Tim Probert, Associate Editor
The boom times in the Middle East power market are not without considerable drawbacks. Full order books have dramatically increased lead times for new orders, and the dash for power across the Gulf region – and other booming markets – has created an unprecedented demand for transformers. This has proved to be a significant problem for buyers, but it has also presented manufacturers with a golden opportunity.
Just ask Brush Transformers, which has been supplying transformers to the Middle East from the UK for more than 30 years. The phenomenal growth in demand for their products has resulted in a brand new manufacturing plant in Mussafah, the industrial city of Abu Dhabi in UAE.
The 20 000 square metre plant, which opened in November, is the result of a joint venture between the Loughborough, UK-based Brush Transformers and Al Nasser Industrial Enterprises (ANIE), which is a private business owned by Mr Abdullah Al Nasser and whose portfolio includes another transformer manufacturer based in Abu Dhabi, specializing in smaller distribution units. ANIE wanted to increase its range of transformers available to the Middle East.
These two parties bring to the table complementary qualities. Brush Transformers bring in a proven name and technical knowledge to the mix accrued over their 125 years in business. ANIE bring the knowledge of the region and perhaps most importantly, the customers therein.
This is the first power transformer manufacturer in Abu Dhabi, and although there are some other manufacturers in the UAE, these 25 MVA transformers are not of the scale that Brush Transformers produce, of up to 100 MVA.
The factory has been deemed a ‘centre of excellence’, employing state-of-the-art testing equipment, made by Haefley of Switzerland. This includes an impulse test facility and a heat run test capability. The facility can perform many transformer type tests, as well as the usual routine tests within the facility, including finite element analysis.
At present there are 50 employees and rising. When in full production, estimated to be within two years of opening, the factory is expected to employ a workforce of around 180. The current workforce is a mixture of nationalities, some UK, Indian, Nepalese, Emirates, a mixture of people and culture.
Apart from employing a number of local workers, Abu Dhabi, UAE and the rest of the region is to benefit from a reduction in lead times for transformers, which in recent years have lengthened across the globe.
Tim Walker, general manager of Brush Transformers Gulf, has been at Brush for 30 years and is, as he himself puts it, “a Brush man through and through”. Before taking his post as General Manager at Brush Transformers Gulf, Walker was based at company headquarters – Brush Transformers UK – where he was strategic purchasing manager.
Walker said: “Brush have been supplying into the Gulf region for 35 years, and have a reputation for quality and reliable product. While transformers are ruled by certain, immovable laws of physics, we build quality into the job and the knowledge that we’ve gained over those 125 years in business.
“The main benefit of the plant is to supply transformers into the local market, which are a very difficult product to get hold of at this moment in time. If you went into the marketplace now and said ‘I want a transformer’ to any other reputable manufacturer of transformers around the world, you are talking about two years before you could even get a delivery.”
“So not only will we be able to deliver to meet immediate requirements, we will be able to supply and support the market locally, instead from the UK. The production of units here will also reduce shipping costs and the possibility of damage during transportation.”
A broad range
The transformers made at the facility are distributed predominantly within the GCC market. There are distribution transformer manufacturers already within the Gulf region but not many manufacturers of medium-power transformers, above the distribution level. The transformers made at the Abu Dhabi facility are for the 33 kV, 66 kV and 132 kV voltage class systems, the intermediate transformers that sit between the grid transformers and the local distribution transformers.
Each transformer core is produced using a computer-controlled Georg cutting machine, using interleaved laminations of cold rolled, grain orientated, low loss electrical sheet steel conforming to standard BSEN 10107. The core employs a mitred step-lap design ensuring minimum noise and loss levels with uniform flux distribution throughout the magnetic circuit.
The transformer tanks are manufactured using mild steel, which is electrically welded and primed. Cooling is effected by pressed steel plate radiators, electrically welded and independently pressure tested. Metal is pre-treated by shotblasting, then immediately covered with corrosion inhibiting zinc phosphate primer.
This finish is designed to give maximum worldwide protection in coastal, industrial, and general environments with suitable heat and oil resistance. A micaceous iron ore finish, proven to afford excellent long-term barrier protection, is then applied.
Each core-coil assembly is rigidly braced using steel frames, distributing the axial clamping forces around the entire circumference of the windings. Optimum dielectric strength is achieved via processing in accordance with rigorous in-house quality procedures.
Completed core-coil are dried in thermostatically controlled ovens, fitted into the transformer tank and filled with oil. This is followed by an oil processing system using de-aerated oil. After the tanking process is complete the transformer is prepared for test.
In order to prevent deformation when subjected to short circuit forces, solid block end insulation, backed-up by substantial supporting frames is utilized. The axial end thrust under fault conditions is minimized by the suitable distribution of ampere turns over the length of the windings, and by ensuring that the design dimensions are closely adhered to during manufacture.
All windings are manufactured to exacting standards in order to maintain strict dimensional tolerances. Clamping to a pre-determined load pressure during manufacture ensures that each winding is able to withstand the excessive axial forces which may result from external and short-circuit events.
All principal components of insulation are pre-fabricated from electrical grade insulating board; pre-shrunk to ensure electrical and mechanical stability throughout the temperatures found in operational service.
A thorough going over
Brush says that its transformers designed and constructed in this way in Abu Dhabi are capable of withstanding the effect of short-circuit testing as defined by national and international standards.
Brush’s test department is fully equipped with top of the range apparatus to carry out routine and type test requirements in accordance with the latest specifications
Test facilities available include -2.8 MVA power regulator, which when operated in 34 MVA capacitor banks provides power for short-circuit temperature tests at full ratings for units up to 100 MVA 145 kV.
Instrumentation is of high standard and is calibrated and checked at regular intervals. The facility also provides health checks on transformers of all sizes which include a complete inspection of the transformer, coolers, cables, and control panels plus the taking of oil samples for DGA, moisture etc. at Brush’s works followed by a comprehensive report and recommendations.
Brush’s maintenance contracts include functional checks on alarms, trips, and motor protection, as well as checks for oil leakage and tightness of all joints, plus regasketing where necessary, paint touch up etc.
Carrying out regular maintenance means minimum down time on plant and detects potential future problems. Furthermore, a full report is issued on completion.
Brush’s new location on the doorstep of many existing transformers – some of which are 35 years old and in dire need of refurbishment à‚— also presents the facility with another opportunity. For now, the new plant has its work cut out to manufacture enough transformers to keep the good times rolling. MEE