Powering a minesite requires a huge amount of energy, with multiple transformers required to distribute energy around site.


Traditionally this has presented an issue in the trade-off between being hazardous for the environment and an occupational health and safety risk, or being prohibitively expensive and maintenance intensive, according to Teck Global Managing Director David Zucaro.


“The two most commonly used types of transformers are the dry type and the mineral oil-filled type,” he said. “The dry type is a big cast resin device which typically cannot be recycled at the end of life, and then you have the mineral oil-filled transformer.


“We’re not talking a small amount either, we’re talking thousands of litres, so they present a significant fire risk, a significant explosion risk and a significant environmental risk, especially if some oil leaks into the environment – then you’ve created a clean-up problem.”


Providing a usable, environmentally friendly solution, Teck Global, along with Cahors Group, has developed a new kind of transformer that uses ester oil.


“We are calling this line of ester-filled transformers the GSM range, with GSM standing for Green, Safe, Maintenance Free,” Mr Zucaro said.


“Our supply factory in Qing Dao, China is one of the few places in the world that has received compliance to Factory Mutual (FM) Global Standard 3990. Only 10 factories in the world and seven suppliers are capable of producing units that are verified against this standard.”


The approval for the GSM range of transformers allows either Envirotemp FR3 or Midel 7131 ester oil to be used as the dielectric fluid, both of which are defined as readily biodegradable by OECD 301 and have a higher  ash point (100C higher) than transformer mineral oil.


This biodegradability classification means it is considered orally and aquatically non-toxic and the majority of it readily degrades within 28 days. Both FR3 and Midel 7131 are K-class fluids and are considered to be self- extinguishing.


“The ester oil transformer fixes all of the issues with a traditional oil-filled transformer,” Mr Zucaro said.


“Our transformer basically cannot catch  re, it doesn’t explode and its filled with an environmentally friendly, natural ester oil made out of either canola oil or rapeseed oil, breaking down pretty much as soon as it enters the environment.


“It is also not hazardous to native animals or waterways, making it very environmentally friendly.”


Not only is this solution better for the environment, Mr Zucaro said once incorporated into a project, the transformer cost less to use than a traditional transformer.


“We encourage clients to perform a cost-bene t analysis on projects using our GSM transformers,” he said. “They have been the most cost-effective solution overall in our case studies when installing adjacent to switch rooms or building structures.


“Using GSM transformers can lower insurance costs due to the reduced fire risk and self-extinguishing oil properties.


“It wins on so many levels.”


Image: The GSM range transformer.