Transformer Oil Theft Escalates Cuba's Energy Crisis, UNE Warns

Saturday, June 15, 2024 by Aaron Delgado

The authorities from the Unión Eléctrica de Cuba (UNE) have raised alarms about the increasing theft of transformer oil from the country's electrical substations, exacerbating Cuba's energy crisis. "When oil is stolen from a transformer, the equipment often gets damaged because this oil is part of the transformer's insulation, leading to the eventual failure of the equipment," explained engineer Onasis Trujillo, Head of Substations, Lines, and Networks Group at UNE, in an interview with the Television News.

"Currently, we don't have spare transformers, and we often have to search for them across different provinces, which delays the restoration of services for days," Trujillo added.

The engineer elaborated that the stolen oil is being used as fuel for tractors and diesel-powered vehicles. Sandy Chío Leal, Technical Director of the Mayabeque Electric Company, reiterated that "the country cannot immediately replace these transformers," which means that "the impact will prolong as companies search for and manage the relocation and replacement of the equipment."

According to the report, each ton of dielectric oil costs over $3,200. However, if a 2500 KVA transformer is irreparably damaged, the equipment alone is worth $50,000.

Escalating Risks and Economic Costs

The televised report also highlighted the dangers these thefts pose to the thieves themselves, given the high voltage (34,500 V) at the substations where the thefts occur. Specialists warn that even a brief contact with energized parts can have fatal consequences, necessitating the involvement of specialized personnel.

The report did not specify the number of such incidents reported in Cuba, nor did it disclose the total financial losses incurred. However, it did indicate that the provinces of Mayabeque, Matanzas, Granma, and Santiago experience the highest number of these thefts.

In response to this growing crime, UNE has intensified protective and surveillance measures across electrical infrastructures. These include reinforcing drain valves on transformers and relocating equipment to prevent theft.

A number of individuals have been prosecuted or are currently under investigation for these crimes, although the report did not provide specific figures.

Cuba is enduring a severe energy crisis, resulting in prolonged and frequent blackouts, which remain a potential trigger for social unrest similar to the July 11, 2021 protests. This past Saturday, UNE reported power outages affecting 968 MW on June 14.

Understanding the Impact of Transformer Oil Theft in Cuba

To provide more insight into the ongoing issue of transformer oil theft in Cuba, here are some frequently asked questions and their answers.

Why is transformer oil theft causing such significant problems in Cuba?

Transformer oil is essential for the insulation and cooling of the equipment. Without it, transformers can fail, leading to extended power outages and damage that is costly and time-consuming to repair.

What measures is UNE taking to combat transformer oil theft?

UNE has implemented enhanced protective and surveillance actions, including reinforcing transformer drain valves and relocating equipment to less accessible areas to prevent theft.

Which provinces in Cuba are most affected by transformer oil theft?

The provinces of Mayabeque, Matanzas, Granma, and Santiago have reported the highest number of transformer oil theft incidents.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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