The main function of a power system is to supply electrical energy to its customers with an acceptable degree of reliability and quality. Among many other things, the reliability of a power system depends on trouble free transformer operation. Now, in the electricity utilities around the world, a significant number of power transformers are operating beyond their design life. Most of these transformers are operating without evidence of distress. In Power Link Queensland (PLQ), 25% of the power transformers were more than 25 years old in 1991. So priority attention should be directed to research into improved diagnostic techniques for determining the condition of the insulation in aged transformers.

The insulation system in a power transformer consists of cellulosic materials (paper, pressboard and transformerboard) and processed mineral oil. The cellulosic materials and oil insulation used in transformer degrade with time. The degradation depends on thermal, oxidative, hydrolytic, electrical and mechanical conditions which the transformer experienced during its lifetime.

This paper makes contributions to the determination of the insulation condition of transformers by bulk measurements and measurements on samples removed from the transformer.

In this research project, thorough investigations were also undertaken of the conventional electrical properties, along with interfacial polarization parameters of the cellulosic insulation materials. The interfacial phenomena are strongly influenced by insulation degradation products, such as polar functionalities, water etc. The condition of the dielectric and its degradation due to ageing can be monitored by studying the rate and process of polarization and can be studied using a DC field. Furthermore, this is a non-destructive diagnostic test.

A retired power transformer (25 MVA, l1/132 kV) and several distribution transformers were used for the experimental work. The results from these transformers will be presented and an attempt will be made to correlate the electrical and chemical test results. The variation of the results through the different locations in a power transformer will be discussed with reference to their thermal stress distribution.

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