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Old 17 August 2007, 05:30 AM
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Blow Your Top Dropped Main Transformer At Fort Calhoun

An expensive screw up!!! There is a summary of what occurred on the bottom of this email.

All that hard work for a $2.00 o-ring failure!

Ft Calhoun nuclear plant was getting their new main transformer (spare) from Austria. It was shipped half way around the world and they got it within less than 100 feet of where it was to be stored and it dropped.

This thing weighs approximately 400 tons and cost $6,000,000.00. It had come in by barge to the plant's neighbor's facility that has a loading dock on the river and then transferred by rail for about a mile to the plant.

Once it was at the plant it was loaded on the multi wheeled truck you see in the pictures and was being driven about a half mile to a site right outside their protected area to be stored until needed. The truck being used is a 12 axle self leveling hydraulic truck.

They got the transformer to about 100 feet of the storage location and a $2.00 O-ring failed on one of the hydraulic leveling rams and the trailer started tilting and when it got so far, the transformer broke all its hold down chains and came over on its side, made a rather loud thud and kicked up a lot of dust. The company that manufactured it came over and performed an inspection and deemed it unrepairable. The vendor is on the hook for it as part of the contract was to deliver it to the storage location and then the utility would take control of it. So the vendor is making another one and utility should get it next summer, all on the vendors' nickel, and it is a LOT of nickels.







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  #2  
Old 17 August 2007, 05:46 AM
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Quote:
The company that manufactured it came over and performed an inspection and deemed it unrepairable.
This is just me, but I'd go in for a second opinion first.
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Old 17 August 2007, 05:54 AM
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I wonder if this incident will ever be mentioned on an episode of 'Mega Movers'?

~Psihala
(*Guessing the verbal reaction of the two chaps in the third picture was something more potent than 'Uh-oh...')
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Old 17 August 2007, 06:01 AM
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Yow!

Dang! And I thought I had worked on some big transformer coils! I'd hate to be the person that has to wind or stack those!
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  #5  
Old 17 August 2007, 02:19 PM
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Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station did a major upgrade in 2006 which included a new main transformer; this could perhaps be a backup brought on site this year.

The transformer has the label of VA TECH ELIN Transformatoren GmbH & Co, an Austrian company.

Seems pretty easy to call and confirm. This sort of incident does happen.
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Old 17 August 2007, 02:34 PM
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I am curious what makes it "unrepairable". Transformers are normally just a bunch of coils, with the bigger ones oil filled for cooling, as this one is. However, they are shipped dry, with the oil added after installation.

I can't see how it could have sustained enough internal damage to be unrepairable, unless all the internal mountings for the coils broke.
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Old 17 August 2007, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hambubba View Post
I am curious what makes it "unrepairable". Transformers are normally just a bunch of coils, with the bigger ones oil filled for cooling, as this one is. However, they are shipped dry, with the oil added after installation.

I can't see how it could have sustained enough internal damage to be unrepairable, unless all the internal mountings for the coils broke.
I don't know if this one is large coils or a bunch of little stacked ones but they can be damaged surprisingly easily. If they are dropped and the insulation between layers rips it will short out. A strong enough jarring can snap the copper wires. If the protective coating around the copper is broke open it can cause arcing. The legs that hold the coils are layered like laminated wood. The whole coil is dipped and baked but enough force can damage the legs and then it causes other problems.

I'm sure Hubby could explain other ways it would be unrepairable but he isn't here at the moment. I'm planning to show him this when he gets home and I'm sure he will have more insight into it then.

ETA: The coils are the heart of the unit. If only 1 (presuming they are large coils) was damaged they might have chosen to just replace that one but if more than one, cost-wise it would not be worth repairing.
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Old 17 August 2007, 03:07 PM
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I am curious what makes it "unrepairable".
A friend of mine worked at the local steel mill, which, among other things, makes sheet steel for cars. He told me that when a roll of steel (approx 2 m diameter, 2 m wide, 1 mm thick), it gets so hot from internal friction between the sheet layers that it starts to glow and takes many hours too cool down. It becomes so hot that the steel is fused together and the whole roll just have to go back into the melting pot again.

In other words, I don't for a second doubt that it was destroyed.
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Old 17 August 2007, 03:35 PM
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Crash

That was a bit more costly than this accident (someone claimed the other day that he had seen a video of it somewhere, does anyone know where that could be found).
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Old 17 August 2007, 03:37 PM
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I just emailed the law offices of Countryman & McDaniel, the cargolaw.com guys, to see if they have any information. I'll post again if I get a reply from them.

Edit Add: Here's an interesting transformer tip-over on the cargolaw site.
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  #11  
Old 17 August 2007, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
So the vendor is making another one and utility should get it next summer, all on the vendors' nickel, and it is a LOT of nickels.
I find it hard to believe that the vendor would have sent a $6 million piece of equipment halfway round the world without insuring it. They'll porbably have to absorb a portion of the loss, but not it's entire value.
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Old 17 August 2007, 04:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
I find it hard to believe that the vendor would have sent a $6 million piece of equipment halfway round the world without insuring it. They'll porbably have to absorb a portion of the loss, but not it's entire value.
If it's a large corporation with extensive capital, things like this are often insured by a separate insurance division. In effect, the parent corporation eats the loss. I don't know how this company works, though.

It's terribly complicated, since liability changes hands many times when you're loading, shipping, unloading, and installing something like this.
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Old 17 August 2007, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
I find it hard to believe that the vendor would have sent a $6 million piece of equipment halfway round the world without insuring it. They'll porbably have to absorb a portion of the loss, but not it's entire value.
They most likely did. However, for the power plant's purposes, the vendor would pay for it. The vendor and their insurance company would then fight about the particulars. I'm not 100% certain that this is the case. But such a situation would be very typical.
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  #14  
Old 17 August 2007, 04:32 PM
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Dog And another thing...

I just emailed a representative of Elin in Australia who has been involved in transformer transport issues in the past.

While doing so, I noticed that there's something slightly odd about the photos. They all have .jpg filename extensions, but it seems that they are actually in .bmp file format. That might be why the files are so large in relation to their on-screen size.

Bob "BoKu" K.
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  #15  
Old 17 August 2007, 05:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
I find it hard to believe that the vendor would have sent a $6 million piece of equipment halfway round the world without insuring it. They'll porbably have to absorb a portion of the loss, but not it's entire value.
I used to and Hubby still works for a company that makes and ships transformers world-wide. While never making any this big, they've made some in the 10+ ton range. They have had some transformers ruined while in transit. The way it worked for the company was that the vendor was responsible from pickup to delivery. They were responsible for insuring that the unit got delivered intact (It was part of the contract). Then it was up to the vendor if they took out insurance. Meanwhile, the company had a separate contract for delivery with the purchaser. If the vendor damaged the unit, the company would be protected through the purchaser agreement. The purchaser would/could go after the vendor for loss at that point. But that's how this company worked. Doesn't mean that one does the same.

Another thing I would like to clarify from my earlier statement was that I should have said if one unit was ruined they could probably replace it. A job like this could have 3 large coils or many stacked units of 3 coils. A unit could consist of multiple coils. If it is one large unit the steel is in the form of a figure 8 on it's side and has one coil per leg for a total of 3. Or a figure of a square with 2 coils. In that case, if a coil was damaged, it wouldn't be worth the time, effort, manpower to take it apart. Would take longer to take it apart and rebuild it than to make it new (Need to rewind the coils either way). After a unit is put together, it is dipped in a large vat of varnish and baked. As Hubby says, it would take a jackhammer to take it apart.

Besides, many reworked units fail test the first time through because you can't pack them back together right.

Hubby was also saying that many times jobs this big are built so they can not be just repaired. They are to big to do it realistically or cost efficiently. The software and some of the cables can be maintained but the main unit is inaccessible.

They've built some right in the back of the tractor trailers because they would have been to big to move with the shop equipment (or anything that could be rented locally). They dip the coils and bake them then use a special spray on varnish for the legs. One mistake like ripping the insulation paper while putting it on the leg can ruin a million dollar coil.
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Old 17 August 2007, 05:55 PM
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Default And another another thing

Photos from this site strongly suggest that the accident depicted was indeed at Fort Calhoun.

Taken together, this abstract (.pdf) and this presentation (.pdf) seem to date the accident to 2004 or prior.

Here's a blog entry that shows three of the four photos, with different filenames and in .jpg file format.
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  #17  
Old 18 August 2007, 12:54 AM
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I wonder if the vendor can go after the transport company for the lost $$$? Would the vendor have their own trucks for moving something this specialized or would they sub-contract the actual transportation?

Heck, the vendor could even go after the maker of the trailer. There is no reason why a heavy carrier should have a catastrophic failure because of the loss of a single O-ring. That's just poor design.
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Old 18 August 2007, 01:11 AM
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I'm told by a site manager of another transformer manufacturer that transformers are filled with oil prior to shipping ("How else can you test them?") and taking liability for the on-site transport and installation phase is highly unusual ("We would never be so stupid to put that in a contract, nor would our customers.") but not impossible.

Additionally, I'm told this sort of accident has happened to his transformers many times but never caused any more than minor damage. He can't believe a transformer falling off a truck would be a total loss. They are terribly robust.
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  #19  
Old 18 August 2007, 01:39 AM
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Not all transformers require oil. And it only takes one hit the wrong way to shift the coil and cause it to break it's insulation resulting in a short. Hell, Hubby's seen units fall off the forklift onto the concrete floor and pass with flying colors. At the same time, have a unit tip over when they put it on a dolly and have 2 of the 3 coils not be able to pass when tested. These were complete units being packaged up for shipping and had already passed test.

It also depends on the specs of the coils too. If it has a glastic or plastic sleeve (usually the smaller ones have the plastic and are called E&I units) it is wound onto, it runs less chance of the leg cutting the insulation. If it is just the papery insulation they use, it won't take much to break it. And a 400 ton unit falling like that will have a lot of impact.
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Old 18 August 2007, 01:50 AM
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I don't know; I'm just reporting what I hear from someone who manages a plant that builds main transformers for nuclear power plants. I can only assume that transformers of that size and type are very similar. I could be wrong.
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