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A variety of coating and liner options are available for the power industry. Utilizing high temperature, fast-set structural coatings, epoxies and synthetic liners, we help meet your needs for secondary fuel containment, pond liners, waterproofing and pipeline repair. We increase the life expectancy of key operating equipment such as precipitators, pumps and more. Below-ground or above-ground liners fitted with hydrocarbon filtration products help utility companies comply with EPA and SPCC requirements. Containment systems are custom-designed based on site-specific variables.

Electric power plants and substations use oil in their equipment to generate their  electric power. The presence of oil in their operations subjects power plants and substations to environmental regulations and oversight. Many of these regulations require substation oil containment systems to prevent and control oil spills from storage tanks, transformers, and other equipment. 

SPCC and the Requirements for Electric Power Plants

The U.S, Environmental Protection Agency’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements define several classes of oil storage and require either secondary containment or oil spill contingency plans (OSCPs) for bulk oil storage containers. 

SPCC requirements apply to facilities that have either a total aboveground oil storage capacity of greater than 1,320 gallons or a total buried storage capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons. This amount should be calculated based on the shell capacity, or maximum volume, of the containers, not the current amount of product, or operational volume.

Electric power plants include bulk storage containers as well as oil-filled operational equipment, defined as devices that include oil storage to support the function of the equipment. Oil-filled operational equipment can include transformers, hydraulic systems, lubricating systems, gear boxes, circuit breakers, electrical switches and more.

What are the Parts of an Electric Power Plant and Substation?

Power plants or power stations are industrial facilities that generate electric power. Most electric power plants include boiler units that convert water to superheated steam at very pressure. The steam is used to spin turbine blades, used in a generator to create electricity. The steam is cooled and condensed to liquid for reuse.

In addition to coal and natural gas, fossil fuel power plants use oil kept in bulk storage containers or tanks. An electrical substation is the junction point where two or more transmission lines terminate, although at large transmission substations, one or two dozen lines may terminate.

Transformers are designed to lower high transmission voltages to less than 10,000 volts to make them suitable for distribution systems. Substations often include circuit breakers and switches to isolate different parts of the transmission and distribution systems as needed, as well as capacitors to smooth the voltage output. Substations are crucial in connecting electricity to the local power grid.

Oil-filled electrical equipment is subject to secondary containment requirements that can include “passive,” permanent structures such as berms and dikes, which do not require deployment by the operator. Passive methods may not be feasible for electrical transformers, capacitors or switches, which would instead require active containment measures, such as a spill-response plan. 

Transformers at Electrical Substations

Transformers are the largest pieces of oil containing equipment at a substation, capable of holding up to hundreds of gallons of oil. Given the possibility of oil leaking from a transformer tank, transformers are required to have secondary containment such as oil collecting concrete basins or pits that surround the foundation, as well as composite walls or earthen berms. Transformer oil is a highly refined, mineral-based oil used for cooling, heat exchange and insulation. The oil can degrade over time, requiring a preventative maintenance program.

Transformer oils contain polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which can be toxic to humans following chronic exposures. They are not biodegradable and can make safe disposal difficult, so transformer containment is important to ensure against environmental contamination. The hydrocarbons in transformer mineral oils can also pose risks for fires or explosions during overheating or vaporization. Below-grade secondary containment can help prevent fires and fire damage.

Transformer oil spills can be damaging, such as the 37,000-gallon spill in New York’s East River in 2017. The various risks of transformer oils illustrate the need for effective transformer secondary containment. Secondary containment at substations can include placing the foundation of a single transformer in a containment pit, or creating a lined area with drainage to an underground storage tank at substations with multiple transformers.

Placing transformers and substation equipment in containment pits can ensure that any oil spillage will be confined to a relatively small area on-site, preventing environmental damage and allowing for a quicker, easier clean-up. Even when not required by the SPCC, installing secondary oil containment at a power plant or substation can be less expensive than cleaning up an oil spill.

What Are the Benefits of Industrial Spray Coating for Secondary Containment?

Spray-applied structural coating solutions provide effective secondary containment at power plants and substations, especially when applied to transformer oil collection pits or sump pits.

Spray coatings can make concrete less porous and protect the substrate from chemical damage. They form strong bonds to substrates that create a permanent film over a surface, protect against degradation and prevent oil leaks and spills from escaping into the environment and making cleanup easier. The correct, VOC-free coating for your containment needs will have high tensile strength and durability, withstand temperature fluctuations and resist harsh environments.