AM: Amapá Substation operated on the edge for two years, risk of blackout was ignored

Agencies of the old state already knew of accident risk at the power station that caught fire in Amapá. Photo: Reproduction

According to documents released by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the National System Operator (ONS) and the National Electrical Energy Agency (Aneel), those responsible for planning, operating commands and overseeing the country’s supply system already knew of the risks and the terrible operating conditions of the substation that collapsed and generated the blackout that has hit Amapá since November 3.

The risk had already been signaled to ONS about 11 months ago. The document pointed out that besides operating on the edge the substation was not able to reconnect quickly if it depended on a spare transformer, like a “backup.”
According to the Valor press monopoly, there is a report pointing out that one of the problems with the security of the line may have happened still in the beginning of the project, before the hiring of the private Spanish company Isolux in 2004. The company, in turn, has a history of bad services in other countries. The technical committee for the expansion of the MME transmission already signalled the need for SE Macapá to have “three three-phase 230/69/13.8 Kv-150 MVA transformers and a backup unit”.

Preliminaries pointed out the need to install four large transformers in the substation and three of them should operate together so that there would be no overload, and the fourth, a backup. The Ministry’s document dealt with studies of the Tucuruí-Macapá-Manaus Interconnection.

According to the director of the Union of Urbanitarians of Maranhão (STIU/MA), Wellington Diniz, in 2014, Isolux gave a loss of 476 million dollars to the U.S. state of Indiana, where it also provided services, and now gives damage to Brazil and the people of Amapá.

The project was contracted at an Aneel auction in 2008. The public notice required only that the substation reserve “space” to house four transformers, but only three should be acquired for “immediate installation.” In June 2018, ONS, in a presentation related to the 2018-2020 Action Plan, pointed out as an “unfinished action” the alteration of the bidding project. The objective was to pave the way for the installation of the fourth transformer. In the document, the organ recognizes, therefore, that this was in fact a need of the local network.

In the blackout of day 3, there was an explosion of a transformer that reached the second in operation at that moment. The recomposition of the supply system was not possible since the only backup transformer, the third, had been in maintenance since the end of 2019. In the same year, Aneel authorized the power plant of Eletronorte, UTE Santana, which served Amapá, to be shut down, causing vulnerability of the transmission network, Amapá would have another limitation of Backup.

More recent ONS reports regarding the monthly monitoring of the “triage of occurrences and disturbances” show that, at the end of 2019, the operator was aware of the unavailability of the third transformer at SE Macapá.

This is an unofficial translation of an article published on the A Nova Democracia website on November 18.

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