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A2-201

CIGRE 2008

STRATEGIES TO REPLACE, REFURBISH, REPAIR AND UPGRADE POWER TRANSFORMERS: THE SPANISH EXPERIENCE. M. OLIVA(*), M. A. del REY, A. MARN ABB J. I. ANGUAS, S. QUINTN Red Elctrica de Espaa (REE)

M. J. LAPEIRA, J. MENA Central Nuclear de Almaraz Spain

SUMMARY
Different strategies to replace, repair, refurbish and upgrade power transformers and the Spanish experience in this field are presented, covering both high voltage transmission and generator step up applications. Those include repair and refurbishment operations on site and in manufacturing facilities, the alternative to replace windings of existing units to increase the power output and to reduce load losses, the use of standardized units, universal transformers and multi-voltage polytransformers for contingency planning and the progressive re-powering on site of the main transformers in a nuclear power plant. When deciding the best alternative to replace, refurbish or repair a transformer, several factors need to be considered, especially the cost and time to accomplish the work, but also the kind of defect or fault, the age and type of transformer, the possible technical alternatives and the associated risks. Refurbish or retrofit a transformer provides cost advantages related to reusing existing materials. Some retrofit and repair examples are presented including change of windings with the benefit of reutilization of the core and tank. The repair of a power transformer in a manufacturing facility is a good alternative, especially when the dimensions and weight allow transportation by road, implying a quick and reasonable cost solution for shipment. Performing on site repair works is a different option with similar reliable and quality results, requiring an adequate preparation and conditioning of the environment, special equipment, processes, testing and experienced personnel. The main advantages related to on site repair works are shorter repair time and lower cost when compared to shipment to a repair location, especially for bigger size transformers. The circumstances existing in each particular case will determine the optimum alternative but an adequate contingency planning and a proper policy of spares, considering the strategic importance and risk of the transformer, simplify the decision process and help to achieve satisfactory results, minimizing the cost and time of unavailability.

KEYWORDS
Power - Transformer - Maintenance - Reliability - Repair - Contingency - Spare - Polytransformer

(*)

miguel.oliva@es.abb.com

1 INTRODUCTION
There are different life assessment techniques which are used nowadays to know or estimate the individual condition of the transformers, allowing an identification of those particular units that, either because of their age or their service conditions and operating life, are closer to the end of life or have higher risk of failure. That information along with the relative importance of the units are used to define and carry out specific maintenance programs, follow-up activities and contingency planning for replacement or repair. There are also different monitoring and diagnostic techniques that can be used to follow up the condition of a particular transformer either in service (on-line) or during an outage (off-line). The main objectives of the life assessment techniques combined with specific maintenance programs are to maximize the transformer effective service life and to anticipate possible malfunctions or even a failure that could lead to a forced outage and the subsequent urgent substitution, especially in critical units. Those objectives are normally included in global asset management programs focused to improve the availability of equipment and the reliability of the systems while optimizing investments, having in mind an economic perspective to maximize the operation of existing units, to reduce costs in general and, in particular, those associated to forced outages or failures. In some cases, anticipation is possible and a replacement of units close to their end of life is programmed according to diagnostic and condition assessment evaluations. In other cases, that anticipated replacement is not accomplished, either because an incorrect or non existent diagnostic, an external incident or because a sudden deteriorating condition leading to start making the necessary arrangements to apply a contingency plan. When performing a planned replacement of a transformer, a new or a spare unit can be used depending on the reasons behind the substitution. Different alternatives could be considered for the old or faulty transformer including scrapping, repairing, retrofitting or refurbishing to new. The use of redundant or spare transformers is one of the most frequent contingency plans, especially to cope with non planned situations. When the transformer that is having problems or had a failure is taken out of service or replaced, an evaluation of the different alternatives is carried out, including purchasing a new transformer, using a spare or repairing the faulty unit. The contingency planning and the final decision are normally driven by economical and cost considerations considering the type of application and the strategic importance of the transformer. One of the strategies followed today by the industry to cope with contingency planning is to have standardized units, universal transformers and multi-voltage polytransformers. That strategy simplifies the policy related to spares, providing higher availability of units for replacement while optimizing and reducing investments. Having standardized transformers that are interchangeable simplifies the installation projects and gives more alternatives in case of contingency. The universal transformers also provide more flexibility, minimizing the number of spare units. Several factors are considered when deciding the best alternative to replace, refurbish or repair a transformer. Although the cost is one of the main aspects, there are others that play an important role like the strategic importance of the unit, the lead time to accomplish the work (new transformer compared to repair or refurbishment), the available technical capabilities or restrictions and the associated risk. Other considerations taken into account are the age, the defect or damage, the type of transformer and the power and voltage ratings. In most of the cases, the lead time to accomplish the work drives the final decision, particularly if the time to have ready a new unit is very long. In case of a critical transformer, that decision needs to minimize the time of unavailability, particularly if a spare unit is not available. 2

Today, there are equipment, technical means and expertise to perform a repair or retrofit on site of any type of power transformer (core or shell) with total guarantee of the final result. This on site repair option has other advantages related to shorter lead times, avoidance of transportation risks and lower total cost. In this context, the optimum alternative will depend on each particular case taking into account any special circumstance. An adequate contingency planning considering the strategic importance and risk of the transformers, including a policy about spare units and updated and standardized transportation and installation projects, simplifies the work of the decision makers and help to minimize the time of unavailability and all the associated costs. The Spanish experience on this field is presented both in transmission and in generator step up applications, describing different strategies to replace, repair, refurbish and upgrade power transformers with practical examples and advantages: (1) Repair and refurbishment of transformers in a manufacturing facility: The repair of a series of 200MVA single phase, 400/230kV, shell form autotransformers is presented. New windings were installed in the units. The use of advanced design tools allowed a reduction of the load losses. (2) Repair and refurbishment of transformers on site: The refurbishment of a 600MVA three phase, 400/230kV, shell form autotransformer is presented. The unit was retrofitted on site, including an inspection and evaluation of the condition of the windings. The repair decision was driven by the cost of transportation and the need to reduce the total repair time. (3) Use of standardized units, universal transformers and multi-voltage polytransformers: The main advantages of using that kind of transformers as spare or in contingency planning are presented including some practical examples like the experience of Red Electrica (REE) or the use of spare multi-voltage universal generator step up transformers in combined cycle power plants in Spain. REE, the Spanish utility owning and operating the high voltage transmission system, has standardized transformers. Those standard single phase transformer banks are normally equipped with preinstalled redundant spare units. The availability of spare transformers is high since all the standard units are interchangeable. REE has also multi-voltage polytransformers that could be used as spare in many different substations and that have been already used in contingency situations even by other utilities. (4) Refurbishment and re-powering of step up transformers in generating and nuclear power plants: The unavailability of the main step up transformer in a power plant implies the loss of generation and all the associated costs. Therefore, both an adequate contingency plan and a life management program are very important. In nuclear power plants, an additional aspect related to the increase of generation capacity is the alternative to upgrade the transformers, either by purchasing new units with higher power output having the same physical dimensions or re-powering the existing ones performing a change of windings. The experience of Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant is presented. This nuclear generating plant is progressively refurbishing and re-powering their 345MVA, 420/21kV single phase main transformers. One new unit was manufactured and other existing unit was first re-powered to 400MVA by changing windings and performing all type testing in a manufacturing facility. After that, the following transformers are being refurbished and re-powered on site including change of windings and high voltage dielectric testing with partial discharge measurements. This strategy presents advantages related to not disturbing the operations, the availability of spares and the total cost. 3

2 REPAIR AND REFURBISHMENT IN A MANUFACTURING FACILITY


Repair or refurbish a transformer in a manufacturing facility is the alternative that can be first thought about since all the manufacturing, processing and testing resources are available as could be for a new unit. As indicated in the introduction, additional considerations need to be taken into account, but normally the decision is driven by time and cost considerations. The repair of a series of 200MVA single phase, 400/230kV, shell form autotransformers of REE is presented. In this case, because of being single phase units, their size and weight allowed shipment by road resulting in a quick transportation at a reasonable cost. The original design was made in the late sixties and different units of that series have been repaired after failure because end of life that determined the need to substitute the windings. This alternative compared to a new transformer, considering that the transportation cost is reasonable, implies cost savings since the core, tank, cooling equipment and some components can be reused. By providing new windings and retrofitting or substituting some old components like the bushings, the transformer can be refurbished to a condition similar to a new unit with equivalent life expectancy. When the original design information is known, a new winding design can even be prepared in parallel with the disassembly operations and transportation allowing a reduction of the total repair time. Higher reduction can also be achieved if there is an existing updated winding design, like in this series of transformers, allowing a lead time, in this particular case, for all the repair process of 4-5 months including transportation. As indicated, new windings were installed in the units. The use of advanced design tools and rules allowed conceiving a new winding design with lower load losses. The load losses were in the range of 380kW in the original design and were reduced to 305kW in the new design, implying a 20% reduction. Considering that the core losses were 69kW, the overall total losses reduction is a 17%. A 45% of the load losses reduction was achieved by reducing the current density and lowering the resistance losses and the other 55% was a reduction of the eddy and circulating current losses. The figure below shows a leakage flux plotting of the transformer with updated new windings as an example of use of advanced design tools.

Figure 1: Use of advanced design tools to design new windings for retrofit.

In summary, the repair or refurbishment of a power transformer in a manufacturing facility is a good alternative, especially when the dimensions and weight of the unit allow transportation by road, implying a quick and reasonable cost solution for shipment. The change of windings and the re-use of the core, tank and some components provide a cost saving alternative while having a similar to new life expectancy. Using advanced design tools allows a general improvement of the winding design, leading to overall reduction of load losses. A reduction of the total lead time can be achieved by having available the original design information that could imply total repair times in the range of 4-5 months including transportation. 4

3 REPAIR AND REFURBISHMENT ON SITE


Repair or retrofit power transformers on site is an alternative that is becoming a common practice because it provides a reduced cost solution, shorter repair time and reliable results, especially in bigger transformers where the cost and time of the transportation could be significant. Field repairs provide a proved quality and reliability of the final result that is achieved because of improvements and new developments of on site practices and testing capabilities allowing to follow the same kind of processes than in a manufacturing facility. A key aspect is to choose an appropriate location to perform the repair and its adequate conditioning to have a clean and controlled environment. The process also requires the availability of heavy lifting capacity, special equipment and tools and the use of experienced and skilled teams of technicians. In locations where a repair shop is not available, the ground in a clear and open area could be carefully conditioned and a portable tent assembled to provide the right environment and space to proceed with the repair operations. Different type of retrofit works can be performed on site in all types of transformers (shell and core), starting from an inspection up to a complete disassembly and replacement of the windings. In case of installing new windings, these are manufactured and processed in a transformer factory and carefully shipped to site. That provides an important time advantage if the original design information is available because it allows re-designing and manufacturing new windings in parallel with the preparations and disassembly operations implying a significant reduction of the repair time or even allowing manufacturing new windings before taking a unit out of service for a programmed outage and replacement. Hot oil spray processing or low frequency heating are two of the most efficient drying techniques that are used during on site repairs to provide an adequate dryness condition of the insulation. Concerning testing, it is not possible to perform full set of tests but there are alternatives, in addition to normal commissioning, to provide high voltage induced testing with partial discharge measurements using mobile equipment to check the final result of the repair. A retrofit work in a 600MVA three phase, 400/230kV, shell form autotransformer is presented. The unit was producing a high level of gasses that forced an outage to find and solve the cause of the problem. Because of the size and shipping weight of the transformer implying a very important cost and time of transportation, the decision was to perform an inspection and evaluation on the field. The cost and especially the time were critical to make that decision. As a result of the inspection, the origin of the gassing was found to be a hot spot caused by stray flux effects in some internal areas of the tank. The windings and the core were not found to be the cause of the gas generation. The problem was solved adding magnetic shielding to the hot spot areas. A general external conditioning of the unit was also made. All the disassembly, inspection, repair and retrofit operations were performed in three months allowing the unit to go back in service. A couple of pictures are shown below to illustrate that on site repair.

Figure 2: On site retrofit of a 600MVA, 400kV shell type autotransformer.

The main advantages of performing on site repair works are a reduced cost and shorter repair time when compared to shipment to a different repair location, especially for bigger size transformers. 5

There are other important aspects that need to be pointed out which are the possibility to follow the same process than in a manufacturing facility by an adequate conditioning of the environment, the need of special equipment and skilled and experienced technicians, the possibility to perform all type of retrofit operations including change of windings, the dry-out processing techniques and the alternative to perform high voltage dielectric testing with partial discharge measurements.

4 STANDARDIZED, UNIVERSAL AND MULTI-VOLTAGE TRANSFORMERS


One of the strategies followed by the industry to manage contingency planning is to have standardized units, universal transformers and multi-voltage polytransformers. That strategy simplifies the spare transformer policy and provides higher availability of spare units while optimizing and reducing investments. The availability of spare transformers as a contingency planning is important because it allows a quick substitution in case of problems to later decide what need to be done with the faulty unit, either to be replaced, repaired or refurbished. The use of standardized transformers is being particularly applied to high voltage transmission systems. Having standardized units provides several advantages starting with the interchangeability and simplification of the design and installation projects. The use of polytransformers and universal spare transformers is being applied to both generation plants and to high voltage transmission systems, giving more flexibility to prepare contingency planning and minimizing the number of spare units. In Spain, the use of multi-voltage universal generator step up transformers has been applied in different combined cycle power plants built in recent years. Having an adequate contingency plan including a spare transformer for a power plant is a critical aspect considering the cost associated to the loss of generation in case of a transformer problem and considering the long delivery times for new units. Having a universal transformer designed to substitute several units in different power plants, being mechanical and electrically compatible provides additional advantages related to cost. In the case of the Spanish combined cycle power plants, it has been possible to conceive four different universal spares units to cover 23, out of 44 total transformers (52%), and 16, out of 25 Power Plants (64%), for 3 different utilities.

Figure 3: Combined cycle power plants in Spain.

The experience of REE, the Spanish utility owner of the high voltage transmission system, is also presented below. They have standardized single phase transformer banks normally equipped with preinstalled redundant spare units. The availability of spare transformers is high since all the standard 6

units are interchangeable. They have also multi-voltage three phase polytransformers that could be used as spare in many different substations. REE have followed a standardization process of their 400kV single phase transformer banks (3x200MVA). Before 1985, there were many different 200MVA single phase transformers in Spain owned by other utilities with different requirements and specifications. REE took care of all those transformers belonging to the high voltage transmission network and, in a first stage, defined a specification for 400kV, 3x200MVA banks with some different characteristics, as the tertiary voltage and the regulation margin and steps, depending on the geographical area. In a second stage, REE considered to have a standardized 400kV, 3x200MVA bank design to cover all the needs of the 400kV transmission network. A project to define and standardize that 200MVA transformer to be used in future new banks, allowing also substitution of any of the existing units was carried out. Those standard 200MVA single phase autotransformers to interconnect the 400kV and 230kV Spanish transmission networks solved all compatibility constraints and were units functionally, electrically and mechanically interchangeable with the majority of the other existing transformers. They could also work in an existing three phase bank or be used to form a new one to operate alone or in parallel with existing banks. They have some other characteristics like standardized components and location of accessories, multi-voltage tertiary winding with three selectable voltage levels and programmable PLC to allow paralleling with other banks or units having different regulating range or steps. The standardization has several advantages meaning simple projects from engineering to installation. One of the main benefits is the possibility to have always one bank available either for new projects or for contingency purposes. Delivery times of new transformers are significantly lower. The drawings and documentation are available from the beginning of the project and it is also easier to follow up the manufacturing process and the acceptance tests. There are benefits from the point of view of transportation making simpler and quicker all shipping arrangements allowing the re-use of previous projects or permits. There are also significant advantages for maintenance and contingency planning since all transformers could be defined also as spare units allowing a reduction of the investment in spares for the same quality of service, the maintenance tasks can be simplified implying a cost reduction and the problems could be more repeatable making easier to anticipate and solve them. The standardization of the spare parts also allows an important reduction in their quantity and therefore in the cost. REE had also the need of having three phase spare transformers to interconnect their 400kV, 230kV and 132kV-110kV systems, mainly as a contingency plan in case of emergency and especially in some critical substations. The minimum requirements for that spare unit were to have a three phase autotransformer with the maximum power rating that could make simpler the transportation to have it readily available for several substations. There were other important features including a compact design, multiple voltage ratings at the high voltage, low voltage and tertiary side and minimum installation dimensions and standardized external components. The transformer was also made dimensionally compatible with other different existing designs installed in the system. The final unit is a 500MVA, 400-230/230-132-110-107kV three phase polytransformer. REE has already eight polytransformers installed or allocated as spares following their contingency plans. A significant number of those units have been even shipped to a different substation than originally planned. Because of their multi-functionality, some of those transformers have been leased to other Spanish utilities to attend contingencies. The multifunctional characteristic allowing substitution of other existing transformers is an advantage of having those units for contingency or even as a valuable asset. Some of the results obtained because of the transformers standardization process have been an improved reliability implying better network service, an enhancement of processes and manufacturing quality, a simplification of the overall project from procurement to installation, more efficient contingency planning and higher availability of spare units. 7

5 REFURBISHMENT AND RE-POWERING OF STEP UP TRANSFORMERS IN GENERATING AND NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
The unavailability of the main step up transformer in a power plant implies the loss of generation and all the associated costs. Therefore, both an adequate contingency plan including spare units and a life management program are very important. The Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant is progressively refurbishing and re-powering their 345MVA, 420/21kV single phase transformers. They have two generating groups formed originally by two banks of three single phase units and one spare (seven in total). Those transformers were about 25 years of service life and the increased generation capacity of the nuclear plant implied to make a decision about them to match the greater power output of the generators. Other considerations were taken into account like anticipating future problems in the existing units as they were getting older and to have a decrease of the operating temperatures to allow longer life expectancy matching the expected lifetime of the nuclear plant. Different alternatives were evaluated including purchasing completely new transformers or upgrading them in a transformer factory to finally decide to retrofit and re-power on site the existing units. Some of the reasons considered were: To maintain the same transformers and therefore exactly the same dimensions to avoid changes or modifications in the connections or interface with the power plant. The auxiliary equipment, protections and controls were also kept the same. There was no need to change maintenance procedures and activities avoiding possible human related problems with the new units. The total cost was lower when compared to new transformers, maintaining the quality, reliability and life expectancy, based in reutilization of existing materials and savings related to transportation. The risk of incidents or damages during transportation was completely eliminated and also the possible uncertainty related to delays during shipment. There were some disadvantages mainly related not to be able to perform all testing on site that was addressed when developing the action plan for substitution and re-powering. A plan for progressive substitution and upgrading was defined. It was decided to re-power the existing transformers from 345MVA to 400MVA and completely refurbish them to new including a change of bushings. The advanced design tools existing today allowed conceiving a new winding package with upgraded capacity to replace the existing windings. Since there were two single phase banks with three units and one spare for both banks, one new upgraded unit was purchased identical to the other transformers but already with 400MVA output to have one spare unit per three phase bank that could allow a progressive substitution of two units at a time. Doing that during the next planned outages implied a progressively upgrade of all units without impact in the operations of the power plant, always maintaining a spare transformer ready. That also solved the problem of type testing since the new transformer was completely tested and validated at the manufacturer factory.

Figure 4: On site re-powering, retrofit and testing operations.

In summary, the plan was conceived not to have an impact in the operations of the power plant and to always maintain the availability of one spare unit. After purchasing a new upgraded unit as a spare, the 8

existing spare was upgraded on site. Then, in the next planned outage, those two upgraded units substituted two of the existing units. Two spares were again available to be upgraded successively to maintain availability of one unit until the next planned outage when a new double substitution is done to continue with the process. The end of this sequential process is to have all eight units up-rated having two spare transformers. An important and detailed coordination and preparation work is needed to accomplish successfully that type of action plan, including making all the arrangements for the on site retrofit work between outages. The total time to perform the upgrading of one unit is about 4-5 months considering that the new winding packages are already manufactured and ready when needed for assembly providing one of the main advantages of this type of on site operations that is the reduction of the time of unavailability of the unit being retrofitted. It is important to point out that the on site retrofit work requires a preparation and conditioning of the working area to have a clean environment, in this case using a pressurized tent. It also requires heavy lifting capacity, special equipment and tools and the use of experienced and skilled teams of technicians. After the retrofit works, the units are commissioned and an induced test with partial discharge measurements is done. Today, a total of four units have been already retrofitted and tested on site and have been installed back in service with satisfactory results.

6 CONCLUSIONS
Different representative examples of the Spanish experience related to replacement, refurbishment to new, repair and upgrade of power transformers have been presented, including operations on site or in manufacturing facilities, the use of standardized units, universal transformers or multi-voltage polytransformers to support contingency plans and the alternative to replace windings in existing units by using advanced design tools to increase the power output or reduce load losses. Several factors need to be considered when deciding the best alternative, being normally the cost and the lead time the most important. There are also other aspects like the importance of the unit, the defect or failure, the age and type of transformer, the available alternatives and the associated risk that have an influence in the final decision. The option to refurbish a transformer implies cost advantages related to reutilization of existing materials. Some retrofit examples have been presented implying change of windings with the advantage of the cost savings associated to reutilization of the core, tank and some fittings. When replacing the windings of existing transformers, the use of advanced design tools allow to a general improvement of the winding design and could lead to an overall reduction of load losses or to higher power rating. The change of windings together with a general refurbishment of the main components like the bushings provides satisfactory results and a life expectancy equivalent to a new transformer. When refurbishing a unit, especially during on site operations, there are advantages related to the total time of unavailability if compared to delivery times of new transformers. If the windings are going to be changed and the original design information is available, that could even imply further reduction of the total lead time. The repair or refurbishment of a power transformer in a manufacturing facility is a good option, especially when the dimensions and weight of the unit allow transportation by road, implying a quick and reasonable cost solution for shipment. Performing on site repair works provides equivalent results in quality and reliability when compared to a similar work in a manufacturing facility. Some important aspects need to be considered including an 9

adequate conditioning of the environment, the need of special equipment and skilled and experienced technicians, the dry-out processing techniques and the alternative to perform dielectric testing with partial discharge measurements. The main advantages related to on site repair works are a reduced cost and shorter repair time compared to shipment to a different location, especially for bigger size transformers. The need to minimize the time of unavailability could make the on site repair alternative the best option. The existence of an adequate contingency plan increases the number of alternatives. The Spanish experience with standardized and multifunctional transformers has been presented implying some advantages not only related to a substitution of units but also to simplification and minimization of number of spares and associated costs. Having a spare transformer available implies the possibility to make a quick decision when having a problem to have, after the substitution, additional time to decide the most adequate and economic alternative. A different option is a planned replacement of a transformer. An example has been presented in a nuclear power plant where a progressive substitution and up-rating plan is being carried out with the main generator step up transformers. The retrofit is being performed on site, without impacting the power plant operations, maintaining the availability of one spare unit and providing a cost effective solution. The circumstances existing in each particular case will determine the optimum alternative. The active collaboration between utilities and manufacturers help to optimize the different options and actions. An adequate contingency planning and a proper policy of spares, considering the strategic importance and risk of the units, simplify the decision process and help to achieve satisfactory results, minimizing the time of unavailability and the cost.

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