Transformer Containment System - SorbWeb™ Plus

Frequestly Asked Questions

Q. What is the published lifetime for the SorbWeb™Plus System?

The individual components of the SorbWeb™Plus transformer containment system have been extensively used as geotextiles for many decades. The Polyethylene and Polypropylene polymers used to manufacture these products have enhanced content of antioxidants and stabilizers to ensure oxidative and UV stability of these products for at least 50 years. None of these products can undergo biodegradation under normal operating conditions. Published studies estimate the service life of HDPE polymer to be at least 160 years as a primary liner in a landfill application. The service life of LLDPE polymer is longer. They age slower than HDPE after the antioxidants have been depleted from the polymer.

Sources:

Géotechnique, Volume 55, Issue 9, 01 November 2005, pages 631 – 678; 

Geo-Frontiers 2011 © ASCE 2011, Degradation of Exposed LLDPE and HDPE Geomembranes: A Review; 

Moisture curable polyurethane polymers have been used for many decades as sealants in the construction industry. None of the manufacturers clearly specify the service life of these products as environmental parameters very much dictate on the conditions under which the products perform and are used. Per SIKA product brochure – “SIKA Solutions for Concrete Bridges mentions 25 years for Polyurethanes in coating applications, exposed to UV, hot/cold temperatures, road salt. Additionally other SIKA product brochures indicate “the longest known SIKA product application is known to be 42 years of service in a roofing application as per SIKA publication”.

Sources:

“SIKA Solutions for Concrete Bridges”; 

“SIKA Solutions – Sustainability in Roofing”; 

Styrene-Ethylene-Propylene polymers have been around since the late nineteen sixties, so their entire history comprises perhaps 40 years. One of the biggest applications of Styrene-Ethylene-Propylene is roofing and asphalt modification – to make asphalt more durable. In those applications life expectancy is in the decades.

Q. Similar to concrete a containment system should be designed for a lifespan of 50 years (assuming there is no failure a containment should be designed for the life expectancy of the transformer) – what is the lifespan of the SorbWeb™Plus System?

Based on all current available information we are confident that Albarrie’s “oil mat” would last 50 years. Our educated guess is based on the assessment of all available data as well as samples of the oil mat used to make the transformer containment for the Bruce Power Nuclear Station 10 years ago. Today, these samples work and perform the same way they did back then.

Q. What is the maximum weight load that the oil mat can withstand?

The CBR Puncture Strength is 371.5 ± 41.0 kgf / 819.0 ± 90.4 lbf – based on ASTM D6241.

Q. What is the maximum weight load over the containment and berms?

This value can change depending on geographic location and site conditions, however each transformer containment can be Designed to allow for vehicle access up to a max of 26,000 Kg/group of axle.

Q. What happens if we ever need to change out the transformer? Can we jack and roll the transformer if the SorbWeb Plus system is installed?

Yes, a civil engineer must be consulted to design the jack and roll process and limit the transferred loading to 75 kPa and 100 kPa serviceability limit state (SLS) bearing capacity for earth berms constructed with a cohesive and a non cohesive soils, respectively.

Q. How do we protect the berms?

The SorbWeb™Plus Containment System is designed to allow for light maintenance vehicular activity. Sometimes if the transformer containment is installed during the initial construction phase, many different types of vehicles and activities can take place afterwards until the substation comes online. During that period the containment area and berms should be protected to avoid damage. For example, signage should be posted clearly indicating the transformer containment boundary. If during a Jack and Roll process, then metal sheets or equivalent should be placed over the berms, under the directions of the civil engineering consultant.

Q. Does Albarrie have to be onsite anytime we are doing work in or around the transformer/containment?

No, as long as the SorbWeb™Plus System is not impacted by the work that is being performed. Just like any other major piece of equipment such as a transformer, specific activities that need to be performed should only be completed by the manufacturer or an approved representative.

Q. What happens to the warranty if we do work around the containment and Albarrie is not onsite?

The Warranty is there to protect the client as well as Albarrie. Similar to any other piece of equipment care should be taken when performing work around the containment. If the transformer containment is damaged during the work being performed the warranty would be voided. The best way to ensure that the warranty remains intact is to read and understand your specific warranty

Q. Can the warranty be extended? If so how long and what does that additional time include?

Yes. The SorbWeb™Plus System comes with a standard one year Manufacturer Warranty however, the client my purchase an extended warranty period of up to 40 years. The additional time includes a yearly inspection by an Albarrie technician, recommendations and a report

Q. What happens to the containment with frost movement or site settlement?

The SorbWeb™Plus Containment System is designed to perform under North American Winter Conditions and is designed to withstand some settlement and frost heaving. Please refer to the next question for additional information.

Q. Can the containment be designed to accommodate frost heave or site settlement?

The containment must be protected from frost heave as per geotechnical engineering recommendations. The transformer containment system is designed to accommodate normal footing differential and total settlement of 15 and 25mm, respectively; if the site is under sever settlement effects, a geotechnical engineer must be consulted for remediation action (site preloading, soil stabilizations,…etc.) prior to installations.

Q. What maintenance is required?

Under typical conditions The SorbWeb™Plus System is maintenance free however, to ensure maximum performance is achieved we recommend the following:

  • If the transformer is leaking, the SorbWeb™Plus containment system should be checked to ensure water is not accumulating in the containment pit. The accumulation of water is an indication that the oil mat “smart” barrier is sealing therefore preventing the water from escaping the containment pit.
  •  Visual inspection of the transformers should be carried out at least twice a year to detect any chronic leaks.
  • Concrete structures should be monitored for cracks. These should be sealed as soon as they are found to prevent migration of oil along crack-lines.
  • Chronic leaks must be localized and contained with catch trays or similar. Depending on the leak rate these temporary catch devices must be replaced on regular basis.
Q. What does a Hydrocarbon Flow Rate of 0 GPM, really mean?

Although a there is nothing technically wrong with the statement “Hydrocarbon Flow Rate of 0 GPM”, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to use it in reference to a containment system. It’s kind of like saying “This car has great breaks when it stops its speed is 0 km/hr”… of course it is, and of course a flow of hydrocarbons through a containment is zero gallons per minute. If it were not then the containment wouldn’t be a containment.

Gallons per minute (GPM) make sense in a reference to a plug-like device; how many gallons of water it allows to pass through in a minute. However, even here, one must state a pressure (or water head) about the plug device as flow and pressure are interconnected.

Hydrocarbon flow rate, in fact, has nothing to do with how well an oil solidifying geotextile barrier performs and should not be confused with non- detectable oil level quantities in the soil or water which the barrier is designed to protect. Oil levels are measured in mg/L or parts per million (ppm) and can only be accurately determined through laboratory analysis. This is especially important in older electrical equipment which could contain or may have contained PCBs. Both the EPA and CEPA regulate PCB concentration which must be below 50 ppm. In North America the standard for petroleum hydrocarbons in soil and water is less than 15 ppm.

Independent lab testing and “real environment” third party testing verification conducted on the SorbWeb™Plus secondary containment product line have shown oil levels below the oilmat, after it has been exposed to hydrocarbons and sealed, were not detectable and therefore meet 15 ppm limit in North America.

To our knowledge, no other oil solidifying geotextile fabric offers this kind of performance. In fact, you would have to pass the same oil water mixture through their fabric three times before you could remove a visual oil sheen never mind meet the 15 ppm requirements.

Q. Does Oil Blocker meet SPCC Rules?

Absolutely! Oil Blocker is a scrim supported geotextile fabric with the highest polymer loading in the industry mechanically encapsulated between two nonwovens. Oil Blocker will congeal and seal on contact with mineral oil. Designed to be installed vertically, around a substation fence, or individual oil filled equipment in impervious subsoil conditions, any area of Oil Blocker  geotextile fabric that comes in contact with mineral oil will solidify, expand and turn the oil exposed section of the fabric into a rubberized mass forming an impermeable barrier approximately ½-inch thick, keeping oil from leaving the facility until the incident can be responded to. This process is not reversible and once the affected area has transformed into rubber, water will no longer pass through. When this happens the barrier should be removed and replaced with new Oil Blocker.

Q. What’s the difference between SorbWeb™ Plus and other permeable solidifying barrier products in the market?

Although at first blush these products appear to be similar, in reality they couldn’t be more different. Albarrie’s permeable oil absorbing and oil congealing geotextiles employ the technological  advantage of needling, which allows us to deliver the highest polymer loading in the industry in a consistent and continuous stream encapsulating and locking it in giving our products superior performance.

The SorbWeb™ Plus Secondary containment system includes five layers or let’s call them filters, this patented design gives the system outstanding performance, exceptional protection from silt and excellent fire quenching abilities. Independent laboratory tests have shown non-detectable levels of contamination in the soil below the oilmat once it has been exposed to hydrocarbons, giving SorbWeb™ Plus an unmatched level of performance.

Don’t be mislead by comparisons made between SorbWeb™ Plus and other solidifying barriers on the market, these comparisons are nothing more than a marketing ploy designed to bridge the huge gap in performance statistics between the two products and are not only misleading but are also reckless. Customers who have experienced the other barriers and then came to Albarrie say “those products are a knock off”.

Which would you rather have: full protection or an unknown kind of protection? The choice is clear, stick with the company that provides you with responsible facts.

Q. What is a “harmful quantity” of discharged oil?

A harmful quantity is any quantity of discharged oil that violates state water quality standards, causes a film or sheen on the water’s surface, or leaves sludge or emulsion beneath the surface. Under EPA regulations, reporting oil discharges does not depend on the specific amount of oil discharged, but can be triggered by the presence of a visible sheen created by the discharged oil, as a rule of thumb, light fraction petroleum will create a sheen on water at or above 15 ppm (parts per million).

Q. How do I determine if my facility could reasonably discharge oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines?

This determination is based solely upon a consideration of the geographical and locational aspects of the facility.  The location of the facility must be considered in relation to streams, ponds and ditches (perennial or intermittent), storm or sanitary sewers, wetlands, mudflats, sandflats, or other navigable waters.  The distance to navigable waters, volume of material stored, worse case weather conditions, drainage patterns, land contours, soil conditions, etc., must also be taken into account.

Q. What is in the SPCC Plan?

The plan must include information on storage containers, maps and diagrams of the facility, secondary containment structures, flow patterns of site drainage, preventative measures, containment procedures, cleanup equipment and material, employee training, routine inspections and recordkeeping.

Q. Who must have a plan?

Any business that has bulk oil with an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of 1,320 gallons of oil or more per location. The key word is “capacity.” Regulations apply regardless of whether the tank is full or nearly empty. This regulation does not apply to facilities with underground storage tanks subject to state UST regulations.

Q. What is oil-filled operational equipment?

Oil-filled operational equipment is equipment that includes an oil storage container (or multiple containers and associated piping intrinsic to the operation of the equipment) in which the oil is present solely to support the function of the apparatus or the device.  It is not considered a bulk storage container, and does not include oil-filled manufacturing equipment (flow-through process).

Some examples include, but are not limited to: hydraulic systems, lubricating systems (e.g., those for pumps, compressors, and other rotating equipment including pumpjack lubrication systems), gear boxes, machining coolant systems, heat transfer systems, transformers, circuit breakers, electrical switches, and other systems containing oil solely to enable the operation of the device.

Q. What is considered "Oil"?

Any kind of oil in any form such as crude oil, vegetable oil (oils from seeds, nuts, fruits, or kernels); and other oils and greases, including synthetic oils and mineral oils.

Examples of crude oils include:

  • Refined petroleum products (gasoline & diesel fuel)
  • Sludge
  • Waste oil
  • Oil emulsions
  • Lube oils
  • Grease
  • Fats, oils or greases from animal, fish, or marine mammal origin
Q. What is Considered "Bulk Storage"?

Any container with a capacity of 55 gallons or more.

Q. What are the fines for non-compliance?

According to EPA, more than 640,000 facilities are potentially regulated under the SPCC regulations. Many of those must have a written SPCC plan. Not having an SPCC plan can and will hurt you. Consider:

You can’t risk any confusion about what the regulations require. EPA has increased its enforcement efforts, and SPCC plan compliance has become a top priority since the passage of the 2010 amended regulations.

Q. Will I have to have secondary containment for all my bulk oil?

YES. The secondary containment system must hold the contents of the largest container plus freeboard for precipitation if outdoors. Double-walled storage tanks do not need additional containment.

Q. If I have secondary containment in place, do I still need an SPCC Plan?

YES. You still must have the written plan with certification.

Q. Do my employees need to be trained?

YES. Employees handling oil products will need to be trained at least once a year. These employees must be trained on proper operation and maintenance of the bulk oil facility to prevent spills and the proper response to control, contain, and clean up a spill.

SPCC plans also help save you time. By implementing your SPCC plan properly, you can provide effective training to employees and organize inspection checklists and records. It’s not enough to just write an SPCC plan—its procedures must be followed in order to comply with SPCC regulations! EPA inspectors are looking for implementation through proper spill prevention, spill response, training, documentation and recordkeeping, and spill containment measures when they visit a facility.

Q. What are "multisector" inspections?

SPCC-regulated facilities are subject to EPA inspections. In fact, EPA performs hundreds of SPCC inspections annually! Having a complete and implemented SPCC Plan at a facility is essential to a successful inspection. Compliance with SPCC regulations is more than environmental protection. It’s also necessary to prevent penalties that could cost up to $37,500 per day.

 

Inspectors who come to your facility for a particular purpose may be armed with a “checklist” and have the authority to ask about other activities in your business that may be regulated. The inspector may be with federal EPA, a state agency or even the local government. Not only is it necessary to have your SPCC Plan in compliance, but you may be required to share other information with the inspector.

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