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Insulating Oil used in
Transformers, Voltage Regulators, etc.
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Prepared by:
Sk. A. Rahman
Ex-member, PDB
Elec. Engineer
Head, Ccn TR BCL, Dhaka
It has got different trade names namely Wemco "C" Oil (Westinghouse), shell Diala Oil "B"
(Burmah Eastern), # 10 "C" Oil (GE), etc. The oil is a refined mineral oil obtained from the
fractional distillation of crude petroleum . It is free from moisture, inorganic acid, alkali, sulfur,
asph<tlt, tcr, vegetable or animal oils Having the undernoted advantages, the oil llas been
selected for use a5 insulating oil in different electrical equipment and facilities:
1. High dielectric strength.
Low viscosity- provides for good heat tr:msfrt.
Freedom from inorganic acids, alkalis, corrosive sulfor-prevcnts injury to insulation and
materials of -.:orLstruction.
Good resistance to emulsification. In case of moisture contamination, it quickly settles to
t11e bottom of the tank.
5. Freedom from sludging under normal operating conditions over Jong periods of time
accomplished by proper selections of creeds and refining methods.
6. Because of its low viscosity it analyses rapid settling of the arced products m circuit
breakers tap-changers, and other arcing contact apparatus.
7. Low pouer point allows use under low temperature conditions.
./8. The high flash point allows higher operating temperatures with freedom from fire haz.ard.
Enemies of Transformer Oil:
In order to discuss the problems involved in the maintenance of insulating oil in service and the
required handling procedures, it is important to realize the factors which can cause damage to
insulating oil

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Oxidation - Oxidation is the most common cause of oil and and insulation deterioration .
Faulty gaskets and poor welds may pursuit a unit to breathe air. The oxygen in the air
will react with the oil to fonn organic acids, water and eventually oil sludge. Once
sludging has started a clay treatment is required to remove the deterioration products.
Acid in twn, attacks the winding insulation, and sludge deposits tend to decrease cooling.
Moisture in the transformer fluid tends to lower the di-electric strength of the fluid, which
combined with sludge will lower the flashover value of insulators and tenninal boards
inside the tra..'lsformer tank.
Contamination-Moisture is the chief cause of oil contamination. The main source of
moisture is from breathing air into the transformer, the faulty gaskets or during
transformer or inspection with the manhole cover removed. Other solid
c9ntaminations in the oil can come from solid insulation, metal parts etc.
Excessive Temperature- Excessive heat will accelerate oxidation if any oxygen 1s
present and ha':tcn the decomposition of the oil. Heat also will degrade other
insulating materials and thus g:::nerate carbon dioxide and water which further
deteriorates the oil.
Other Factors- Minor faults. such as corona discharges, spark0g and local overheating
under the oil level will produce combustible gases and carbon. Which can be harmful
to the operation of a transformer. It is desirable to identify these minor faults and correct
them when possible.
Test programs of insulating oil a.e normally as shown below:
General Tests l Complete
Test5 include General plus
Through i.
a. Acid Number I Neutralization a. Acid Number/ Neutrali:zation Ho.
b. Interfacial Tension b. Interfacial Tension
c. Di-electric breakdown c. Di-eJectric breakdown
d. Power Factor 50 Hz. at 25uC d. Power Factor 50 Hz at 25C
e. (;olour
f. Pour Point
g. Specific Gravity
h. Viscosity
i. Moisture Content.
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Sample of oil for testing purpose should be collected cautiously so that the same is not
contaminated during samplinihg . The oil should be kept stored in dry clean continer.
The container preferably be completely filled up and closed/ capped to prevent contact
with atmosphere .
The General Tests are described as under:
Di-electric Breakdown - ASTM-D877:- The dielectric breakdown voltage is an
importmt measurement of the electrical stress which an insulating liquid can withstand
without puncture I failure. It is measured by applying a voltage between two electrodes
under prescribed conditions for testing the liquid. It serves as an indication
1 contaminants,Particularly moisture and solid contaminants (conducting).
ASTM D- 877 specifies a test cup equipped with one-inch dia. Vertical disc electrodes
spaced 0.10 inch apart be used to obtain the standard ... dielectric test value.
Neutralization Number/ Acid Number, ASTJ\1-974.
This number is the number o( milligrams of K(OH) required to neutralize the
acid content in one gra,_-n of oil under test . It measures the content of oil.
With service aged oil it can be used as an indication of the presence oJ
contaminants. The acid Number is most important in indicating chemical change
or deterioration of the oil. It may be stated here that some of the products of
oxidation are acidic.
Interfacial Tension, ASTM D-971:
The interfacial tension between the insulating oil and water is a measure of the
molecular attractive force between the unlike molecules anii is expressed in
dynes per centimeter. This test provides a means of detecting soluable polar
contaminants and products of deterioration. Soluble contaminants or oil
deterioration products generally decrease the interfacial tension value.
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/ Power Factor/ Loss tan delta orDissipation Factor:


The power factor is the ratio of the power dissipited in the oil in watts to the
porduct of the effective voltage and current in volt-ampere, when tested with a
sinusoidal field under prescribed conditions. A high power factor value is an
indication of the presence of contaminants or deterioration products, such as
water, oxidation products, etc. ,
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Loss tan delta is the ratio of the power dissipated in the oil to the reactive power.
When the insulation system of oil, rotating etc is energized with an AC
volt., the p.f is equal to the cosine of the angle between the charging current and
the applied voltage. Loss tan delta/dissipation factor may be taken as the p.f when
the latter very low.
Relationship between charging current and ap.plied voltage is shown below:
I = Charging Current
8 = 90-8
E = Applied voltage
An oil power factor test is a very good barometer and is a required test for oil used
in EHV equipment.
Good new oil has a power factor of O.OS percent or less at 20C. Higher power
factor indicates deterioration and/or contamination with moisture, carbon er other
conducting matter, varnish, deterioration products, etc. Carbon or asphalt in oil
can cause discoloration. Carbon in oil \:viii not necessarily increase the power
factor of the oil unless moisture is alsc present. It is suggested that the following
serve as guides for grading oil by power factor (p.f.) tests.
Oil having a p.f of less than 0.5% at 20C is usually considered
satisfactory for servi cc.
Oil having a power factor between 0.5 and 2% at 20C should be
considered as being it doubtful condition, and at least some type of
investigation should be made.
Oil having a power factor of over 2% at 20C should be investigated
and should be reconditio.ned or replaced.
The preceding guides may be elaborated on by saying that good new oil has a p.f of
approximately 0.05% or less at 20C and that the p.f. can gradually increase in service to
a value as high as 0.5% at 20C without, in most cares, indicating deterioration. When the
p.f exceeds 0.5%, an investigation is indicated.
Other tests of comparatively less importance but significant in _the evaluation
of insulating oil condition are also described below:
Color, ASTM D-1500 - The primary significance of color is to observe a rate of change from
previous samples of oil from the same transformer or breaker. Noticeable darkening in short
periods of time indicate either contamination or deterioration of the oil. A darkening color, with
no significant change in neutralization value or viscosity, usually indicates contamination with
foreign materials. The color of an insulating oil is determined by means of transmitted light and
is expressed by a numerical value based ori comparison with a series of color standards.
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Pour Point, ASTM D-97 - The pour point is the temperature at which insulating oil will just flow
under prescribed conditions. The pour point is useful in detennining the type of equipment in
which a given oil can be used, but has little significance as far as contamination or deterioration
are concerned.
Specific Gravity, ASTM D-1298 - The specific gravity of insulating oil is the ratio of the weights
of equal volumes of oil and water at 15.56 C (60F). The specific gravity may be pertinent in
detennining the suitability for use in specific application.
Viscosity, ASTM - D88 - The viscosity of insulating oil is its resistance to uniformly continuous
flow without turbulence, inertia or other forces. It is usually measured by timing the flow of a
given quantity of oil under controlled conditions. A marked viscosity increase accompanied by
an increasirig neutralization number and darkening color, could also indicate deterioration of the
oil due to oxidation.
Moisture Content, D-1533 - Th presence of free water may be observed by visual examination in
the form of separated droplets or as a cloud dispersed throughout the oil. Water in solution is
nof!!Uilly determinedoy physical or chemicai means. It is measured in parts per million. Water in
inv3:nably causes decreased dielectric strength of the oil. Figure 13, shows an automatic Karl
Fischer titrating apparatus.
Flash Point, ASTM, D-92 - 'The flash point of insulating oil is the temperature to which the
material must be heated in order to give off sufficient vapor to form a flammable mixture with
air under of the test.
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Fire point:J'1ne Fire Point is the higher temp. than Flash Point, at which the oil vapours will
continue to bum when ignited till the oil is exhausted.
/ Reclaiming And Reconditioning of Oil
Reconditioning involves the removal of water and solid particles from the oil. 111is is done by
using one of several available types of filters, centrifuges, and vacuum dehydrators.
The filters include va.rious kinds of cartridge type filters as well as tl1e common filter press.
These filters are capable of removing water, carbon, particulate matter and sludge which is in
suspension. Their ability to remove water is dependent upon the dryness of the filter. It is
essential that steps be taken to make certain that the filter is dry before the filtration is begun.
1he best method to detennine when a filter in use has become saturated with water and lost its
effettivf:ness is by checking the dielectric strength of the filtered oil or, y a continuous indication
that water is present in outgoing oil. If the oil being processed contains a large amount of
contamination, it is necessary to frequently change the filter.
The centrifuge is particularly useful when there are large quantities of water or other
contamination present. It is very effective in removing water but cannot remove the contaminants
as completely as a filter. Neither the centrifuge or the filter is designed to treat oil chemically.
In some situations it is advantageous to use a combination centrifuge and filter press. The oil is
first passed through the centrifuge to remove most of the contamination then through the filter to
remove any remaining contamination. This makes it possible to make use of the best qualities of
both systems. A vacuum dehydrator provides an efficient method to remove water and also gas
from insulating oil. The vacuilm dehydrator exposes the oil to high vacuum and heat for a short
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period of time. Usually some device, such as a nozzle or baffle plates, are included to provide a
large oil smface to assist in removing the water and gas from the oil If solid material is present
in the oil, a filter should be used in conjunction with the vacuum dehydrator.
Reclaiming of insulating oil consists of the removal of deterioration products such as sludge and
organic acids. The media used for a reclaiming process is fuller's earth, which is a natural
occurring clay. The excellent absorbent properties of fuller's earth will remove acids and other
contaminants. The fuller's earth treatment is made percolation through a coarse clay.
Percolation may be accomplished either by pressure or gravity flow. The two methods are the
same in principal and commercial equipment is In the pressure percolator the oil is
forced through the clay by a pump. It has a chamber to hold the clay and is so designed that the
oil must pass over the clay. Pressure percolators are capable of processing large volumes in a
short time and since the amount of clay is relatively small, it must be changed frequently. In
gravity percolation the oil flows through a column of coarse clay by gravity. A typical system
would have a tank of oil to be treated at a high level above a cylinder or tank filled with the clay;
below the treating chamber is a tank to receive the filtered material. Once this process is started,
it continues with little attention other than periodic sampling. In this system the flow is slow and
the volume of clay is relatively large and needs to be changed less frequently than with the
pressure process. In either of these treatments checks on the neutralization number of the oil
serve to indicate whether the treatment is adequate and when a change of clay is required.
Another method of clay treatment uses a finely divided clay and a relatively high operating
temperature. This method will make the most efficient use of the clay. Commercial apparatm is
available.for this treatment. It consists of a heated mixing chamber where measured amounts of
oil and clay are stirred as they arc heated until a desired temperature is reached. The oil-clay
mixture then goes into a tank from which it is pumped through a spcciaUy designed filter to
separate the oil and the clay material.
The choice of reclaiming method is based upon the most practical and economical considerations
for a particular system and location. In any case, if reclamation is to be the oil should
first be put through a filter to remove the free water to prevent wetting of the clay. The oil which
has been treated should be put into a container designed to prevent the pida1p of moisture.
Gas Analysis of Transformer
A combustible gas check should be made every two year on transformers below 288 kV. This
may be done with a portable combustible analyzer and if the combustible gas is 0. 5% or
above, a gas sample should be taken and sent to t11c laboratory for analysis.
Conservator type transformers and others which are completely filled or which have a diaphraf:,'111
over the oil have no gas space can not be checked with a portable unit but in cases where gas is
accumulated in the Buchholz Chamber. Using appropriate air tight containers, oil samples should
be taken from these units and sent to the laboratory to have the gas extracted from the oil and
analysed for different gases (combustible/non-combustible).

Portable Gas
There are available on the world market several type; of portable combustible gas meters. On
such meter is operated by filling a rubber bladder (supplied with the instrument) with a gas
sample from the transformer. The rubber bladder is then attached to the inlet of the instrument
and the gas passes through a venture where it is mixed with equal parts of air before entering the
measwing portion of the instrument.
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Tes ting service
One type service involves analyzing the gas from the gas space as well as tests on an oil sample.
These samples are taken in stainless steel sample containers.
Another type service involves extracting gas from an oil sample and analyzing the gas sample
and making tests on oil sample.
In the inten>ntation of gas analysis information of any transfonner, three considerations are very
important: (1) the total percent of combustible gas, (2) the percent of each component, and (3)
the rate of increase in combustible gas content. Field testing of gas in the gas space of a
transformer yields the total combustible gas present. The following is a list of ranges and
suggested action:
1. 0-1.0% Combustible Gas - This is a very low percentage which requires no further action.
2. J.0-2.0% Combustible Gas - This is a low perccnl1ge of combustible gas which permits
continued but should be monitored on a monthly basis to establish the rate of
combustible gas formation; if it continues to increase, a laboratory analysis should be made.
Then if the combustible gases continue to increase, another laboratory test should be made to
determin<-1 the combustible gases present and have the results analyzed by reference to the
"Guidelines for gas Analysis Interpretations" stated below.
3. 2.0-5.0% Combustible Gas - Tbis is an intermediate quantity of combustible gas. A
laboratory analysis should be made; and the results reviewed by reference to the "Guidelines for
gas Analysis Interprdations". The unit should be evacuated, purged with nitrogrn and monitored
every t\VO weeks to determine the rate of gas formation. lf the rate of gas formation L'> significant
and a fault is indicated, the unit should he inspected and the fault corrected.
4. Above 5. 0% Combustible Gas - This is large quantity of combustihle gases. A laboratory
analysis should be made and the resultc; studied by reference to the "Guidelines for Analysis
Interpretations". The unit should be evacuated and purged with nitrogen and monitored daily to
detennine the rate of gas formation. If the rate of gas formation is so high that the gas level
cannot be monitored b.elow 5% the transformer should be removed from service and the
fault correcrcd.
Guidelines for Gas Analysis Interpretations
When a laboratory gas composition analysis is made, the above percentages apply to the
quantities of combilstible gas which is present. Additional evaluations can be made as to a
probable location and type of fault which caused the gas. 'The following guides apply to this type
of interpretation.
1 Nitrogen plus 5% or less oxygen.
2 Nitrogen plus more than 5%
1 Nitrogen, carbon dioxide and/ or
carbon monoxide.
4. Nitrogen and hydrogen.
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Normal operation of transfonner
Check for tightness of transformer.
Transformer overloaded or operating hot,
causing some cellulose breakdown. Check
operating conditions.
Corona discharge, eletrolysis of water or
5. Nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon
dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
6 Nitrogen, hydrogen, methane with
small amounts of ethane and
7. Nitrogen with high hydrogen,
methane, ethylene and acetylene.
8. Same as (8) except dioxide and
carbon monoxide present.
Corona discharge involving cellulose or
severe overloading of transformer.
Sparking or low level corona discharge
causing some breakdown of oil.
High energy are causmg rapid
deterioration of oil Brazed connections or
tum-to-turn shorts are examples.
Same as (8) except arcing in combination
with cellulose.
NOTE: In each case there may be other facts or variables present that may alter the
The detection of low energy inc1p1enr faults in transformers is an important protective
maintenance technique to enable users to forestall gradual damage to transformers which can
result in complete power These faults in most cases cannot be detected electrically;
however, they do result in gradual deterioration of solid and liquid insulation in the area of the
fault. This deterioration can be caused by a defective joint, a poor connection, improperly placed
materials, etc. and will generated gases, all of which are soluble in the insulating oil to varying
degrees. As the oil becomes saturated with each gas the excess rises to the top of the oil. In the
case of uniL.s complttely fil)ed with oil the gases fro;.n Some equipment utilize relays !c
indicate these gas pochts. In the case of units with an inert gas space above the oil, the
escape into the gas space. Analysis of a sample either of the gas in the gas space er the gas
dissolved in the oil provides an excellent method for the early detection of faults.
"Transformer Gas Composition Analysis" provides for taking samples from the gas space of
transformers for analysis.: An equipment for obtaining and analyzing to detcnnine the dissolved
gas is known a Dissolved Gas Analyzer (DGA). 111is tcchruque can be used for all types of
transformers but is particularly recommended for those units that are completely filled with oil
such as those which use conservators or a diaphragm over the oil. The oil sample is tested in the
laboratory where the dissolved gases are removed by allowing the oil to flow into an evacuated
chamber as a thin film so that the oil is thoroughly exposed to the vacuwn, allowing the gases to
volatilize. The system is returned to atmospheric pressure and the gases which have been drawn
off are measured. From the volume of oil in the chamber and volume of
gas, content may be calculated. The released gases are then analyzed using a gas chromatograpn
to detennine their composition. This analysis offers a means by which the type and sometimes
the location of the fault may be determined, thus indicating the corrcc tivc action required.
Accw-ate sampling is extremely important in order to determine composition of the gases which
are present and the percentage of each, and to assure that the oil sample is representative.
Careless sampling may lead to erroneous conclusions based on the analysis of the test data. In
taking samples from the transformer, it is essential that the prescribed procedures be followed in
order to obtain a representative oil sample.
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