Aurtra: Transforming the management of ageing infrastructure

Aurtra

Following a decade of transformer research between academia and Australian utilities, as well as further research and product design incorporating the latest IOT and cloud technologies, Aurtra was brought to fruition and its tech is set to change how we look at transformer management.

By Nichola Davies

Aurtra’s three founders started the business in 2017 after recognising the significant industry problem of ageing transformer infrastructure and the lack of tools available to forecast useful life. Together they launched the Aurtra HealthSense solution, which comprises a multi-function intelligent IOT sensor, automated communications, cloud-based patented algorithms and the online HealthSense dashboard to deliver expert systems advice to users.

One of Aurtra’s founders Terry Woodcroft explains that it works by allowing users to access, track and forecast transformer insulation state and life left.

“This automated analysis and reporting has delivered improved data-driven decision-making for asset owners, to optimise transformer fleet management and capital expenditure for replacement programs,” she says.

Before Aurtra, previous transformer management strategies used either sporadic offline oil tests or expensive online Dissolve Gas Analysis sensors.

“The subsequent analysis to determine transformer insulation health and forecast life left requires both expert transformer experience and complex mathematics,” Ms Woodcroft says. 

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“Aurtra HealthSense embeds this expertise and analysis to build a comprehensive picture of insulation health. 

“The algorithms incorporate offline oil test data with low-cost online monitoring to allow users to analyse risks and see how their assets are performing using observed dynamic response to ongoing operating conditions.

“The impact of changes to load and cooling configurations on insulation health and life left can also be modelled.”

The first HealthSense systems were trialled at problematic Energy Queensland sites. Successful trials led to the first commercial release of the Aurtra solution in late 2017.

An example of the impact of the Aurtra solution has had, and one that will be increasingly important, is the improved management of volatile renewable loads.

“With uncertain status of aged transformers connected to a new solar farm, [a] utility was concerned about the impact of changes to the load profile on the life of the transformer,” Ms Woodcroft says.

“Aurtra’s low-cost solution showed clear ROI to enable engineers to continually assess and monitor the impact of the new dynamic load on transformer insulation health.”

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Another example is the case of two substation transformers being earmarked by a utility for replacement, based on nameplate age and an increase in load. With constraints on capital expenditure, the utility wanted to know whether replacement could be delayed.

Aurtra analysis showed that the transformer’s insulation health was better than expected, and the replacement could be delayed by 10 years, saving $2.7 million.

Aurtra now has installations in more than two thirds of Australian distribution utilities, as well as having customers in Europe, Asia and North America.

There’s an Aurtra office in Atlanta, USA that opened in 2019 and a new office opening in March 2020.

“2020 will see further installations in major USA, European and Asian Utilities and large energy users, as well as uptake of the solution by transformer manufacturers,” Ms Woodcroft says. 

“In five years, our vision is to bring meaningful benefits to global power networks with significant reduction in their capital and operating budgets.”

Hats off once again to Australian ingenuity in the energy sector.