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Sherlock Ohms

Case of the Oil Fire Damper

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/26/2012 12:57:32 PM
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You make good points, David12345. I would suppose this falls into the world of risk management. Without government regulations forcing a company to provide this type of safety apparatus, the risk management folks may calculate that the potential risk doesn't warrant the investment.

David12345
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Platinum
Re: Good idea waiting to happen
David12345   3/25/2012 8:20:05 PM
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I'm sure it would financially make more sence for disaster mitigation using 20/20 hindsight; however, when the capital of the design is being justified you don't know you're going to have a fire or how soon. There are several potential catastrophies possible, how heavily do you design-in mitigation measures for each one?

There gets to be the trouble justifying a hard capital investment increase (with no identifiable increased cash stream) to offset a debatable risk liklihood, magnitude, and timing.

After the fact, you can clearly identify the clean-up and rebuild as the cost of being back in business after a catastrophic failure . . .  that is largely covered by insurance.  The justification becomes much less nebulous.

I have gotten into some of these Catch-22 type of safety or other catatrophy mitigation investments.  It's harder to financially justify than you might think. It helps if the management has a strong safety orientation, but some of these decisions are still tied to the probability of certain bad things happening.  Everyone wants to simply say, "then design so that those bad things don't happen and there won't be a need for a loss to be mitigated".  Again, easier said than done.

Pete Ostapchuk
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Iron
Re: Transformers and airplanes
Pete Ostapchuk   3/22/2012 8:59:06 PM
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Hi Kenish,

    Interesting about the fuel jettison systems. That would be a bummer if you needed to land right now but also had to burn off a lot of fuel because of a lack of a jettison system. What a nail biter. I wonder if instead of circling they could just go sight seeing. Off to your left is the Grand Canyon. I had a 3/4 ton 4X4 truck that I swore had a fuel jettison system with a mind of it's own.   Pete O.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Rob Spiegel   3/22/2012 6:52:06 PM
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I agree, Chuck. It is surprising this safety featue has not be imagined earlier. While it would involve costs, the costs would be nothing compared to the value of ending a fire quickly.

Ken E.
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Gold
Are transformer fires common?
Ken E.   3/22/2012 3:33:23 PM
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We recently had an oil filled pad mounted transformer 'explode'.  At least the earth moved for me in my office, about half a block away.  Although the transformer case was severly deformed from the internal pressure, there was neither fire, nor appreciable leakage.  These are typically out in the open, no longer contain dangerous pollutants, and fairly rarely ignite. I can imagine that it would not be cost effective to add all these components being discussed, or the utilities would be all over it.

Now if it's and underground transformer, downtown...

kenish
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Platinum
Re: Transformers and airplanes
kenish   3/22/2012 12:56:30 PM
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Adding to Bob's aircraft comment- Long range aircraft carry about 1/3 of their takeoff weight in fuel (e.g. 300,000 pounds of fuel on a 747 with 900,000 pound max gross takeoff weight).  The max landing weight is lower, so fuel is dumped if a problem happens on or after takeoff.  If the emergency requires an immediate landing, an overweight landing inspection is performed.

Shorter range aircraft such as 737 and A320 can land with max fuel and don't have a fuel jettison system.  If a situation requries minimium fuel it has to be burned off.  Usually by circling around for a few hours at low altitude where jets are inefficient.

Pete Ostapchuk
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Iron
Re: Transformers and airplanes
Pete Ostapchuk   3/22/2012 12:17:29 PM
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Thanks Bob and PCC,

    I would not be too concerned about the oil being dumped accidently. These monster transformers do or should have their vital signs monitored at all times. We're not talking about a $5,000 pickup truck running low on oil. 

    I looked at the oil evacuation system in the supplied link. Two problems that I saw were the secondary tank in close proximity to the transformer and the theory of operation requiring the integrity of the transformer case to not be compromised so the transformer can be pressurized. At least someone has given it some thought.  Pete O.

bob from maine
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Platinum
Transformers and airplanes
bob from maine   3/22/2012 11:39:48 AM
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The oil in these transformers is there as an insulator and coolant. The incidence of these transformers exploding is very small, and I'd guess the possibility of something opening the drain and emptying the oil by mistake is greater than the possibility of an internal short-circuit igniting the oil. As a firefighter, our protocols for high-voltage electrical fires is quite clear; protect your exposures, evacuate as necessary, enjoy the show. As far as aircraft dumping fuel; most aircraft taking-off with a sufficient load of fuel for the trip and reserve are too heavy to land without overstressing landing gear and other parts of the aircraft. When fuel is dumped, the aircraft are typically advised to either move to a loiteriing area and begin dumping, or dump as they travel to the nearest airport. The fuel becomes a mist which is quite diffuse and is considered non-hazardous. As opposed to keeping it in the aircraft and converting the entire load to heat immediately after landing.

PCC
User Rank
Iron
Re: Good idea waiting to happen
PCC   3/22/2012 10:20:16 AM
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A quick scan on the web revealed this web site - http://www.transproco.com/how-tpc-works.htm

Looks like some people have already thought about this...

Pete Ostapchuk
User Rank
Iron
Re: Good idea waiting to happen
Pete Ostapchuk   3/21/2012 10:57:02 PM
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Hi Charlie,

    I don't know enough about the electric industry to say that it has not been done or proposed. If it has not been done, it might just be one of those things like surfing the internet while walking the dog. We never realized we just had to  have the capability. 

    Even the pole transformers that feed your house have oil in them but it's not a big deal when one of them catches on fire. As the size increases, the scope of the issue goes from a nusance to a catostrophe. 

    If it hasn't been done, it could be an economic issue. How much would such an installation cost? How much would the property tax on such an installation cost each year? How often do the really big transformers catch on fire? Would there be any savings on insurance?

    Maybe someone with the answers will respond.   Pete O.  

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