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STUDY AND DESIGN OF POWER PLANT TRANSFORMER EXPLOSION AND FIRE PREVENTION - PART I
By David Scheurer, Research Department Engineer; Alexis Nesa, Research Department Engineer; Sylvain Prigent, Research Department Engineer; Philippe Magnier, C.E.O, SERGI; Moumèn Darcherif, Research Manager, EPMI
The study of the “Power Plants Transformer Explosion and Fire Prevention” started on request of a large western U.S. utility which had experienced a severe hydro power plant transformer explosion. This incident occurred underground, destroying one transformer and damaging another nearby. This now common event lead to a four-month total power plant shutdown and 10 months unit unavailability. Several on-line monitoring systems were installed on the transformers to try and anticipate another failure. The major concern was that this monitoring might not prevent an explosion, so SERGI was contacted to avoid a second catastrophic incident, should another transformer fail. SERGI specializes in transformer vessel explosion and fire prevention. The Design Department has conducted research since 1995 to understand and quantify the energetic transfer phenomenon that takes place within a vessel during a short circuit, which has led to the Magneto-Thermo-Hydrodynamic model (MTH) development. SERGI decided to study the prevention of power plant transformer explosions, because of the harsh arcing that can occur. During short-circuit, transformer faults are fed for seconds due to the generator inertia. Therefore, designing a system able to prevent a power plant transformer explosion fully satisfies the explosion prevention of any other kind of incident for transmission or distribution transformers. The purpose of these studies was to determine an efficient way to depressurize the transformer vessel during and after these short-circuit conditions in order to avoid explosion and the resulting oil fire. SERGI extensively investigated
Figure 1: Transformer winding geometry
the event, simulating causes, calculating the transformer vessel pressure rise, and proposed a suitable solution. The aim was therefore to design a system capable of preventing the worst-case scenario in order to satisfy the prevention of any other kind of incident. As in every case already studied by SERGI, the results brought to pressure rise with slopes from 60 to 900 bars per second. The fault was fed both by the generator and the network. As a consequence of the ongoing exponential gas production due to the continuous transformer energization from the generator side, calculations have shown an oil plug phenomenon which appeared in the Depressurization Chamber after system operation, leading to another pressure rise. Therefore, more calculations were conducted in order to size and shape a Depressurization Chamber that would eliminate this occurrence. The pressure inside the transformer will, therefore, be kept below the vessel maximum tolerated pressure during transformer short-circuit. Other aspects were also examined,
such as the oil-gas mix exhaust speed and flow through the Depressurization Chamber, as well as the volume of explosive gas produced and the volume of oil to expel, in order to safely depressurize the transformer. The resulting Depressurization Chamber diameter required to avoid vessel explosion was determined to be 12 inches. It was calculated that the SERGI Transformer Protector Rupture Disk used for depressurization fully opened in 0.6 millisecond for a 236 kA short-circuit. With other researches already published by SERGI, along with the company experience in Transformer Explosion and Fire Prevention, the best-adapted solution has been designed for power plants. In addition to the vessel, the Transformer Protector is also conceived to avoid explosion and fire of all transformer oil capacities such as Bushing, Oil Bushing Cables Boxes and On Load Tap Changers. The study presented here, which is the result of twenty-five months of
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The calculation is done through four sub models.1 Method The simulation purpose is to formulate a coupling of electromagnetic. HV and LV windings were taken into account as well as the influence of paper. energetic transfer in the oil. the vessel pressure increase. Water cooled • Dimension: 121” diameter. the utility has required SERGI to simulate the case with 34. • Nominal Power: 150 MVA • Primary voltage: 18 kV delta • Secondary voltage: 133 kV L-N • Impedance: 15.8kA during the incident. The heat transfer between the transformer and the outside or the magnetic circuit was imposed. the amount of gas produced. which rule the overall electromagnetic phenomena. as conditions to the limit. • Reverse scheme. 156” high The physical and electromagnetic material parameters. thermal and hydrodynamic phenomena. • Calculate the temperature by using the resulting above values as heat sources.2 Fault Scheme The problem resolution is detailed in reference. 2 SINGLE-PHASE TRANSFORMER CHARACTERISTICS AND SIMPLIFIED GEOMETRY DESCRIPTION The studied transformer is single-phase. 3 FAULT SCHEME AND CALCULATION 4. • Calculate the induced currents and the Joule and Eddy current local dissipated power. Fault equation settling and resolution 3. 118kA and 236kA faults in order to oversize the resulting transformer protection. Where: Figure 2: Short circuit scheme 40 Electricity Today .Transformer Study Continued from Page 38 However. 4 SIMULATION research. each subdivided as follows: 1. includes the fault calculation. • Homopolar impedance calculation. 68° Fahrenheit and extracted at the top. located downstream of a 450 MVA generator. the fluids evacuation and the associated SERGI Transformer Protector design.5 % • Cooling: Forced Oil. step up.1 Calculation The method used to calculate the fault current is the Symmetrical Component Method. The fault current was calculated with the symmetrical component method and gave the value of 11. The magnetic field is expressed through the potential vector: The thermal sub model resolves the partial derivative equations in a Cartesian geometry and is the following: 3. It was therefore necessary to: • Determine the magnetic field created by the inductance and/or arc in the surrounding field versus the injected current per phase. 2. Direct system study • Thevenin for the direct fault calculation. Oil is injected at the vessel bottom at 20° Celsius. thermal and hydraulic concerns. paperboard insulation.5kA. based on the fragmentation of the problem in two major parts. The first equation to solve is magneto-dynamic: It derives from the Maxwell equations.
The data are gathered according to each type of gas and associated activation energy: • The oil-gas composition is identified for every temperature. etc. 4. oil cracking process. the steady state was simulated in order to obtain a basis for the rest of the calculation. the transient state simulations were conducted under three different faults: • Maneuver shock at 35. Look in the November/December issue of Electricity Today for the conclusion of this article. Figures 4 to Figure 6 below show the calculated pressure rise curves versus time. Figure 4: Transformer vessel pressure evolution after a 35. Steady state calculation enables to observe the transformer behaviour under nominal electrical load. It corresponds to the normal transformer operation Figure 3: Vessel temperat normal temperaature variation in steady ture and pressure levstate.3 Steady state Before simulating the disruptive failure in the transformer. in Celsius and els. 4. The magnetic core was made free in temperature. Red lines represent the vessel tolerance to pressure. Once the wire reaches the temperature of electrical arcing.The hydrodynamic sub model resolves Navier-Stokes equations and mass conservation equations as: The electrical arc is simulated in the transient state by inserting a copper wire fed by the above given currents. 5 VESSEL PRESSURE RISE DURING SHORT-CIRCUITS The kinetic submodel is ruled by the Arrhenius Law: A : Pre-exponential factor Ea : Activation energy R : Perfect gas constant T : Temperature k : Constant expressing the quickness of the reaction The pre-exponential factor of the expressed Arrhenius Law is determined experimentally. The lap time before arcing is due to the copper wire heating. creating the favourable arc plasma. In this case. The fault is therefore simulated all through the depressurization process. • The different element concentration versus time and temperature in mineral oil environment is known. Yellow circles on the figures indicate arc ignition.1 Results Along with the calculation of the evolution of temperature. Where: 5. power surges. this factor is part of the software coded by SERGI. 4.2 Transformer cooling Calculations were conducted with the hypothesis of forced and directed oil circulation. an associated pressure is calculated for each type of fault.4kA • Lightning surge at 118kA • Lightning shock at 236kA We made the hypothesis that no generator circuit breaker would operate during the fault.4 kA short-circuit Figure 5: Transformer vessel pressure evolution after a 118 kA short-circuit Figure 6: Transformer vessel pressure evolution after a 236 kA short-circuit October 2007 41 .4 Transient state The calculated conditions can be worsened in the case of maneuver shocks. gas production and pressure rise increase severely. Figure 3 shows Fahrenheit the heat dissipation in the right side of the transformer winding.
C. Your utility is challenged daily by escalating costs. as all transformers are equipped with this device and explode anyway. The disks are available in various materials. since it only detects the pressure increase.PART II By David Scheurer. to avoid vessel explosion for the worst cases. Its goal is to protect systems from mechanical failures. This result was achieved after a large number of rupture disk tests. Regarding the transformer rapid pressure rise relay. In addition. it is Figure 7: Pressure gradient versus fault current designed to operate in the event of a short-circuit but its pressure rate limit is around 10 to 20 bar/second.2 bars above atmospheric pressure. even for very small short-circuits. Designed to promote cost reduction. technology. visit http://www.O. Alexis Nesa. However. The vessel maximum tolerated pressure was determined to be 1. facilities design and analysis. for the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR. A rupture disk is a device intended to prevent overpressures generally in chemical and petrochemical applications. Intergraph’s next generation solutions help you efﬁciently manage your utility infrastructure.TRANSFORMER REPORT STUDY AND DESIGN OF POWER PLANT TRANSFORMER EXPLOSION AND FIRE PREVENTION . At this heat level. the oil cracking process generates sufficient gas to create the overpressure. our integrated geospatial applications support critical workﬂow processes for customer and market analysis. A comparison made by SERGI on pressure relief valves versus TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR for the above short-circuit conditions has proven that the vessel could not be saved for all incidents simulated.E. reported in Figure 7. Another topic concerns the generator circuit breakers. Philippe Magnier. which were necessary to find the best design to avoid transformer explosion for severe shortcircuits. EPMI 5. and ﬁeld force automation with mobile workforce management solutions. and configurations. higher energy demand. automated dispatching. In comparison with the values given above for every kind of insulation rupture. On Load Tap Changer and Bushing Oil Cable Box.com/rifm/grm. Consequently. Explosion and Fire Prevention”. trouble call and outage management. SmartGrid. the main parameter to control was the opening time. Moumèn Darcherif. and reliability pressure – with fewer resources and aging infrastructure. increased reliability and better customer service. sizes. In light of the above results. The pressure gradients versus current faults. a latency is expected before transformer tripping. Continued on Page 50 48 Electricity Today . 6.com. it can be noticed that rapid pressure rise relays are not adapted at all.intergraph. The fault detection delay in addition to the breaker opening inertia apparently renders this costly protection inefficient for strong short-circuits. The results given in Figure 7 also explain the transformer pressure relief valve inefficiency.2 Analysis and consequences on transformer instrumentation and equipment The electrical arc is a high temperature plasma. ANALYSIS OF THE DEPRESSURIZATION CHAMBER RUPTURE DISK EFFICIENCY Helping you meet the challenge. Research Manager. Research Department Engineer.asp. following the oil cracking process described in “Development of a MagnetoHydrodynamic Model and Design of a Transformer. Research Department Engineer. and personnel. OMS. the pressure slopes are exponential. facilities security. To learn more about our solutions for GIS. calculations and simulations. SERGI. chemical reactions and internal blasts. doubts are increasing regarding their efficiency. Research Department Engineer. Sylvain Prigent. Take on your challenges with solutions built for utilities by the company who has served utilities for 30 years. or email sales@intergraph. are of utmost importance. the SERGI rupture disk had to be fully opened in a matter of one millisecond. In fact. operations and maintenance. Workforce Management and utility technology integration. mainly sold in the USA. as they explain transformer explosion due to the inadequate in-service instrumentation or devices.
Research regarding the opening time and behaviour of the rupture disk was conducted by SERGI. For this study. it was decided to settle the Figure 10: Rupture disk response versus fault type Continued on Page 52 50 Electricity Today .8 bar pressure step. the opening time depicted in Figure 9 is of 2. if the Rupture Disk is submitted to a 0. versus size. Figure 9: Rupture disk complete opening for different faults The SERGI rupture disk complete opening time depends on the fault type.6 millisecond for a very sharp pressure rise to 1. but in order to protect the Rupture Disk during maintenance period. The simulations were conducted for each short-circuit type and with different exhaust diameters Figure 11 to Figure 13.Transformer Study Continued from Page 48 The rupture disks manufactured for the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR are made of stainless steel and dimensioned for different tarred pressures. • The depressurization chamber conditions to the limits were modified (speed let free. The SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR is based on the reactive opening of a rupture disk integrated in a depressurization chamber. Its results were applied to the power plant transformer study. a 0.8 millisecond for a small short-circuit. 3 steps were followed: • Different depressurization chamber diameters were created in the transformer tank in order to simulate the pressure evolution during short-circuit. The tarred pressure is also of utmost importance. DEPRESSURIZATION CALCULATION Rupture disks therefore split open at tarred pressure and release the excess of fluid. The rupture disks complete opening time. The SERGI TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR depressurization chamber is generally located on the upper part of the transformer vessel. Figure 8.8 bar set point depressurization pressure has been settled. pressure in bar and psi The diameter of the rupture disk plays a significant role in the depressurization process. according to transformer pressure and depressurization chamber diameter. suppression of heat exchange parameters on the opened area…). and varies from 0. • Exhaust speeds were calculated recursively. In order to simulate the depressurization. 7.4 ms. as shown Figure 10: Figure 12: 118 kA short-circuit TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR response. Figure 11: 34. pressure in bar and psi Figure 8: Rupture Disk opening principle Also.5 kA short-circuit TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR response. versus diameters and fault levels are shown in Figure 9.
8. according to section 6. the scale of the time required for depressurization during short-circuit. • The depressurization chamber diameter. “Analysis of the DEPRESSURIZATION CHAMBER Rupture Disk efficiency” and Figure 9: Rupture disk complete opening for different faults. which is in this case 300mm. above the relief valve. from the time corresponding to transformer internal pressure equal to P=0. must be kept in mind. EVACUATED VOLUME CALCULATION 8. tarred at 0. pressure in psi bursting pressure at 0. • The velocity “V” is based on the vessel internal pressure evolution.Transformer Study Continued from Page 50 Figure 16: Time required for vessel depressurization during shortcircuit 8. The depressurization time starts at rupture disk opening and ends when the vessel pressure reaches the atmosphere level for the first time. as the pressure gradient is a key parameter to the opening time.1 Preliminary Before calculating the depressurized volume of oil.2 Calculation The flow calculation was achieved with the following equation: Q=SxV With: Q flow in m3/s or en l/ms S in m2 V in m/s • The “S” section represents the equivalent fluid flow section of the different depressurization chambers. 12 inches. Continued on Page 54 52 Electricity Today .6 psi). Figure 13: 236 kA short-circuit TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR response.3 Results The evacuated volume corresponds to the quantity expelled during depressurization. With: Figure 14: TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR efficiency for a severe lightning shock (236 kA). the most suitable depressurization chamber size is of 300 mm.8 bars (11. shown in Figure 16. This depends on the size and opening equation of the rupture disk.8 bar to the moment when P=0 bar.55 bars (8 psi). 12 inches. The values in Figure 17 tinted in grey are given for information only as the vessel has normally already exploded for the corresponding pressure values. For the 236 kA short-circuit current. The following Figures 14 and Figure 15 show a close-up of the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR efficiency. pressure in bar Figure 15: TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR efficiency for a severe lightning shock (236 kA). 8. pressure in bar and psi The depressurization for the 236kA fault is the quickest due to: • The rupture disk fast opening time.
Figure 18: Depressurization chamber efficiency analysis for a 236kA short-circuit. it is important to remember that: • The pressure set point is the same for all calculations and therefore the gas quantity produced before pressure reaches 0. GENERATED GAS VOLUME CALCULATION only require evacuating a small volume of oil. The total plant. The company requested SERGI to calculate the gas produced during the incident. depressurization process. 4 inches. As a result.4 kA fault The MTH model and its associated software enable the calculation of the amount of gas generated during arcing. and there might be a time lag before the circuit breaker opens the circuit on the grid side. to avoid another pressure build-up after the sure drop. SURIZATION CHAMBER rupture disk efficiency”. calculated in section 8. was put out of service for more than 4 months and the failed unit for more than 10 months. which was blown 60 meters away. “Depressurization Calculation” is that when the rupture disk has operated. the pressure quickly builds up again after approximately Figure 19 : Gas generation for the 35. pressure in bar and psi 9. the "fireball" moved inside the power plant gallery to the 4 x 4 meter outer door. pressure drops normally but by keeping the transformer fed. Figure 17: Evacuated oil and gas volume versus Rupture Disk diameter • The only difference at the instant of opening is the pressure gradient. DEPRESSURIZATION CHAMBER CALCULATION The length of the depressurization chamber is designed according to the amount of oil to be expelled during the depressurization process. the generator is still feeding the fault in any case. seeking oxygen. in order to correctly size the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR gas exhaust pipe that would be channeled outside the powerhouse. “Evacuated Volume Calculation” and the figures presented in section 7. but also by a "fireball" phenomenon due to indoor transformer location.6 ms whereas it is 1. In this case. with a 100mm. The shortest opening time provokes the fastest pres200mm. the disk Greater indepth research for every efficient depressurizaopening time varies according to the pressure slope. it was discovered that the minimum depres• The opening speed is crucial to the depressurization surization chamber diameter had to be equal to or greater than process. Further calculations made for the worst 236kA short-circuit show that.8 bars is the same for all examples. an important fact that does not appear in section 8. pening. When the walls inside a building are able to withstand an explosion. the explosive gases do not have immediate oxygen to burn instantaneously causing a "fireball" to travel. • As explained in section 6. “Analysis of the DEPRES200ms because of the exhaust inefficiency. depressurization chamber. utility in one of their underground hydro plants.8 ms for the 35 kA fault. Hence.S. 8 inches. which gives a rapid rupture disk opening time will 10. Gas production has played a major role in the transformer fire experienced by this western U. 3 units. as shown Figure 18.Transformer Study Continued from Page 52 The calculated evacuated volume is larger for small and severe short-circuits. However. the rupture disk minimum diameter to prevent such an occurrence from hapopening time is 0. These time lags imply that pressure is still building up. To explain this result. a quick depressurization provoked by a fast pressure rise. tion chamber diameters was therefore conducted to find the • For the 236kA short-circuit current. because of the gases generated by oil during the short circuit and resulting vessel explosion. even though the rupture disk has operated. Continued on Page 56 54 Electricity Today .
Moreover. after the system operation. Moreover. the transformers are indoors. the whole system can be adapted to 6 or 9 transformers. In this particular case. Figure 22: Top view of the proposed installation (out of scale) 4 3 Legend: 3. which explains the "fireball" strength observed during the hydropower plant transformer fire. where explosion and resulting fire provoke very damaging incidents. the generated gas was calculated only during the fault prior to the rupture disk opening. the SERGI recommended solution was based on the worst faults. depressurization chamber and its associated rupture disk. The solution proposed by SERGI has therefore been designed to collect the gases after depressurization.1 Proposal to the utility For this case. the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR operates at 0. Figure 20: Gas generation for the 118 kA fault 11.8 bar and the gas production is mainly proportional to the vessel pressure at the moment of system activation. or to oil directly in contact with copper wire being decomposed. pipe to evacuate the dangerous flammable gases to the outside and is installed per three units.Transformer Study Continued from Page 54 11. With this architecture. under nitrogen atmosphere 2nd exhaust pipe to the outdoor Figure 23: Side view of the proposed installation (out of scale) 56 Electricity Today . only the generation slopes change. and evacuate the gases outside the building. for all cases analyzed here. for the lightning shock of 236kA experienced by the utility. the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR does not require or use the plant oil collecting routing and storage system. Every fault type was studied to properly size the explosion prevention system. except for the 35. which is always under nitrogen atmosphere. However. The TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR is therefore specifically designed to protect every particular type of transformer and its associated oil-filled equipment. 4kA case. 4. the parameters. the generator is feeding the fault in any case and another large quantity of gases is also produced. to avoid contact with ambient air (oxygen). 2. It is uncertain whether this gas creation is due to the heating of the plasma channel prior to arcing. Transformer Depressurisation Set Figures 19 to Figure 21 show the gas production graphics for each fault. store the oil in a leak-tight tank always under nitrogen atmosphere. Oil Depressurisation and Storage Tank. The Oil Storage Tank. hypothesis and fluid routes are subjected to changes such that they are ruled as random and therefore barely quantifiable. As a matter of fact. each transformer must be equipped with a depressurization set. absorber. RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS However. is equipped with a 50 mm. 2 inches. including maintenance valve. The solution provided by SERGI takes into account the transformer geometry and its location in the power station. The proposed installation is pictured in Figures 22 and 23 for a three-transformer bank. After the TRANSFORMER PROTECTOR operation. 1 2 Figure 21: Gas generation for the 246 kA fault Legend: 1. However. depending on the possibilities offered by the site arrangement. It can be noted that the generated gas volumes are of the same order. a small amount of gas produced is noticed before arc ignition.
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