When a transformer or other critical piece of equipment fails or is needed on short notice and is not available in the client’s own inventory, the typical approach is to call an OEM or a firm known as holding used high-voltage equipment to see if they have a replacement.  If a solution is identified, many believe that one can rest easy as the problem is solved.  However, this belief is often unsupported. 

There is a growing industry awareness that even if spare equipment is immediately available from a client’s own inventory (or from  the broader OEM or secondary marketplace) this spare equipment might not become operational due to transportation related damage thereby compounding an already sizable loss. 

OEMs that make large high-voltage transformers are global businesses with operations in many counties.  Accordingly, one often sees transformers and related equipment being made in one country and transported to another by a combination of road, rail, ship, and crane with all movement and transitions being a source of potential damage or delay.  

In the case of used transformers, the situation is not any different. The transformer must be moved from one location to another.

Moreover, there are also the often overlooked aspects that relate to transportation permitting and associated logistics. The significant  weight and size of transformers often can mean that transportation routes need to be scripted to address infrastructure issues that might have recently changed. Examples include a bridge’s maximum load rating being recently changed, weather (hot temperatures) impacting road surfaces, or even rainfall that might have weakened the foundation material of a road. 

For this reason, just because a new or used replacement has been found does not mean that further contingency planning should be fully stopped. (see the slideshow on Fast-Track Power’s website for good examples of real-world situations where a transformer is damaged in transit)…. www.fast-trackpower.com 

As a simple illustration of why this point is so important, the photo (below) shows a large GSU transformer that has fallen off a truck into a river in a remote location. 

Replacement GSU Transformer is damaged in transit.

 Any large GSU transformer that falls on its side will have substantial damage due to the heavy weight of the internal core and coil and the high-voltage design attributes of the transformer. This damage will require the return of the transformer to the OEM or an approved repair facility that specializes in this work. Transformers cannot be placed on their sides even if done with great care.

 Consequently, to address the damage to the transformer shown in this photo, an appropriately sized crane must be found and contracted, moved down a heavily forested dirt road, and supported by the river bank to ultimately lift the transformer from the river and place it on a trailer for road transportation.  The damaged transformer then has to be transported to the OEM (or a capable repair facility), the significant damage repaired, and then returned to the job site (presumably with more care the second time around). 

 Moreover, options for insuring the transportation for the return of the transformer will likely be harder to find (and/ or much more costly) even if substantial modifications are made to the roads and bridges that will be used on the return trip to the client’s job site.

 Even if done well. this process can easily take 5 months or more as can be seen by this optimistic illustration:

   1 month to get an appropriate crane to the river 

+ 1 month to return transformer to OEM or repair facility

+ 2 months to repair transformer

+ 1 month to transport repaired transformer back to the client’s job site. 

= 5 Months Total (optimistic)

 

This scenario leads to the following questions:

  1. Who will be supplying power to serve the populations and businesses that the power generation facility was designed to address?
  2. If the plant cannot produce power during this repair period, how will investors or banks that financed the power generation facility get paid back during this time frame?
  3. Will buyers and their insurance and financing partners become more focused on where a transformer is built/sourced vs. just the upfront cost and OEM of the transformer?
  4. Will insurance and reinsurance companies be reluctant to insure Business Interruption on remote power generation facilities that have single transformers and/or to charge substantial more premiums for these risks?
  5. Will weather conditions allow the repaired transformer to be returned to the job site without further delays? (i.e. will seasonal rains or other weather factors make dirt roads impassible for such a heavy piece of equipment?) 

Several related observations:

  • It is important to recognize that transportation related “risks” are not only a function of distance but the following considerations as well: the weight/size of the transformer, the types of transportation required, the weather, the time of year, the required governmental permitting, the experience of movers, the road/ infrastructure conditions at the time of transport, availability of off-loading equipment etc and any special situations (crossing a remote river).
  • “Good engineering practice”  often suggests that it is better to have a single large transformer vs. two or more smaller transformers because  a single transformer allows only a single point of failure or possibly greater efficiency. However, the presence of a remote location on either end (or segment) of the transportation equation might weaken this theory given the challenges of moving larger pieces of equipment. Having multiple smaller transformers can facilitate the replacement process if one transformer fails and might also allow for partial power generation operation if one transformer fails (or does not make it to the job site in operational condition).
  • Even the best laid plans and the most experienced transportation providers/ teams run into problematic situations that cannot be anticipated. 

Our Value Proposition

If you are a power generation facility, a third party firm that works with a client in the power generation industry, or an insurance company that insures worldwide power generation risks, Fast-Track Power LLC offers the following value:

  • Reduce the Cost of Business Interruption

    We seek to help you (or your client) reduce the very high cost of business interruption by providing expedited “fast-track” access to the necessary high-voltage equipment and services at competitive terms.  We are your global fast-track resource for both equipment and services on a turn-key / seamless basis.

  • Provide Expert Knowledge for Better Decision Making

    By injecting competition and experience into the process of a fast-track situation, Fast-Track Power LLC positions you to receive significant cost savings, reduced risk, and enhanced decision making knowledge.

In a recent failure of a large GSU transformer, the presence of competition in the fast-track replacement process achieved a client over $200,000 in savings from the firm that had originally been contacted to source a replacement transformer.  Moreover, the client and its financial partners also gained the direct attention of the most experienced people (who used their expertise to lower the chance of a problem during the replacement process) and a better understanding of the universe of credible options.