Impacts of Fatigue on Tubular Steel Substation Structures

At a Glance:

  • There is a growing trend of “fatigue related” structural failures on tubular steel assets inside substations. This could lead to catastrophic failure costing the asset owner millions.
  • Creating a regular robust field inspection program with a qualified partner will provide actionable data so that asset owners mitigate these issues.
  • Being proactive is the only way to prevent these risks, outages, and ensure assets reach their full intended lifecycle.

What to Know About Fatigue on Tubular Steel Assets

Tubular Steel Assets and Grid Resiliency

Among the many components of a substation, there is a growing trend of static mast and shield wire poles catastrophically failing in substations. Fatigue, caused by wind induced vibration, can be a leading mode of failure which impacts these components over time through long-term exposure without proper maintenance.  This can lead to expensive and lengthy outages which could be catastrophic to the public and greatly affect grid resiliency. Additionally, the asset owner might be forced to replace equipment that is extremely expensive and in some cases, hard to acquire in a timely manner (think about high voltage transformers). 

Tubular steel assets, such as static mast poles and shield wire poles are as important to substations as any other component. But because they aren’t as high-dollar as other pieces of equipment, such as transformers and circuit breakers, they often don’t get the attention they require. However, if one of these structures failed and collapsed into adjacent components, it could cost the asset owner millions.

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix when “unexpected” substation failures occur.  It is not practical to have spares in inventory on certain high dollar items.  As such, it doesn’t make sense to allow less expensive components to be an afterthought and put more critical components at risk. Not only is the damage caused by these components expensive, but replacing them is time-consuming. Transformers, for instance, are typically shipped from other countries and can take twelve months or longer for delivery and installation.  Extended outages could greatly impair grid resiliency and your reputation as a power provider.

What Can Asset Owners Do?

Asset owners must be aware of the fatigue related issues that their static mast, shield wire, and other tubular steel poles are exposed to. These problems develop over time and can strike fast when there isn’t an adequate asset management program in place to ensure early detection of these faults.

At Exo, we will work with you to create the right asset management program for your substation steel poles and their components. But to get the right methods in place, you must understand what proactive measures need to be taken. This can only be accomplished by working with engineers and technicians with specific knowledge of steel structures that are capable of providing actionable data so you understand the next steps to be taken with your assets. 

If proactive inspection measures are executed and conclude that there are structural issues present which require attention, we will design, fabricate, and install solutions that can restore an asset to its full design and performance capacity. Oftentimes, total replacement can be avoided, avoiding costly outages. We determine the asset’s course of action by following these steps:

  1. If replacement is essential, we will engineer new structures to withstand fatigue loading. If we are able to save the asset, we can design, fabricate, and install steel splints, gussets, or other components to reinforce the structure so it reaches its full intended lifecycle.
  2. Apply a robust in-plant inspection program to eliminate fabrication weld defects that could weaken future structures and make them susceptible to fatigue.
  3. Create a regular inspection program on in-service substation tubular steel assets. This includes nondestructive testing (NDT) inspection of fracture critical welds (i.e. base plate to pole shaft welds) by a qualified technician.
  4. Catch damage early when repairs are less expensive, and prevent failures and subsequent outages.
  5. Retrofit existing structures with reinforcing components and vibration dampening solutions to avoid future fatigue-related issues.

Avoiding Future Issues

A proactive approach is the best way to avoid risk, and mitigating issues before they become major catastrophes pays dividends in the long run. After Exo has designed a turnkey solution for your assets’ specific needs, we will implement regular structural inspection as part of an asset management program. 

During structural inspections, Exo will: 

  • Proactively identify risks – Saving you exorbitant amounts of money due to massive fatigue issues.
  • Catch problems early and fix them – Avoid disruption to the line and liability issues. 
  • Extend the life of the assets – Remediate and repair existing fatigue-related cracks and other issues, and avoid potential risks so that your asset reaches its full intended lifecycle.
  • Prevent damage to other collateral and very expensive equipment/assets – By protecting one component or asset, you protect the entire substation.
  • Prevent failure and outages – With proactive measures, cracks, corrosion, fatigue, and more can and will be avoided, allowing the line to consistently transmit power.
  • Save money, improve grid resiliency, public safety – By implementing asset management procedures now, you won’t have to worry about lost money due to fallen assets, liability issues, and major improvements. All of this keeps the public safe while improving and retaining grid resiliency, ultimately improving your reputation as a reliable power provider. 

Ready to Get Started?

For turnkey solutions for your substation steel, you’ll want to work with a team of people who understand the specific needs of steel structures and all of their components. Exo offers our Ex-Tend program that improves asset reliability and longevity with the most comprehensive asset management solutions. Ex-Tend is our unparalleled asset management approach that provides actionable data that we apply to every service to proactively care for and increase the lifespan of your assets. Contact us today to get started with your asset management program.

Get Started with Exo

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Our team would love to talk to you, so we can learn about your lighting company’s goals and primary areas of concern. Contact us today, and we’ll help you take the first step in creating a comprehensive lighting asset management program. Give us a call at 281-259-7000.
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