ABB Varennes celebrates 40 years of business

ABB’s facility in Varennes, Quebec has manufactured many of North America’s largest power transformers.


Varennes, Quebec—The ABB Large Power Transformer factory in Varennes, Quebec, Canada, has transformed itself into a major business that has had a direct impact on improving energy efficiency, reliability and sheer power on the electricity grids throughout Canada and the United States.

For Varennes employees, 2011 is a special year as they prepare to celebrate yet another milestone—40 years in the power business!

The Varennes’ plant has significantly grown from its origins, in 1971, when it was inaugurated by Asea, with just over 100 people on staff to more than 400 employees in 2011.

As part of ABB’s Power Products division within North America, the Varennes plant currently manufactures some of the world’s largest power transformers, with a capacity ranging from 100 MVA to 1200 MVA, along with an operating-rated voltage reaching as high as 800 kV, BIL max: 4,000 kV. These power transformers help to step up and transmit significant amounts of energy from generating stations onto high voltage transmission lines; they also step down the power to the local distribution grids. In addition, these transformers help stabilize the entire transmission system.

The ABB factory in Varennes manufactures a vast range of complex, superior quality transformers and shunt reactors, including large power step-up transformers for power plants, auto-transformers with a very high primary voltage, transformers especially designed for Static VAR Compensators (SVC) and high voltage direct current power transmission systems (HVDC).

Testing transformers as imposing and complex as these pose important technological challenges. As a result, a close and constant cooperation among ABB Varennes’ engineers and the lab technicians of the nearby independent test laboratory known as IREQ (Québec Electricity Research Institute) has been crucial to ABB’s success in Varennes.

1988: The Merging of Two Major Powers

In 1988, ASEA in Sweden merged with Brown Boveri in Switzerland to become known for the first time as “ABB.” Later that year, thanks to its unique expertise in the high voltage industry along with its advantageous geographical location, the Varennes’ factory was selected by ABB to fulfill the “North American” market mandate for shunt reactor production, effective in 1989.

At that time, large power transformers built by the Varennes factory were destined solely for the Canadian market, as each ABB plant was assigned specific country allocations. When ABB initiated a major restructuration of its manufacturing footprint in 1998, the large power transformer mandate for North America was thereafter awarded to the Varennes plant, for which it became the “focus factory”.

Since then, many large American utilities and electricity transmission companies are served by the ABB factory of Varennes. This facility also continues to serve the needs of the Canadian power market. It also has a significant exportation process to ship their transformers around the world wherever they are needed. Deliveries have been made as far as China, Africa, Indonesia and Puerto Rico, along with the Canadian provinces and the United States which Varennes regularly seeks to serve.

To date, the Varennes factory has produced more than 1,450 transformers and nearly 300 shunt reactors. The Varennes plant ranks among the top five factories in the world with 765 kV or above high voltage experience. Moreover, Varennes is the only factory in North America to build transformers of 765,000 volts – among the largest worldwide. Varennes’ extensive experience in design and production of “Extra High Voltage” (EHV) transformers – 345 kV, 525 kV and 735 kV – helps to place ABB above the rest of the competition and it places ABB’s power transformer customers in a very secure position by limiting risks and improving reliability.

Consistent quality

The high-tech equipment produced in Varennes is synonymous with technological innovation, customized design and, above all, superior overall quality. The Varennes facility is both ISO 9001-2001 and ISO 14001 certified. Since it first opened, this ABB production facility has been one of the most important electrical engineering plants in Canada.

“It is through determination and intense passion for what we do that has allowed ABB, Varennes, to remain in a very competitive business for 40 years,” said Holger Ketterer, Vice President and General Manager of the ABB Varennes facility. ABB’s original founding partners – ASEA (Sweden) and Brown Boveri (Switzerland) – have accumulated between them more than 100 years’ experience in manufacturing equipment designed to generate, transmit and distribute electric power. The Varennes factory has contributed towards setting newer and higher standards of excellence in power technologies throughout the world.

In each of ABB’s business units, including the power transformers business, the development coordination is global, assuring shared engineering and technology, a permanent technical updating and an international exchange among transformer experts. Ongoing communications between the engineers at ABB, in Varennes, and the engineers employed by the various ABB facilities throughout the world, ensures that customers remain on the cutting edge of technology.

“So very important to us and highly esteemed is our dedicated staff; they are the lifeblood of everything we have accomplished here over 40 years,” said Mr. Ketterer. “We are proud of the many employees who have been with us for more than 20 years, including several who have been here nearly 40 years.”

“Accordingly,” Mr. Ketterer continued, “we work hard to recruit employees across all disciplines that have attained a high level of knowledge and expertise in their given field. For our customers, this means world class experience and expertise that rivals anyone else in the industry, on every project.”

Long-term growth comes from years of experience and success. As a result, success has led the company to continually build on its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and equipment. Numerous programs have been established over the years that have helped to fine-tune ABB’s work methods and procedures, thereby enabling staff to complete the most complex, turnkey projects.

“Of course, such accomplishments could not have been achieved without interaction with each of our customers, partners, suppliers and vendors,” said Mr. Ketterer. “Each of you have contributed immensely to Varennes’ success. We would like to sincerely say, ‘Thank you!’ for entrusting and working with us over the years.”

“May our paths continue to cross in a collaborative effort in response to the needs of our respective customers. When customers choose to do business with ABB, they choose to do business with one of the world’s leading engineering companies.”

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