19 Feb 2019
Electricity Distribution
Closed: OHL Pole Mounted Transformer PCB Sniffer
Proposed changes to European Regulations on PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) have the potential to require all UK DNOs test all of their old, potentially contaminated transformer assets. These assets were accidentally contaminated with PCBs before the Stockholm Convention banned them in 1987. This would be in excess of 300,000 pole mounted and ground mounted items. While the ground mounted items could be tested in situ without considerable cost and inconvenience the vast majority of the 300K items are pole mounted and essentially inaccessible.
I am Head of Safety, Health and Environment at UK’s  Energy Networks Association tasked with finding ways to confirm the PCB status of these assets. With this in mind I wonder how feasible it would be to create a means of testing for live, in situ pole mounted transformers. Most UK DNOs use simple “Clor-N-Oil” test kits to sample a small quantity of oil for the presence of the Chlorine within the PCB. However nothing is available to test live equipment either by accessing the oil or by testing vapours/emissions from the overhead equipment.

I therefore need to you to consider whether a tester could be created to test via Live Line Rods from the ground with lines live? Could the tester carry out a Clor-N-Oil type test via a probe that entered the transformer’s breather tube? Or via emissions from the breather tube? Or any means that I haven’t thought of. Any such device would be of considerable (and urgent) use in the UK and across Europe. The estimated cost in the UK of changing all assets if testing is not available is £1.8bn, so you’ll appreciate how helpful a solution would be. The thoughts of the various oil testing manufacturers innovation teams is therefore eagerly awaited and greatly appreciated.
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