M&I Materials opens first-ever ester transformer fluid factory in Africa
The plant is the first in Africa to produce ester transformer fluids, which are environmentally-safe alternatives to mineral oil and can optimize transformers for Solar PV applications.
M&I Materials Limited, a UK-based manufacturer of specialist materials for industry and science, has announced the opening of manufacturing operations in South Africa to produce its MIDEL brand of ester dielectric fluids for electrical transformers. The MIDEL brand is a fire and environmentally-safe alternative to mineral oil, a traditional transformer coolant, which is flammable, toxic and non-biodegradable.
In 2017, M&I Materials entered into a manufacturing agreement with ISEGEN South Africa, a manufacturer of Food Acidulants, to manufacture MIDEL natural ester fluids, which are made from local soybean or rapeseed crops and less flammable.
According to a statement by M&I Materials released on Thursday, the plant is the first in Africa to produce ester transformer fluids, and the latest addition to MIDEL’s growing global manufacturing footprint.
Electric Light and Power, utility companies are increasingly using natural ester fluids as a coolant and insulating fluid for transformers. In 2013, CPFL Energia – the largest privately-owned energy company in Brazil – had said it would start to change all of its transformers to a natural ester fluid coolant and insulator. In 2014, Tata Power – India’s largest integrated power company, serving more than half a million residential and industrial customers – announced it would use natural ester fluid in its new substation transformers.
Some of the advantages of natural ester fluids is that they are self-extinguishing. This helps to mitigate the risk of pool fires. The also absorb about 10 times the amount that water mineral oil can, thereby protecting the cellulose insulation in the transformer from degradation.
Transformers that use natural ester fluids can also operate at higher temperatures than mineral oil transformers. The coolant can also help optimize transformers for Solar PV applications.
“Development in the energy infrastructure sector across Africa presents a great opportunity for our products, and the opening of this manufacturing facility demonstrates our commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Giles Salt, CEO of M&I Materials. “We look forward to providing products and technical support to power utilities and transformer manufacturers across the region.”
The product has already been selected to supply ester fluids for 6,000 transformers operated by Eskom, South African Electricity Supply Commission.
The ester transformer fluids are in two categories, namely, the synthetic and natural esters. The synthetic esters are tailored for specific application, while the natural esters are made from natural resources and only suitable for sealed equipment.
Founded in 1901, M&I Materials Limited is the driving force behind a portfolio of successful brands, including APIEZON, METROSIL, and WOLFMET. The company, with offices in India, China, UAE and the United States, serves customers in over 60 countries across the globe.
The company also said making MIDEL ester transformer fluids in Africa will support local manufacturing, increase skills development and create opportunities in local communities.
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