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Home > More Test and Measurement Products > Predicting Failure: Furan Testing of Transformers
Home > More Test and Measurement Products > Predicting Failure: Furan Testing of Transformers

Predicting Failure: Furan Testing of Transformers
By Jason Simon
Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) in Memphis, Tenn., is one of the largest three-service public power utilities in the
nation. MLGW serves more than 420,000 electrical customers, 314,000 natural gas customers and 255,000 water
customers in the Memphis and Shelby County area.
Within MLGW, the substation and transmission engineering department is responsible for the design and maintenance of
62 substations and 618 circuit miles of transmission lines in the service territory. The department designs and manages all
substation and transmission projects and is composed of civil, mechanical and electrical engineers.

A look at the transformer during the scrapping process
shows the condition.
MLGW has more than 180 substation power transformers in its electric system. The ratings of these transformers include
161 kV/115 kV, 90 MVA base; 161 kV/23 kV, 36 MVA base; 161 kV/12.47 kV, 25 MVA base; 115 kV/12.47 kV, 25 MVA base;
and 23 kV/12.47 kV, 15 MVA base. The average transformer age is approximately 40 years old; some are up to 71 years
MLGW’s transformer department performs many diagnostic transformer tests. In the past, dissolved gas analysis has been
the best predictive, noninvasive test for potential failures. Recently, MLGW has added furan analysis to its diagnostic tests.

The paper around the leads appears to be burned.

The Furan Analysis Process
Furan analysis shows the condition of the paper insulation with an oil sample. Over time, the cellulose insulating material
will experience degradation. An aromatic compound is produced during this degradation called furan. Testing is performed
for five furans:
• 5H2F (5-hydroxymethl – 2-furaldehyde)—oxidation;




View More Jobs on PennEnergy Jobs >> Research Technician BP Naperville.South Pangbourne. ReelOMatic TSE International Facility Manager Tallman BP Idaho Falls. The manufacturing and transformer drying process breaks down the cellulose. severe overheat. Furans are measured in parts per billion. there is a natural and steady breakdown of the polymer chains. Kraft paper is made up of cellulose fibers. When the degree of polymerization has fallen to around 200.• 2FOL (2-furfurol)—high moisture. 3. MLGW Testing MLGW began to test each of its transformers for furans in 2009. Night Belden Production Technician BP Burndy Wamsutter. A look at the coils. Inc. K&H Industries Legget & Platt Lug-All Facility Manager . ID BUYER'S GUIDE PRODUCTS . and • 5M2F (5-methyl – 2-furaldehyde)—local. lightning. The life of the paper insulation is typically the life of the transformer. has shorter polymer chains—from 800 glucose molecules to 1. IL INDUSTRY COMPANY PAGES Measurement Technician Keep up-to-date with the latest news and articles BP from some of the prominent utility product Farmington. The amount of 2-furaldehyde in oil is usually the most prominent indicator of paper decomposition. The glucose molecule chemically changes during this event and creates a compound containing a furan ring. there was significant degradation of the paper insulation. When the cellulose chain splits and two shorter chains are formed. the breakdown process forces out one or more of the glucose molecules. which is figured in the following manner: 1. Over time. The paper appears to have almost burned off in this photo. with estimated remaining life at 19 percent. • 2FAL (2-furaldehyde)—overheating. Electronics & Instrumentation Hastings BP HubbellUnited Kingdom . The breakdown also creates water. A 40-year-old transformer showed a degree of polymerization of 260 in early 2010 during testing. carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The degree of paper polymerization has a direct correlation to the paper’s tensile strength. • 2ACF (2-acetylfuran)—rare. Inc. Engineering Technician Golight.Sherbina Mesa I BP National Products Nordic TX Fort Stockton. The transformer also appeared burned to the naked eye. WY Freightliner Gamber-Johnson Getac. old fault.000 glucose molecules long. The results produced a good baseline. Furan results are used to determine an average expected degree of polymerization for the paper in the equipment. New paper in a new transformer. New kraft paper has an average cellulose polymer chain that is 1. the mechanical strength of the paper is reduced.200 glucose molecules long. As the polymer chains get shorter. Cellulose is a polymer formed from glucose molecules. When personnel investigated the interior of the tank. The solid insulation in a transformer is made up of kraft paper. 2. the paper is so weak that any stress will lead to failure.000 glucose molecules to 1. The paper insulation actually disintegrated when touched by personnel. The transformer was immediately taken offline and internally inspected to identify any problems. The calculated degree of polymerization is used to estimate percentage of solid insulation life remaining inside the transformer. NM companies and resources. therefore. POWER INDUSTRY JOBS Notice all the particulates and paper residue. East Hughes Bros.

That basic principle has been adapted for use in monitoring transformers. therefore. especially as operators need the maintenance function to be more profitable. Ensuring reliability on the grid by replacing equipment before it fails and anticipating upcoming problems is what transformer manufacturers will be focusing on. The newest technology for remote monitoring of transformers includes a combination of a remote terminal unit. a programmable language controller. however. Everlast pole tags Everlast pole tags for distribution poles have been used all over the world in this great earth's worst environment's proving it is the longest lasting product to use on pole's! More discoloration of insulating material.000-mile intervals. Finding and mitigating the problem before an in-service failure helped prevent extensive damage to surrounding equipment. The complete monitoring system is usually placed in service by a system integrator or a power manufacturer. Results from the dissolved gas analysis sample.” Dickinson said. In the 21st century.” Lambert said. the move will be towards monitoring systems that promote transformer reliability. samples are taken of the oil’s exhaust gases to determine if any events have occurred that might be detrimental to the transformer and reduce its life. When most signs fail ours shine. “It is similar to today’s cars that tell you when to change your oil or conduct other maintenance based on your specific driving habits. Both industrial transformer users and utilities are setting up these planned sampling programs using online devices that can monitor the oil for quality. this can greatly improve reliability because users will know in advance when something has to be replaced rather than risk enduring an unscheduled outage. More Products >> BUYER'S GUIDE COMPANIES GfG Instrumentation Inc Absolute Process Instruments Inc RWC Testing & Lab Supplies NASCO Industries Inc UHP International Inc More Companies >> Burn marks on the core steel. This transformer problem was discovered. and investing in building them. and the transformer was replaced before the summer load of 2010. pressure and vacuum levels. did not reveal any irregularities with the transformer. Remote Monitoring Helps With Transformer Maintenance Remote monitoring and communication capabilities allow utilities to conduct predictive maintenance of transformers. About the author: Jason Simon is MLGW’s supervisor of substation and transmission engineering. He has worked at MLGW for more than 12 years. unplanned customer outages or an explosion. Canada-based company that offers remote monitoring and control systems for public utilities and the industrial and private sectors. especially for step-up transmission. “Transformers in place are already using various smart devices for load switching. notes that remote management is being widely embraced. More Utility Products Current Issue Articles More Utility Products Archives Issue Articles . a Montreal.Everlast Substation signs Everlast safety signs and Everlast Substation signs meet all ANSI and OSHA requirements and continue to be readable for the life of the substation. In addition to monitoring vital statistics such as temperature. a gateway (a network node equipped for interfacing with another network that uses different protocols) and a protocol converter. which means conducting maintenance only when a parameter starts deviating from a pre-set standard. Testing for furans has shown to be a valuable tool when trying to predict the end of a transformer’s life. high-voltage transformers. Without the furan analysis. According to Mike Dickinson of Oregon-based Pacific Crest Transformers. Daniel Lambert of Vizimax. There was no significant increase in any of the gases that would typically confirm a problem.” Many transformer manufacturers are recognizing this growing demand for online transformer monitoring products and diagnostic services. Swage Bus Accessories Swage Bus Accessories use a compression technology process called "swaging" that enables installation of aluminum bus accessories without the need of a welder. electronic sensors can determine if you do mainly city or highway driving and signal the need for an oil change accordingly. With DGA. the problem might have gone undetected until there was a catastrophic in-service failure. “Rather than changing your oil at 6. there has also been a growing interest in conducting dissolved gas analysis (DGA) of the oil in transformers. fortunately.

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