Water Tree Retardant

Several countries have been using water tree-retardant, crosslinked polyethylene (TR-XLPE)
as the preferred medium voltage (5-46 kV) insulation for primary distribution cables. Other
countries are actively engaged in moving to this technology that has laid to rest the concerns
of water tree degradation of regular cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE). With proven improved
performance the Dow TR-XLPE system is suitable for Indian utilities.
– M.S. Chavan, Ramachandran

50 September 2009Electrical India

310-12101 09/09

Water Tree Retardant.indd 50 8/28/2009 15:39:25

As with systems. Australia. crosslinked polyethylene (TR-XLPE) initiation and growth. electrical stress points. This is XLPE with ability attributes for utilities in terms of ‘total owning acknowledged as a leading cause of non- to prevent the costs’ through the life of distribution cable mechanical insulation degradation and cable growth of water systems. This improved primary solutions was the development of performance. This technology curing process. To resolve this problem as the preferred medium voltage (5-46 kV) various measures were introduced such as insulation is to insulation for primary distribution cables. Figure-1: Water treeing phenomenon Electrical IndiaSeptember 200951 Water Tree Retardant. water treeing. Crosslinked polyethylene. have been and was traced back to the cause of water successful in using advanced performance treeing in 1972. low This initial article touches upon history of developments in cable manufacturing and Water Treeing Phenomenon dielectric losses) compounds. 1982. providing higher overall lifetime costs for the distribution ampacity and lower dielectric losses. The key underground distribution cables with advantage was higher rated conductor longer life to increase reliability. importance of The electrical degradation process of and toughness of tree retardant TR-XLPE cable performance ‘treeing’ in polymers occurs in the presence differentiation and the value-added of electrical stress and moisture. failure. led to water tree TR-XLPE retardant. the North American appeared when the use became wide spread. Since moisture ingression into the insulation. XLPE. all innovations. One of the electrical polyethylene (XLPE). ACBD. unforeseen problems For the past 25 years. Water Tree Retardant E lectric utilities worldwide demand cable was manufactured in 1968. other countries such as Philippines. temperature of 90°C and an emergency minimize service interruptions and lower rating of up to 130°C. utility industry (with TR-XLPE) and Germany There were growing concerns of cable failure (with copolymer insulation). T then. has been confirmed by water tree retardant (TR) XLPE insulation in properties (high extensive field aging cable data. It was discovered that XLPE insulations on ‘wet’ designs for unprotected cable cores (no outer jacket). reduction of void sizes and moisture in the effectively Other countries are actively engaged in insulation by using true triple extrusion dry combine the moving to this technology. underground distribution systems. The water-treeing process may be trees under Historical Developments considered to occur in three phases (Figure electrical stress. use of extruded has laid to rest the concerns of water tree semiconductive materials with drastically excellent degradation of regular crosslinked reduced levels of ionic species. was 1): invented in year 1963 and the first ever XLPE Initiation is due to uneven stress at when the insulation comes in contact with moisture. combined with ‘taped’ semiconductive shield Newzealand.indd 51 8/28/2009 15:39:26 . South Korea and interface imperfections that created high The goal of many more have moved to using water tree.

low jacket or conductors (due to poor cable growing along electrical field. The term ‘bowtie’ significantly reduced tree growth rate Accelerated Water Treeing test (AWTT) is derived from the shape of the tree. Such a most installations. formation of ‘electrical tree’. additive in the XLPE results of one year wet aging done during the compounding process that under accelerated conditions (water in effectively renders the moisture to be conductors and in the aging tube. (Tr-Xlpe) Insulation Performance Growth continues in the presence The goal of TR-XLPE insulation is Over a period. the ANSI / ICEA S-649-2004. when the insulation comes in ingress into the cable is inevitable in the electrical strength of the insulation contact with moisture. (Figure 4) rapidly screen new cable compounds. Since moisture the water tree gets long enough. Water Tree Retardant interface and or contamination (micron Tree Retardant Xlpe Enhanced Cable level) in insulation. propensity for water tree growth can was developed to resist the water tree Type of Water Trees be studied using the ASTM D6097-97 growth. It is evident that field performance. Vented water trees can grow from either the conductor or the insulation screen into the insulation. 3 non-effective in growing water trees. To evaluate the effectiveness of Vented Water Trees (Figure 2) – Test.indd 52 8/28/2009 15:39:26 . China cable aging studies as well as historical are shown in Figure 5.97 Permanent structures that grow within the body of polymer insulation. generally limited in size. with the water tree electrical properties (high ACBD. moisture in the of moisture (in ppm levels) under to effectively combine the excellent ground will slowly diffuse through the electrical stress. Typical non-fugitive. TR-XLPE has significantly higher ACBD Figure-3: Bowtie Water tree (AC Breakdown Strength) over the one- 52 September 2009Electrical India Water Tree Retardant.. compound suppliers being quite low. proven in the field. can serve as water tree initiation sites. When growth of water trees under electrical into the insulation. with stress. cable (wet) aging tests and of course. times the rated voltage stress. accelerated contaminants and imperfections that ‘bridging’. any surge due to performance has to be established continuously work to minimize switching or lightening can lead to through material tests. Details of the test are found in commercial TR-XLPE uses a proprietary. They are It is clear that TR-XLPE material has manufacturing and cable constructions. 90°C The effectiveness of TR-XLPE has conductor temperature in air) at Wuhan been documented both in laboratory High Voltage Research Institute. leading to rapid cable failure. a variety of testing Permanent structures that grow from comparison of materials under protocols have been designed to semicons surface into polymeric controlled conditions. generally continue growing and can bridge the insulation. TR-XLPE. ultimately. dielectric losses) and toughness of manufacturing or terminations process) contributing to lowering the electrical XLPE with ability to prevent the through semiconductive screens and strength of the insulation / cable. The most predominant America. Figure-2: Vented Water tree Bowtie Water Trees (Figure 3) – Figure-4: Accelerated material water tree growth rate test – ASTM D6097. and the trees have a constrained is a widely accepted test in North geometry. This material test allows these efforts. insulations. The The water tree retardant XLPE.

Power Cable Standards Group of huge saving potential for the cables the Insulated Conductors Committee of IEEE. 54 September 2009Electrical India Water Tree Retardant. and Proven and Field Experience also identify the influence of While laboratory accelerated accessories in the cable system”. “From the analysis Indian utilities will be well served to of voluminous adopt this enhanced performance data obtained TR-XLPE system that has a proven Figure-5: WUHVRI AWTT testing data from laboratory track record of over 25 years. reliability. He published made with TR-XLPE insulation shall several papers at various conferences on Telecom & Power. statistics. identify the within 150 days of aging. it was XLPE did not meet the standard possible to estimate the moisture requirements. New York. Such examples include cable performance and failure Based on industry experience. have been cases The enhanced performance of water treeing TR-XLPE insulated cables meet the formation in the predominant global ‘accelerated wet cables installed aging’ standards such as ANSI/ICEA underground for S-94-649-2004. Chavan have the life expectancy of more than Ramachandran is the Global Director of End Use Marketing for Dow's Wire and Cable 40 years as against 20-25 years for the business unit. with all cables failing content in PILC cables. While utilities are always expected life of primary cable systems Wisconsin Public Service. member of CIGRE and the current Chair of A 14 D. deterioration of XLPE power cables due to presence of water trees. a strong statistical database thus ensuring significant value to the is not readily utility in enhanced reliability and lower available.indd 54 8/28/2009 15:39:26 . performance can be reflected in very TR-XLPE meets and exceeds the low non-mechanical cable failure Potential For Water Treeing current IS 798 Part II requirements and rates as well as maintaining a high in Indian MV Underground allows for simpler cable systems. He holds several patents and authored more than 20 papers. There life cycle costs. Cables This system has been globally Review of available literature It should be noted that utilities in proven and in use for more than 25 demonstrates very low failure rates general do not always track their years. His role and focus cycle cost comparison for the cables is to understand the critical needs and issues of cable end users such as electric utilities to help drive Dow product development and offer solutions and support.  studies as well as Milind S Chavan is the End Use Marketing Leader for India. there is The Longer Life XLPE systems Figure-6: Lower life cycle cost with no substitute for actual field (TR-XLPE) allows for cost effective TR-XLPE Insulation evaluation. the field aging tests from Alabama Power. Aurangabad. than XLPE. AEIC CS8-07. Services and CenterPoint Energy. There is Ramachandran of IEEE. for TR-XLPE. testing of cables provide a ‘window’ to the potential performance of Conclusion cables under field operation. He holds Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics & Telecommunication Based on the laboratory testing and from Amravati University and Masters of Engineering in Electronics from Government College field aged cable analysis for more than of Engineering. CENELEC. level of electrical strength over time. He closely interact with power and Telecom utilities 25 years it is predicated that the cables to promote the Dow’s new technological products & solutions to help utilities on life cycle Milind S cost reduction and enhancing the reliability & longevity of underground system. Oncor anxious to improve their system with Dow TR-XLPE is at least 40 years. MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Figure 6 demonstrates the typical life Columbia University. He holds undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Metallurgical Engineering cable made with XLPE insulation. With the growing need for reliable as per CPRI News electric power distribution and APR-JUNE 2008 increasing use of underground cables. Water Tree Retardant year test. He is a Senior Member with XLPE & TR-XLPE insulation. over the cable life cycle. He has been recently named a co-editor of the manufactured with TR-XLPE insulation High Voltage Magazine of the Wuhan High Voltage Research Institute. The from Indian Institute of Science. Middle East & Africa for Dow Lower Life Cycle Cost Wire & Cable. Maharashtra. New York and an MBA from SUNY. Excellent field means to improve system reliability. while poor quality from field measurements. Buffalo. Bangalore. the last 3-18 years.

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