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2013 Annual Report Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena

A Study on Palm Oil-Based Oil Moisture Absorption

Level and Voltage Breakdown
Nur Syamimi Murad, N. A. Muhamad1, A. A. Suleiman1,2 , N. A. M. Jamail1,3,
Institute of High Voltage & High Current (IVAT), Faculty of Electrical Engineering (FKE), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
(UTM), 81310, Johor, Malaysia
National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Abuja, Nigeria
Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia

[1]. Mineral transformer is preferred because of the

Abstract- Oil in transformer is well known as a coolant and also availability and low cost and also it is being an excellent
as an insulator. Nowadays, petroleum based oil is widely used in dielectric and cooling medium. It is noted that in todays
the transformer as it meets the requirements to be the best world, petroleum based product are so essential as we may
insulator. The usage of petroleum oil gives negative impact
cannot imagine when there is a time that we may not have
especially to the environment as when explosion, tank rupture or
leakage occur, the oil may contaminate soil surrounding and them easily available. Alternate natural sources to replace
water stream badly. Furthermore, it is a fact that petroleum mineral oil is right now being seriously think to help in
based oil will not be available for future generation used. Hence, solving the problems that mineral oil is eventually going to
further studies discovered that biodegradable oil has greatly run out in future.
potential to replace petroleum oil as liquid insulation in
transformer. To maintain great performance of insulation in the Nowadays, the raise of environmental concerns
transformer, free moving water molecules in the oil must be towards the use of poorly biodegradable fluids in electrical
specifically in low level. This free water content that exist will equipment in regions where spills from leaks and equipment
affect the entire performance of insulation, thus degrading the
failure could contaminate the soil or worse, water streams.
life time of a transformer. If the oil can absorb water and reduce
amount of free water, it will help reducing changes of complete Because of that, in the mid-1990s, research efforts were
insulation breakdown when the oil is at high moisture condition. started to develop a fully biodegradable insulating fluid [2].
Currently Malaysian researchers try to use palm oil as insulation When there is tank rupture, leak or explosion on transformer,
liquid for transformers. This project investigates about various oil filled transformer will give environmental challenge
palm oil moisture absorption levels and its effect towards voltage towards the nature. This is because when the type of oil used
breakdown for transformer insulation system application. Palm in the transformer is not biodegradable to the nature and as
oil such as RBDPO oil and red palm oil (Carotina oil) are example, mineral oil. In Malaysia, mineral oil is used in
compared with commercialized transformer oils, mineral oil as transformer as the insulating medium. Because of the
well as palm fatty acid ester (PFAE) in terms of their moisture
environmental awareness raised rapidly, fully biodegradable
absorption level and voltage breakdown.
vegetable oils have been produced to be used in the liquid
I. INTRODUCTION transformer. This also has activated studies by many
researchers to make palm-oil based transformer oil as one of
Conductors, insulants, magnetic and mechanical the alternative.
construction materials are essentially consisted in electrical
equipment. It cannot operate without power losses because it Other than that, insulation in the transformer can fail
converts energy from one form to another. Heat that comes due to moisture content in the oil. In fact, water is an
from most of the losses produces an increase in temperature of unwanted substance and should be avoided to be in the
the constructional materials. When the heat is being dissipated transformer oil as it may help in degradation of the
as fast as it is produced, it it said to be in a state of transformer. Until now, there no research was done to study
equilibrium. Because of this phenomenon, the insulating moisture absorption level of the commercialized as well as
materials decay rapidly as if the temperature is too high. This pure oil toward the breakdown properties of the oil. Thus this
is a fact for solid insulants, which it has the supreme value of study has focused on moisture absorption level for
economic operating temperature of less than 100C. To get commercialized palm oil-based transformer oil, PFAE and as
efficient cooling, liquids are normally used for this function well as pure palm-oil RDBPO and also Carotino oil. The
[1]. analysis and discussion on effect of water content toward
breakdown voltage was done to see the performance of the
There are two important purposes of liquid filling in oils.
transformer. First, it is a function of being a coolant and
second, to be insulant [1]. Billions of litres of insulating liquid II. EXPERIMENT
are used by liquid filled transformers [2]. Since late nineteenth A. Sample
century, petroleum oil has been used in electrical equipment

978-1-4799-2597-1/13/$31.00 2013 IEEE

In this project, breakdown voltage of 4 types of oils, which C. Karl Fisher
two oil are pure palm oil-based types of oil and the other two Water in oil is detected by using Karl fisher titration method;
are commercialized transformer oil, one palm-oil based and an analytical technique that is one of the most frequently used
mineral oil at different moisture levels was studied. The pure methods in laboratories around the world [2]. This experiment
palm oils are red palm oil (Carotino oill) and RBDPO oil used Karl fisher titration model 870 KF Titrino Plus from
(refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil). These two oils Metrohm as in fig 3. This experiment based on BS 6470
are compared to the commercialized oil, PFAE oil (palm fatty method for determination of water in insulating oils and in oil-
acid ester oil), and mineral oil. This study also done to know impregnated paper and pressboards [3].
the moisture absorption characteristic of palm oil- based oils.
This study is important to identify the types oil palm oil-based
oil that has better reaction with moisture in term of voltage

B. Adding Moisture Process

Deionized water was added into the oil to complete
all the samples. 8 types of samples were used in determining
the level of moisture absorption and 6 types of samples were
used in Karl Fisher test[3].
To add moisture in the sample, the technique
proposed by Y Du. [5] was used. Deionized water was added Fig. 2 Karl fisher titration model
to the oil sample and was mixed well and heated with 40C for
24 hours and until there was no water bubbles existed [4]. D. Breakdown Voltage
Fig. 1 shows the adding moisture process. Breakdown voltage measurement was performed by
following the standard MS IEC60156:2012. The test setup as
shown in fig. 3. The measurement was performed at four
different moisture contents, normal, added with 700ppm,
added with 2000ppm and added with 3000ppm [3].

Fig. 1 Adding moisture process

It is known that 1ppm is equal to 1mg/l. Since in this

experiment used syringe to add water into the oil, the
conversion of weight to volume of water must be done. To do
this process, 0.5ml syringe with needle without water was tare Fig 3 Test Setup
and the weight was recorded. After that, 0.5ml of water was
put in the syringe and was tare to get the weight. From this
experiment, 0.1ml of water is approximately equal to 0.1gm III. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS
Equation (1) was used to determine the value of A. Absorption of Water
water in ml for certain amount of ppm [3}:
Time taken for the moisture to absorb in the Carotina oil is
ml (0.001 water ( ppm)) volume(l ) shown in fig. 4. From the graph, it can be clearly seen that at
= 3000ppm water added, the time taken for the oil to absorb the
l 1l volume(l ) (1) water was at 24 hours. After adding 4000ppm of water, the oil
For example, a sample of 100ppm of water content cannot absorb the water content anymore even until 48 hours
was to be determined. To know how much volume of water with continuous stirring. To get 4000ppm of water to be added
need to be injected into the 0.25 liter of oil. From equation 1, into the 0.25 liter of oil, from eq. 1, it is calculated that the
it is calculated that the amount of water need to be injected to amount of water injected to get 4000ppm of water content is
get 100ppm of water content is 0.025ml [3]. 1ml. It was observed to become supersatured. From this
experiment, the maximum water absorption that Carotino oil
can accept is 3000ppm [3].

max and 16.8kV for the mean. The lowest breakdown voltage
was 11.6kV for max and 8.51kV for mean after adding 700
ppm water. The trend was unexpectedly increased after the
increasing of addition of water.

Fig. 4 Graph of time (hours) versus moisture add

For others type of oil, the water drop was found (being
saturated) in the container after more then 48 hours continuous
stirring event at 100 ppm moisture added.

B. Karl Fisher Result

Table I shows the result of Karl Fisher experiment. From the

Fig. 6 Breakdown voltage for Carotino oil
table, it can be seen that water content in red palm oil without
addition of any water is 4699.79 ppm. It shows that this type Figure 6 shows the result of RBDPO oil. The highest
of oil has a very high content of water which is not good for breakdown voltage for normal could reach was 44.8Kv for
insulation on transformer application since the limits of 30 to max and 33.8Kv for mean. When moisture increased, the
35ppm are generally referenced. Table II shows about the breakdown voltage decreased simultaneously but for 3000
water content in percentage. For fig.5, it can be stated that as ppm, there was a slightly increased.
the water content in ppm increased, the water content in
percentage is also increase [3].

Water content Amount of water Water content (ppm)
(ppm) added (ml)
Normal - 4699.79
700 0.07 5790.05
900 0.09 5891.02
1250 0.125 6376.5
1750 0.175 6798.09
3000 0.3 8388.68
Fig 6 Breakdown voltage for RBDPO oil
The result for PFAE oil is shown in fig 7. It can be observed
that for normal oil, the highest breakdown voltage was 52.7Kv
Water content (ppm) Water content in lab (%)
Normal 0.47
for max and 47.8Kv for mean. From here, the trend showed
700 0.58 the unexpected increasing of breakdown voltage after adding
900 0.59 2000ppm
1250 0.64
1750 0.68
3000 0.84

W a t e r c o n te n t (% )




0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000
Fig. 5 Graph of water absorbed (%) versus water added (ppm)

Fig 7 Breakdown voltage for PFAE oil

C. Breakdown Voltage
For Carotino oil in fig 6, the highest breakdown voltage was As for the reference oil the result is shown in fig 8. The
for normal Carotino oil which the value was 21.4kV for the moisture addition was done until700ppm only because from

literature review, mineral oil only can absorb until 200ppm. be clearly seen that after 2000ppm was added to the sample of
The highest breakdown voltage was 33.8Kv for max and oil, PFAE had the highest breakdown voltage compare to the
23.6Kv for mean. After adding moisture, the value decreased other oil except for Carotino oil. This is because PFAE has
and become 12.4Kv for max and 10.6Kv for mean. greater electrical resistance compared to the others. Due to
this, PFAE can be considered to replace mineral oil in future


There are some conlusions can be made through this study/

Carotino oil had a good characteristic to dissolved much water
compared to the other type of oil. When moisture content
increased, the breakdown voltage will only sligtly decreased
(almost constant at ** kV) at all value of water added ( from
100 ppm to 3000ppm). Breakdown voltage for other oils will
be decreased as the water content increased. RBDPO oil had a
Fig 8 Breakdown voltage for mineral oil
high breakdown voltage at its normal condition compared to
Carotina and Mineral oil. However the breakdown voltage is
highly decreased when moisture is increased. It shows that the
presence of water could affect the dielectric strength of the oil.
Compared to the other palm oil and mineral oil, PFAE oil had
the highest breakdown voltage even when the moisture
content were increased up to 2500 ppm water added. It is due
to the characteristic that PFAE has greater electrical resistance
to electrical breakdown.


Authors gratefully acknowledged Malaysia Ministry of

Higher Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (Vot 05J82,
04H67, 4L014, and 4L607) for financial support.
Fig 9 Comparison for maximum breakdown voltage

[1] Wilson, A.C.M., Insulating Liquids: Their Uses Manufacture and
Properties. 1980, IEEE Electrical and Electronic Materials and Devices
Series 1
[2] Oommen, T.V., Vegetable oils for liquid-filled transformers Electrical
Insulation Magazine, IEEE 2002. 18(1): p. 6 - 11
[3] Nur Syamimi Murad and Nor Asiah Muhamad, " Study on Moisture
Absorption Level of Palm oil-based Carotino Oil as Transformer
Insulator", World Academy of Science Engineering and Technology
Conference, Amsterdam, 15-16 May 2013, (2013) Issue 77, pg 693-695.
[4] Malik, N.H., A.A. Al-Arainy, and M.I. Qureshi, Electrical Insulation in
Power Systems. Power Engineering, ed. H.L. Willis. 1998, New York:
Fig 10 Comparison for mean breakdown voltage Marcel Dekker.
[5] Du, Y., A. V. Mamishev, et al. (2001). "Moisture solubility for
differently conditioned transformer oils." Dielectrics and Electrical
Insulation, IEEE Transactions on 8(5): 805-811.
From figure 9, to compare, the highest maximum breakdown
voltage was PFAE oil. It showed that when the of moisture
increased, the value for breakdown voltage was immensely
increased for each type of oil except for Carotino oil. The line
fitting for Carotino oil was slightly decreased because the
addition of water was still below its saturation level. At
3000ppm, Carotino oil had the highest breakdown voltage
among the others because at that value, Carotino oil had less
free water droplets than the other oils. From figure 10, it can