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Properties of Alternative Liquids to

Mineraloil for Transformers

H. Borsi, E. Gockenbach

University of Hannover, Institute of Electric Power Systems,

Division of High Voltage Engineering, Schering-Institute
Callinstr. 25 A, D 30167 Hannover GERMANY

Key Words: Transformer insulation, Mineral oil,

ester liquid, breakdown voltage, gassing

Abstract Furthermore the performance of ester liquid

Since many years ester liquids are in use as an Midel 7131 and mineral oil mixtures
alternative insulating liquid to mineral oil in concerning the electric behaviour is
distribution transformers. The major introduced.
advantage, forcing the application of these
fluids, is their improved environmental
compatibility. But these liquids comprise 1. Introduction
several additional advantages, which are at Since the mid eighty the transformers have
first their lower inflammability. Power been filled with different synthetic liquids
transformers contain several tons of insulating such as silicone, ester, perchlorethylene etc.
liquid, that may cause a long lasting pool fire They have good dielectric, heat transfer and
in case of a transformer tank rupture due to aging properties, but because of their
winding failures. relatively high cost their use has been limited
Meanwhile there are a lot of good experiences to special transformer applications [1]. One of
concerning the use of the ester liquid Midel the major advantages, forcing the application
7131 in distribution transformers. This good of ester liquids, is their improved
experience encourages the manufacturer of environmental compatibility. Additionally
transformers to use this liquid in power these liquids comprise several extra
transformers. Due to larger dimensions of advantages, which are at first their low
power transformers in comparison to inflammability. Transformers can contain
distribution transformers special consideration several tons of insulating liquid that may
is necessary. cause a long lasting pool fire in case of a
The contribution presents some results of transformer tank rupture due to winding
investigations concerning the electric and failures.
dielectric behaviour of ester liquids in
comparison to mineral based transformer oil.

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

Ester liquid and mineral oil are of an almost of mineral based transformer oil and an ester
similar density. They are completely miscible liquid Midel 7131 are shown in table 1. The
at any ratio. Almost all electrical and paper presents some results of investigations
dielectrical properties of ester liquids are on ester liquid Midel 7131and mixtures of
similar to mineral oils despite the relative Midel 7131 with mineral oil. The investigated
permittivity εr, which is higher than those of mixtures are a combination of a widely
mineral oils. This is an additional benefit if available mineral oil and a specific amount of
the ester liquid is used for impregnating ester liquid, which has similar electrical
cellulose as the relative permittivity is closer properties combined with fewer
to the one of cellulose (about 5.6), thus environmental risks, less fire hazards and high
resulting in a more uniform electrical field hygroscopicity.
distribution within the combined insulation.
Some of the physical and electrical properties

Standard Midel 7131 Mineral oil *)

General physical properties
Density DIN 51757
at 20°C 0,96 g/cm3 0,856 g/cm3
at 90°C 0,915 g/cm3 0,810 g/cm3
Pour point -50 °C -20 °C
Toxicity non-toxic slightly toxic
Ability to biodegradability very high high
Water saturation
at 20 °C max. 2700 ppm max. 45 ppm
at 100 °C max. 7200 ppm max. 650 ppm
Heat transfer capability
Cinematic viscosity DIN 51561
at 20°C 63 mm2/s 16 mm2/s
at 90°C 7,7 mm2/s 2,3 mm2/s
Calorific capacity
at 20°C 0,165 W/(m K) 0,135 W/(m K)
at 90°C 0,155 W/(m K) 0,125 W/(m K)
Specific heat
at 20 °C 1,81 kJ(kg K) 1,85 kJ(kg K)
Expansion coefficient 7,5 10-4/K 6,9 10-4/K
Fire properties
Flash point DIN ISO 2590 310°C 150-175°C
Flame point DIN ISO 2592 257°C 130-135°C
Combustion heat 36,8 kJ/kg 10 46 kJ/kg 103
Self ignition temperature DIN 51794 405°C 330°C
Electrical properties (all the data are relative to a temperature of 23°C)
Breakdown strength (ac) DIN IEC 156
VDE 0370 Part 5 55 kV 60 kV
Permitivity εr
(50 Hz) DIN 57370/1 3,3 2,2
Dissipation factor DIN IEC 247
tan δ (90°C) VDE 0370 part 2 10 10-4 <10 10-4
Volume resistivity IEC 247 20 10-12 Ω cm 100 10-12 Ω cm
*) The data are mean value obtained from many manufacturers.
Table 1 : Technical properties of ester liquid Midel 7131 and mineral oil

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

2. THE WATER IN INSULATING insulation in a transformer and the oil itself

LIQUID/PAPER are adequately dry prior to filling the
The water in the liquid originates from air transformer.
moisture in the case of ‘open-breather
transformer’ or ‘oil-conservator’ types, and as The relative Humidity
a by-product of oxidation reactions taking The relative humidity for oil is the dissolved
place in the liquid (and the thermal water content of the oil relative to the
decomposition of cellulose-based solid maximum capacity of moisture that the oil
insulating materials). Water can exist in can hold. Because the saturation mixing ratio
liquids in three states namely dissolved, is a function of pressure, and especially of
emulsified and dispersed. Insulating liquids, temperature, the relative humidity is a
such as transformer oil, have a low affinity for combined index of the environment and
water (however, the solubility increases reflects more than water content.
markedly with temperature for normally The relative humidity Wrel for a given
refined naphthenic transformer oil). Their temperature T, is defined in terms of the
electrical parameters are strongly influenced absolute water content in liquid Wabs versus
by the water content, and a high moisture the saturation limit WL(T) so that:
level decreases the operational safety.
Moisture increases electric conductivity and Wrel =
dissipation factor and worsens electric WL (T )
strength [1-3]. Moisture in oil is measured in
parts per million (PPM) using the weight of The water maximum solubility at an absolute
moisture divided by the weight of oil (µg/g). T can be expressed in this form:
When the moisture in oil exceeds the
saturation value, there will be free −

precipitated from the oil in suspension or W L = K .e T (2)

drops. The oil in a transformer becomes
increasly contaminated as the transformer The constants H and K depending on the
ages in service. Contaminants include liquids itself are to be determined
particulate debris from thermal, oxidative, or experimentally.
electrical degradation of oil or solid The water saturation of the pure liquids as
insulation. The amount of absorbed furans well as the mixtures have been experimentally
depends on the partition coefficients at given determined. The samples were exposed for a
temperature and the humidity in the paper. At few weeks in a closed artificial humid
lower temperature, the absorption of furans is environment at a given temperature. The
higher and will be enhanced by a higher water content was regularly controlled. The
amount of absorbed water. Absorbed water saturation limit was achieved when the
can be released to the oil from the cellulose obtained water content is found to remain
insulation during thermal excursions, and constant. Figure 1 depicts the saturation limit
product water can be formed by cellulose of the pure liquids as well as for the mixtures.
degradation during service ageing. Water in Mathematical approach of data suggests the
mineral oil transformers also brings through existence of some kind of relationship
this procedure the risk of bubble formation between the saturation limit WL of the
when desorption of water from cellulose mixture, the temperature and the ester
increases the local concentration of gases in amount. The saturation limit WL of the
the liquid. mixture can be describe as a mathematical
The purpose of the low limits suggested for function of the temperature T and the ester
water in new oil contained in new amount X:
transformers is to insure that both the paper

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

⎛ − 0.17T + 4.2 ⎞ content of the insulating liquids and

W L = (4.9T − 37 ) exp⎜ X⎟ (3)
⎝ 1000 ⎠ impregnated paper is shown in figure 2
exemplary for cellulose paper impregnated
Such a function can be useful for providing with mineral oil, silicone liquid and ester
information concerning each amount of liquid.
mixture. As can be seen, there is no significant
difference between the silicone liquid and the
Oil and other materials in a transformer mineral oil. This behaviour is due to the
degrade with time in service and many of the moisture content of the liquids, which is
products of degradation are reflected in the almost the same for the investigated
acid number, the water content of oil in a temperature (20°C). The curves also show
transformer as it ages and consequently on that using an insulating liquid with a high
the dielectric properties of the oil. water saturation limit (ester liquid) is
combined with a lower water content in the
The water in the oil equilibrates with water paper compared to other insulating liquid with
retained in the paper insulation of the the same absolute water content but a lower
transformer. The correlation of moisture water saturation limit.



Mineral oil
WL [ppm]
Mineral oil + 10% ester

10 Mineral oil + 20% ester

Mineral oil + 50% ester

Ester liquid
4.2E-3 3.8E-3 3.4E-3 3.0E-3 2.6E-3

1/T [1/K]

-25 0 25 50 100
T [ C]

Figure 1: saturation limit of the pure and mixed insulating liquids versus temperature.

3. Investigated parameters merit for the characterisation of an insulating

The aim of the investigations was to liquid, especially those, that are likely to vary
determine those physical, electrical, dielectric significantly with the oil purity and
and aging properties, which, according to the composition as well as with temperature and
IEC standards, are used to classify electric field. The most important properties
transformer oils as to guarantee their quality are the electrical strength and viscosity,
and life. Although all the properties listed in followed by dissipation factor (tan δ), water
table 1 are important, some have a special content and neutralisation number. The water

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

content varied between 10 and 40 ppm for the contents, the respective specimens were
mineral oil, between 10 and 185 ppm for the placed in the virtually homogeneous field of
mineral oil plus 10% ester liquid, between 10 the VDE hemispherical set-up and subjected
and 365 ppm for the mineral oil plus 20% to a
ester liquid and between 10 and 1120 ppm for 50 Hz voltage increased at a rate of 2 kV/s up
mineral oil plus 50% ester liquid to breakdown. Between individual
measurements, a glass stirrer was used to
3.1 Breakdown voltage remove any solid decomposition products
The AC electric strength, also known as appearing between the electrodes, and to take
breakdown voltage at power frequency, is the away any gaseous decomposition products
most often controlled parameter describing back in the liquid. Before and after each
the function of a liquid as an insulator. measurements series, the electrodes were
For measurements of the electric strength at purged of the decomposition products of
various temperatures and for various water preceding breakdowns.

WPaper [%]

Ester liquid

Silicon liquid

Mineral oil

1 10 100 1000
WLiquid [ppm]

Figure 2: Moisture equilibrium of different liquids - cellulose paper complex at 20°C

Almost all the transformers are exposed to with ester liquid of the average values from
outdoor conditions, they are therefore subject all water contents at a given temperature are
to temperature variation. For example during summarised in figure 3. The values for the
cold winter days, the temperature can fall aged mixtures specimens are sometimes
under 0°C, while in tropical regions and found to be higher than those of new
during hot summer days the temperature can specimens particularly at high amount of ester
rise up to 30°C or more. The temperature liquid. This effect is more highlighted through
variation for the investigations (0 - 100°C) the addition of 50% of ester liquid on the
was chosen in order to simulate normal mineral oil. A general increase of the
operating conditions as well as critical breakdown voltage at low temperatures in
situations in a transformer. connection with ester liquid amount is
The measuring set-up of the AC breakdown observed, while the difference between the
voltage is depicted in our previous work [1]. electric strength of the mineral oil and these
The temperature dependencies of the results mixed liquids at higher temperature is
concerning the mineral oil and the mixtures somewhat smaller.

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

0% unaged
70 0% aged

10% unaged
10% aged

50 20% unaged
Breakdown voltage

20% aged
50% unaged

30 50% aged


10 Limit for new

oils under
IEC 296 or
0 DIN VDE 0370
0 20 60 90 C
Figure 3 : Average values of the breakdown voltage of the mineral oil and
the mineral oil mixed with different amount of the ester liquid.

The most important and therefore most often blend higher than those of the pure mineral oil
controlled parameter of a liquid insulant is the as the relative humidity is lower.
breakdown voltage according to IEC 60296. The breakdown voltage of the mixtures is less
At low temperatures and after an aging with temperature-dependent than those of the pure
copper, zinc, aluminium, each one 3 g/l as mineral oil. The reason is the difference in the
Catalysts the blends performed in most cases water saturation limit. All the breakdown
better than the pure mineral oil. The voltages for new and aged liquid mixtures are
breakdown behavior for different relative greater than the limit of 50 kV at 20°C
moisture contents of mineral oil and Midel required by VDE for unused oils.
7131 is depicted by Figure 4. The breakdown The ester liquid is beneficial for aged mineral
voltages shown are the average values for all oil as well as when they are both aged
water contents at a given temperature. together. This aspect can be very helpful
The behavior of the blend is somewhat similar when retrofilling service-aged mineral oil
to mineral oil. The difference between the filled transformers with liquid mixtures.
mineral oil and a mixture of mineral oil/Midel Another important factor is the breakdown
7131 and the reason for the improved behavior of the cellulose that is immersed in
performance of the mixtures at low the liquid. The cellulose PSP 3010 has been
temperatures is the fact, that the absolute representing approximately 30 years of
water content of the mixture is higher than transformer operation. It becomes obvious,
that of the pure oil to reach a certain grade of that in all cases the mixtures perform better
relative saturation. Thus the breakdown than the pure mineral oil. Also the aging of
voltage, which is mainly influenced by the the cellulose is lowered by the application of
relative water content at a certain temperature Midel what may be traced back to the lower
is, for the same absolute water content, for the generation of acids during aging.
Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

80 2.5 mm
E Mineral oil
B Mineral oil + 20% Ester liquid
70 Limit for unaged oil
Limit for aged oil






0 20 40R1 60 R2 80 100 120 140 160
Relative water content Wrel (%)

Figure 4 : the AC breakdown voltage versus the relative humidity for the mineral oil and ester liquid.

3.2 Gassing behaviour of the insulating cover with clamps to fix the heating wire. The
liquids at thermal stress heating wire is made of Konstantan.
Insulation damages during operation are The temperature around the heating wire is
normally accompanied by gas production (and assumed to be constant, it was measured with
can cause PD). The gas can either be solved in a NiCrNi-temperature sensor. The heating
the liquid or they remain unsolved. The current is delivered via a power current
solved gases are detected with Diagnostic Gas transformer. With an ampere-meter connected
Analysis (DGA) methods [4]. The unsolved to the primary and secondary circuits the
gases which are generally produced by large temperature at the wire can be regulated. The
faults in a short time or by a small faults long funnel-shaped teflon device over the heating
time after gas saturation in the liquid arrive on wire allows the generated gases to go directly
their way up into the Buchholz-relay. The to a burette from where they can be measured.
solved and unsolved gases have been used This test set up allows a local controlled
since many years ago for the determination of heating of the liquid up to over 1000°C. The
the insulation condition (over-voltage, over- calculation of the local temperature of the
current, temperature of the hottest point, etc.). liquid surrounding the heating wire is
The thermal stress of the liquid specimen are obtained using thermodynamic approach. In
simulated in a set up according to (figure 5). the area of the heating wire, the temperature is
It consists of a Borosilicat-vessel and a teflon- considered to be constant, the radiated heating
energy is therefore.

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

1 2 4 5

230 V
50 Hz 6

A 3

11 10

1. Auto-transformer 7. Clamps
2. Current transformer 8. Funnel
3. Measuring transformer 9. Heat element
4. to Argon 5,6 vessel 10. Test vessel
5 Sampling for gas Chromatography 11. Equalising vessel
6. Measuring burette

Figure 5 : Test vessel and set up for local heating of the insulating liquid.

⎡⎛ T ⎞ 4 ⎛ T ⎞ 4 ⎤ T2 : liquid
Q ab = α Em. ⋅ AHeating ⎢⎜⎜ 2 ⎟⎟ − ⎜⎜ 1 ⎟⎟ ⎥ (4) dH : Surrounding temperature (T ≈298 K)
⎢⎣⎝ 100 ⎠ ⎝ 100 ⎠ ⎥⎦
lH : Temperatur im Bereich dϑ
Q zu = P = I 2 ⋅ R (5) Diameter of the heating wire
ρ ⋅lH Length of the heating wire
Q zu = I 2 ⋅ (6)
d H 2 ⋅π / 4
ρ ⋅lH With the assumption of a constant
I2 ⋅ temperature around the heating wire
4 ⎛ T ⎞ d H 2 ⋅π / 4
T2 = 100 ⋅ ⎜⎜ 1 ⎟⎟ + (7) (10mm≤dϑ≤20mm) and a radiation coefficient
⎝ 100 ⎠ α Sr . ⋅ d ϑ ⋅ π ⋅ l H
αStr.=3...5,77W/m2K4, the results of the
calculation of the heating temperature (around
where: the wire) are depicted by figure 6.
Qab : Radiated heat power This figure shows the results of the
Qzu : Supplied thermal output power investigations performed for a maximal
ρ : Specific resistivity current of 50 A, on the assumption of a
αStr. : Radiation coefficient (3...5,77 W/m2K4) homogeneous heating area lH of
dϑ : Area of constant temperature (φ ≈10-20 approximately 15 mm around the heating wire
AHeating : mm) with maximal temperatures of over 800°C.
T1 : Heating wire surface in the isolating

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

Completing measurements acknowledged the

For the mineral oil the first noticeable un-
dissolved gas initiation appear at a
temperature ranging from 250 to 300°C while
for the ester liquid a temperature of 350 to
400°C is required.


α str. = 3 und dυ = 10 mm
α str. = 3 und dυ = 20 mm
α str. = 5,77 und dυ = 20 mm

T2 800




0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Heizstrom I (A)
Figure 6 : Calculated temperature T2 at the heating wire versus the heating current for different emission
coefficient and different zones with constant temperature around the heating wire (αStr. = 3...5,77 W/m2K4).

Through a small increase in the temperature, a It is to be noticed that the solubility of gases
exponential gassing tendency for the such as hydrogen is low in insulating liquids
investigated insulating liquids is to be and gas bubble readily can form in the liquid
observed. At a given temperature, the total (in the vicinity of discharge of local heating.
un-dissolved gas generated by mineral oil is Gas bubbles are weak dielectrics and their
much higher than that of ester liquid as presence can intensify the discharge – corona-
previously investigated. As for example, the or initiate further breakdown in highly
behaviour of the mixture with 20% ester stressed regions nearby.
liquid is depicted in figure 7. The higher the gassing tendency, the higher
At a given temperature, mineral oil generates the risk of breakdown inception in the
much higher unsolved gas than ester liquid insulating liquid. Adding ester liquid to
and the mixture of mineral oil with 20% of mineral oil helps decreasing the gassing
ester liquid. tendency under local thermal stresses.

Surface Degradation of Outdoor Polymeric Insulators Resulting from Electrical and Environmental Stress
20th International Power System Conference

Ester liquid
5 Mineral oil + 20% Ester

Mineral oil
Gas content (ml)

0 200 400 600 800 C 1000

0 5 15 25 36 A 50
Heizstrom I
Figure 7 : Gas content evolution versus temperature of
different insulating liquids submitted to local heating for a period of 180 s.

4. Conclusions 7131 and mixtures of Midel and mineral oil

Ester liquid Midel 7131 has good electric, have in comparison to mineral oil a lot of
dielectric, thermal, aging and environmental advantages as insulating and cooling medium
characteristics. Furthermore it has - in in transformers.
comparison to mineral oil - much lower
inflammability and thus much lower fire risk. 5. References
As moisture is ’enemy number one‘ for [1] Borsi, H., Gockenbach, E., Fofana I., Bastian, J.
transformer insulations, the high saturation "Verfahren zur Verbesserung der elektrischen
limit of ester liquid, almost more than 50 und Alterungseigenschaften von
mineralölgefüllten Hochspannungsgeräten durch
times higher than that of mineral oil, reduces Beimischung einer hygroskopischen
the moisture content in the solid insulation Isolierflüssigkeit", Deutsches Patent und
due to water diffusion into the liquid, and as a [2] A Sierota and J. Rungis, "Electrical Insulating
result, the dielectric properties of the mixed Oils- Part 1: Characterization and Pre-
liquids are changed slightly. If necessary, treatment of New Transformer Oils", IEEE
excess moisture can be removed from the Electrical Insulation Magazine, Vol. 11, No.
fluid using standard techniques. Altogether, if 8, pp. 8-20, 1995.
[3] K. Dumke, "Untersuchungen an einer
the transformer usually operates at very low Esterflüssigkeit als Isolierstoff für
temperatures, the application of the mineral Transformatoren", PhD Thesis University of
oil and ester liquid midel 7131 mixtures offers Hanover, 1998.
increased insulation reliability. The dielectric [4] Kan, H., and Miyamoto, T. "Proposals for an
strength at low temperatures is higher, than improvement in transformer diagnosis using
that of pure mineral oil. Therefore, the lower Dissolved Gas Analysis", IEEE Electrical
Insulation Magazine,Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 15-
risk of breakdown of the insulating liquid at 21, 1995, Markenamt DE 199 46 641 A1,
low temperatures reduces the probability of a April 200
transformer malfunction. Ester liquid Midel