Condition monitoring programs provide meaningful, real-time information to help reduce risk, lower failure rates, anticipate issues and keep operations running smoothly. However, without a proper plan in place, investing in condition monitoring can prove to be futile. In order to improve methods for diagnosing transformer health and develop a successful condition monitoring program, it’s imperative to follow these four steps.
1. Set A Goal
Condition monitoring can help organizations better assess the health of their assets, such as transformers, but specific goals need to be in place. What is your priority: in-service failure prevention, life extension or maintenance deferral? All of these can be accomplished with condition monitoring, but the three programs can look very different. Given this flexibility, it’s important for organizations to prioritize and establish what they hope to accomplish to ensure they’re getting what they want out of condition monitoring.
2. Define Parameters
As budgets get tighter, every investment needs to be justified and measured for success, and condition monitoring is no exception. The first step is to set the parameters for what the program is set up to do. Is the program targeted toward condition monitoring for a known failure mode, or is it general assurance of asset condition? Once the parameters are established, companies should justify a measurement system that is proven to address their parameters.
For example, targeted condition monitoring is a good approach if there are particular issues with a transformer, such as overheating due to a winding hotspot, or a deteriorated bushing from a particular manufacturer. If you are looking to monitor the overall health of a transformer, general condition monitoring, including dissolved gas analysis and temperatures may be sufficient. However this won’t detect all potential problems, and there is still a risk that certain failure modes can occur without warning. More comprehensive monitoring could include operational (SCADA) data, partial discharge (PD) data, plus a means to correlate the information and the ability to pinpoint anomalies and indications of a failure mode in operation.
In addition to having a technical plan in place to identify what the condition monitoring program will measure, organizations should establish a communication plan to make sure the right data gets to the right people. There needs to be careful thought put in to identify who in the department or organization is best equipped to understand and react to the data that comes in through a condition monitoring platform. There should also be training to show users how to read and respond to the alerts and data provided by the condition monitoring platform.
4. Plan Responses
Once the right people have been chosen to respond to data and alerts, the team needs to plan their responses. Establishing the responses ahead of time to every alert and warning provided by a condition monitoring platform prevents miscommunication and allows teams to respond in an appropriate and timely manner.
Taking the time to walk through these four steps before monitoring devices are even turned on will greatly improve the chances of a successful program, allowing you to take the first steps to improve diagnostic capabilities.
About the Author: Tony McGrail is Doble Engineering Company’s Solutions Director for Asset Management & Monitoring Technology, providing condition, criticality and risk analysis for utility companies. Previously Tony has spent over 10 years with National Grid in the UK and the US; he has been both a substation equipment specialist, with a focus on power transformers, circuit breakers and integrated condition monitoring