Staying live: zone substation upgrades keep the power supply on for locals

Quick Facts

Many utilities work with trusted partners to upgrade and make improvements to existing infrastructure to provide greater capacity and maintain reliability to customers. This was the goal for United Energy’s Frankston South Zone Substation Upgrade project in Melbourne. 

Quick Facts

The Frankston South substation powers Baxter, Frankston, Frankston South, Mount Eliza, and Somerville in Victoria. Frankston South (FSH) 66/22kV zone substation (ZSS) was built in 1968 and comprises of three 66/22kV 20/33MVA transformers, outdoor 66kV switchgear, three outdoor 22kV buses and associated 22kV switchgear. The relays are housed in a control building, which has been in service since the station was built in 1969. The project entails renewal of the secondary systems within a new control building. Specialised contractor Zinfra was awarded the contract for project works.  

A zone substation set up for success. 

Upgrading energy infrastructure is no small feat, and this project scope included significant modification of the Zone Substation yard to accommodate a new prefabricated control room. Over the course of the project, Zinfra’s team utilised multiple testers and fitters, as well as SCADA Engineers who were responsible for the remote communication between the Frankston substation site and United Energy’s control centre.  

Zinfra Project Manager, Con Evripidou, said successful completion of complex projects such as the Frankston South project involved significant planning and teamwork. 

This work included Zinfra’s team and its subcontractors completing all civil works, installation of conduits and pits and the installation of significant bored pier foundations, before United Energy delivered a prefabricated control building to replace the existing old building, now obsolete.  

Zinfra installed approximately 25km of control cables through the conduits from the primary equipment in the yard, in advance and in preparation of the delivery of the new building.  

“The control cables needed to stay there unconnected or unterminated until the new building was delivered. Zinfra ensured the building was delivered safely before we installed and progressively terminated the control cables within the new building in readiness for testing and commissioning,” Mr Evripidou explained. 

“We then began the testing and commissioning stages, which required us to test and ‘pass’ all new equipment and all new protection schemes within the building. We did that in a sequence and following a methodology that was put together by our lead tester, Tim Rogers, who also put together the overall commissioning plan.  

“It’s very complicated in that because we are completing the work in stages, many of the protection schemes have to stay active and alive in the old building while we are commissioning new ones in the new building. 

“There are two buildings functioning at the same time and for that reason, we needed to have what we call temporary wiring between the two buildings to ensure that we maintain integrity of the two protection systems between the two buildings, until such time we cut over (or transfer) all the protection systems across to the new building.” 

This process took four months, and the project reached practical completion in September 2023. Thanks to the upgrades, United Energy’s substations are able to better maintain the stable supply of power to its customers.  

When experience produces excellence 

As the Frankston South Zone Substation was reaching the end of its operating life, Mr Evripidou said there were multiple challenges and obstacles. The Zinfra team was able to provide recommendations and solutions to United Energy to bring the design online safely and to scope. 

“Zinfra have worked collaboratively with United Energy to modify the ‘Ground Fault Neutraliser’ (GFN) protection system to overcome constructability constraints. This was followed by a series of specialised tests and SCADA works, to prepare this protection system for commissioning. 

“We implemented best industry practice, for example, we recognized an opportunity to apply an additional layer of safety to the ‘tag-out’ system for decommissioning cables. The project construction manager Adam Fox introduced the placement of an ‘OK to remove’ tag, for decommissioned cables. 

“Another obstacle that presented itself was the requirement to remove and reinstate the main gate to the zone substation to enable the delivery of a larger than originally anticipated new control building. Zinfra workshopped this and presented a least cost solution and a methodology that was adopted by the client. The works were completed successfully.”   

Mr Evripidou said while a client may have a design or final view of what is expected, ensuring the transition process brings that vision to life is where Zinfra has demonstrated its value adding approach. 

“We always work together in collaboration with the client, and pride ourselves in having the ability through our knowledge to add value to the final product by providing the client with options. 

“Some of the designs are easy to transition from A to B, some of them are not so straightforward. We make plans, formulate methodologies, and provide recommendations to the client where appropriate. We also provide clients the option to choose a pathway because – quite often – there is more than one option.” 

Steve Owens, Head of Major Projects and Field Services for United Energy thanks Zinfra for their partnership in successfully delivering the project.  

“United Energy are very pleased to see the successful completion of the relay and control building replacement project at Frankston South Zone Substation. This is an important project which modernises our assets and supports us to continue to deliver safe and reliable power to our customers,” Mr Owens said.  

Zinfra’s approach to risk 

With decades of experience across the Zinfra team, Mr Evripidou explained this type of work within networks and substations has evolved over time, requiring risk management processes to adapt as well. 

“You don’t just have one risk assessment and work with it. The old ways of doing risk assessments and pinning them up on the board, they don’t work anymore,” Mr Evripidou said.  

“This is a multifaceted approach to risk, especially with large complex projects. There are high level risks that we identified from the outset and monitor closely with controls in place to minimise or mitigate these risks.” 

Mr Evripidou and his team also considered daily risks and hazards that are identified and managed throughout the project by Zinfra’s safe work method statements. These statements allow for certain controls to be put in place to ensure all of Zinfra’s team are mindful of, while managing these daily risks.  

“The bottom line is that all risk assessments can only be effective if the team is conscious of what might go wrong at the time of execution and in the moment, not before and not after their daily tasks, and act accordingly. That’s what we did well.” 

Zinfra successfully completed its work with no safety incidents.  

Trust in team 

From project beginnings in May 2022, to practical completion in September 2023, Mr Evripidou reflected on the Zinfra team, and the expertise brought to the Frankston South Zone Substation Upgrade.  

“Zinfra, being one of United Energy’s trusted partners, has demonstrated strong capability and skills over the years, having executed hundreds of projects in a safe and diligent manner. 

“The site supervision by Lead Fitter Trent Harvey and Josh Taylor together with Lead Tester Tim Rogers and Brad Hibbert, SCADA Engineer Ken Nelson and the multitude of fitters and operators, planned and executed works meticulously, demonstrating once again a strong ethic and passion to do the right thing. 

“I can attest with confidence to the passion that our teams have for doing high quality work. I’ve worked with these people for a number of years, and it’s not just work for them. They take a lot of pride in what they do.” 

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands upon which we operate and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

Pictured: Artwork by Aboriginal artist Chern’ee Sutton from Mount Isa for our Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan.