior. CEPEL, the Brazilian High Voltage Laboratory, accepted the SERGI challenge with electrical arcs energies of up to 2.5 Mega Joules. Three different transformers were fitted with the TP and 34 live tests were performed, with several levels of arcs energies in various transformer tank locations to make sure the TP would avoid transformer explosion without tank deformation.
These two successful test campaigns led to a worldwide recognition since no other companies up-to-now has performed such an extensive program. These live tests became a trigger for utilities and transformer owners to fully protect their transformers and update their technical specifications to include the TP. Therefore, between 2002 and 2017, SERGI can claim that the TP is the sole proven solution to prevent transformer explosion and fire.

Risks of transformer explosion

Currently, transformer explosions and fires are common occurrences. An article published by the “German Federal Ministry for Nuclear Safety and Nature Conservation” refers to two main transformer explosions every day in the USA only, ref. “Reliability of Main Transformers, H.P. Berg, N. Fritze, RT&A # 01 (20), (Vol.2) March 2011”.
There are many negative factors and consequences related to transformer explosions. One of the main risks is the power outage, complete plant destruction, human injuries and lethal consequences. Recently, there was a case in Nepal where two people died because of a transformer explosion. In another case, ten people died and nearly 200 were injured in Saudi Arabia due to the fire caused by a short circuit involving a transformer. There are hundreds of similar cases.
Environmental issues are another important risk and efforts to avoid pollution caused by the spreading of oil. For example, in the USA, a utility was fined several hundred million USDs because of the oil spillage into an adjacent river. Finally, the question of reputation for the utilities is also important; obviously, companies would like to avoid publicity linked to explosions, oil fire and pollution.

The TP lifetime liability coverage has been multiplied by a factor of 30 over 10 last years, up to 15 Million EUR, because the TP lifetime coverage had never been activated, meaning the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR has never failed.
We help our customers avoid severe consequences relating to transformer explosions, such as loss of production, human injuries and lethal consequences, environmental pollution, etc.


In this regard, it is worth mentioning that all TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR commissioned by SERGI come with a TP lifetime Liability Insurance of 15 Million EUR. From 500,000 EUR when first set; the TP lifetime liability coverage has been multiplied by a factor of 30 over 10 last years because the TP lifetime coverage had never been activated, meaning the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR has never failed.


As of today, twenty-three TP activations have been reported, meaning that these transformers were prevented from explosion and even more critical consequences. Ten cases happened in the last three years, and two are very recent, one in Namibia (to be disclosed soon), the other in Kazakhstan. NamPower, the Namibian utility, has already provided SERGI with a Certificate of Successful Activation. For Kazakhstan, we are yet to receive an official certificate from the end-user.
We emphasize that up to now all transformers were back to service after a TP activation.

The TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR has a lifetime at least as long as the transformer it is protecting. The requirements for maintenance are based on transformer shut down with the replacement of critical parts scheduled at the same time.

Why do customers come to us?

There are three typical channels customers get in touch with SERGI. The most common is following a recommendation from the client’s insurance broker. An interesting case is an on-going project in France in the nuclear sector.

It is very common that customers approach us following a recommendation from their insurance company


Another common case is when SERGI is approached by companies willing to reduce the risk of transformer explosions. For example, we have installed several units at ArcelorMittal’s steelworks. According to ArcelorMittal, a transformer explosion leads to a subsequent loss of production, which results in losses of USD Millions per day. Compared to the TP cost investment, it is obvious that protecting the transformers with the TP is cost-effective.
The third channel appears to be a direct contact with utilities for inclusion of the TP in their technical specifications. In this case, usually companies are performing a risk assessment and the most critical transformers are protected first. Obviously, utilities which have experienced transformer explosions are more willing to learn about transformer protection because they are fully aware of all consequences. Customers with such experiences are very interested in learning more about the SERGI research and the TP technology.

What else can SERGI provide?

The SERGI core business philosophy is to continuously develop our understanding and quantification of all phenomena pertaining to electrical arcs inside transformer oil and their consequences on transformer tank rupture. As customers are increasingly aware of SERGI’s experience in this domain, the SERGI Research Department (RD) is often call for investigations, mainly by companies having experienced transformer explosions or transformers fleets vulnerable to failure. In this case, the SERGI RD simulates the transformer faults and propose solutions based on Fluid Structure Interaction simulations. Often, these simulations lead to customer technical specification modifications for transformer design and related equipment.
The subsequent SERGI activity is the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) design and manufacturing. SERGI can also provide supervision and maintenance services and, upon client request, extend to turn-key projects, but SERGI is mainly a research, engineering and manufacturing company.
In a variety of countries around the world, end-users susceptible to transformer failures request SERGI to approve the TP position and configuration on their transformers because of the safety the TP provides. Therefore, SERGI uses its R&D numerical solvers, to ensure that the provided protection is correctly sized and positioned for each transformer.
The TP positioning and location is decided on a case-to-case basis. When installing the TP on a new transformer, SERGI works directly with transformer manufacturers to select the best sizing and locations. On existing transformers, the configuration is adapted based on the available manholes or openings. For example, in some cases it is not possible to adapt the TP ideal configuration, so this may require installation of additional Depressurization Sets on transformer to make sure that we can achieve the most reliable solution to ensure that the TP will depressurize the transformer before static pressure increases.
Whenever SERGI deals with configurations never simulated in the past, the Research Department uses “in-house” simulation software to calculate and identify an ideal sizing and configuration for the TP installation. However, having protected more than 2,800 transformers so far, the need for such simulations is much less frequent than before, leading to reduced delivery time.

Future prospects

Currently, the SERGI Research and Development Departments are developing new products similar to the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR, which are intended for smaller transformers. The TP current design is not very suitable for small transformers. This new product has already been installed in some end-user sites and is planned to be launched at global scale shortly.

SERGI is developing new products similar to the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR for small transformers




In the medium-term, SERGI is looking at expanding and increasing its worldwide network by establishing branches in different countries. For example, in Africa, Middle East, and some Asian countries. Another key of success is to pass the FM Global Certification started by SERGI several years ago. This is a long process due to the lack of standards for transformer protection. Well-known insurance companies can also perform product accreditation.
It is also important to highlight that the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR concept has been recognized by the National Fire Protection Association and included in the NFPA editions since 2005 as part of their 850 civil codes. This was an important achievement in the last decade.

Biography

Arnaud Magnier joined SERGI in 2006. Previous to joining Sergi, he worked for EADS (the European Aerospace and Defense Group, nowadays Airbus) and AREVA subsidiaries. His background is in engineering.

INTERVIEW OF SERGI TP TO TRANSFORMER MAGAZINEDownload a copy of INTERVIEW OF SERGI TP TO TRANSFORMER MAGAZINE(English)

Press Release

January2017:
Transformer explosions and fires are very damaging and frequent. Many experts anticipate that the number of failures per year will increase significantly in the near future because of the shorter duration life.

Transformer explosions and fires create costly environmental pollution, repairs, plant outages, and are a risk to human lives.

From May 3, 2013 to the present, the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) successfully prevented ten large transformer explosions and fires on:

  • May 3, 2013, in the Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant in Russia on a 400MVA transformer;
  • May 14, 2013, in the Adolfo Lopez Mateos Power plant, Mexico, on a 450MVA transformer;
  • May 14, 2013, in the Saliyah Super Sub-Station in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer
  • June 12, 2013, in the Umm Al Amad Super Station, in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer;
  • July 20, 2013, in the Lusail Development Super 2 Station, also in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer;
  • August 9, 2013, in the Salto Santiago Hydro Power Plant, Brazil, on a 250MVA transformer.
  • August 29, 2013, in the Altamira Substation, Mexico, on a 125MVA transformer.
  • September 23, 2015, Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant in Russia on a 400MVA transformer.
  • February 25, 2016, in the Zambezi Substation on a 315MVA transformer.
  • November 09, 2016, in the “Aeroport-Novaya” substation in Kazakhstan on a 63MVA transformer.

In all 10 cases, the TP has prevented the transformers from explosion and fire; no leaks or permanent tank deformation occurred, ultimately saving the transformers, which are under restoration and will be all back in service soon.

Click here to request more information about our Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant activation.

10 LATEST SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP)  ACTIVATIONS REPORTEDDownload a copy of this Press Release in PDF format (English)

10 LATEST SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP)  ACTIVATIONS REPORTEDDownload a copy of NamPower TP activation certificate PDF format(English)

ABOUT THE TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR

The TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR is the only proven solution against transformer explosion and fire. The TP complies with NFPA codes 850, which recommend Fast Depressurization Systems for all Power Plants and Substations. There are currently over 2,100 TP installations worldwide.

The TP is activated within 0.5 to 20 milliseconds, depending on arc locations and transformer size, by the first dynamic pressure peak of the shock wave, avoiding transformer explosions before static pressure increases.

Contact Information
186 Avenue du Général de Gaulle
Achères, 78260 FRANCE
+33(0)1.39.22.48.40
marketing@sergi-tp.com
www.sergi-tp.com

Mr. Volkmar Gauger, Power Supply Manager at VEO GmbH accepted to answer our questions, following the successful installation of the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR in Eisenhüttenstadt.

The company overview

ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt aims for maximum efficiency. The steelworks in Eisenhüttenstadt is among the most energy-efficient production sites in the ArcelorMittal Group. Vulkan Energiewirtschaft Oderbrücke (VEO) GmbH operates a power plant in Eisenhüttenstadt that uses furnace gases from ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt’s pig iron and steel production (so-called furnace gas streaming) for the environmentally-friendly combined generation of heat and electricity.

How did you get in touch with SERGI?

The VEO GmbH is, among other things, responsible of the safe operation, servicing, and maintenance of approximatively 500 transformers within the entire metallurgical complex of ArcelorMittal at Eisenhüttenstadt.

At the end of September, 2014, our company held a seminar on transformer life expectancy and improvement of operational safety. During this seminar, Ms. Dutertre of SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (STP) very clearly presented the consequences of fires and explosions in oil-filled transformers caused by internal arcing faults. We were also presented with information on the protection system that SERGI developed to eliminate the risks of explosions and to prevent oil fires, the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP).

“I immediately thought of the possible devastation inside the steel plant in case of a damage to our ladle furnace transformer with its 15 tons of oil.”

Has there ever been a transformer explosion at ArcelorMittal and if so what were the consequences?

From what I have heard, there was a transformer fire in our plant in the 1950’s.

As an industrial engineer, I myself experienced the consequences of a 110 kV oil converter burnout in 1993. An arc was formed in the interior of the combi-transducer because of ferroresonance; the resulting buildup of pressure led to the explosion of the 400 liter oil-filler converter.

The entire 110 kV switch panel was destroyed. The fire spread to adjacent equipment, causing a power failure and significant damage to the switchgear building. The heat evolved from the fire melted the insulators of the bus bars together which then collapsed. The desoldered pipes of the compressed air generation system fueled the acceleration of the fire –

“I would not like to experience such an accident with considerable damage again!”

Can you tell us the reason or reasons why you chose the TP?

The reason is the major potential impact of an accident:

SERGI retrofitted a 30 MVA transformer with the TP. This transformer supplies an electric ladle furnace in the converter steelworks of ArcelorMittal. This transformer is exposed to high dynamic stresses and fatigue due to frequent shutdowns and starts.

Furthermore, the location of the transformer presents a high potential danger. It is located between 2 converters, in very close proximity to the ladle furnace inside the steel mill. This risky location is unavoidable since a very high current rate of up to 40 kA is needed.

The transformer room is at a height of 4 m and lies directly above the 10 kV oven switchgear, the control room with the transformer protection and control panel, and the hydraulic chamber. A building wall in the direction of a large exhaust pipe consists only of thin gypsum boards. Personnel working in the furnace control station are within the same building at the level of this transformer.

Transformer fault risk can never be eliminated even though we regularly inspect the transformer on site,the manufacturer performs maintenance on the load tap changers depending on the number of switching cycles, and we periodically check the protective devices, and analyze the insulation oil and thermos-vision measurements.

“A transformer explosion would have catastrophic consequences; risks to human health and safety cannot be excluded.”

That is why SERGI could convince us by providing not only theoretical and scientific publications, but also laboratory test results, as well as references to their “know-how” in the field of high energy transformer faults.

Can you give us the various key facts on this project?

Since the TP was a new technology for us, we first looked at reference projects in March 2015. Specifically, we visited a TP installation in EDF Hydroelectric power plant in France and talked to the team involved with the explosion protection equipment.

Afterwards, we provided details to SERGI, as requested in their questionnaire, describing both the technical features of our transformer and our specific wishes for the execution of the project.

SERGI then developed a preliminary project study based on this information and proposed a budget.

After a successful technical and commercial study, in September 2015 we commissioned the retrofitting of the ladle furnace transformer with the TP at; the components were produced in the year after the submission and confirmation of the design documentation.

It was challenging for us find and agree with steel production on a time window for the furnace shutdown to retrofit with the TP. We succeeded in convincing the responsible persons from the steelworks of the importance of the project; in March 2016, a 10-day halt in production was approved.

What were the technical challenges with this project and how were they solved?

The main challenge was the very small time window for the completion of the project. We had stopped the ladle furnace in order to install the explosion protection. We took advantage of the necessary shutdown to do further maintenance, including replacement of the three tap changer diverters, revision of the three tap changer selectors inside the transformer, maintenance of the 10 kV switchgear, and the renewal of the entire transformer protection and control panel.

Six companies with about 30 employees had to be coordinated simultaneously in a tight space
– all while the production of steel continued in the neighboring converters.
To meet the tight schedule, certain components, such as the TP Control Box, the Inert Gas Cabinet and the Explosion Gases Evacuation Pipes were installed in advance of the actual project start and necessary wall breaks were prepared. Standard stainless steel tubes were used to save time rather than carbon steel pipes which require painting and internal coating. The manhole plate for the connection to the transformer vessel and the oil / gas separation tank was also prefabricated.

Thanks to the good partnership and cooperation of all companies involved in the project, the organization of a multi-shift work schedule to overcome the spatial constraints, and the professional guidance by a SERGI supervisor who had worked on the project since its preliminary stage, the transformer could be put back into service on time for production after 10 days.
Something important for us: all work was accident-free!

To whom would you recommend the TP?

Particularly for applications of oil-filled transformers, in which personal injury cannot be ruled out in case of accident.

We also recommend the TP where high demands are placed on the reliability of the power supply and also in the case where a company lacks a replacement transformer and would be financially impacted following the loss of a transformer due to an electrical fault.

Are you planning further projects with the TP?

In 2014, we put a new block into operation at our gas power plant and switched off several old inefficient steam generators and turbines; but we do not have a replacement for the 70 MVA block transformer of the generator.

The retrofit of this transformer with an explosion protection from SERGI protects us in the “worst case” against a long-term production loss and provides us with a cost-effective alternative to the purchase of a replacement transformer.

This project is planned for the coming year.

We are excited to provide you with more information about how the transformer protector works. Please click here to contact us for more information.

Download Interview with VEO / ArcelorMittalDownload a copy of this Interview in PDF format (English)

Download Interview with VEO / ArcelorMittalDownload a copy of this Interview in PDF format (German)

Press Release

Houston, Texas, November 20, 2015:
Transformer explosions and fires are very damaging and frequent. A recent one-year research project* led to the discovery of 730 transformer explosions in the USA only. Many experts anticipate that the number of failures per year will increase significantly in the near future because of the shorter duration life.

Transformer explosions and fires create costly environmental pollution, repairs, plant outages, and are a risk to human lives.

From May 3, 2013 to the present, the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR (TP) successfully prevented seven large transformer explosions and fires across three continents on:

  • May 3, 2013, in the Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant in Russia on a 400MVA transformer;
  • May 14, 2013, in the Adolfo Lopez Mateos Power plant, Mexico, on a 450MVA transformer;
  • May 14, 2013, in the Saliyah Super Sub-Station in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer
  • June 12, 2013, in the Umm Al Amad Super Station, in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer;
  • July 20, 2013, in the Lusail Development Super 2 Station, also in Qatar on an 800MVA transformer;
  • August 9, 2013, in the Salto Santiago Hydro Power Plant, Brazil, on a 250MVA transformer.
  • August 29, 2013, in the Altamira Substation, Mexico, on a 125MVA transformer.
  • September 23, 2015, Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant in Russia on a 400MVA transformer.

In all 8 cases, the TP has prevented the transformers from explosion and fire; no leaks or permanent tank deformation occurred, ultimately saving the transformers, which are under restoration and will be all back in service soon.

*H.‐P. Berg, N. Fritze, reliability of main transformers (Vol.2), March 2011

Click here to request more information about our Boguchanskaya Hydro Power Plant activation.

Download 8 Successful Transformer Protector Activations ReportedDownload a copy of this Press Release in PDF format (English)

Download 8 Successful Transformer Protector Activations ReportedDownload a copy of this Press Release in PDF format (Spanish)

ABOUT THE TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR

The TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR is the only proven solution against transformer explosion and fire. The TP complies with NFPA codes 850, which recommend Fast Depressurization Systems for all Power Plants and Substations. There are currently over 2,100 TP installations worldwide.

The TP is activated within 0.5 to 20 milliseconds, depending on arc locations and transformer size, by the first dynamic pressure peak of the shock wave, avoiding transformer explosions before static pressure increases.

Contact Information
186 Avenue du Général de Gaulle
Achères, 78260 FRANCE
+33(0)1.39.22.48.40
marketing@sergi-tp.com
www.sergi-tp.com

Press Release

Houston, Texas Octobre 2, 2014:
Transformer explosions and fires are very damaging and frequent. A recent one-year research project* led to the discovery of [ Read More… ]