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Eskom considers natural esters for transformer oil insulation
Friday, 30 September 2016: Eskom yesterday held a workshop at its Convention Centre in Midrand in Gauteng to discuss the modalities of adopting natural esters as the preferred insulating fluid for transformers. The workshop was attended by 300 engineers and scientists from Eskom, municipalities, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), oil suppliers and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Eight technical papers were presented by local and international experts.
 
“This workshop is a result of our ongoing technology scanning initiatives, which have revealed that OEMs and utilities around the world are moving towards the adoption of environmentally friendly esters as the chosen insulating oil for transformers”, explained Eskom’s GM for Power Delivery Engineering, Mr Prince Moyo.
 
“Esters are superior to mineral oils in that they have a much higher flash point, enabling them to tolerate heat much better. They can also absorb a lot more moisture, a property that extends the life of transformers. In addition, risks during oil handling and spillage are eliminated because these oils are completely bio-degradable”, Mr Moyo continued.
 
It is Eskom’s intention to conclude studies into the feasibility of adopting these oils for small pole and ground-mounted transformers (termed Class 0) in the early part of 2017, with a view to specifying them for standard use during the year. Deployment in larger transformers is envisaged in the coming years.
 
At the same workshop, a memorandum of agreement was signed by Eskom and the IDC. The two bodies have partnered to establish a sustainable value chain that may involve farming of the seed crops, processing the oil and distributing it to transformer manufacturers. Engineering research will also be conducted to answer all related technical questions.
 
“What attracted us to this technology is the potential of expanding the local oilseed value chain up stream through additional farming and agro-processing activities. By producing this high value, renewably sustainable and environmentally friendly input, it will ensure a ‘greener’ electricity distribution network, whilst also facilitating new industry development opportunities. This has the potential of displacing 4 million litres of imported mineral oil at an annual cost of approximately R88 million while creating much-needed jobs”, the IDC’s Head of New Industries, Mr Christo Fourie said.
 
This initiative is supportive of government’s biofuels strategy, while taking into account food security.
 
ENDS