MIDEL says it has helped improve safety at Glencore’s Mount Isa operations in north Queensland, Australia, following the introduction of its synthetic and biodegradable transformer fluid.
Operating since 1924, Mount Isa Mines is one of Australia’s largest industrial complexes extracting both copper and zinc-lead-silver, and contributing $1 billion to Queensland’s economy annually, according to MIDEL.
With over 3,000 workers operating in one of the world’s most expansive network of underground mines, as well as being Australia’s deepest underground copper mine at 1,900 m, safety at Mount Isa is paramount, MIDEL says. “With ore processed and smelted onsite too, the whole operation is power intensive and requires reliable, sustainable power infrastructure to maintain operations,” it added.
Glencore, as part of a risk mitigation program, identified mineral oil-filled transformers below ground at Mount Isa’s Enterprise mine as a potential fire risk, with the transformers flagged for further investigation.
Glencore invited MIDEL on-site to present options for reducing the risk posed by the transformers, and opted to retrofill the first transformer using MIDEL’s 7131 biodegradable, synthetic transformer fluid.
MIDEL 7131 has a high fire point (316˚C) and offers unrivalled fire safety benefits, according to the company, particularly for sites with enclosed spaces where smoke can be more deadly than the fire itself. “By retrofilling with a synthetic transformer fluid, the fire risk posed by the transformers was almost entirely eliminated,” MIDEL said.
Peter Ferguson, Electrical Superintendent at Glencore, said: “Despite MIDEL being more expensive than other transformer fluids, in the overall scheme of things, the difference was negligible particularly for such a vast improvement in safety.”
He added: “If we ever had to physically move the transformer this would be more costly and disruptive, so retrofilling with an oxygen-stable fluid gave us peace of mind.”
The benefits of switching to MIDEL’s synthetic ester include vastly reduced transformer fire risk, which means new units require no concrete blast walls, MIDEL said. This type of cost saving could extend into the millions of dollars, and transformers can be placed closer together, creating substantial substation space savings, too.
Additional operational benefits include improved moisture tolerance compared with that of mineral oil, which keeps the insulating paper in a better condition for longer and thus helps to extend transformer asset life. As MIDEL fluid is also fully oxygen stable, maintenance crews can handle it in exactly the same way as mineral oil, the company said.
Producers looking to improve their licence to operate can also leverage the environmental and sustainability benefits of synthetic ester, as it is fully biodegradable and non-toxic, MIDEL added.