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Statistical Failure Analysis of European Substation Transformers

Conference Paper · November 2014

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Farzaneh Vahidi Stefan Tenbohlen


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Statistical Failure Analysis of European Substation Transformers
Farzaneh Vahidi*, Stefan Tenbohlen
Institut für Energieübertragung und Hochspannungstechnik der Universität Stuttgart, Deutschland
*
farzaneh.vahidi@ieh.uni-stuttgart.de

Kurzfassung
Im vorliegenden Beitrag werden die Ausfalldaten von europäischen Netzkupplungstransformatoren analysiert. Basie-
rend auf einer Population von mehr als 45.000 Transformatorjahren und 212 schweren Fehlern, die zwischen 2000 und
2010 aufgezeichnet wurden, lässt sich eine durchschnittliche Fehlerrate von 0,5% angeben. Die ermittelten Lebensdau-
erkurven zeigen ein durch Zufallsausfälle geprägtes Ausfallverhalten. Da kein alterungsbedingter Anstieg der Ausfallra-
te zu erkennen ist, ist der Einsatz einer zeitorientierten Instandhaltungsstrategie für Netzkupplungstransformatoren nicht
ratsam. Als Entstehungsorte für schwere Fehler überwiegen die Wicklungen. Durchführungsfehler führen verhältnismä-
ßig oft zu Schäden, die mit Explosion oder Feuer einhergehen.

Abstract
This contribution addresses the analysis of substation transformer failures in Europe. Based on a transformer population
with more than 45.000 unit-years and 212 major failures over a period of 11 years (2000-2010) a failure rate of app.
0.5% was determined. The derived hazard curves show a constant probability of failure at all ages. Replacement strate-
gies, in which preferebly old transformers are replaced, have a biasing effect on the failure statistics as transformers are
not left in service to fail. Because the hazard curve does not show an increase with time the use of Time Based Mainte-
nance will not be effective for power transformers. Winding related failures appear to be the largest contributor of major
failures, and a significant decrease in tap changer related failures has been observed in comparison with results of the
1983 survey. Bushing failures most often lead to severe consequences like explosion or fire.

which are most likely to fail. However, both approaches


1. Introduction have certain limitations, in particular imposed by the dif-
Accurate information about service experience of high ferences in design, operating regimes and maintenance.
voltage equipment is of significant value for both electric Additionally, a mathematical incorporation of all degrada-
utilities and for manufacturers of such equipment. It helps tion mechanisms is constrained by their possible interac-
the manufacturers improve their products, and provides tions. Moreover, for both approaches the information nec-
important inputs for the utilities when organizing mainte- essary for the analysis is either very limited or even
nance and benchmarking their performance [1]. Statistical unavailable.
analysis of the past failure data can display useful features The failure data analyzed in this contribution are acquired
with respect to the future failure behavior. Equipment re- by means of the reliability questionnaire form of CIGRE
liability data are also required when assessing the overall WG A2-37 [3, 4]. Each utility filled this questionnaire
reliability of an electric power system, including studies form and all the answers were collected in a database. In
of the electric energy supply security. Furthermore, inter- this paper the failure data of European substation trans-
national standards applicable to high voltage equipment formers with an operating voltage of 110kV, 220kV and
are being improved on the basis of service experience and 380kV are analyzed.
reliability data.
Around the world, utilities apply different approaches to
estimate the actual stage of life of their assets [2]. Two
2. Investigated Population
main methodologies can be distinguished here; bottom-up In this contribution the results of a failure data collection
and top-down analysis. The bottom-up analysis focuses of 32 utilities from Germany, Austria, Swiss, France,
on the condition assessment of individual assets. The base United Kingdom, Spain, Denmark and Netherlands are
for such an analysis are maintenance and diagnostics re- presented based on major failures which occurred be-
ports (e. g. DGA, PD-measurement, FRA, dielectric re- tween 2000 and 2010 in substation transformers. This
sponse), loading history and aging characteristics ob- population of transformers can be regarded as homogene-
tained through investigations performed on service-aged ous concerning age distribution, specification, operational
materials. The top-down analysis investigates the condi- and maintenance conditions.
tion of the whole population by means of analytical tools The survey addresses failure data of substation with oper-
(e.g. statistical distributions). In such approach, the in- ating voltage between 100 and 500 kV. Table shows the
formation about number and ages of both failed and in- transformer population investigated in this approach.
stalled units are essential. Emphasis is put in this case on
economic and strategic life-time assessment. Results of a
top-down analysis are e. g. failure frequency, age of assets
Table 1: Investigated population of substation trans- h( t ) : Failure hazard rate in percentage
formers f ( t ) : Number of failures at age interval T
HIGHEST SYSTEM VOLTAGE [kV]
r( t ) : Number of transformers in operation and surviving at

100 ≤ U < 200

200 ≤ U < 300

300 ≤ U < 500


POPULATION age interval T
INFORMATION OF So, hazard rate is the instantaneous failure rate at age t.

All
SUBSTATION UNITS
The collected European data did not contain the age dis-
tribution of transformers in operation for all utilities due
Number of utilities 22 18 14 32
to simplicity reasons. Therefore a hazard curve for the full
data set cannot be calculated directly. To overcome the
Number of transformers 2775 2124 1214 6113 problem of missing age distribution for the full investigat-
Number of major failures 90 72 49 211 ed population the known population data of three Europe-
Transformer-Years 20915 15221 9271 45407 an utilities was used as a reference for the full population.
Failure rate p.a. 0.43% 0.47% 0.53% 0.46% The transformer populations in European utilities have
similar erection times. So, the population data of three
known utilities can be used as a reference to scale the
3. Statistical Analysis of Major Fail- population data for whole population. Figure 1 shows the
ures density functions of the population data of the three refer-
ence utilities depending on the voltage class:
A comparison of different failure surveys is only possible 10
in case of the same definition for major failure. Here any

Normalized Number of Transformers


9 100<=U<200
situation which requires the equipment to be removed 8

from service for a period longer than 7 days for investiga- 7


6
tion, remedial work or replacement is a major failure. A in %
5
major failure requires at least the opening of the tank, in- 4
cluding the tap changer tank or an exchange of bushings. 3
Also a reliable indication that the condition of the trans- 2
former prevents a safe operation should be counted as a 1
major failure if remedial work (longer than 7 days) is 0
2010

2005

2000

1995

1990

1985

1980

1975

1970

1965

1960
needed for restoring original service capability (e.g. de-
tection of strong PDs). 10
Normalized Number of Transformers

9 200<=U<300
8
3.1 Failure Rate 7
6
To determine the failure rate, the following formula is
in %

5
used [2]: 4
3
i 2
∑ ni
λ= 1
⋅ 100% (1) 1
i 0
∑ Ni
2010

2005

2000

1995

1990

1985

1980

1975

1970

1965

1960
1

λ : Failure rate p.a.in percentage 10


th
ni : Number of transformers that failed in the i year
Normalized Number of Transformers

9 300<=U<500
th
N i : Number of transformers in service during the i year 8
7
For the calculation of failure rates a constant transformer 6
population was assumed for the investigated failure time
in %

5
period. The calculated failure rates are given in table 1 4

dependent on the voltage level. Although there is a slight 3


2
increase of failure rate with increasing voltage, an average 1
failure rate of app. 0.5% can be designated to European 0
2010

2005

2000

1995

1990

1985

1980

1975

1970

1965

1960

substation transformers.
Year
3.2 Hazard Rate Function Figure 1: Normalized acquisition data of substation trans-
formers of three reference European utilities and its three
Calculating the failure rate for ever smaller intervals of year moving average (dashed line)
time, results in the hazard function. It shows the momen-
tary probability of a failure dependent on the transformer The high number of installations between 1960 and 1980
age. In order to calculate the hazard rate the age distribu- corresponds to the extension of the transmission grid.
tion of the full investigated transformer population is re- Using the normalized acquisition data of substation trans-
quired. Then the hazard function can be computed using former in Europe, the number of transformers in operation
the following formula: and surviving at age interval T (2000-2010, 11years) is
f(t) calculated. The resulting age distribution of surviving
h( t ) = ⋅ 100% (2)
r( t ) transformers is shown in Figure 2.
1400
creasing probability of failure after a particular age is due
100<=U<200
to the effects of component ageing, i.e. oil or paper ageing
1200
200<=U<300
for transformers, but for transformers a more likely cause
of the onset of unreliability is probably damage caused by
Number of Transformers

1000 300<=U<500
unusual system events, e.g. short circuits, lightning strikes
800 or switching transients, particularly when transformers
600 have design or manufacturing weaknesses [5]. It has also
to be considered that utilities often use a replacement
400
strategy, in which preferably old transformers are re-
200 placed. For this analysis information about preventive re-
placements in the past was not available. This could have
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 a profound biasing effect on the failure statistics as trans-
Age formers are not left in service to fail, so that these statis-
Figure 2: Number of transformers surviving at time t based tics cannot be used directly for lifetime modeling.
on 11 years interval from 2000 up to 2010
2,00%
Having the age distribution of the population, the only re- 100 <=U <200

quired information for calculation of hazard rate is the 1,50%

Hazard rate in %
transformer age at failure occurrence. This was infor-
mation was taken from the collected failure database. 1,00%
In figure 3 the age distribution of failed transformers is
presented depending on voltage class: 0,50%

0,00%
14 100 <= U< 200 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50

12 200 <= U< 300


300 <= U< 500 2,00%
Number of Failure

10 200 <=U <300

8 1,50%
Hazard rate in %

6
1,00%
4

2
0,50%
0
0 10 20 30 40 50
Age 0,00%
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Figure 3: Age distribution of failed substation transformers
dependent on voltage class 2,00%
300 <=U<500
The participating utilities submitted altogether 211 trans-
1,50%
former major failures which occurred in the time interval
Hazard rate in %

between 2000 and 2011. Main contributors are transform-


1,00%
ers in the voltage class between 100kV and 200kV with
almost 43%. The transformers in the voltage class be-
0,50%
tween 200kV and 300kV have a portion of 34% and the
highest voltage class builds 23% of the reported failures.
The hazard rates which are calculated for all voltage clas- 0,00%
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
ses between 100 kV and 500 kV are given in Figure 4. Age
The dashed line describes the 3-year moving average. Figure 4: Hazard rate of European substation transformers
With this smoothed curve the tendency of hazard rate is dependent on different voltage classes between 2000 and
easier to identify. Because only failures between 2000 and 2010 and its three years moving average (dashed line)
2010 were evaluated, it has to be regarded that as a matter
of principle this hazard rate function can not deliver in- The hazard curve for substation transformers does not
formation about early failure rates of older transformer show a distinct wear-out characteristic (Figure 4). Substa-
designs and ageing problems of newer designs. tion transformers are normally not so heavily loaded.
In principle the hazard curves show a constant probability Therefore ageing is not very pronounced. Failures due to
of failure at all ages which is an indicator for random fail- ageing play a minor role and are masked by random or
ure behaviour. The values over 45 years are statistical un- external failure reasons and by early replacement of trans-
certain, because the failure experience of transformers el- formers. Furthermore it has to be considered that the
der than 45 years is insufficient (see Figure 2). Therefore transformer consists of several subsystems, which may
the increase of the hazard curve should not be attributed have their own individual ageing characteristics and fail-
to component ageing. It is usually assumed that the in- ure modes. Because major failures occur in all of the sub-
systems, the hazard curve is a result of competing failure
modes, which have diverse characteristics. Thus no in- As seen in figure 5, major failures originate from several
crease of the failure probability for higher operational life transformer components. Windings related failures appear
can be seen in the hazard curve but the behavior of sys- to be the main contributor of major failures with 35%.
tems with random failures. It also has to be regarded that The contribution of tap changer (30%) related failures de-
the operational experience of old power transformers is creased in comparison with the statistics from 1983 given
limited due to existing replacement strategies, which leads in [6]. The lower failure rate of OLTC can be attributed to
to statistical insecure data. Because the hazard curve does the development of better contact materials (use of silver
not show an increase with time the use of Time Based plated contacts). 95.3% of the failed substation transform-
Maintenance will not be effective for power transformers. ers were equipped with a tap changer. Bushings (17.5%),
Maintenance should be planned according to the actual lead exits (9.5%) and core (4%) are listed with a minor
condition. percentage as a reason for major failures.
Fitting the hazard curve allows its extrapolation in time
beyond the age of the oldest assets in the population. 3.4 Failure Mode Analysis
Many probability distributions can be used to model the
The failure mode describes the nature of the failure illus-
failure distribution. The shape of the hazard curve deter-
trating what actually happened when the failure occurred.
mines which continuous distribution can be fitted to the
Dielectric failure means partial discharge, tracking and
data. Most renewal failure data sets encountered in the
flashover. Electrical failure means open circuit, short cir-
maintenance environment can be fitted with the Weibull
cuit, poor joint, poor contact, ground deterioration, float-
distribution. But in case of power transformers, the occur-
ing potential. The definitions of the failure modes are ac-
rence of a failure event is more or less a random occasion.
cording to [7]. There is no single prominent failure mode.
Furthermore the advance maintenance and replacement
The categories of dielectric and mechanical are with
strategies avoid any age-dependent rising of failure rate of
31.3% and 20.4% the most dominant failure modes (see
power transformers. So, power transformers failure statis-
Figure 6).
tics cannot be used for lifetime modeling, e. g. Weibull
fitting. Unknown
Generator step-up units are often heavier loaded near their 9%
Dielectric
nominal rating. So a more pronounced ageing characteris- Mechanic 31.3%
tic could be assumed. Unfortunately the collection of al 20.4%
GSU failures is much more difficult as of substation
transformers, because the population is distributed on a
larger amount of companies. Also the homogeneity of the
GSU data, e.g. considering operational characteristic,
voltage level, manufacturer, commissioning time is not as Physical
good as with substation transformers. Therefore a reason- chemistry
5.2% Thermal Electrical
able analysis of failures dependent on age for GSUs is
18%
practically not possible. 16.1%
Figure 6: Failure mode analysis of 211 substation trans-
3.3 Failure Location Analysis formers failures
The substation transformers failure data are further classi-
fied regarding to primary location of major failures. Fig- 3.5 Failure Cause Analysis
ure 5 shows the failure locations for all failures with the The circumstances during design, manufacture or opera-
exception of failures with unknown location. Only 5.2% tion that led to the failure are analyzed. Because it is often
of all failures were submitted with unknown location. quite difficult and extensive to determine the root cause of
HV Winding a failure, thus the significance of this analysis is unsure
16.5%
Tap Changer; and the results should be seen with care. Figure 7 shows
30%
MV Winding the percentages of the various failure causes in substation
5% transformers.
LV Winding
11.5% The determination of the main failure cause is often quite
Cooling unit 1% Tapping difficult. Consequently, more than 18% of failures have
Tank 1%
Winding 2% unknown causes. Among the different failure causes ex-
Core and ternal short-circuit is with a contribution of 14.2% the
magnetic circuit HV Lead Exit
4% 3.5%
most mentioned one. Astonishingly design and manufac-
MV Lead Exit turing are mentioned quite often as a failure cause but this
3.5%
LV Bushings
LV Lead Exit
cannot be proven by the low failure rate during the first
0.5%
MV Bushings; 2.5% 30 years of transformers operation. Furthermore, the dis-
5%
Electrical Isolation 1.5% tribution of failure causes is very wide. In some cases,
HV Bushings Screen there is more than one reason for the happened major fail-
12% 0.5%
ures and the fine distinction between various causes
Figure 5: Failure location of 200 substation transformers,
voltage class 100kVU500kV
makes a statistical analysis uncertain.
Figure 9. It can be seen that bushing failures most often
Design
Unknown 11.4%
lead to severe consequences.
18.5%

Other reasons
Manufacturing
12.3%
4. Conclusion
Corrosive 8.1%
Sulphur Material By means of a questionnaire developed by CIGRE work-
11.4%
0.5% Aging ing group A2.37 (Transformer Reliability Survey) major
Collateral 6.2%
Damage External
Loss of failures of European substation transformers were ana-
clamping
1.4% short-circuit
14.2%
pressure lyzed. Based on a transformer population with more than
Abnormal 0.5%
Deterioration 45.000 unit-years and 212 major failures a failure rate of
3.32% Improper Installation
Lightning maintenance on-site app. 0.5% was determined. The derived hazard curves
External
Pollution Repetitive 0.5% 5.2% 1.4% show a constant probability of failure at all ages. An in-
0.9% through faults
0.5%
Overheating
1.4%
Improper repair creasing probability of failure after a particular age could
0.9%
Overvoltage not be observed. Replacement strategies, in which pref-
1.4%
erebly old transformers are replaced, have a biasing effect
Figure 7: Failure cause analysis based on 211 substation on the failure statistics as transformers are not left in ser-
transformers failures vice to fail. So these statistics cannot be used directly for
lifetime modelling, e. g. Weibull fitting. Because the haz-
3.6 External Effects ard curve does not show an increase with time the use of
In case of a major failure, it is important to look at the ex- Time Based Maintenance will not be effective for power
ternal effects which result from the failure occurrence. transformers. Therefore maintenance should be planned
Figure 8 presents, the various external effects which are according to the actual condition.
caused by the failures. The classification of severe exter- Winding related failures appear to be the largest contribu-
nal effects was performed with six groups. The statistical tor of major failures, and a significant decrease in tap
analysis demonstrates that most of the major failures do changer related failures has been observed in comparison
not result in any external effect (78.7%). The most prob- with results of the 1983 survey. Bushing failures most of-
lematic situations after a major failure are fire and explo- ten lead to severe consequences like explosion or fire.
sion. 9.5% of failures lead to fire while 3.3% of external
effects are explosion or burst. 5. Acknowledgement
Collateral Others
Fire Damages 2.4% The authors appreciate the fruitful discussions within CI-
9.5% 0.5%
GRE Working Group A2.37 “Transformer Reliability
Explosion, Survey” and thank the transformer specialists of the utili-
Burst
3.32% ties involved in the data collection for their valuable sup-
port.
Leakages
5.7%
6. Literature
None [1] CIGRE, Final Report of the 2004 - 2007 International
78.7% Enquiry on Reliability of High Voltage Equipment,
Brochure 509, Paris, 2012.
[2] L. Chmura, Life-cycle assessment of high-voltage as-
Figure 8: External effects of 211 Substation transformers
sets using statistical tools, PhD thesis Technical Uni-
major failures versity Delft: ISBN 978-94-6182-396-0, 2014.
[3] Questionnaire of CIGRE WG A2.37 “Transformer
Reliability Survey”, May 2011, http://www.uni-
HV Winding stuttgart.de/ieh/wga237.html., last accessed: Sept. 01,
Unknown 3.7%
11.1% LV Winding
2014
Tap Changer
22.2%
3.7% [4] S. Tenbohlen, J. Jagers, G. Bastos, B. Diggin, P. Man-
Tapping ski, B. Desai, M. Krüger, J. Gebauer, P. Müller, J.
Winding
7.4% Lapworth, A. Mikulecky, C. Rajotte, T. Sakia, S.
MV Bushings HV Lead Exit
7.4%
Yukiyasu, Transformer Reliability Survey: Interim
18.5%
Report, Report WG A2.37, Electra, No. 261, April
2012
HV Bushings
26%
[5] J. Lapworth, „Transformer reliability surveys, A2-
114,“ in Cigré Biennial Conference, Paris, 2006
Figure 9: Failure Location of substation transformer where
[6] A. Bossi, J. Dind, J. Frisson, U. Khoudiakov, H.
Fire or Explosion occurred (27 major failures) Light und e. al, „An international survey on failures in
large power transformers in service,“ Electra, pp. 21-
Such external effects are always connected with huge 48, 1983.
economic consequences. Therefore, the originating loca- [7] CIGRE, Life Management Techniques for Power
tion for fire and explosion related failures is analyzed in Transformers, Brochure No. 227, June 2003.

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