Subject Matter Experts: Minimal Substation Maintenance Best Practices


substation view of desired substation maintenance

As pioneers in the secondary oil containment industry, we’re often tasked with developing substation maintenance and operations solutions for unusual or previously unheard of challenges, with which we’re always happy to assist. After all, many substations were constructed long before environmental regulations or awareness existed in regards to spill prevention measures, and updated standards for retrofitting these older stations are only being written as needed. We’ve said it many times before – there’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to secondary containment.

So it’s a good thing that CUSTOM is our standard!

Substation maintenance fail

Recently, a customer approached us to help with removing rainwater from some of their substations. Most of the substations consisted of concrete containment moats, some with sumps or crocks in which rainwater was collected, and others that had containment spaces below steel grates without existing sumps or crocks. Many of stations required manual pumping following each rain, which resulted in high substation maintenance costs.

Following some unprecedented rain storms, the utility decided to incorporate automated dewatering filtration systems in a few of their substations. At these locations, the water was pumped from the sump or containment space by an automatic pump and oil water separator system and discharged into the substation yard.


Substation maintenance fail

This automatic system was flawed, however, from both a design and an efficiency standpoint. The flow rates were extremely low and the filter cartridges constantly needed changed. Many times, substation maintenance and operations personnel were forced to manually pump the overflow to prevent flooding into the transformers. The substation maintenance costs were adding up.

Performance issues with current automatic pump and oil filtration system which included limited or no water flow. This added to the substation maintenance cost by having to use such a high maintenance system.

They needed to re-evaluate what risks and tradeoffs they could handle. While there were multiple systems that could potentially tackle this challenge, we identified a fully-integrated drain pump and filter system that could be adapted for both substation layouts. It also provides excellent flow rates with complete oil protection: the C.I.Agent VIPOR.



VIPOR Model TPCH-VSFC – For utilities who desire low substation maintenance drainage they can add to existing sumps or crocks

As shown in the drawing, this VIPOR model consists of an HFF (Hydrocarbon Flow Filter), a pump and a heater that are housed in the existing sump, beneath a ¼” top protective fiberglass plate with three pre-configured holes for inflow, discharge and electrical piping. Rain water flows onto the top plate of the VIPOR through the VSF Debris and Sediment pre-filter, then through the pre-filter of the HFF, which is preconfigured to connect to one of the top plates, and into the sump to activate the automatic pump. The clean, filtered water is then pumped up the outlet pipe to be safely discharged and drained outside of the containment area.


Because we’ve learned in our line of work that substation design is affected by a number of variables, it would be irresponsible of us to assume that all substation sumps or crocks are the same. That’s not the case at all – in fact, they often vary significantly from substation to substation within a single utility. That’s why we created this system with the flexibility and adaptability to function in sumps of any design or shape.



VIPOR Model 2430-VSF24PH – For utilities who desire low substation maintenance drainage without existing crocks or sumps

As shown in the drawing, this VIPOR model is a fully-integrated drainage unit consisting of two complementary components, both of which can be placed in the containment space if there is room. It utilizes two pumps to provide oil protection redundancy. The first component is made up of a VSF (Vault Sump Filter) pre-filtration ring that houses a sump pump and pump heater. A ¼-inch fiberglass top plate protects the units from heavy debris or trash entering from above, and pre-filtered water is pumped up through a 2″ pipe mounted in the top plate, into the upper chamber of the VIPOR 2430 for further filtration.

The VIPOR 2430 is the second component of this system and consists of a fiberglass basin that is divided into upper and lower chambers by a ¼” thick sealed plate. The plate is split across the center to provide easy access to the lower chamber for removal of the Hydrocarbon Flow Filter (HFF-818-30) and/or the sump pump also located in the lower chamber. The pre-filtered water from the VSF24PH enters the upper chamber and passes into the lower chamber through a 5 micron sock filter placed in the throat of a HFRF. The sump pump in the lower chamber is fitted with a 2″ pipe extending through the upper chamber floor to evacuate filtered water from the VIPOR2430 safely into the environment.



Minimal Substation Maintenance Required

Regular substation maintenance is needed to ensure clean pumps

Maintenance for this system is also minimal, as long as it is installed in a clean sump or space with no mud, and the pre-filters are cleaned and replaced as needed. Having a clean surface area on the filter is key for it performing correctly. In many cases, as long as the surface of the VSF is clean, it can take on greater than 100,000 gallons of sheen before flow is shut off!



System Versatility and Adaptability Makes Substation Maintenance Possible in Tight Spaces

substation maintenance made easy with additional oil protection with a top hat Agent-Q filter

What makes the VIPOR systems so valuable is their versatility in various applications. For instance, another variance of the VIPOR TPC was also installed in the sump of an underground transformer vault, as seen in the photos above. In this case, the sump has a round hole, so we used a round top-plate (and learned in the process of installation why split top plate is ideal for any future maintenance work). Due to the age and condition of the equipment housed in the vault, this installation also required additional oil protection, which is why we utilized the “top hat” Agent-Q filter above the HFF. (See installation photos below for more info.)

See these two VIPOR models in three different installations below.


VIPOR Model TPCH-VSFC Installation

VIPOR Model TPCH-VSFC Installation

VIPOR Model 2430-VSF24PH Installation

VIPOR Model 2430-VSF24PH Installation

For utilities who desire low substation maintenance drainage without existing crocks or sumps

  • Substation with
    Existing Sumps / Crocks
  • Underground Vaults with
    Existing Sumps / Crocks
  • Substation Containment without
    Existing Sumps / Crocks





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