Dry Ice Blasting & Cleaning Blog

Dry Ice Blasting Reduces Substation Watt Loss by 3 Megawatts & Reduces Flashover Risk

Substation workers

Polar Clean’s sister company, US Cleanblast, used dry ice blasting to clean a PSEG substation, improving before-and-after watt loss testing by 40-50%, and improved transformer testing by 30% at a PECO substation. And, when the method is used preventatively, it helps to safeguard against costly flashover fires.

Though all substations strive to retain as much wattage as possible to increase efficiency for the lowest possible cost, many struggle to do so; it isn’t uncommon for substations to lose megawatts of energy each year.

One of the primary causes: dirty equipment. Dirt impacts equipment performance and can significantly reduce efficiency.

Luckily, dry ice blasting – a cleaning method that uses tiny pellets of frozen CO2 to blast away dirt and grime – is extremely well suited to cleaning substation equipment. Some of the country’s most prominent substation operators have used the technique to clean their equipment – and recoup an impressive amount of wattage in the process.

When Polar Clean’s sister company, US Cleanblast used dry ice blasting to clean a PSEG substation, there was a 40-50% improvement in before-and-after watt loss testing. Similarly, when US Cleanblast used dry ice to clean a PECO substation, transformer tests improved by 30%. Dry ice blasting helps equipment run so efficiently that some substations have generated up to 3 additional megawatts after a cleaning.

Best yet, the results don’t come at the expense of prolonged downtimes. When the PECO substation used to clean equipment by hand, it would take two workers two shifts. When dry ice blasting was used, the entire process took just three hours.

How Dirt Damages Substations

The multi-million-dollar equipment found at substations – which includes transformers, circuit breakers, voltage breakers, switch gears, and metering and control equipment – gets dirty quickly. Ash floats into and compounds inside tiny crevices. Carbon builds up. Exhaust, pollution and other debris mix with condensation and rain to form stubborn sludge.

When that grime is left to accumulate for too long, it can trigger a cascade of bad outcomes that extends beyond equipment running inefficiently and losing wattage. When too much dirt accumulates on equipment, the risk of flashovers increases. After the fire ignites, it rides the dirt from one piece of equipment to the next and can quickly engulf the entire substation in flames, or even cause an explosion.

It goes without saying that flashovers should be avoided at all costs. Beyond the threats they pose to employees and bystanders, they can cause prolonged, wide-reaching power outages – and an avalanche of bad publicity. Flashovers can also cause millions of dollars in damage: depending on the severity of the fire, they can completely destroy equipment or leave it charred and in need of expensive rehabilitation.

Traditional Substation Cleaning Methods

While the incentive to keep substation equipment clean is high, there has been a lack of preventive cleaning, industry wide. When substation equipment is cleaned, traditional methods are often used including:

  • Hand washing with harsh chemicals and / or compressed air
  • Vacuuming
  • Sand blasting
  • Pressure washing

Unfortunately, these methods often fail to remediate fire damage – and create a risk of additional damage from the introduction of water, harsh solvents or abrasive media.

Some types of media, like sand, are safer to use, but also introduce secondary debris, which can be difficult to clean out of small nooks and crannies. Hand washing, vacuuming and compressed air are also incapable of reaching into tiny crevices and result in a less-than-thorough clean.

These methods are also time consuming and can require prolonged and costly downtime, which often lasts for several days and requires the substation to shift to mobile power stations that are expensive and inefficient.

For all of these reasons and more, dry ice blasting has emerged as a preferred cleaning solution for substation equipment.

Why Use Dry Ice to Clean Substations

Dry ice blasting is a highly effective method of cleaning. When used on substation – and other power generation and transmission – equipment, dry ice blasting outperforms traditional methods because it is:

  • Safe: dry ice is chemical- and water-free and safe to use on and around electrical equipment
  • Effective: dry ice can reach into small spaces and sublimates on contact, so no secondary cleanup is required; and though it is safe to use on delicate equipment, dry ice cleans aggressively and thoroughly
  • Efficient: dry ice blasting can clean up to 8 square-feet per minute and, because no foreign material is left to clean up, the service takes a fraction of the time it takes traditional methods
  • Cost Effective: because dry ice cleans so efficiently, downtime and labor costs are significantly reduced

Dry ice does an excellent job of remediating fire damage to equipment after a flashover – and delivers a host of cost- and watt-savings benefits to substations that use the method to clean preventively.

DIB substation

Polar Clean: A Partner to the Power Industry

Keeping substation equipment clean is a tough but important job – and it’s one that dry ice blasting and Polar Clean are well-suited to take on. For over a decades, the power industry has relied on Polar Clean to keep its turbines, heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) tubes, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, and more in efficient, working order.

In addition to the power industry, our team is trusted by the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, manufacturing and restoration industries, and more.

To learn more about dry ice cleaning for substations and other power generation equipment, contact our team for an assessment.

Contact us to learn about dry ice blasting for substations