In order to curb the amount of unplanned outages, a power utility needs to ensure that the generating equipment is reliable and operating at capacity

Shell South Africa briefly discusses how best to avoid unnecessary damage caused to power generation equipment as a result of prolonged power outages. In South Africa, the country’s sole utility Eskom, has been faced with numerous challenges to keep the lights on, which has necessitated the need for scheduled load shedding.

Load shedding is a measure designed to protect the energy generation system in the event of an inconsistency in supply and demand of electricity.

Technological advancements in power generation equipment can now protect the machinery during load shedding.

In order to curb the amount of unplanned outages, the power utility needs to ensure that the generating equipment is reliable and operating at capacity, as this will reduce the need for unplanned outages.

Lubrication is key

Eskom, which supplies 95% of South Africa’s electricity, reported that in the past financial year, the utility has seen an increase in unplanned maintenance.

According to the utility, the average age of their base load fleet is 34 years old. This is consistent with many transformer fleets around the world with the average age reaching between 30 – 40 years old.

As one of the world’s leading producers of lubricants, Shell has worked with a number of utilities around the world to see how lubrication can improve plant reliability.

Power utilities have a large number of oil-filled assets such as power transformers and it is vital to use a high quality oil, which prolongs the life of the transformer and maximises its reliability.

Enhancing equipment reliability

The University of Manchester’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering led a European Research Consortium that investigated transformer design, operation and the influence of oil on ageing and reliability characteristics.

According to the Professor of High Voltage Engineering at the University of Manchester, Prof Zhongdong Wang, Shell’s first transformer oil based on gas to liquid (GTL) technology, was chosen for the study for “its potential to enhance transformer reliability”.

Shell GTL base oil is a manufactured hydrocarbon derived from natural gas rather than crude oil. It is essentially a zero sulphur, low aromatic oil that unsaturates contents.

It offers superior additive response, exceptional resistance to degradation and outstanding thermal properties. This translates to increase transformer reliability and efficiency.

Shell believes that this technology, coupled with the findings of the European Research Consortium, will revolutionise the reliability and lifespan of transformers.

This is important for power producers around the world, and particularly in South Africa where new power stations are being built, to ensure that the country has sufficient supply to meet the ever increasing demand for electricity.