Electricity pylons with a blue sky

Are you maximizing the performance of your aging Power infrastructure?

The Power sector in North America faces an unprecedented challenge. It plays a critical role in supporting the electrification of industry in the region but is heavily reliant on aging infrastructure that already struggles to meet the energy demands of today.

Rising demand will only make this more difficult, with U.S. power consumption forecast to rise by roughly 65 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2022 – and a further 45 billion kWh in 2023.1 Accelerated grid development could help to meet demand. However, it will not provide a full solution when an overhaul of electricity infrastructure in the U.S. (including its network of transmission wires, substations and transformers) could cost upwards of $2 trillion by 2050.2

The situation places greater pressure on businesses to maximize the performance of aging equipment, increasing the risk of failure in high-voltage equipment and potentially putting operators at great risk.

Grid development increases risk of equipment downtime

When it comes to grid development, Transmission & Distribution (T&D) operators face a specific challenge: that their equipment is not necessarily designed to cope with the performance requirements of a grid system changing to meet growing demand.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy found that 70% of U.S. transmission lines are more than 25 years old, while large transformers (responsible for 90% of electricity flow in the U.S.) have an average age of above 40 years.2 That was seven years ago…

The issue is that, as power generation increases to meet growing demand, it places greater stress on equipment that was initially designed to handle much lower loads and operating temperatures. Added to this is the growth in sources of renewable power, which has led to an increase in the number of generation sites offshore and in remote locations – often requiring higher voltages to deliver efficient transmission over longer distances.

These higher voltages can lead to a more frequent need for maintenance (including more regular oil top-ups) and a greater risk of breakdown. When such high-voltage equipment is not looked after properly, it can have a significant negative impact on the reliability of a site and a knock-on effect on the operator’s revenue when their customers’ power supply is interrupted. It can also create additional dangers for operating teams. Effective maintenance is not just something that drives efficiency – it is critical to the health and safety of T&D operations and operators.

Choosing the right transformer oil can enhance performance

Transformer oils play a critical role in T&D operations. Not only can they drive performance, but they also help to avoid the serious safety risks associated with the failure of aging equipment. The right oil for each application can make a significant difference by helping protect components, extend their service life and prevent breakdowns – all while enhancing efficiency and profitability. So, choosing the oils that best meet the needs of the equipment in question can be vital.

Why a secure, reliable supply chain is critical

There is, however, another challenge for businesses to overcome in selecting the right transformer oil. When operating in remote settings, T&D operators don’t just need to worry about how they transmit electricity away from generation sites; they must also think about how to get the transformer oils that support their operations to their sites reliably.

Working with aging equipment, T&D operators already rely on their ability to keep their transformers running at peak performance. Without a secure, reliable supply of high-quality oils, operators still face the same risk of equipment failure and downtime. And this could have a significant negative impact on their ability to meet the energy needs of consumers across North America.

Overcoming supply challenges

Part of the challenge with this is the potential scarcity of naphthenic oil, which is an issue for products formulated using this as a base. However, there is an alternative in the form of iso-paraffin (also known as Gas-to-Liquid or GTL technology). Derived from natural gas and fully miscible with traditional oils, this offers much greater security for the formulation and supply of transformer oils.

It is a factor in why the Shell Diala range of transformer oils is formulated from this GTL technology. And, with the opening of a new Shell supply point focused on local production and distribution networks in North America, T&D operators across the region can be confident their maintenance needs are taken care of.

Driving performance with Shell Diala

Designed to meet the demands of T&D operators based on their specific business conditions, the Shell Diala range can help T&D operators to overcome the challenges of running aging equipment in remote locations.

In particular, Shell Diala S4 ZX-IG helps to keep transformers working more efficiently and for longer than napthenic oils. It has excellent resistance to degradation, electrical insulation properties and provides enhanced protection from oxidation and copper corrosion, which can help improve equipment reliability, reduce downtime and extend maintenance intervals. In addition, its thermal properties help to reduce the aging rate of the oil and insulating paper, helping extend the lifetime of transformers.

Shell Diala S4 ZX-IG also delivers exceptional low-temperature performance in the cold and inhospitable environments that T&D sites often operate in across North America. In fact, it can help equipment to run more efficiently in these conditions, even at temperatures as low as -40°C.

It’s a transformer oil you can rely on to enhance the protection and performance of aging equipment – highlighted by Shell Diala S4 ZX-IG meeting ASTM D3487 Type II and typically exceeding IEC 60296: edition five industry standards. Its stability and lower density also help businesses to drive cost savings through reduced consumption.

At a time when T&D operators are under pressure to push their aging equipment further than ever before, Shell Diala S4 ZX-IG offers the reliability and efficiency businesses need to help keep their transformers running smoothly for longer.

Find out more about how Shell Diala S4 ZX-IG can enhance your transformer operations here.


1 Reuters. “U.S. power use to rise in 2022 as economy continues to grow.” reuters.com. 2022.

2 Reuters. “Creaky U.S. power grid threatens progress on renewables, EVs.” reuters.com. 2022.

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