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The Case of a Failed Transformer

Case #1 - GSU

James W. Graham
Alliant Energy

Transformer Data
161kV GrY 22.8kV Delta
720/806.4 MVA 55/65C
Shell Form circa 1980
Isophase Secondary Bus
Direct Connection to Unit
13,900 gallons of oil
762,200 lbs. total weight

First Steps
Damage Assessment
Review Known Data
System Impact

Initial Inspection
& Damage Assessment
Field Tests
Winding damage confirmed
Arresters OK
Bushings OK

Oil leak due to broken piping

Minor Tank Deformation - Upper Section

Minor Tank Deformation Lower Section

Typical DETC Switch

A DETC Dislocated

Arc Damage Across Active DETC Tap - A

DETC Leads Disengaged

Insulation Debris on top of the phase pack

Review Known Data

No system fault prior to failure
Pre-fault DGA samples normal
Oil test data normal
Winding temperature normal
Oil temperature normal
History indicated some overloading

Impact On the System

Loss of Sales Revenue
Cost of Replacement Power
Loss of Voltage Support
System Reliability Reduced
Scheduled Transmission Outages Deferred
Other Unit Maintenance Outages Deferred

Short Term Solutions

Two System Connection Options

161kV - Procure Isophase bus adapter

- Install temporary transformer
345kV - Build 3-terminal bus
- Procure Isophase bus adapter
- Build temporary transmission line
- Install temporary transformer

Locate Possible Spares

Select Option & Execute

Locate Possible Spares

Transformer Options

Spare from Inventory

Spare from Other Utility
Transformer Broker/Dealer
Rewind Shops
Internet Bulletin Boards

3 Possible Spares Located

345-23kV 830 MVA

161-20.9kV 535 MVA
146-20kV 874 MVA

Select Option & Execute

161kV Option Selected

Minimizes construction coordination

No major substation equipment required
Shortest completion schedule
Lowest total cost

146.8-20kV Transformer Evaluated

Overexcitation limited < 5%

Generator limited to ~96% output
161kV Bus Voltage reduced 2.5%

Select Option & Execute

146.8-20kV transformer purchased
Transportation Arranged
Failed Transformer Removed
Temporary Transformer Installed
System Operation Changes Required

GSU DETC set at +5% (154kV)

Main Auxiliary transformer DETC set at 5.0%
Reserve Auxiliary transformer DETC set at 2.5%
345kV tie transformer DETC set at +2.5%
(effectively reduces 161kV bus voltage)

Transformer Disassembly 4 days

One of 5 semitruck loads of


Transformer Accessories On Site

Transformer Unit Train

Rail Car Assembly

Transformer Loading 2 days

Staley Bridge

Temporary GSU in Service

81 days after failure

Long Term Solutions

161kV Option

Replace temporary GSU transformer or reuse

Reuse existing 161kV tie line

345kV Option

Build 345kV 3-terminal bus

Build 345kV tie line back to plant
Replace GSU transformer
Design new isophase bus interface
nd 346/161kV system tie transformer
Add 2

Transformer Options
Purchase new 345-24kV transformer

Purchase new 161-24kV transformer

Repair failed 161-24kV transformer

Leave temporary transformer in place

Which Transformer Option is Best?

345kV option ruled out

Temporary transformer ruled out

Performance is better than expected

Generator operates at less than 100%
161kV System bus operating at 2.5% nominal voltage
Temporary transformer retained as back-up

Purchase new 161-24kV transformer?

Repair failed 161-24kV transformer ?

Issue Request for Proposals

Prepare Specifications
Issue RFPs Repair & New Options
Evaluate Proposals

Compare Total Evaluated Costs

Schedule Critical lead times may drive a decision
Manufacturer Reliability

Select Proposal

Repair vs. Replacement



Lower first cost

Shorter lead time
No physical restrictions

Actual Cost Uncertain

Higher reliability risk
Limited upgrading
Fewer manufacturers
Warranty limitations

Rule of Thumb
Repairing a transformer may be viable if the
repair cost is 50-75% of a comparable new
The upper limit is dependent on your companys
risk management policy and good engineering

Why Should A Repair Be Less than

A New Transformer?
Repair Proposals Are Estimates
Greater Than Expected Damage Increases Cost
Extensive Core Damage Increases Cost
Perception - Repairs Are Less Reliable
Scope Creep additions & refurbishment add up
Two-way transportation costs
There is a risk the transformer is not repairable

Repair Considerations

Scope of Work

Transportation to/from plant

Tear Down & Failure Report
Capacity Increase/Decrease
Voltage Changes
Accessory Replacement/Refurbishment
Insulating Fluid
Additional Monitoring

Repair Cost vs New Cost

Repair Schedule vs. New Schedule
Salvage Value of Failed Transformer

Factory Tear Down

Core Removal

Top 2 Tank Sections Removed

Core & Coils

HV Side (Segment 3)

Core Removal in Progress

A Winding Damage Visible

A Winding Damage Visible A Better View

411,000 lbs Core Steel

22,000 lbs. Replaced

Factory Tear Down Phase Pack

Phase Pack - A Bottom

Phase Pack - A Top

Low Voltage Coil


High Voltage Coil Removal

(Undamaged Section)

Typical Insulation Washer & Spacers

LV Coil Removal
(Undamaged Section)

LV Coil Removal
(Undamaged Section)

First Damaged
High Voltage Coil

High Voltage Coil

Severe Coil Deformation

Short Circuit Forces cause coils to roll

over & collapse to the center core

Rift created by coil movement is

6 wide x 30 long x 10 deep

High Voltage Coil Distortion

Damaged High Voltage Coil Removal

High Voltage Conductor Burned Through

DETC Tap 3 & 4 Studs Burned - A

DETC Tap 3 Terminals - A

Spring Washer

Spade lug

Evidence of Localized Heating in HV Coil

(Not Failure Related)

Case #1
Failure Summary
Test Data Prior to Failure Normal
Some Core Damage Evident
Minor Tank Damage due to fault pressure
A HV Winding Failure one section
Heavy Distortion in HV Coils
LV Coils Mechanical Damage Only
DETC Terminals Disconnected
DETC Tap 3 Terminals & Contacts Burned
DETC Leads Prone to Loosen

Case #1
Cause of Failure?
The post-fault inspection and results of the tear down
indicate one or both of the active DETC leads fell open,
subjecting the high voltage winding to a severe
overvoltage condition. The winding failure probably
started as a turn to turn or disk to disk failure.
Since the GSU was directly connected to the generator,
the fault levels were extremely high and persisted for a
significant period of time. This helps explain the coil

The Case of a Failed Transformer

Case #2 Main Auxiliary #102

Transformer Data
24kV D 7.2kV-7.2kV GrY
35/39.2 MVA 55/65C
Core Form circa 1979
Isophase HV Bus
Non-segregated LV Bus
3,765 gallons of oil
106,050 lbs. total weight

Situation Assessment
No indication of problems prior to failure
Preventative maintenance recently completed
Twin Main Aux. Xfmr still available for service
Test data confirmed winding damage
2nd Failure at plant in 8 months
Concern - is this failure related to GSU failure?

Execute the Plan

Buy a new transformer
Scrap the failed transformer
Assess risk to surviving Main Aux. Xfmr
Coordinate installation with GSU installation

A tear down was done on site to determine

the cause of failure.

Core & Coils Segment 1

Core & Coils Segments 2 & 4

Core & Coils Segment 3

Melted Copper Debris - A

Melted Copper Debris - A

Tear Down - A
LV Winding


Tear Down - A
HV Winding

Heat Damage - A HV Winding

Heat Damage - A HV Winding

Conductor Damage - HV Disk #25 A

Conductor Damage - HV Disk #25 A

Key Spacer Heat Damage

Conductor Damage - HV Disk #26 A

Damage HV Disk
#26 A

Outer LV
Winding Tube
Damage - A

HV Winding Tube Minor Carbonization

Tear Down Complete

Case #2
Failure Summary
Predictive maintenance completed within 6 mos.
Test Data Prior to Failure Normal
A HV Winding Damage primarily in 2 disks
No damage in either LV Coil of A
No damage in B or C
No core damage
Heating damage indicated high currents
Relays did not detect high current flow

Case #2
Cause of Failure?
The results of the tear down indicate a turn to turn failure
in the A high voltage winding. The heat damage and coil
deflections observed indicates localized high current flow
within the winding, which is consistent with this type of
fault. This current was not detected until the conductor
burned through and a more serious fault developed. At
that point the differential relay operated followed by the
sudden pressure relay.
This failure appeared to be random and not related to the
earlier GSU failure.