Risk Assessment of Transformer Fire Protection in a Typical New Zealand High-Rise Building
Thesis DisciplineFire Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering in Fire Engineering
Prescriptively, the requirement of fire safety protection systems for distribution substations is not provided in the compliance document for fire safety to the New Zealand Building Code. Therefore, the New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) has proposed a list of fire safety protection requirements for distribution substations in a letter, dated 10th July 2002. A review by Nyman , has considered the fire safety requirements proposed by the NZFS and discussed the issues with a number of fire engineers over the last three years. Nyman concerned that one of the requirements regarding the four hour fire separation between the distribution substation and the interior spaces of the building may not be necessary when considering the risk exposure to the building occupants in different situations, such as the involvement of the sprinkler systems and the use of transformers with a lower fire hazard. Fire resistance rating (FRR) typically means the time duration for which passive fire protection system, such as fire barriers, fire walls and other fire rated building elements, can maintain its integrity, insulation and stability in a standard fire endurance test. Based on the literature review and discussions with industry experts, it is found that failure of the passive fire protection system in a real fire exposure could potentially occur earlier than the time indicated by the fire resistance rating derived from the standard test depending on the characteristics of the actual fire (heat release rate, fire load density and fire location) and the characteristics of the fire compartment (its geometric, ventilation conditions, opening definition, building services and equipment). Hence, it is known that a higher level of fire safety, such as 4 hour fire rated construction and use of sprinkler system, may significantly improve the fire risk to health of safety of occupants in the building; however, they could never eliminate the risk. This report presents a fire engineering Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) on a transformer fire initiating in a distribution substation inside a high-rise residential and commercial mixeduse building. It compares the fire safety protection requirements for distribution substations from the NZFS to other relevant documents worldwide: the regulatory standards in New Zealand, Australia and United States of America, as well as the non-regulatory guidelines from other stakeholders, such as electrical engineering organisation, insurance companies and electricity providers. This report also examines the characteristics of historical data for transformer fires in distribution substations both in New Zealand and United States of America buildings. Reliability of active fire safety protection systems, such as smoke detection systems and sprinkler systems is reviewed in this research. Based on the data analysis results, a fire risk estimate is determined using an Event Tree Analysis (ETA) for a total of 14 scenarios with different fire safety designs and transformer types for a distribution substation in a high-rise residential and commercial mixed-use building. In Scenario 1 to 10 scenarios, different combinations of fire safety systems are evaluated with the same type of transformer, Flammable liquid (mineral oil) insulated transformer. In Scenario 11 to Scenario 14, two particular fire safety designs are selected as a baseline for the analysis of transformer types. Two types of transformer with a low fire hazard are used to replace the flammable liquid (mineral oil) insulated transformer in a distribution substation. These are less flammable liquid (silicone oil) insulated transformers and dry type (dry air) transformers. The entire fire risk estimate is determined using the software package @Risk4.5. The results from the event tree analysis are used in the cost-benefit analysis. The cost-benefit ratios are measured based on the reduced fire risk exposures to the building occupants, with respect to the investment costs of the alternative cases, from its respective base case. The outcomes of the assessment show that the proposed four hour fire separation between the distribution substations and the interior spaces of the building, when no sprinkler systems are provided, is not considered to be the most cost-effective alternative to the life safety of occupants, where the cost-benefit ratio of this scenario is ranked fifth. The most cost-effective alternative is found to be the scenario with 30 minute fire separation and sprinkler system installed. In addition to the findings, replacing a flammable liquid insulated transformer with a less flammable liquid insulated transformer or a dry type transformer is generally considered to be economical alternatives. From the QRA analysis, it is concluded that 3 hour fire separation is considered to be appropriate for distribution substations, containing a flammable liquid insulated transformer and associated equipment, in non-sprinklered buildings. The fire ratings of the separation construction can be reduced to 30 minute FRR if sprinkler system is installed. This conclusion is also in agreement with the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).