According to the UN, nearly two-thirds of the global population are set to live in cities by 2050. Coupled with environmental concerns that are pushing trends such as digitalisation and electric vehicle uptake, energy infrastructure operators are faced with a double-sided coin. On one side is smarter, more efficient infrastructure, on the other is higher loads and increased pressure on existing power infrastructure.
As urban intensity increases and users demand more from the
grid, it’s no surprise that the MIDEL
Transformer Risk Report found that over 80% of professionals surveyed are
concerned about transformer failure. Safety will always be a top priority, so
what more can we do to protect highly-populated urban environments from the risk
of fires at substations?
Dehli, India’s most populous city, which has an estimated
population growth trend of 67.6% to 2035 is a case in point. Transformers
are being put to the test by an influx of people and power companies must
continue to operate safely under these testing conditions.
Take CESC Limited for
example, India’s oldest utility based in the Kolkata region of India. Serving
approximately 3 million consumers including domestic, industrial and commercial
users, CESC operates a wide range of assets in power generation and
distribution. There are more than 8,000 distribution transformers in their
system, the majority of which are rated between 315 and 500 KVA. In previous
decades CESC needed to install dry-type transformers in densely populated areas
in order to mitigate the risk of fire. However dry-types are much more
expensive than oil-based transformers, and no longer represent the most
cost-effective solution for managing public safety in built up areas.
Instead CESC has opted to trial a highly fire-resistant fluids
in some of their transformers: esters. With a fire point of 316 °C in
comparison to mineral oil’s 170 °C, esters provide a greater level of
fire safety to protect against the trend of ‘popping’ (exploding transformers),
which can cause catastrophic consequences in such a highly-populated
“At CESC we are working towards the future of India’s energy
infrastructure – so using a synthetic ester fluid such as MIDEL 7131 is much
more than just selecting a transformer coolant”, mentioned Mithun Roy,
Assistant Manager at CESC Ltd. “MIDEL’s fire safety and biodegradability
properties actively facilitate our mission to protect people, the environment
and the transformer assets themselves.”
Trial locations include a manufacturing workshop near a
school and a plastics factory in a densely-populated area.
To help supply this demand, M&I Materials has opened its ester
transformer fluid manufacturing plant and state-of-the-art laboratory near
Mumbai, India. The move creates a high quality, local supply chain of the
company’s MIDEL ester fluids for utilities and transformer manufacturers across the
With a locally manufactured product, Indian utilities will have direct
access to a flexible and responsive supplier, meaning less dependence on
imports for this key transformer component. As a biodegradable alternative to
mineral oil, the availability of MIDEL fluids across India marks another step
forward in creating a sustainable electricity grid for the future. In addition, the M&I Materials investment
in local manufacturing is a clear endorsement of the Indian Government’s “Make
in India” initiative.
The operation, based in Maharashtra, is the result of a new
strategic alliance with ACME Synthetic Chemicals, and will help Indian
utilities and OEMs to deliver safer, greener transformers and substations.
Ester transformer fluids are far more environmentally friendly than the
traditional mineral oil. The company has had a presence in India, providing
product and technical support, for almost a decade.
Raw materials for the manufacturing of the fluids will be
sourced from locally grown soybean and rapeseed crops, providing new
opportunities for local farmers and their families, in addition to creating
jobs at the factory. This local facility will be able to supply ester fluids to
CESC and other utilities across the continent.
Many companies are in a similar boat to CESC with the older
parts of their transformer fleet currently filled with mineral oil. However,
the switch to esters is an easy one for many. Through the process of retrofilling, the
transition to esters doesn’t have to be an instant wholesale change to a
transformer fleet – utilities can prioritise the most at-risk assets whilst
keeping the rest of their transformers running. In a sector where professionals
impact of transformer failure on business continuity only behind safety and
revenue, the avoidance of downtime due to retrofilling can’t be
In short, there’s no doubt that the energy transition is
delivering numerous benefits and with esters being fully biodegradable, there’s
no reason why companies can’t enjoy a boost to their sustainability and safety while
also looking after their bottom line.
Major utilities such as Torrent Power, CESC, DMRC, GETCO,
Tata Power Delhi, TNEB, Reliance Infra – to name a few – have been successfully
using MIDEL ester transformer fluids throughout their networks. Manufacturing
MIDEL locally will mean Indian utilities benefit from a leaner, more flexible
and responsive source of supply.