New transformer designed by CFE and GE reduces fire-related impacts at urban substations

Prolec-GE and Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico’s national utility company, have developed a new power transformer that uses a synthetic ester liquid instead of traditional mineral oil, GE announced.  The new transformer helps improve safety at urban substations.

Transformers represent the most significant fire safety challenge in electrical substations. By using a less-flammable synthetic ester liquid as a coolant and dielectric insulator instead of traditional oil, the transformers reduce the risks associated with a potential transformer fire. The synthetic ester has a high flash point, which makes it virtually impossible to sustain a fire once the transformer protections interrupt the electrical arc in the event of a fire. In addition, the potential for soil contamination from tank rupture is reduced because the ester is biodegradable.

CFE will implement the new power transformers across Mexico City and its metropolitan area to help modernize electrical substations.

“Fires in transformers can be highly dangerous and devastating to areas in close proximity to the substation,” said Federico Ibarra, technical manager at CFE. “When a transformer fire occurs in indoor substations or densely populated areas, the impact can be amplified exponentially. Safety is of the upmost importance to us at CFE. Our decision to implement Prolec-GE’s new transformers was made with this in mind. Not only will the units reduce the risk of significant fires at our electrical substations, they also will reduce our potential environmental impact and help to modernize our electrical infrastructure.”

Prolec-GE’s project with CFE includes the installation of more than 50 power transformers and will be rolled out in a series of five stages. In the current stage, Prolec-GE is providing:

  • Four 36/48/60-MVA, 230/23/15-kV, high-voltage on-load tap-changer (OLTC) power transformers;
  • Four 18/24/30-MVA, 85/23-kV, low-voltage OLTC power transformers; and
  • Three 18/24/30-MVA, 115/85/23-kV, low-voltage OLTC transformers.

“This new, innovative solution is without a doubt the result of successful collaborative work between CFE and Prolec-GE,” said Pedro Puente, vice president of Prolec-GE’s Power Transformers business. “The new transformers were designed and developed by a team of engineers at our Advanced Technology Center where we continuously work to develop new solutions to meet and exceed the present and future industry needs.”

The new Prolec-GE power transformers are designed to operate indoors and outdoors and will be installed by CFE in the densely populated centers of Mexico City. This urban setting created challenges beyond environmental compatibility, size and weight restrictions.

The area’s high population required safety to take center stage, specifically the need to minimize potential fire and explosion risk. With Prolec-GE’s synthetic ester-filled transformers, CFE can meet its power needs and reduce the potential transformer fire risk to those close to the substation without experiencing a drop in transformer life expectancy.

CFE serves a population of more than 20 million in Mexico City alone. It has been a strategic customer for Prolec-GE for more than 40 years. As a leader in transformer technology throughout Mexico, Prolec-GE has supplied different types of equipment in the region such as generator step-ups, autotransformers, substation transformers, shunt reactors and distribution transformers. Installation of these latest transformers is underway and units are expected to be energized by the end of 2015.

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