Substation Infrared Monitoring Systems
Switchgear • Substations • Oil and Gas • Mining

Transformer Explosions

This is the story of an explosion, a vital 15 minutes, and one well-timed lunch break.


Nate Downey is a Level III Thermographer who works primarily with substation infrared photography. His typical day includes traveling to a substation and using a long-wave or mid-wave IR camera to check for hotspots and abnormalities in the transformer. 

On the day of this particular evaluation, everything looked good from the outset. 

There were no oil spills, broken insulators, or troubling silence where there should have been a tell-tale hum of properly working equipment. He conducted his field survey of where he was going to take the shot the following morning, and then he headed off to lunch. 

Upon leaving the location, he was no more than 600 yards away when he and his coworkers felt the flex of an explosion on the windows of the truck. They turned around to witness a massive plume cloud from something that had blown up nearby. 

The local authorities and the fire department called his team to respond and investigate the explosion. There were two substations in the nearby vicinity and the explosion had occurred at the exact location where Nate had been. In a span of just fifteen minutes, the substation went from seemingly normal to a raging ball of flames and smoke.

Nate and his team cheated serious injury and death that day. Unfortunately, their close call, and the risk of what could have happened, isn’t as rare as one would hope. 


The Risks of Working with Substations

Data from the ILO (International Labour Organization) and OSHA tells us that the United States averages 12,976 workday injuries occur annually to electric power generation, transmission and distribution employees. Moreover, our country has approximately 86 fatalities each year. 

OSHA also estimates that over 1,600 injuries and at least 60 deaths can be prevented by compliance with Electric Maintenance Standards.

We think we can do better than that.

How to Help Electrical Utility Workers Avoid a Very Bad (Or Deadly) Day

Delta Thermal makes and sells systems to keep the electricity on and the explosions contained. The way we do this is to make thermographic measurement in electrical substations that allow us to measure, predict, and prevent hotspots from taking out equipment in the substation. 


Detailed, continuous readings from your desk.

“Having Delta Thermal’s product at the site of the explosion would have provided us with the amount of detail in a report to know that the equipment was going to blow up, so that we wouldn’t have had to be there. I could have simply looked at the data from my desk away from the site in a safe, remote location.” – Nate Downey

Complying with maintenance and safety standards are important. But they don’t eliminate the risk. The only way to do that is to replace the old system of manual thermography with technology that keeps our workers safe.

The reason we’ve been working on this solution is to, at the very least, make sure people’s lights stay on and food doesn’t spoil. But, much more importantly, we want to make sure that electrical utility workers are not harmed and that stories like Nate’s become a tale of the past.