Engineers’ concerns ignored putting energy infrastructure at risk

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New research has revealed that only 44% of recommendations to improve the safety and performance of critical energy infrastructure are fully implemented.

A survey, conducted with transformer professionals, shows disconnect between transformer operators and budget decision makers, with some decisions unduly increasing the risk of failure, fatality or fire posed by transformers. 

The findings released by MIDEL, reveal 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.

In turn, 44% of respondents lack confidence in their board’s ability to properly mitigate transformer-related risk.

Barry Menzies, managing director at MIDEL commented, “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 is 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.

“Decision makers are being presented with a range of options to reduce transformer risk which makes it even more concerning that many respondents do not see their recommendations implemented fully.”

“This suggests that the benefits of these recommendations are getting lost in translation. It may be that engineers need to reframe these recommendations to catch the ear of decision makers, for example, by conveying the commercial implications of transformer risk for aspects such as insurance,” Menzies added.

The survey, which attracted responses from transmission and distribution operators, original equipment manufacturers and commercial and industrial operators across EMEA, the Americas and APAC, aims to enhance board level understanding of transformer-related risk. The report assesses key concerns and risk mitigation trends as well as garnering opinion on board awareness and priorities.