Electric power distribution

Monitoring of insulated electrical transformers using fiber optic sensors

Monitoring of insulated electrical transformers using fiber optic sensors.

The challenge

Optimizing the electrical production and secure the electrical substation by measuring the variations in temperature and in current within the electrical insulators and transformers.

Major constraints

  • high-voltage: up to 25 kV
  • high pressure: up to 12 bars
  • corrosive and abrasive environment: SF6 or mineral oil
  • hostile atmosphere : moisture
  • temperature variations: -40 °C / +90 °C
  • space constraints: long fiber lengths up to several tens of meters

SEDI-ATI solution

Fiber optic sensor consisting in a dielectric multi-fiber optic cable assembly including an in-line hermetic feedthrough for pressurized high-voltage insulators.

Advantages of the SEDI-ATI solution

  • immunity to EMI/RFI
  • gas-tight
  • hermetic sealing
  • dielectric materials to minimize ground potential
  • high bandwidth that supports high data rates over longer distances
  • cables and connectors with wide operating temperature range
  • abrasion, vibration, and chemically resistant
  • multi-fibers channels
  • low insertion loss

Monitoring of insulated electrical transformers using fiber optic sensors

SEDI-ATI has developed built-in fiber optic sensors consisting in a dielectric multi-fiber optic cable assembly including an in-line hermetic feedthrough. It is aimed to be placed directly inside the transformer tank to offer on-line and real-time monitoring of the health of insulated electrical transformers.

Insulated electrical transformers are one of the most critical and expensive investments in today’s electric power transmission and distribution systems. Their reliability typically depends on their insulation condition.

Any overlooked critical fault generated inside a power transformer may lead to a transformer catastrophic failure which could not only cause a disruption to the power system but also significant equipment damage. The cost of a failure can easily reach multi-million dollars.

Therefore, monitoring the health state of transformers with accuracy and prompt information is the critical prerequisite to predict fatal failures, optimize the maintenance and make a vital decision on a transformer with suspicious conditions.

In high voltage transformers, a decisive significance is attributed to a secure and permanent insulation. The mineral oil and SF6 gas are good insulating materials. However, due to some inevitable factors such as electrical and thermal stresses as well as mechanical aging, the insulating medium inside a high-voltage transformer might be affected. For instance, some unwanted particles like water and gas can contaminate the oil. As a result, insulation strength gets reduced that may result in partial discharges and hot-spots in transformer oil.

Partial discharge is not only a precursor of insulation degradation, but also a primary factor to accelerate the deterioration of the insulation system in a transformer. Monitoring of partial discharge activities through the measurement of changes in temperature and in current in the transformer insulating medium has been proven to be an effective procedure for transformer health state estimation.

However, because of the strong electromagnetic interference (EMI) inside transformer tanks and short circuit potential, the current commercially available sensors such as piezoelectric acoustic sensors, can only be installed outside of transformers. They thus offer indirect or delayed information.

Fiber optic sensors made from dielectric materials, such as fused-silica glass, are excellent candidates for on-line and real-time monitoring. Indeed, besides their small size and light weight, they offer unique advantages such as immunity to electromagnetic interferences, high-sensitivity, stability, repeatability, durability against extreme environments, and fast response. And they can be submerged in transformer mineral oil or SF6 gas.

Such fiber-optic sensors can be used to measure various physical parameters like temperature, current, pressure, acceleration, refractive index of the insulating medium, moisture content in the oil, and host of other applications.

Moreover, fiber-optic sensors have the great potential of multiplexing which means that distributed electrical and thermal fault detection could be achieved with a single signal conditioner, providing the temperature profile of the winding and enabling the localization of the partial discharge origin.

SEDI-ATI has developed built-in sensors consisting in optical fiber cables made of multimode silica glass optical fibers. They are placed inside the transformer tank. An in-line hermetic fiber optic feedthrough on the transformer tank wall allow to safely pass the fiber optic sensor through the tank wall without affecting the insulation integrity of the transformer.