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:: Furan Analysis ::

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Ling Wei Zui

Shahrizal Jelani

:: Furan Analysis ::
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1. Transformer is an important component in the electricity network.
2. Transformer insulation consists of the following & the performance of the
transformer itself depends on the integrity of these materials eg. mineral oil,
paper insulation or cellulosic materials i.e pressboard or woods
3. Life of transformer is determined by the life of its paper insulation.
4. Age of the paper insulation is determined by the mechanical strength of the
paper and is measured in terms of its Degree of Polymerisation (DP).
5. Estimating DP from the oil furan concentration in particular is a non-intrusive
method as it need not take the transformer out of service as it is not possible to
take paper samples during running operation.
6. Therefore, the DP value is determined on the basis of cellulose decomposition
products i. e. furans. These are partly oil-soluble and give some indication of
the rates of decomposition of the solid insulation.

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:: Furan Analysis ::
>>Introduction (Komal)
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1. Main objective of furan testing is to determine whether the paper in a given
transformer has been or is being damaged by:
2. Furanic compounds found in transformers are solely formed by the degradation
of the cellulosic insulation.
3. The causes of paper to degrade from original state could be due to:
Mechanical stresses i.e internal mechanical vibration & design
weaknesses reduces the paper insulation mechanical tension
Electrical stresses i.e high loading, overheating, arching & partial
discharges causes paper insulation to loose its polymerisation integrity
Environmental i.e high humidity & moisture content in air around the
transformer contributes to cellulose paper insulation deterioration
Type & quality of paper
Type & quality of oil
Operating condition i.e high loading or operation at maximum loading
affects the paper insulation mechanical and chemical strength.
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Furan derivatives are a measure of the degradation
of cellulose paper. When the paper ages, its degree
of polymerization reduces, so its mechanical strength
The degree of polymerization can only be determined
directly by taking a sample of paper, a very complex
operation and almost never performed in practice.
However, the degree of polymerization of the paper
can be directly related to the concentration of furan
derivatives in the oil.
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Furan derivate are formed as a direct result of the
breakdown of the polymeric structure of cellulose
The content of furan derivatives is relatively easy to
measure in the oil, using HPLC and is thus a way of
measuring the aging of the paper.

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:: Furan Analysis ::
>>Types & Properties
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>>Types and Properties

Furan is a heterocyclic aromatic system consisting of
four carbons and one oxygen in five membered ring
with each of the carbons having a hydrogen
attached, hence the molecular formula is C4H4O.
Full Structure Formula

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Ball-Stick Model

Skeletal Formula

>>Types and Properties

The five most prevalent derivatives of furan that arise
from the degradation of the cellulose that are soluble
in the oil to an appreciable degree are the following:

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2-Furaldehyde or 2FAL
2-Acetylfuran or 2ACF
5-Methyl-2-Furaldehyde or 5M2F
2-Furfurol or 2FOL
5-Hydroxymethyl-2-Furaldehyde or 5HM2F

>>Types and Properties

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:: Furan Analysis ::
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>>Procedure (Sampling)
Proper Transformer Sampling (ASTM D923)
The ability of insulating oil analysis to provide an
early sign of a problem condition is dependent on the
quality of the oil sample that is sent to the lab.

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>>Procedure (Sampling)
Proper Transformer Sampling (ASTM D923)
Fluids with specific gravity greater then 1.0 should be
sampled from the top because free water will float.
For fluids with a specific gravity less than 1.0, such as
mineral-based transformer oils, synthetic fluids and
silicone oils, the sample should be taken from the
bottom since water will tend to drop to the bottom in
these fluids.

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>>Procedure (Sampling)

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>>Procedure (Sampling)
Proper Transformer Sampling (ASTM D923)
The ideal situation for collecting a sample from an
electrical apparatus is 95F (35C) or higher, zero
percent humidity and no wind.
Cold conditions, or conditions when relative humidity is
in excess of 70 percent, should be avoided, as this will
increase moisture in the sample.
Collecting a sample during windy conditions is also not
recommended because dust and debris enter the clean
sample easily and disrupt accurate particle counts.

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>>Procedure (Sampling)

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>>Procedure (Sampling)

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>>Procedure (Analysis)
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is
a reliable method to perform furan analysis on
transformer oil. The standards are IEC 61198 and
ASTM D5837.
Using the High Performance Liquid Chromatography
(HPLC) test method, it is prerequisite that the sample
is soluble in a solvent as the measured substances
cannot be transferred into the gaseous phase without
decomposition (by contrast to a gas
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>>Procedure (Analysis)

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The five compounds mentioned above are separated
on an appropriate column and each is detected by
use an ultraviolet detector that is adjusted
automatically to the appropriate wavelength for each
of the five components.

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>>Procedure (Analysis)
IEC 61198: Method for the determination of 2-furfural
and related compounds in mineral insulating oils.
ASTM D5837: Standard test method for furanic
compounds in electrical insulating liquids by HighPerformance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).
10g of oil are solved in 10 ml of pentane for the
measurement. This mixture is drawn through a silica
gel column by negative pressure where the polar
cellulose elements (furan derivates) accumulate.
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>>Procedure (Analysis)
After that 20 ml of pentane are flushed through the
column to remove all remaining oil components. After
drying of the silica gel column in a vacuum, the
adsorbed furan derivates are extracted by 10ml of
acentonitrile into a volumentric flask.
After flushing of the chromatograph column the
extracted mixture is injected into the sample loop out of
the volumetric flask and the measurement is started.
The sample is pumped through a column. Depending
on the kind of the furan derivates there is an interaction
between the derivates and the stationary phase of the

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>>Procedure (Analysis)
If there is a strong interaction, the substance remains
relatively long in the column (long retention time). If
there is a weak interaction, the respective substance
passes the column quicker (short retention time).
A UV/VIS detector at the end of the column can at the
same time measure the intensity and the kind of the
furan derivates.

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Calibration solutions are made up for each of the
components to be analyzed and there are used to
standardize the instrument responses.
From the data on the standard solutions, the
extraction efficiencies for each component can be
calculated and corrections can be made accordingly.
The results are usually reported in terms of parts per
billion (ppb).
0 100 ppb = Acceptable; 101- 1000 ppb = Marginal;
Greater than 1000ppb = Unacceptable

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:: Furan Analysis ::
>>Case Studies
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>>Direct Evaluation

Mechanical properties of insulating paper

can be established by direct measurement of
its tensile strength or degree of
polymerization (DP).

DP are used to evaluate the end of reliable

life of paper insulation.

Suggested that DP values of 150-250

represent the lower for end-of-life criteria for
paper insulation.

Below 150 the paper is without mechanical


Direct measurement of these properties is

not practical for in service transformer.

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>>Analysis of Paper Insulation

Analysis of this paper insulation for its DP value requires

removal of few strips of paper from suspect sites.

This procedure can be carried out during transformer repairs.

This result of this test will be a deciding factor in rebuilding or

scrapping a transformer.

Obtain a paper sample usually is not practical and often

dangerous to the transformer from a de-energized.

In service transformer an alternative method has been found.

When a cellulose molecule de-polymerises (breaks into smaller

lengths or ring structure), a chemical compound known as a
furan is formed.

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>>Furan Analysis

Measuring the quantity and types of furan present in a transformer

oil sample, the paper insulation overall DP can be inferred with a
high degree of confidence.

The types and concentration of furans in an oil sample can also

indicate abnormal stress in a transformer, whether intense, short
duration overheating or prolonged, general overheating.

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Furan Content (ppm)

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DP Value




Healthy transformer



Moderate deterioration



Extensive deterioration



End of life criteria





Test indicates extensive paper degradation exceeding the critical point. Strongly
recommend that the transformer be taken out of service immediately and visually
The paper is near or at the critical condition. Recommend that the transformer be taken
out of service as soon as possible and thoroughly inspected. Paper samples can be
taken for direct DP testing.


The paper is approaching the critical condition. Suggest inspection be scheduled and/or
re-sample within 1 year to reassess condition.


The paper is starting to approach the critical condition. Suggest a re-sample in 1-2 years


Significant paper deterioration but still well away from the critical point.


Mild to minimal paper ageing.


No detectable paper degradation

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The Progression Towards Insulation Failure

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Primary Voltage: 11 kV

Secondary Voltage: 500V

VA Rating: 500 KVA

Vector Group: Dyn11

Impedence: 4.1%

Tap Changer: Off Load


Conservator: No

Breather Size: CHG2

Oil Volume Litres: 600

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Spreadsheet of Transformer oil analysis and Maintenance History

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Paper insulation at End of Life Criteria

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Substation: POWER STATION NO.2

Transformer No: TE 43

Serial No: 5292

Sample Point: MAIN TANK

Sample Date: 14/01/2006

Analyses Date: 24/01/2006

Primary Voltage: 6.6 kV

Secondary Voltage: 550 V

VA Rating: 1500 KVA

Vector Group: Dyn11

Impedance: 5.41%

Tap Changer: On Load

Breather Size: None



Year Manufactured: 1965

Conservator: Yes

Oil Volume Liters: 1967

Report Number: MONDI105651


Furan ppm (mg/L)


>10 End of life criteria

Predicted Degree of polymersation


< 250 End of life criteria

Water in paper: % Dry Weight


2.0 (max)

Water in paper: Total Litres


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Extensive solid (paper) insulation deterioration

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The use of furanic compounds can greatly aid in the
assessment of the condition of the solid paper insulation which
is useful in analysis of incipient fault condition and causes of
Some of the furanic compounds have sufficient stability in
transformer that they may provide useful information about the
long term aging of the cellulosic insulation.
Furan analysis enables test to be carried out without affecting
the operation of the transformer

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