A Goldilocks Design for Secondary Oil Containment: Walls, Floor, Drainage

Anyone with children is familiar with the story of "Goldilocks and The Three Bears," in which a young girl named Goldilocks stumbles into a house owned by three bears. She brazenly attempts to make herself comfortable by sitting in their chairs, laying in their beds, and even eating their food. In her quest, she finds the first and second choices are always too much in opposite extremes, but the third is always "just right."

While a relatively weak story line, even for a children’s tale, it is the source of the Goldilocks Principle, a concept that states that something must fall into certain margins, as opposed to reaching extremes. This principle is applied across a number of disciplines, most notably in astrobiology (for instance, the Earth is referred to as a Goldilocks Planet, because it’s neither too hot nor too cold, or too wet or too dry – it is the ideal climate to support life as we know it). However, it is also applicable in developmental psychology, biology, economics and engineering.

With so many options to choose from for your transformer containment in the marketplace today, it can be a challenge to decide which solution is the best fit to protect your electrical substations and transformers. Though there are a number of variables that can affect your decision, discovering the solution that is just right is simpler than you’d expect, as long as it provides walls, a floor, and drainage for rainwater.

The main purpose of a substation is to step-up or step-down power so it can be consumed as part of the electrical generation, transmission and distribution system. Most substations include transformers to change the voltage levels between high transmission voltages and low distribution voltages. They are designed and built based on reliability and cost, in which the engineering team is focused more often on functionality than aesthetics. It is also the responsibility of the utility companies to protect the environment and the public from a potential oil spill. Facilities that have an aboveground oil storage capacity of 1,320 gallons or more, such as large electrical transformers that utilize oil for cooling, are subject to SPCC regulations (40 CFR Part 112), meaning they require transformer containment.

A Goldilocks Solution for Secondary Containment: Walls

When challenged to create a transformer containment system that offers both aesthetic appeal as well as durability and efficiency, we partnered with Strongwell® Corporation to develop a Goldilocks solution that provides walls, floor and drainage that are all “just right.” Strongwell’s COMPOSOLITE® fiberglass walls offer a sleek and affordable alternative to concrete. Strong and corrosion-resistant, they are easily installed and require little on-going maintenance. Standard COMPOSOLITE panels are manufactured using a fire retardant polyester resin system in a slate gray color.

A Goldilocks Solution for Secondary Containment: Floor

Combined with a Geomembrane Liner floor, which simultaneously serves as a lining and transformer containment solution for non-impervious soils, the chance of oil escaping the containment structure decreases dramatically. The liner should be covered with at least six inches of cleaned washed stone, to protect the liner from UV rays and punctures when walking over the area. The stone provides some fire protection as well.

A Goldilocks Solution for Secondary Containment: Drainage

Finally, for the system to function effectively, there must be a method to evacuate water from the transformer containment area. A drain should be installed in the lowest point of the containment area, to pipe rain and storm water to a vault approximately three to four feet outside of the walls. The vault houses an HFF Oil Stop Valve, which filters and processes waste water at a steady flow rate, and in the event of a significant oil discharge, will automatically shut off flow.

A Goldilocks Solution for Secondary Containment that is Just Right

As you can see, this system is just right for utilities. Not only does it put them in compliance with EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Rule 112.7 and meets IEEE 980 Standards, they also reap the benefits of a low-cost, highly-effective, redundant system that provides both containment and drainage capabilities.

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Contact BCI Today for Your Goldilocks Secondary Containment System

BCI is an industry leader for providing secondary containment solutions for the electric utility industry. We’ll help design a system that meets or exceeds EPA and SPCC requirements. Contact us today for a quote.