ABB wins £1 million shunt reactor refurbishment contract for National Grid substation

Project will demonstrate ABB’s capability to upgrade a 40-year old reactor design to modern energy efficient standards while retaining the existing tank

ABB’s Transformer Service team has been awarded a £1 million contract by National Grid to refurbish a 13 kV 2 x 30 MVA (megavolt ampere) shunt reactor at Willesden 275 kV (kilovolt) substation in northwest London. The project, funded under the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) provided through Ofgem, aims to demonstrate refurbishment as an economically viable methodology for the upgrading of service-expired 13 kV shunt reactors to modern standards of performance and energy efficiency.

National Grid uses shunt reactors to compensate for the high capacitance inherent in either long conductor lengths or in cable systems. They make the national transmission system more efficient at getting power to homes and businesses.

As part of its innovation and efficiency commitments under the new RIIO (revenue = incentives + innovation + outputs) funding frameworks National Grid is keen to explore whether refurbishment of its existing shunt reactor assets can be carried out more speedily and cheaply than replacement. Recent improvements in the electrical properties of the specialized transformer steel used to build reactors means that the losses in a 40-year old design are often higher than a modern equivalent unit. A unit refurbished using an old design would not meet the current specifications for equipment to be installed on the transmission systems. Furthermore, its lifetime costs could be prohibitive – preventing the achievement of cost benefits.

The ABB refurbishment project is focused on a shunt reactor that was installed in 1967. It is being removed from the Willesden substation and transported to ABB’s transformer refurbishment centre of excellence in Drammen, Norway. There it will be subjected to a detailed inspection and a technical appraisal that will establish recommendations on refurbishment options. This will be followed by a redesign and manufacture of a new active part, as well as refurbishment of the tank and cooler bank. Finally, the refurbished unit will be subjected to a factory acceptance test (FAT) to the very latest standards before installation and commissioning back in its original substation location. Reusing the reactor tank will enable the unit to fit on its existing plinth, eliminating the need for extensive civil works.

“The Willesden project is a very significant breakthrough for ABB’s Transformer Service team in the UK that enables us to deliver a practical real-world demonstration of how a non-ABB shunt reactor asset over 40 years old can be remanufactured cost effectively in its existing tank, while upgrading it with state of the art design and materials” says Matthew Pownall, Divisional Manager ABB Power Products Service UK. “As well as offering a more sustainable approach to the future asset management of shunt reactors, we can significantly reduce civil engineering costs. So there is huge potential for this project to inform the asset management and replacement strategy for National Grid’s UK population of around 70 shunt reactors at 13 kV.”

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