ECO-FRIENDLY SOLID INSULATION FOR HIGH VOLTAGE GIS

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1 21, rue d Artois, F-758 PARIS CIGRE 214 http : //www.cigre.org D1-37 ECO-FRIENDLY SOLID INSULATION FOR HIGH VOLTAGE GIS K. POHLINK, F. MEYER, D. GAUTSCHI ALSTOM Grid Switzerland Y. KIEFFEL ALSTOM Grid France SUMMARY Improving the recyclability of the high voltage apparatus is a major concern of the manufacturers. This paper is presenting a recyclable thermoplastic polymer with the capability to substitute epoxy resin as material for support insulator in High Voltage Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS). Among possible candidates, a semi-crystalline thermoplastic polyethylene-terephtalate (PET) was selected. The chemical structure, the morphology and its basic characteristics such as mechanical and electrical strengths were investigated as well as the effect of temperature on mechanical and electrical performance. To assess the mechanical properties under operating conditions and to define the design criteria for the dimensioning mechanical creepage for a wide temperature range and different mechanical loads was investigated. Investigations of the electrical properties of the material showed no significant influence neither by ageing under SF 6 with decomposition products nor by combined thermo-electrical ageing. Therefore PET can be used as an environmental sustainable solid insulating material for applications in high voltage GIS. Prototypes of support and partition insulators made of PET were tested successfully in a three-phase encapsulated GIS with a rated voltage of 72.5 kv. These tests showed very good results especially high bursting pressure values and a high margin on dielectric performance were achieved. The introduction of flat PET support and partition insulators allow further reduction of bay dimensions and the amount of SF 6. The first commercially available GIS which made use of PET for partition insulators was introduced in 23. The material has been implemented mainly in three-phase encapsulated GIS for partition and support insulators as well as for other insulating functions. The return of experience is very positive. Thanks to this technology such three-phase encapsulated GIS are recyclable at a rate of 91% and have a valorisation rate of 99%. KEYWORDS Gas Insulated Switchgear, GIS, Epoxy Resin, Thermoplastics, PET, High Voltage Applications, Eco Design, Insulating Material, Support Insulator

2 1. INTRODUCTION Being compact, insensitive to environmental conditions, safe for the environment and human health and requiring only little maintenance, High Voltage Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) is widely used in the modern transmission grid. Due to their compactness, the SF 6 quantity and the leakage rate are reduced to the minimum and power losses are low making GIS safe for the environment. For many years, eco-design initiatives aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the GIS [1] via the environmental impact assessment over its whole life cycle: from material extraction focussing on hazardous materials eviction, the manufacturing phase, the operational phase with energy consumption and possible gas emission in service, up to its end of life with GIS dismantling and material recycling. More and more manufacturers take into consideration the recyclability of the materials and components themselves to improve at the end the recyclability rate of the full equipment. In this paper we show how far materials recyclability constitutes a major issue, especially in the case of polymeric materials. Indeed GIS is mainly made of metallic materials such as aluminium, steel and copper, which can be recycled. Insulating materials like support insulators are more challenging for recycling. Thermosetting materials are used to manufacture support insulators, which are very difficult to recycle because they are usually filled with mineral fillers and the polymer matrix cannot be melted. In contrary, thermoplastics are more disposed to recycling. Thus, the best way to improve the recyclability of insulating parts in GIS is to replace thermosetting materials by thermoplastic materials [2]. In this study the potential usage of thermoplastic polymers for high voltage GIS support insulators is investigated. After a description of the current solutions based on alumina filled epoxy resins, the possible candidates to replace epoxy are reviewed. Polyethylene terephtalate (PET) was selected. Its properties with a special emphasis on mechanical and electrical characteristics as well as ageing behaviour are investigated and discussed. Finally, the application of PET as an environmental sustainable solid insulation material in three-phase encapsulated GIS is presented. 2. CURRENT SOLUTION: THERMOSETTING EPOXY RESIN For several decades epoxy resins have been used as basic material for the manufacturing of support insulator in GIS. Mechanical and electrical properties as well as long term ageing behaviour were improved by the addition of a mineral filler among which alumina appeared to be the most suitable one, mainly due to its inertness to SF 6 decomposition products. For this study, the reference material to be replaced is made from a liquid DGEBA resin crosslinked by a liquid anhydride hardener. At a first stage alumina is dried out under vacuum and separately mixed into resin and hardener. Afterwards the mixture is injected by Automated Pressure Gelation (APG) in a heated mould at about C for hardening. After curing, a post-curing process of about 6-1 hours at C is needed to complete crosslinking and to optimize the mechanical properties and dimensional stability. The typical characteristics of the resin are presented in Table I. Table I: Typical characteristics of epoxy resin for GIS Property Unit Value Standards Filler ratio % 66 Tensile strength MPa > 6 ISO 527 Flexural strength MPa > 9 ISO 178 Young modulus MPa > 1 ISO 527 Glass transition temperature C > 15 IEC 616 Dielectric strength (3 mm) kv/mm > 17 IEC 6243 However some limitations for epoxy resins are to be considered. One drawback is the stiffness and brittleness of epoxy which requires special shapes or a higher thickness of the material in order to 2

3 reach the needed value for burst pressure for partition insulator applications. Another important limitation is the poor recyclability of such thermosetting materials containing inorganic fillers, so that only calorific valorisation in a cemetery oven can be really envisaged [3]. The shrinkage of the resin after crosslinking is also a drawback. Therefore the design of the mould is very complex and the tuning of the process is sensitive. In order to search for a thermoplastic to be used as insulation in high voltage application a material specification was created. Briefly, the main characteristics of the material are listed hereafter: good mechanical and electrical properties over the complete operating temperature range (-25 / +15 C) and even after ageing good chemical withstand to SF 6 decomposition products good recyclability. availability of the material on the market and a reliable machining process In some applications, technical thermoplastics such as polyoxymethylene (POM) or polyetherimide (PEI) are used in high voltage switchgear applications. But these materials are quite expensive and must be processed by injection moulding and therefore require complex tools. Polyethylene (PE) is also well-known in the electro-technical field and as a large application of PE, high voltage and medium voltage polymeric insulated cables can be mentioned. But for application as support insulator in GIS, PE suffers from low mechanical withstand. Polyimides (PI) are also used to a large extent, but these products are only available as foils. 3. NEW SOLUTION: THERMOPLASTIC PET Among possible materials, semi-crystalline polyethylene-terephtalate (PET) which presents higher mechanical performance than PE appeared to be a suitable candidate. Some experiences with this material of limited dimensions with insulating functions inside GIS were already available. Semicrystalline PET presents good electrical and thermal capability, is recyclable [4] and is commercially available as semi-finished products in suitable sizes. The drawbacks of the epoxy resin, such as poor recyclability, complexity of moulding and shrinkage can be avoided by using PET. For semi-crystalline thermoplastics, mechanical and electrical properties depend on the internal structure of the material especially on the ratio between crystalline and amorphous phase. Within the PET family, one pure semi-crystalline PET was carefully selected and analysed. Both chemical structure and composition were defined via selective investigations. Infrared Spectroscopy in the range 5 to 15 cm -1 was used to confirm that the selected material is a pure PET, without any additives or fillers. The crystalline structure of the material was studied by Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) and the analysis of the diffractogram shows that the material is isotropic and that the crystalline ratio is about 36%. Typical phase transition temperatures were assessed via Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Thermal Mechanical Analysis (TMA). The glass transition temperature (Tg) is about 8 C and the melting temperature is about 253 C. 3.1 PET BASIC PROPERTIES Mechanical characteristics as a function of temperature were determined using conventional techniques. The mechanical properties, such as Young modulus, tensile strength were measured under traction according to ISO and 4-points bending strength, according to NF T The mechanical properties are summarized in Table II. Table II: Mechanical characteristics of PET Property Unit at 23 C at 65 C Tensile strength Young modulus.2% elastic limit 4-point bend str. MPa MPa MPa MPa

4 The mechanical properties are stable up to 7 C, but decrease in the range 7 9 C corresponding to the glass transition temperature range as presented in Figure 1. Vitreous state Deflexion Caoutchoutic plateau Young Modulus (MPa) Glass transition temperature (Tg) ~ 8 C Temperature ( C) Figure 1: Young modulus evolution versus temperature. SF 6 decomposition and recombination occur during electrical discharge in the switchgear leading partially to the creation of corrosive compounds such as SO 2, SOF 2, SO 2 F 2 and HF. Therefore the electrical characteristics of virgin material and samples aged under SF 6 containing decomposition products were investigated. The main electrical characteristics of PET measured after 1 hours ageing were determined according to the standards and are listed in Table III. Table III: Electrical characteristics of PET Property Unit Virgin material Surface resistance Transverse resistance Dielectric constant ε r Dielectric loss factor tan(δ) Dielectric strength (3 mm) Ω Ω cm % kv/mm Aged under polluted SF Standards ISO 693 ISO 693 IEC 625 IEC 625 IEC 6243 In service the mechanical and electrical performances have to be secured even with temperatures above Tg. Figure 2 shows the breakdown voltage of PET measured in the temperature range between 2 C and 15 C, corresponding to the maximum temperature allowed in a GIS in the electrical contact area. On average the dielectric strength is above 22 kv/mm over the whole temperature range, showing that for this material the breakdown strength is not affected by the glass transition temperature i.e. about 8 C. This stability of the breakdown strength versus temperature has already been observed in some polymers [5] and is extremely interesting for the considered application. Figure 3 shows the temperature behaviour of the loss factor and the relative permittivity of PET samples which are also not significantly affected by the temperature up to Tg and then increasing slightly above 8 C. Below Tg, the dielectric loss factor is less than.1 and the permittivity is 3.7. The increase above Tg is associated to molecular relaxation typical for semi-crystalline polymers. 4

5 3 Breakdown field [kv/mm] Temperature [ C] Breakdown field [kv/mm] Figure 2: Breakdown voltage of 1 mm PET samples versus temperature. Relative permittivity 5 4,8 4,6 4,4 4,2 4 3,8 3,6 Relative permittivity Loss factor,5,4,3,2,1 3, Temperature [ C] Figure 3: Relative permittivity and loss factor of 1 mm PET samples versus temperature. 3.2 LONG TERM BEHAVIOUR AND AGEING In operation, solid insulating materials are working under mechanical, electrical, thermal and chemical stresses. Indeed, support insulators must withstand, to mention only a few, the weight of conductors, the forces applied between poles during short-circuit, electrical stress due to the electric field present between the different phases and the corrosive attack of SF 6 decomposition products. The long term creep behaviour of the selected PET was investigated under low mechanical stress at different temperatures i.e. 65 C, 85 C, 15 C. Figure 4 shows the creep curves of PET over more than 4 months at 65 C. By adjusting typical creep laws used for polymer materials, the long term deformation of PET under static load can be deduced. 5

6 3 25 Strain [1^-6] MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep MPa - Ep 9 13 MPa - Ep MPa - Ep Time [h] Figure 4: Creep curves of PET under tensile stress at 65 C. In order to assess the long term electrical and thermal characteristics of the material an accelerated electro-thermal ageing test has been made. As shown in figure 5, Rogowski-like samples have been aged at 8 C, 15 C and 115 C under AC fields of 9 and 15 kv/mm RMS, respectively 1 mm and.6 mm thick samples. At the end of the ageing, the samples have been submitted to breakdown tests at room temperature in the plane/plane test configuration, and the breakdown data compared to those obtained on virgin samples. The results are presented in figure 6. Figure 5: Picture of the samples under electro-thermal ageing. No significant change of the breakdown strength for the.6 mm and 1 mm samples after 6 month of ageing at 15 kv/mm or 9 kv/mm respectively can be observed. It can therefore be concluded that the performed electro-thermal ageing had no significant influence on the breakdown strength of the studied material. Other dielectric tests like dielectric spectroscopy, partial discharge measurements and space charge measurements have also been performed in order to assess the evolution of the material with time. 6

7 Breakdown Voltage [kv] ,2 15 kv/mm (,6 mm) Before ageing After 15 C during 6 months After 115 C during 6 months After 8 C during 6 months ,64 21,6 9 kv/mm (1 mm) Ageing field 15 kv/mm (1mm) Figure 6: Breakdown strength of PET before and after AC ageing at 9 kv/mm and 15 kv/mm. 3.3 RECYCLABILITY OF PET As a major advantage, PET can be recycled after the end of life of the GIS. The life time of the GIS is estimated to reach more than 4 years of operation. After reaching the end of life of the GIS the PET support insulators can be recovered from the apparatus and recycled. The recycling can be done e.g. by glycolysis, hydrolysis and methanolysis. Today, none of the spacers under service have reached their end-of-life and recycling is mainly done today on material losses like cuts and shavings coming from machining subcontractors. There are recycling companies that take back the material cuttings from the machining subcontractors and produce new pet material after grinding and new extrusion (Figure 7) but with minor quality which is not usable as insulation plates but for low quality products which have not these high requirements. As recycled PET is not pure enough it cannot be used as electrical insulation and recycling process also degrades its mechanical behavior due to molecular chain cuttings. As an industrial application of recycled PET the polyester fibres manufacturing [6] can be mentioned. Figure 7: Recycled PET granulates. 4. APPLICATION OF PET IN HV SWITCHGEAR Based on the investigations performed on the material it appeared that the selected PET is a suitable candidate for high voltage application in GIS. Prototypes of support and partition insulators made of PET were tested successfully in a three-phase encapsulated GIS with a rated voltage of 72.5 kv. These 7

8 tests showed very good results especially high bursting pressure values and a high margin on dielectric performance were achieved. The lower ε r of PET compared to epoxy resin simplified the design of the partition insulators because the dielectric stress on the surface of the material is decreased. Therefore a reduction of the distance between high voltage conductor and enclosure can be achieved. In addition due to the machinability of the PET insulators it became easy to change the surface or geometry of the insulator in order to improve the dielectric withstand in areas with high dielectric stress. Indeed, by taking advantage of the PET properties, flat partition insulators instead of the typical epoxy cone-type insulators could be designed easier and lead to higher safety margin of the burst pressure values. The introduction of flat PET partition insulators made it possible to further reduce the bay dimensions and the amount of SF 6 (figure 8). The excellent properties of PET were as well demonstrated in long term tests in the factory where higher dielectric AC stress has been applied on real components for several years. The first commercially available GIS which made use of PET for partition insulators were introduced in 23. Since then more than 4 GIS bays have been put in service with a total of around 17 bay-years. The material has been implemented mainly in three phase encapsulated GIS up to 17 kv for partition and support insulators as well as for other insulating functions. The return of experience is very positive. The application even for higher voltages is possible. Figure 8: Very compact three-phase encapsulated 145 kv GIS with PET insulators. 5. CONCLUSION The investigations on semi-cristalline thermoplastic PET presented in this paper show that the application for support and partition insulators in High Voltage GIS is an eco-friendly alternative to thermoset material. Thanks to this technology three-phase encapsulated GIS equipped with PET support insulators are recyclable at a rate of 91% and have a valorisation rate of 99%. PET-made insulators counts for 5 to 8% of the total mass of the switchgear improving by the same ratio the recyclability rate of the product. 8

9 BIBLIOGRAPHY [1] D. Froelich, Towards eco-design of products, MEIE 2 2nd European Conference on Industrial Electrical Equipment and Environment, pp , June, 2 [2] I. Huet, H. Aeschbach, C. Tschannen, K. Pohlink, J.L. Bessede, Application of the concepts of Eco- Design to a Gas Insulated Substation 72.5kV, IEEE General Meeting, San Francisco/USA, June 25. [3] C.M. Thai et al., Chemical recycling of epoxy resin cured by anhydride, Environment conscious materials, Ecomaterials 2, p 237. [4] J.-L. Bessede, I. Huet, Y. Kieffel, H. Aeschbach, F. Braeuer, K. Pohlink, A. Dahoun, S. Etienne, J.-M. Hiver, Suitability of thermoplastic polymer for the making of HV Gas Insulated Substation Insulator, 25 Annual Report Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, pp , (25). [5] Sefelec, "Etude des facteurs d influence sur les essais de rigidité diélectriques", (22). [6] Recycling Perspective, Modern Plastics Encyclopedia,

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