Energy infrastructure at risk as engineers' concerns overlooked

Less than half of safety and performance improvement recommendations put forward for critical energy infrastructure are fully implemented, new research reveals, greatly increasing the risk of failure, fatality or fire posed by transformers.

This is among the findings of research carried out by MIDEL, which shows that, while safety is perceived to be a top boardroom concern, over half of recommendations are being denied or delayed with cost cited as the key cause in 56% of these decisions. More pressing commercial (38%) and engineering (36%) priorities also score highly. Further, 44% of respondents lack confidence in their board’s ability to properly mitigate transformer-related risk.

Barry Menzies, managing director of MIDEL, says: “In the face of failure, the impact on business continuity and reputation will always far outweigh the cost of mitigating transformer risk. Evaluating risk mitigation recommendations solely on the grounds of capex short-sighted.

“Many improvements – both for safety and for optimisation – have far-reaching benefits that are only properly captured when considering the lifecycle of the improvement.
“Indeed, when factoring in reduced insurance and maintenance costs, as well as improvements to reliability, resiliency and sustainability, many more risk mitigation strategies stack up financially.”

As the world’s transformer fleet ages, and more demands are placed upon them by continued electrification and intermittent renewables, the environment in which transformers operate is increasingly challenging, creating more maintenance issues, overloading and winding failure.

Concurrently, the survey revealed a noticeable shift towards condition-based maintenance, with nearly half of respondents having recommended it to mitigate transformer related risk in the past 12 months. Changes to maintenance regimes (34%) asset replacement (34%), asset repair and reconditioning (32%) and substation upgrade (33%) recommendations were also popular.

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