FLIR thermal scan saves substation

FLIR thermal scan saves substation

During a routine inspection at a substation, a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) electrician discovered a major issue with the system from a chance FLIR thermal scan.

He felt heat blast his face as he passed within a couple of metres of an energised transformer bank but, whilst heat is expected, the intensity of it alarmed him.

The system was shut down for an investigation after he grabbed a handheld FLIR thermal imaging camera from his van to check for a potential issue.

It soon became evident there was no oil flow in the transformer, but detecting the problem early helped the utility company and its customers avoid the impact of a serious outage and safety issue.

Ray Friend, supervisor of the substation’s maintenance and construction team, confirmed: “By catching it in time, the repair cost was $300,000 (around £290,000).

“If the fault had gone unnoticed, we would have faced a replacement bill of $3 million ($2.3 million).

“The repair took a week with a crew of six, about 17% of the time it would have taken waiting for a replacement, which can take months.”

It is cases such as this that prompted PG&E to add 200 FLIR E-Series mid-range thermal imaging cameras to its armoury of inspection tools.

The purpose was to enable each member of the PG&E maintenance team to immediately investigate any heat anomalies that could signal potential danger.

Across the board, FLIR thermal imaging cameras have allowed PG&E inspectors to find issues early.

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