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Glencore deploys MIDEL for 'vast improvement' in transformer fire safety

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Global Mining Review,

With nearly 160 000 employees across over 50 countries, Glencore is one of the world’s largest natural resource companies.

With nearly 160 000 employees across over 50 countries, Glencore is one of the world’s largest natural resource companies.

Glencore’s Australian operations include copper mining and processing operations at Mount Isa in North Queensland. Operating since 1924, it is one of Australia's largest industrial complexes extracting both copper and zinc-lead-silver, and contributing US$1 billion to Queensland’s economy annually.

With over 3000 workers operating in the world’s most expansive network of underground mines, as well as being Australia's deepest underground copper mine at 1900 m, safety at Mount Isa is paramount. With ore processed and smelted onsite too, the whole operation is power intensive and requires reliable, sustainable power infrastructure to maintain operations.

Glencore is committed to mine safety and as part of a risk mitigation programme, identified mineral oil-filled transformers below ground at Mount Isa’s Copper Mine as a potential fire risk. The transformers were flagged for further investigation.

Glencore invited MIDEL on-site to present options for reducing the risk posed by the transformers. Glencore 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, 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.

Reflecting on the decision 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 fire safety. If we ever had to physically move the transformer it would be 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. This type of cost saving could extend into the millions of dollars. This also means transformers can be placed closer together, creating substantial substation space savings.

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.

Producers looking to improve their license to operate (LTO) can also leverage the environmental and sustainability benefits of synthetic ester, as it is fully biodegradable and non-toxic.

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