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By Morné Bosch, general manager for sales and marketing, ArmCoil

Transformers, whether for commercial, industrial or municipal facilities, represent the lifeline in the electric power distribution system. This asset usually has ratings of between 250kVA and 1,000kVA – or in utility-scale projects, as much as 10MVA – making it no small investment and one that warrants careful evaluation when choosing a unit for a specific project or application and manufacturing partner.

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One of the many considerations to take into account is the choice between oil-cooled and dry-type transformers. This has come about in recent years as industries set out to reduce carbon emissions and increase the eco-friendly label of their assets. At a minimum, dry-type cast resin transformers pose zero risk for oil leaks as they only need air to cool, are less likely to explode during normal operation, and are self-extinguishing.

 

However, having a ‘green’ footprint comes with drawbacks too. In the case of dry-type transformers an inappropriately selected enclosure can result in major problems, such as not being able to fit into the existing available space. “We’ve developed an enclosure for dry-type transformers, which operates on much the same heat sync as oil-cooled transformers,” explains Peter Flint, Managing Director at ArmCoil. “This allows us to bring down the size of the enclosure. Under normal circumstances the enclosure on a dry-type transformer is significantly larger, which can be problematic where space is a concern,” says Flint.

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Not all transformers are created equal

Transformer manufacturing caters for a diverse market but ArmCoil has taken steps to offer a niche service that takes various elements into consideration, resulting in a detailed client proposal. “We have found innovative ways to manufacture products that keep costs affordable for our clients. Regardless of the client’s requirements, our first step is to evaluate the feasibility of the specifications and whether it will be financially and sustainably viable forthe client,” states ArmCoil’s General Manager: Sales & Marketing, Morné Bosch, who adds: “Our proposals exceed clients’ expectations on new transformers as we look at innovative, cost-effective solutions. It’s an achievement we are proud to continue aspiring to.” Addressing transformer maintenance is another key area in the industry. With historical maintenance plans on hand it is easier to decide whether to replace the unit or whether a ‘quick fix’ can be implemented. At ArmCoil the first port of call is to fully understand the enquiry.

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“Based on the assessment, which includes historical oil sampling obtained to establish the condition of the transformer at the time of sampling, we compile a recommended scope of work together with site reports,” explains Bosch. Clients are advised to apply preventative maintenance measures at all times and “a best-case scenario would be to have a sparecomplete failure”, suggests Bosch, acknowledging that this isn’t always possible.

Capitalising on new markets

Having considerable experience with operations in the mining and municipal sectors in South Africa, the company has set its sights on offering its skills and knowledge of transformers to Africa’s broader mining and utility market.

“We belie

 

ve that the transformer manufacturing industry is an area of opportunity, not just for South Africa but for exporting into the rest of Africa as well,” states Flint. The company’s geographic expansion strategy includes a sector approach as well. “Besides the mining and utility sectors in South Africa, which are where our strengths currently lie, the company is able and ready to expand into new markets such as the chemical and petroleum industries,” adds Bosch.

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Following the global trend that is directed at minimising heat losses ArmCoil is ideally positioned to assist clients in moving to drytype transformers.

However, Bosch concludes that the market for oilcooled transformers is not likely to be superseded and is still a key component in the field.