Oluseye Oj, Ibadan
Three South West states of Oyo, Osun and Ogun, received unpalatable news on Wednesday, February 5, 2020. It was a day they would not forget in a hurry. The three states were thrown into partial blackout on that fateful day. The darkness was caused by an early morning fire that razed the multi-million power transformer at the sub-regional power plant of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Ayede, Akinyemi, Ring Road, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The burnt transformer is the $2million T1B 150Mega-Volt Armpere (MVA) 132/33KV power transformer. It covers many parts of Oyo State including Ibadan and Iseyin; Iwo in Osun State as well as Shagamu and Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State. It is one of the four giant transformers at the sub-regional station. The inferno also destroyed some expensive cables attached to the transformer.
However, the fire incident appeared to have a positive side, though it was a monumental loss. It made the TCN to abandon the use of the current lightening arresters that are bursting types, installed as safety precautions in all its power plants because of its glaring disadvantages.
The lightening arresters were said to have been in close proximity with the transformers and when anyone of them explodes, it would be like a bullet and anything that it hits, will catch fire. TCN is in the process of redesigning the safety precaution to guard against inferno to silicon type lightening arresters that would not explode, but would only flash and shut down the system.
If not for the timely intervention of the Oyo State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service, NNPC Fire Service, and some private companies, the whole of the four giant transformers at the station would have been reduced to ashes.
Eleven fire trucks were seen at the station fighting to quench the fire was said to have started at about 7a.m. The fire was put out at about noon. Unofficial sources said it might take up two to three months for power to be restored to the affected communities if there was a spare transformer of the same capacity in other locations of TCN. Otherwise, it would take a minimum of six months for power to be restored if the TCN would have to make orders for a new transformer and its cables.
The news that the blackout might last for three to six months sent shivers down the spines of many residents of the affected communities. Some wondered how they would cope during the blackout. They were also afraid that the crime rate might increase because criminals hide under the cover of darkness to perpetrate their nefarious activities. Others with faulty generators made efforts to get them fixed. But alas, the light was restored within 48 hours.
Many would not believe a press statement on the official twitter handle of TCN (@TCN_NIGERIA), entitled, Transformer Fire in Ayede Transmission Substation:
“This incident would temporarily affect power supply to Ibadan and its environs. We therefore appeal to customers in the affected areas to bear with us, as we would restore normal supply as soon as our engineers complete the restoration of the cables. Normal bulk supply would be restored as the substation has enough redundancy to adequately transmit the Disco load requirement.” of
Head, Transmission Service Provider (TSP), Mr Victor Adewunmi, led a team of TCN officials from Abuja to the scene of fire incident later in the evening, on behalf of the Managing Director, Mr Usman Mohammed. He said at about 7:02a.m., on the fateful day, “we received the news that one of the transformers was on fire.
“The initial investigation was that there was a lightening arrester placed in close proximity to the transformer that the lightening arrester shattered and punctured the cooling face and when you have very hot transformer oil, it is like petrol. So, it punctured the cooling face and set the transformer on fire.
“So, the security men alluded to the fact that when the thing started it was a small fire and they rallied round to see how they could mobilise fire extinguishers to the site and unfortunately before they could do that, the fire escalated and the whole transformer was engulfed in fire. But the good news is that we have a redundant transfer. We have three other transformers here, which are 150MVA. The engineers will work to rearrange our box and give supply to the people.
“The fire incidence, we are praying it doesn’t happen because as you know it affects the general public. But we are working very hard to ensure that this kind of incident doesn’t happen again. If you have been listening to the MD’s speech, he has been saying that with our transmission, rehabilitation and expansion programme.
“We have put a lot across all our sub-stations across all over Nigeria, meaning that we want to have redundancy everywhere, so that when we have this kind of incident, we don’t disrupt supply to people.
“By the grace of God, before the end of today, we are going to restore supply back to Ibadan. As it is here, we have three transformer in service and one in redundant. Three other ones are very good. The affected transformer is completely engulfed in fire and the average cost of the 150MVA is about $2million.”
He apologised to the people for the inconvenience: “We have protection relays on all our transformers and if not because of the protection relays, maybe all the transformers would have been affected. The fire incident at Ayede power plant is beyond the protection because it is not as if it was the transformer itself that had problems within itself, but a lightening arrester external to the transformer, which exploded. The lightening arrester was in close proximity with the transformer and when it explodes, it was like a bullet and anything that hits it will catch fire.
“One of the ways we are trying to solve the problem is to redesign our lightening arresters, to no longer be bursting type but now silicon type. When silicon type lightening arresters break down, they don’t explode, they only flash and shut down the system.
“Instead of setting fire on the transformer, they just cause a flash and shut down the transformer and no fire will happen. That is our next face we are working towards and we are already working towards procuring the silicon type lightening arresters to replace the old ones, so that we don’t have this kind of incident again.
“By the grace of God, before the evening, we are going to restore power to the communities. The engineers are already working to sort out the cables and rearrange the box and to supply. The fire incident did not affect the other transformers.
“When this kind of problem occurs, the initial news might not actually be the cause of the problem. These are technical issues, so it takes time to sit down, analyse the situation and get to the root of the problem and the proper solution.
“But from what we have seen the other transformers are still there, but the cables are being sorted out because they are interlinked, those ones need to be separated so that what happened to the one that burnt will not have a feedback effect on the other ones. That is what we are doing presently and by the time we are done with that, we will restore supply to the communities.”
The power was eventually restored on Thursday to the affected parts of Ibadan, including Akobo, Olodo, Apata, Ologuneru, Eleyele, Sango, Agbowo and Mokola. A resident of Iseyin, Alhazan Abiodun, said power was restored to Iseyin a day after the incident.
General Manager, Public Affairs, TCN, Ndidi Mbah, confirmed that the bulk power was restored through two of the 150MVA power transformers in Ayede substation to Ijebu Ode, Shagamu and most parts of Ibadan, a day after the fire incident: “TCN is working assiduously to complete the reconnection of the third transformer and ascertain its integrity before energising.
“We appreciate the patience and understanding of affected customers, even as TCN engineers strive to restore bulk power through the remaining transformer in the substation to Ibadan Distribution Company.”
Early callers at the scene on the day of incident included, Chief Operating Officer, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC), Mr John Ayodele; Commissioner of Police, Mr Shina Olukolu and Commissioner for Energy, Mr Seun Ashamu.
A combined team of men of Nigeria Police, Department State Services (DSS), Nigerian Army, and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were on ground to maintain law and order.