TRANSFORMER OIL PRESERVATION SYSTEM BASIC INFORMATION AND TUTORIALS


Although transformer oil is a highly refined product, it is not chemically pure. It is a mixture principally of hydrocarbons with other natural compounds which are not detrimental. There is some evidence that a few of these compounds are beneficial in retarding oxidation of the oil.

Although oil is not a “pure” substance, a few particular impurities are most destructive to its dielectric strength and properties. The most troublesome factors are water, oxygen, and the many combinations of compounds which are formed by the combined action of these at elevated temperatures.

A great deal of study has been given to the formation of these compounds and their effects on the dielectric properties of oil, but there apparently is no clear relation between these compounds and the actual dielectric strength of the transformer insulation structure.

Oil will dissolve in true solution a very small quantity of water, about 70 ppm at 25 C and 360 ppm at 70 C. This water in true solution has relatively little effect on the dielectric strength of oil. If, however, acids are present in similar amounts, the capacity of oil to dissolve water is increased, and its dielectric strength is reduced by the dissolved water. Small amounts of water in suspension cause severe decreases in dielectric strength.

The primary reason for concern over moisture in transformer oil, however, may not be for the oil itself but for the paper and pressboard which will quickly absorb it, increasing the dielectric loss and decreasing the dielectric strength as well as accelerating the aging of the paper.

It is generally recognized today that the best answer to the problem of air and water is to eliminate them and keep them out. For this purpose, in American practice, transformer tanks are completely sealed. About three basic schemes are used in sealed transformers to permit normal expansion and contraction of oil (0.00075 per unit volume expansion per degree Celsius) as follows:


1. A gas space above the oil large enough to absorb the expansion and contraction without excessive variation in pressure. Some air may unavoidably be present in the gas space at the time of installation but soon the oxygen mostly combines with the oil without causing significant deterioration, leaving an atmosphere which is mostly nitrogen.

2. A nitrogen atmosphere above the oil maintained in a range of moderate positive pressure by a storage tank of compressed nitrogen and automatic valving. This scheme has the advantage that the entrance of air or moisture is prevented by the continuous positive internal pressure, and the disadvantage of somewhat higher cost.

3. A constant-pressure oil-preservation system consisting of an expansion tank with a flexible synthetic rubber diaphragm floating on top of the oil. This scheme has the advantages that the oil is never in contact with the air and there is always atmospheric pressure and not a variable pressure on the oil. The disadvantage is the higher cost. A number of mechanical variations and elaborations of this general idea have been devised.

It is now generally recommended that the constant-pressure oil-preservation system of item 3 be employed on all high-voltage power transformers (345 kV and above) and on all large generator step-up transformers. This is a consequence of unfavorable experience with transformers having gascushion systems, which inherently operate with large quantities of the cushion gas in solution in the hot oil under load.

If the oil is suddenly cooled (reduction of ambient temperature or load), the oil volume contracts and the static pressure of gas over the oil drops rapidly, allowing free gas bubbles to come out of solution throughout the insulation system. The dielectric strength of the oil and cellulose insulation system is drastically weakened when it has free gas inclusions, and this has occasionally led to electrical failure of operating transformers.

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