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project opportunity

Moisture Assessment, Ranking, and Optimal Dry-Out of


Power Transformers
The moisture condition of power
transformers is a critical parameter for safe
and reliable operation. Proper assessment
of moisture in paper is essential for an
effective life extension program

A classification chart for ranking power transformers by


moisture content
BACKGROUND Power transformers are critical, capitalintensive assets for the utility industry. Although
transformers are extremely reliable, many in use today
have exceeded their design life. Critical to the strategy
of extending the useful life of power transformers is an
effective method of assessing the condition of power
transformers, including the degree of moisture in
transformer insulation.

While it is generally accepted that water is bad for power


transformers, the specific effects of moisture are complex
and not widely understood. In addition to the long-term
damage associated with accelerated paper aging, the
evolution of vapor bubbles or free water from paper
insulation can cause short-term failure. Increasingly
stringent dryness criteria have evolved over the years with
improved factory and field dry-out processes, particularly
for transformers with high voltage and capacity ratings.
The present method of determining the dryness of
transformer insulation is to measure the moisture content
of an oil sample and use the well-established moisture
equilibrium characteristics between oil and paper insulation.
However, the dynamics of moisture movement between the
paper and the oil during temperature cycling is significant
and, unless taken into consideration, can cause significant
errors in moisture assessment. In addition, the actual
determination of the moisture content of the oil is fraught
with uncertainties. Although the Karl Fischer method is the
de facto standard for measuring the water content of oil,
human error and a number of uncertainties associated with
the oil sampling procedure reduce the reliability of
measurements and could lead to incorrect conclusions.

Transmission Substations

Transformer insulation systems comprise several different


grades and thickness of cellulose insulation. The type,
grade, and physical condition of oils vary considerably
from one unit to another. Even without these complications,
moisture migration between cellulose and oil is a complex,
temperature-dependent process: time constants for the
exchange of moisture between cellulose and oil are different
in each direction; moisture in the cellulose is not evenly
distributed; and not all of the moisture in the cellulose is
available for transfer to the oil. In addition, dissolved
moisture in oil can form precipitate during rapid cool-down
periods and become free water, which may not re-dissolve.
Therefore, any method of moisture determination based on
a single measurement without regard to these confounding
factors may provide a false indication of the insulations
integrity, especially for transformers with cyclical
load profiles.
EPRI projects have resulted in extended knowledge and
expertise on moisture dynamics in power transformers and
culminated in the design of a software package, called the
Transformer Moisture Monitor (TMM), incorporating
moisture-in-paper algorithms. Based on EPRI technology,
TMM uses fuzzy-logic computing to evaluate the relative
saturation of transformer oil from the output of a moisture
sensor, and to assess the water content in paper (WCP).
TMM alerts the operator when the insulation condition
requires attention and provides a confidence level for
the WCP.
PROJECT SUMMARY This project will disseminate critical
knowledge gained during EPRI efforts and apply this
knowledge at utility sites. Depending on the chosen level of
participation, EPRI will perform any or all of the following
activities for funding companies:

Conduct on-site seminars on the most effective


moisture assessment and ranking techniques.

August 2003

Provide hands-on training on efficient methods of


assessing the moisture condition of a population of
transformers, supervise participant testing of selected
transformers, and help participants rank them in terms
of moisture content.

Apply an on-line monitoring system (including the beta


version of TMM) to selected transformers.

Dry out one or more transformers while monitoring


their moisture condition.

DELIVERABLES A range of deliverables is available


for this project. Participating companies may choose the
combination of the following deliverables that best meet
their needs:

On-site seminar. EPRI will hold a seminar at the


participants site designed to familiarize them with
correct procedures and common pitfalls in moisture
assessment, resulting in guidelines for on-line moisture
monitoring. Topics will include sources of water
contamination; methods and instrumentation for
moisture assessment; effects of moisture on transformer
insulation and loading; distribution of moisture in
transformers; selection of moisture sensors and
transducers; and existing methods for transformer dryout. The seminar will also discuss determination of the
most suitable location(s) for moisture sensors, the
accuracy of moisture sensor performance, and the
factors affecting the quality of diagnoses, such as
moisture-in-oil solubility, temperature variation,
oil viscosity, and flow rate. In addition, the seminar
will cover an improved procedure for sampling oil
from operating transformers and evaluating the oil
samples moisture content by means of the Karl
Fischer apparatus.
Customized transformer moisture assessment
and ranking program. EPRI will provide
detailed procedures for accurate oil sample testing,
classification, and ranking of a specified transformer
population, and will supervise on-site testing.

Installation of online monitoring software. EPRI


will customize and install moisture sensors, a data
acquisition system, and TMM online monitoring
software, for a specified transformer population,
and train personnel in analyzing the softwares results.

Transformer dry-out. Using the method preferred by


the participant, EPRI will demonstrate optimal dry-out
procedures on a specified transformer while monitoring
the moisture content of the oil. The dry-out procedure
used will include measurement of the amount of water
removed from the transformer, enabling a comparison
with the assessment derived by the TMM software.

BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATION The extent of benefits


depends on the participants level of involvement.
Depending on their level of participation, participants
may be able to use their acquired knowledge to avoid
transformer failures, which can minimize labor and
equipment costs for repair and/or replacement, reduce
maintenance costs, and decrease the likelihood of
unscheduled outages. Implementing the techniques
described in this project may also extend the life of
participants power transformers. In addition, participants
may avoid additional consulting costs to learn new testing,
monitoring, and dry-out methods.

Participants that choose online monitoring or dry-out


will retain the monitoring hardware after completion of
the project, enabling continued monitoring. Verification
data obtained from the project will be used to improve
the diagnostic engine of the TMM software, enabling
its application to various types, sizes, and manufacturers
of transformers.
The price of the project for each
participant depends on which deliverables are chosen, as
well as other company-specific factors such as the size of
the population of transformers to be ranked, the number of
transformers to be dried, and the method and resources used
for dry-out. The expected range is $40,000 to 200,000
cofunding, or $20,000 to $100,000 tailored collaboration.

PRICE OF PROJECT

PROJECT STATUS AND SCHEDULE The project schedule


depends on the level of participation. Seminars, sampling,
testing, ranking, monitoring, and/or dry-outs can begin at
the convenience of the participating companies.

The project will benefit transformer


owner/operators with concerns regarding, or who have
experienced, failures related to moisture content in
transformers, and those considering transformer dry-out
in the near future.

WHO SHOULD JOIN

CONTACT INFORMATION For more information, contact


the EPRI Customer Assistance Center (EPRICAC) at
800.313.3774 or Barry H. Ward at 650.855.2717,
baward@epri.com

2003 Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Inc. All rights reserved.
Electric Power Research Institute and EPRI are registered service marks of
the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. EPRI. ELECTRIFY THE WORLD
is a service mark of the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.
Printed on recycled paper in the United States of America
1009099

EPRI 3412 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94304 PO Box 10412, Palo Alto, California 94303 USA
800.313.3774 650.855.2121 askepri@epri.com www.epri.com