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F E A T U R E A R T I C L E

A Field Study of Aging in Paper-Oil


Insulation Systems
Key words: power transformer, paper aging, degree of polymerization, furan analysis

Introduction Nick Lelekakis, Wenyu Guo, Daniel Martin, and


The paper used to insulate the windings of power transformers
is mostly made from wood pulp, a cellulosic material. Over Jaury Wijaya
decades the paper is slowly attacked by water, oxygen, oil acids, Centre for Power Transformer Monitoring,
and high temperatures and eventually degrades to the point
where it is no longer an effective insulator. The transformer
Diagnostics and Life Management (the
is then likely to fail. Power utilities need to know when transformerLIFE Centre), Monash
a transformer is nearing the end of its useful life in order to University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia
plan its replacement. However, a problem with monitoring the
condition of the paper within a transformer is that it may be Dejan Susa
difficult to obtain a sample to test. Furthermore, a particular
sample may not accurately reflect the overall paper condition. SINTEF, Trondheim, Norway
A power transformer operating in Australia failed in 2010.
Thus we had the opportunity to study the paper condition at
various points within the transformer and evaluate the validity
of the current understanding of paper aging. In this article The condition of the solid insulation
we discuss the mechanisms of cellulose degradation, and the of a failed 20/27 MVA transformer
associated equations, and apply them to the paper insulation in
the failed transformer.
was assessed using degree of polym-
erization (DP) measurements. The
Mechanisms of Cellulose Degradation results of these measurements were
Cellulose is a polymer chain with repeating glucose rings
joined together. The repeating unit (the monomer) is shown in
compared with DP estimates ob-
Figure 1. The average number of glucose monomers per chain tained from furan analysis and from
(n) is called the degree of polymerization (DP) [1] and can be the Arrhenius equation.
used to monitor aging of the paper. The DP value for unused
paper is typically around 1,000. When the paper ages, the long
chains break into smaller chains, and so the DP steadily falls.
A value of 200 or less is usually considered to mark the end
of the useful life of the paper, which at that point has lost its (RCOO−) from the acid joins with the cation (+CH2R) on the
mechanical strength and disintegrates readily. cellulose.
Paper aging depends on temperature, the moisture Oxygen dissolved in the oil accelerates the rate of aging
concentration in the paper, and the concentrations of oxygen of paper. Several different oxidation reactions can take place
and acid in the transformer oil. The three main processes for on primary and secondary alcohol groups (−OH), forming
cellulose degradation are hydrolysis, oxidation, and pyrolysis aldhehydes (Figure 2), ketones, and carboxylic acids, and thus
[2], [3]. Examples of hydrolysis and oxidation reactions are opening the glucose ring and disrupting the cellulose chain.
shown in Figure 2. Pyrolysis is decomposition occurring at temperatures above
Hydrolysis involves water and acids, which break the 140°C. Transformer paper operating under normal or overload
cellulose polymer chain, i.e., water dissociates a hydrogen conditions does not reach this temperature unless a fault
ion (H+) from the acid, and the ion then combines with an develops.
oxygen atom to break the polymer chain. The remaining anion

12 0883-7554/12/$31/©2012/IEEE IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine


log10 (0.88c ) − 4.51
DP = .
−0.0035 (1)

The aging of paper, in an environment of constant temperature,


moisture, and oxygen concentration, can be described using the
Arrhenius relation [2]:

1 1
− = A × aging period × e −E /(RT ),
DPaging period DPstart
(2)
Figure 1. Cellulose chain.
where A is a constant depending on the chemical environment, E
The products of cellulose degradation include carbon is the activation energy of the aging reaction (in J/mol), R is the
monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), organic acids, water, gas constant (8.314 J/mol per kelvin), T is the temperature of the
and free glucose molecules. The glucose rings can decompose paper (in kelvin), and DPstart and DPaging period are the DP values at
further into other compounds called furans [4], as shown in the beginning and end of the aging period, respectively.
Figure 3. In a real transformer, the temperature of the paper changes
It is not feasible to measure the DP of the insulating paper with the load and the environmental conditions. The Arrhenius
directly on an operating transformer. However, an estimation relationship does not take such changes into account. The
can be obtained using markers in the oil, e.g., the concentration environmental conditions will also determine whether hydrolysis
of furans. The DP of nonthermally upgraded paper can be or oxidation dominates the aging reaction. Nevertheless,
estimated from the concentration, c, of the compound 2-furfural, Equation (2) can be used to estimate the aging of the paper due
expressed in parts per billion (ppb), using the following modified to each process, assuming steady-state conditions.
Chendong equation [5]:

Figure 2. Hydrolysis and oxidation reactions in cellulose.

January/February — Vol. 28, No. 1 13


Figure 3. Formation of 2-furfural from a glucose monomer.

In this article DP values measured directly on the failed phase A (see Figure 7), causing the copper winding in discs 5
transformer mentioned earlier are compared with estimates and 6 to melt.
obtained from furan analysis. Separate estimates were obtained
for hydrolysis and oxidation, using A and E values taken from Results
the literature. The criticality of the temperature, and the A and E Paper samples were taken from the top, middle, and
values, is discussed. bottom of each phase and from the tapping, HV, LV, and
tertiary windings. The DP value of the samples was measured
The Failed Transformer in accordance with ASTM D4243 [1]. In this test method the
The failed transformer was 47 years old, rated at 20/27 MVA, sample of paper is degreased, cut finely, and then dissolved
and filled with mineral oil. It was free breathing, i.e., it did not in the solvent cupriethylene-diamine. The DP is then deduced
have a rubber bag in the conservator or a silica gel breather from a measurement of the specific viscosity of the solution. The
installed to prevent oxygen and moisture ingress. Consequently results are plotted in Figure 8.
a high concentration of oxygen had accumulated, and the It can be seen that the DP values vary across the transformer.
moisture content of the insulation paper was high. Lower values at the top of the transformer windings are expected
Figure 4 shows the three phases of the transformer. Each because of the higher temperatures there (see Figure 9).
phase has four winding layers. The outermost is the tapping The DP values at the top and bottom of the transformer vary
winding, followed by the HV and low-voltage (LV) windings, little between the same windings in the different phases (except
and then the tertiary winding. A top view of the HV, LV, and the bottom HV tapping winding). However, there is considerable
tertiary windings is shown in Figure 5. variation between the different windings in the same phase. The
A cross section of the tapping, HV, and LV windings is shown approximate range is 230 to 420 at the top and 380 to 500 at the
in Figure 6. The tertiary winding is not shown in Figure 6. The bottom. The values for the HV tapping winding, at the bottom of
number of turns in each winding section and the number of the transformer, increase a great deal from phase A to phase C
paper layers on the conductors are given in Table 1. The fault (400 to 700). Because the HV tapping winding is the outermost
leading to failure occurred on the LV winding at the bottom of winding, we believe this increase (more precisely, decreased
aging) is due to lower temperatures associated with oil flow
and greater cooling. The radiator cooling ducts on one side of

Figure 5. High-voltage, low-voltage (LV), and tertiary windings


Figure 4. Phases A, B, and C of the transformer. of the transformer.

14 IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine


Figure 7. Low-voltage winding of phase A and close-up of the
fault.

Figure 6. Tapping, HV, and low-voltage (LV) windings of the The DP of the outer layer of Crepe paper (from the cable end
transformer. of phase B, LV winding) was 275, and that of the innermost layer
was 300. These values are slightly higher than 231, the value for
the Kraft paper at the top of the LV winding. This observation
the transformer tank are shown in Figure 10. There are more
suggests that the DP values of the Crepe paper could possibly be
ducts around phase C than around phase A, and therefore the
used as approximations of the DP values of the Kraft paper on
temperature in phase C would be expected to be lower.
the windings.
The lowest measured DP was 231, in the LV winding at the
top of phase B. Surprisingly, the DP of the paper at the location
of the fault (LV winding, bottom) was 380. The DP was also DP Estimation From Furans
measured at two points along disc 5, in which the fault occurred. The total furan concentration dissolved in the oil of this
A value of 380 was found at a distance of 12 to 31 cm away transformer was measured on several occasions between 2001
from the fault (phase A, LV winding, bottom, disc 5, turn 20 and 2009 (Figure 12). The fall in concentration in 2005 was due
of 26), and 375 at a distance of 74 to 94 cm (or approximately to replacement of the oil. A period of 3 to 4 years elapsed before
180°) away from the fault. Thus the paper aging across this disc the concentration in the new oil reached the same level as that in
appears to be uniform. We therefore expect that the temperatures the replaced oil. The expected total furan concentration, had the
and thus the aging rates of the paper are uniform around this disc oil not been replaced, was obtained by adding the increase in the
(360°), and similarly for the other discs. concentration in the replaced oil to the values for the old oil as
If a transformer is opened at the top for maintenance, Crepe shown by the red squares in Figure 12. In 2009 the transformer
paper from the top leads is usually more accessible than the owner decided to dry the oil, using a molecular sieve, to extend
Kraft paper used to insulate the windings (without affecting the the remaining service lifetime of the transformer. This process
operation of the transformer). Crepe paper is used to tie together appears to have reduced the furan concentration. Figure 13 shows
the windings before they are connected to the bushings (see
Figure 11). To check whether the DP values of more readily
accessible Crepe paper samples could be reliably correlated
with the DP values of the windings, the two were compared.
The mechanical strength of Crepe paper is normally greater than
that of Kraft paper, so it would be expected to age more slowly.

Table 1. Number of Turns and Paper Layers in the Windings.

No. of turns on each No. of paper layers on the


Winding winding conductor

Tapping HV 8 5

HV 26 5

Low voltage 26 3 Figure 8. Measured degree of polymerization (DP) values.


Windings: HV tap = tapping; HV = high voltage; LV = low
Tertiary 5 3
voltage; Tert = tertiary.

January/February — Vol. 28, No. 1 15


Figure 9. Oil temperatures at the top and bottom of the trans-
former at various times. The temperatures were measured using
a Vaisala water-in-oil probe.

Figure 11. Cable end of low-voltage winding showing the many


the DP values estimated from the 2-furfural concentration, and
layers of Crepe paper removed.
corrected for the oil replacement (green line).
The lowest DP estimated from the corrected 2-furfural
concentration was around 363, but the lowest DP measured of the winding being higher than the temperature of the oil at
directly on the transformer was 231. Some possible explanations the top of the tank. An equation that can be used to calculate
for this discrepancy are the former from the latter is quoted in the IEC loading guide
60076-7 [6].
• The furans may degrade over time; The lowest DP was estimated by substituting a weighted
• The DP–furan concentration relationship used is hottest temperature of the winding (the hot spot) in Equation
specific to a batch of Kraft paper, i.e., the constants in (2). This is a constant temperature of the winding that produces
Equation (1) may vary depending on the manufacturing the same aging effect over the same aging time as the hot-
process and the source of wood pulp; and spot temperature profile. Thus if θhw is the weighted hot-spot
• The DP–furan concentration relationship does not take temperature, and θh(t) is the varying hot-spot temperature, both
into account the moisture and acidity content of the oil. in °C, then

DP Estimation Using the Arrhenius Equation A × aging period (h) × e −E /R(273+θhw )


The DP of the paper was estimated using Equation (2), in
= ∫ A × e −E /(R×273+θh (t )) × dt . (3)
which the effect of moisture or oxygen content is incorporated
within the constant A. The insulation temperature is not uniform aging period (h)
through the windings, with the temperature at the hottest point
Alternatively, if the aging period is divided into n segments of
equal duration, and the method of summation is applied instead
of integration, then

Figure 10. Radiator ducts on one side of the transformer. Figure 12. Total furan concentration in the transformer oil.

16 IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine


Table 2. Transformer Rating Data.

Parameter Description

Rated power 20/27 MVA

Voltage (HV/low voltage) 66/22 kV

Cooling ONAN-ONAF

Rated winding temperature above ambient 55°C

Number of cooling stages 1

Hot-spot thermal time constant 5 min

Top-oil temperature rise above ambient, Δθor 42°C


Figure 13. Degree of polymerization (DP) estimates deduced
from the concentration of 2-furfural. Hot-spot temperature rise above top-oil temperature 27.5°C

Loss ratio, R (rated load/no load) 4.16


 n
−E /R×( 273+θhi )  Oil thermal time constant 2h
 R e 
θhw = − × ln ∑  − 273, (4)
 E i =1 n  Oil exponent, x 0.8
 
Winding exponent, y 1.3
where θhi is the constant temperature during the ith segment. A
Hot-spot factor, H 1.3
similar approach is used in [7] to take into account the effect of
varying ambient temperature on insulation aging. Rated average winding to average oil gradient, Δgr 21.15
If the segment hot-spot temperature, θhi, is not directly
Rated current, low-voltage winding 709 A
measured (as was the case for the assessed transformer), then
it is calculated from the averaged top-oil temperatures of the Transformer commissioning (year) 1963
segment, θoi, and the corresponding hot-spot to top-oil gradient,
Transformer end of service (year) 2010
i.e.,
Weighted hot-spot temperature, θhw 59.5°C
θhi = θoi + H ∆g rK i y , (5)
Average water content of oil 15.6 ppm

where H is the hot-spot factor, Δgr is the rated average winding Average water content of paper 2.5%
to average oil gradient, Ki is the averaged load factor for the ith
segment, and y is the winding exponent [6]. It is assumed in the
derivation of (5) that the hot-spot to top-oil gradient reaches a DP values of the paper calculated using a weighted hot-spot
steady-state value between two recordings [8], in order to avoid temperature are given in Table 3.
underestimation of the temperature rise. The DP of the paper was estimated separately for two aging
The weighted hot-spot temperature estimated for the period processes, hydrolysis and oxidation, using A and E values taken
9 December 2009 to 17 April 2010 was 59.5°C, where the from the literature (Table 3). The A values were selected based on
corresponding load profile was calculated for ONAF (oil natural, the moisture content of the paper and the oxygen concentration
air forced) cooling mode (see Figure 14). The transformer rating of the oil. The average moisture content of the paper, 2.5%, was
data given in Table 2 were used in these calculations. The calculated from the average calculated hot-spot temperature and
the oil water activity value provided by the Vaisala Probe, and
then using the water equilibrium curves published by Du [9].
The oxygen content of the oil at various dates, plotted in Figure
15, was measured using dissolved-gas analysis [10], [11]. The
oxygen content was high and varied significantly because the
transformer was fitted with a free-breathing conservator system.
Using A and E values provided by Emsley [12], the DP was
predicted to be 400, assuming a hot-spot temperature of 59.5°C
(weighted). However, the A values given in Table 3 do not take
oxidation and hydrolysis into account. Because hydrolysis
involves acids, the A value will depend on the type of acid, its
concentration, and the concentration of water absorbed by the
paper. Clearly there is a requirement to develop an equation for
Figure 14. Transformer load profile. A that takes acidity into account.

January/February — Vol. 28, No. 1 17


Table 3. Degree of Polymerization (DP) Estimation for Different Aging Conditions.

Weighted hot-spot E value Moisture in Oxygen content


Aging process A value (h−1) DP (start) DP (end)
temperature (°C) (J/mol) paper (%) of oil

1.00E+09
59.5 111000 (Emsley) 2.5 N/A 1.00E+03 400
(Emsley)
Hydrolysis only
2.92E+11
59.5 128000 (SINTEF) 2.5 N/A 1.00E+03 517
(SINTEF)

4.60E+05
Oxidation only 59.5 89000 (SINTEF) Dry High 1.00E+03 337
(SINTEF)

Using A and E values provided by SINTEF [7], the DP estimate therefore take into account the furan concentration reduction
for hydrolysis is 517 using a weighted hot-spot temperature of during processing to obtain more accurate results.
59.5°C. The A and E values for Kraft paper with 2.5% water Degree of polymerization values calculated using a weighted
content, given in Table 3, were extrapolated from [12]. hot-spot temperature were in better agreement with the
Again using A and E values provided by SINTEF [7], the DP measured DP values than those calculated using an average hot-
estimate for oxidation is 337 for a weighted hot-spot temperature spot temperature. However, the available A and E values are not
of 59.5°C. These A and E values for oxidation are for dry paper sufficiently accurate to estimate DP using Arrhenius models,
with high oxygen content; the oxygen level in the transformer because they do not include the combined effects of moisture,
oil was high (average 19,000 ppm), but the paper was not dry, its acidity, and oxygen. The A and E values for the combined effects
water content at the top of the transformer being approximately of oxidation and hydrolysis have not been determined. More
2.5%. laboratory experiments are needed to determine these values
These calculated DP values are higher than those measured over a wide range of conditions.
directly; the lowest measured DP was 231. The calculated
DP values would probably be lower if A and E values for the Acknowledgments
combined aging effects of oxygen and water, not available at The authors wish to thank Col Feely (Powercor Australia
present, were used. Clearly the hot-spot temperature is a critical Ltd.), Meng Lee (Wilson Transformer Co., Glen Waverly,
factor in estimating the lowest DP of the paper. Victoria, Australia), and David Fernandez (Dynamic Ratings,
Glen Waverly, Victoria, Australia) for their valuable contribution
Conclusion and Future Work and Valery Davydov for his support during his time at Monash
This study has shown that the aging of the paper insulation in University.
the failed transformer was not uniform and therefore cannot be
characterized by a single DP value. The DP of Crepe paper from References
the cable end of the LV winding was similar to that of the Kraft [1] Measurement of Average Viscometric Degree of Polymerization of New
paper at the top of the windings. and Aged Electrical Papers and Boards. ASTM D4243-99.
[2] “Ageing of Cellulose in Mineral-Oil Insulated Transformers,” Cigre
Degree of polymerization values estimated from furan Brochure 323, 2007.
concentration will be too high if the transformer oil is dried [3] R. Sanghi, “Chemistry behind the life of a transformer,” Resonance, vol.
or replaced during transformer operation. Laboratories should 8, no. 6, pp. 17–23, 2003.
[4] C. Homagk, K. Mossner, and T. Leibfried, “Investigation on degradation
of power transformer solid insulation material,” in 2008 Annual Report
Conference on Electrical Insulation Dielectric Phenomena, 2008, pp.
75–78.
[5] R. D. Stebbins, D. S. Myers, and A. B. Shkolnik, “Furanic compounds in
dielectric liquid samples: Review and update of diagnostic interpretation
and estimation of insulation ageing,” in Proceedings of the 7th Interna-
tional Conference on Properties and Applications of Dielectric Materials,
2003, pp. 921–926.
[6] Loading Guide for Oil-immersed Power Transformers, 1st ed. IEC
60076-7, Dec. 2005.
[7] D. Susa, K. B. Liland, L. Lundgaard, and G. Vårdal, “Generator step-up
transformer post mortem assessment,” Eur. Trans. Electr. Power, vol. 21,
no. 5, pp. 1802–1822, Jul. 2011. doi:10.1002/etep.544.
[8] H. Nordman, N. Rafsback, and D. Susa, “Temperature responses to step
changes in the load current of power transformers,” IEEE Trans. Power
Del., vol. 18, no. 4, pp.1110–1117, Oct. 2003.
[9] Y. Du, M. Zahn, B. C. Lesieutre, A. V. Mamishev, and S. R. Lindgren,
“Moisture equilibrium in transformer paper-oil systems,” IEEE Electr.
Insul. Mag., vol. 15, pp. 11–20, Jan./Feb. 1999.
[10] Analysis of Gases Dissolved in Electrical Insulating Oil by Gas
Figure 15. Oxygen concentration in the transformer oil.

18 IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine


Chromatography, ASTM D 3612-02. insulation at the University of Manchester, UK. He investigated
[11] IEEE Guide for the Interpretation of Gases Generated in Oil-Immersed the suitability of using vegetable oils and synthetic esters as
Transformers, IEEE Standard C57.104-1991, Jun./Jul. 1991.
[12] A. M. Emsley and G. C. Stevens, “Review of chemical indicators
substitutes for mineral oil within large power transformers
of degradation of cellulosic electrical paper insulation in oil-filled and graduated in 2008. He currently researches the condition
transformers,” IEE Proceedings—Science, Measurement and Technology, monitoring of transformer equipment and lectures in engineering
vol. 141, pp. 324–334, 1994. at Monash University.

Nick Lelekakis was awarded a Bachelor


of Science with Honours in chemistry in Jaury Wijaya was born in Baubau,
1995 by Monash University, Australia. Indonesia. He received the BEng degree in
Since then he has been conducting electrical engineering from Petra Christian
research on transformer-related projects, University, Surabaya, Indonesia, in 1999
including moisture dynamics in paper- and the MEngSc degree in electrical
oil insulation systems, at Monash. He engineering from Monash University. He
has more than 14 years of experience in was a technical officer in the Department
sampling, measuring, and monitoring of Electrical and Computer Systems
gases dissolved in electrical insulating oil, Engineering at Monash from August 2004
using gas chromatography. He has also conducted extensive to March 2009 and is currently pursuing
experiments on the aging of paper insulation in transformers and the PhD degree in the department.
the degradation of insulating oils. His interests lie in applying
his chemistry background to monitoring, maintaining, and
extending the life of power transformers.
Dejan Susa (S ’05, M ’06) was born
in Split, Croatia, on May 22, 1972. He
received his Diploma Engineer degree in
Wenyu Guo received his PhD in computer electrical engineering from the University
science from the University of Manchester of Nis, Serbia, in 2000 and the MSc and
in 2007. He then joined Monash University, DSc degrees from the Helsinki University
initially engaged in a 6-month computer of Technology, Espoo, Finland, in 2002 and
vision research project. He later moved 2005, respectively. He was with the Power
into computational modeling applied to Systems Laboratory, Helsinki University
power transformer research, in particular of Technology, between 2001 and 2006. He has been with the
thermal dynamic modeling and insulation Centre for Power Transformer Monitoring, Diagnostic and
aging. Life Management, Monash University, since 2006. Currently,
he is with SINTEF Energy Research Department, Trondheim,
Norway. He is working on various power transformer
research topics (losses, temperatures, moisture, gases, on-line
Daniel Martin received the BEng degree monitoring). He is a member of the Norwegian IEC National
in electrical and electronic engineering Committee and of IEC MT1 (Loading Guide for Oil-Immersed
(with study abroad in Germany) from the Power Transformers), IEC MT2 (Ability to Withstand Short-
University of Brighton, UK, in 2000. He Circuit), IEC MT6 (Temperature Rises), and CIGRE Working
joined Racal Electronics, which became Group A2.38 (Transformer Thermal Modelling).
the international electronics company
Thales, working on communication and
aircraft systems. He left Thales in 2004
to pursue his PhD degree in electrical

January/February — Vol. 28, No. 1 19