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Rocwdllya of the 4th Intanatlor" ConCnenEe on

Ropabesd Applicatioru of 131eltrtric Matenah

July 34.19Y4, BnIbsIle Aumaha
Brian Pokaner Colin Lee Don Hawker
Queensland Electricity Commission
Line Design Branch
A bst mci
The Queensland Electricity Commission (QEC) has had
over 15 years of field experience with various types of
composite insulators on 1 lOkV to 275kV lines. Most of
the insulators were first generetion composites installed
in a variety of contaminated environments. In the heaq
contaminated arcas. various forms of damage to the
sheath and sheds were observed and a number of
insulators flashed over. These failures have also been
experienced in other pans of the world.
To gain a better knowledge of the deterioration of the
composite insulators over time and to evaluate the
pollution performance of the various types of polymers,
the QEC developed a sensitive high voltage leakage
current monitor and set up a test program for testing
these insulators.
In the test. a double circuit 275kV tower situated
between two cooling towers at the Swanbank Power
Station was chosen for trialing of the composite
insulators . The main polymer types, Ethlene
Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM), Ethylene Silicon
Polymer (ESP) and Silicon Rubber were tested over a I5
month period.
This paper discusses the development of the leakage
current monitor and results from the monitoring
The Queensland Electricity Commission has recently
designed high voltage 275 kV transmission lines for use
in urban and sensitive environmental areas of
Queensland. These lines incorporate compact designs
using modem composite suspension and line post'
insulators of both Ethylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) and
Silicon Rubber (SIR).
Improvements in material, design and manufacturing
methods for composite insulators have gained them a
reputation for high reliability in medium polluted
environments, but some conflicting opinions remain as
to the better polymer type for long term performance.
The QEC installed the first composite insulators in 1978
and has been closely monitoring their performance since
then. Following several failures of the early generation
Composite insulators in salt and high polluted areas in
Australia and overseas in the 1980's. the QEC initiated
a project to develop a leakage current monitor. It's
primary purpose was to evaluate the short and long term
pollution performance of a number of composite and
ceramic insulator types at a test site in a highly polluted
The test site chosen was a double circuit 275 kV tower
situated between cooling towers at the Swanbank Power
Station. This tower had previously experienced two
pollution induced flashovers, one of them involving two
circuits. The tower also enabled analysis of pollulion
performance at a higher than usual voltage stress as most
published data has been camcd out at lower transmission
voltages of around 132 kV.
The two main types of polymer materials normally used
at transmission voltages. EPDM and SIR. have been
included in the evaluation. as well as an EPDM type
blended with silicon oils. Leakage current measurements
began at the test site in October 1992 with six samples
of insulators being monitored. Four more samples were
added in February 1994.
Test Si t e
The tower chosen as the test site was on a double circuit
section of the 275kV transmission system supplying
Queensland's largest tourist centre.
Energised in 1974 and insulated with high creepage
length fog discs the tower experienced pollution induced
flashovers in 1981 and 1988, the latter involving both
circuits and causing catastrophic insulator failure and
widespread blackouts.
The tower is surrounded by four forced draft cooling
towers associated with the Swanbank B Power Station
and is continually engulfed in vapours containing high
concentrations of minerals and salts. Regular bum offs
of coal slag piles also add to the pollution.
The site was considered preferable over coastal 132kV
alternatives because of it's proximity to the QEC
research centre. It also enabled the investigation to
concentrate on industrial type pollution at 275kV.
The majority of published research data addresses the
effects of sea salt pollution on 132kV insulators.
Industrial pollution has higher levels of sulphates which
are more conductive than chloride based salts, and
therefore produces higher leakage currents. The larger
field stresses at 275kV are also expected to contribute to
greater polymer degradation.
Table I: Test Insulator Characteristics
No. Shed Shed Coupl Dry-arc
Material Diam Length Length
(") (") (")
140 2490
140 2490
102 2535
134 2540
134 2515
254 2628
I l l 2434
I l l 2434
125 2655
225 2560
Test Configuration
The test insulators are installed in bridging positions on
the tension tower at each of the three crossam levels.
A high quality ceramic disc insulator is installed on top
of the composite insulators t o shunt the leakage current
to the Data Centre via primary protection circuitry. An
earthing switch is also provided to shunt the ceramic
disc and enable maintenance work to be carried out on
the Data Centre.
The Data Centre houses current transducers, an Analog
to Digital converter, signal conditioning equipment and
a Multiplexer.
The Multiplexer sends signals via a fibre-optic cable to
a Command Centre mounted on the ground. This Centre
has a microcomputer which processes and stores the data
onto memory cards. The fibre-optic cable was selected
to shield electrical noise and for electrical isolation.
Solar cells are installed at both locations to charge the
power supplies in each of the centres.
In addition to the leakage current monitor. a weather
station has been installed adjacent to the Command
Centre for recording the following environmental data:
solar radiation
ultra violet radiation
. barometric pressure
. rainfall
Test Insirlotors
Table I gives the characteristics of the composite and
ceramic insulators being tested. Insulator types 1 to 6
were installed in August 1992, and types 7 to IO in
February 1994. Insulator number 6 is a string of 18
porcelain discs and insulator number I O is a two piece
porcelain long rod. This paper presents the results from
the first 6 samples. The results from the latter 4
samples will be presented in a future paper.
Leakage No of Dist
Length Sheds Between
(mm) (mm)
61 12
Identical insulators were installed, but not energised.
alongside the test insulators for the purpose of allowing
periodic analysis of the pollution.
As recommended by the manufacturers each of the
composite insulators were installed with grading rings to
improve the electric stress distribution at the live end.
Leakage Currents
The amount of leakage current flowing along the surface
of an insulator is dependent on many factors, the major
ones being:
. type of weathershed material
. amount of pollution deposited
. the hydrophobicity of the material
the applied voltage
. the environmental conditions
The hydrophobic performance of the insulator will vary
between the different polymer family types (EPDM or
SiR) and between different types in each family group.
Published research data for both indoor and outdoor tests
indicates that silicon rubber exhibits the better
hydrophobic properties in all pollution conditions.
The major environmental conditions affecting leakage
currents are humidity and rain. On a new clean insulator
which has a high surface resistivity, the leakage current
is usually low and primarily capacitive. When pollution
builds up on the surface and the insulator becomes
wetted by high humidity or rain, the resistivity reduces,
and the leakage currents r i se and become resistive.
The effects of the pollution on leakage current will
depend on the amount of soluble and insoluble deposits
on the surface layer.
When soluble deposits become wet during rain, the
solution will lower the surface resistivity and cause
leakage currents to rise. Insoluble deposits do not per se
cause leakage currents to increase, but will assist in
holding soluble deposits on the surface.
Future QEC research will analyse the small cycle
magnitude and phase angle variations for each insulator
type at varying degrees of pollution and age. It is
expected that each insulator will exhibit it's own
signature for various degrees of pollution and polymer
Test Results
Leakage Current s:
Leakage currents are continuously monitored and
recorded as an integrated average over a 20 minute
period. The 20 minute rainfall measurements were
not made because the weather station only records
rainfall on a daily basis. Rainy days were noted
fromBureau of Meteorological data and fromthe
weather station. It was found that rainfall has the
largest effect on leakage currents followed by
A comparative performance over a 24 hour period
for a SiR, an EPDM and ceramic disc insulator is
shown in Figure 1. The SIR insulators have lower
leakage current than the EPDM, and both composite
insulator types have currents less than a third that of
the porcelain string.
Figure 2 shows the long termtrend of leakage
currents over a 15 month period. It compares the
porcelain disc with an EPDM and SiR insulator.
The SiR insulators exhibit negligible variations in
leakage current over time, whereas the EPDM and
ceramic materials show an upward trend, with the
latter showing the largest increase over time.
The first two months of recording coincided with a
dry period and leakage currents on the ceramic
insulator have increased with accumulation of
pollution. After heavy rain in December and
J anuary 1992, the discs have been washed and
leakage currents have reduced to their initial value.
1111 ,
1 ll I
- 111
Figure 2
They began increasing again to double the initial
value until a year later when the downward trend
resumed during the wet season months of December
and J anuary. The washing after a year only causes
a marginal reduction of leakage current as the
pollution hardens on the sheds and remains partially
insoluble. Also, virtually no washing occurs on the
undersides of the sheds which constitutes
approximately two thirds of the creepage length.
The pollution performance of the SiR composite
insulators has been good with no signs of
degradation of the polymer. Even with a variation
in leakage lengths on the three SiR insulators from
4801 to 6112 mm, there were only small differences
between the leakage currents.
The leakage current on the EPDM composite
insulators are up to two times higher than the SIR
insulators. The currents did however, drop to a
comparable level after a prolonged period of heavy
rain. The pollution performance of these insulators
is still acceptable in these conditions.
The EPDM-2 insulator has shown some evidence of
changes occurring to the polymer housing. White
discolouration is appearing on a number of sheds
(towards the live end) with the apparent leeching
out of filler or silicon additive. This effect is not
evident on the unenergised insulator hanging at the
same location.
The string of porcelain discs has performed poorly
when compared with the composite insulators.
Figure 1.
Table 11: Analysis of Pollution
Polymer Chemical Compound (pglcm) Equiv.
Ty Pe Salt
Sodium Potassium Magnesium Calcium Chloride Sulphate Density
EPDM-T 2.32 .I 5 0.49 0.81 2.93 2.7 14.13
EPDM-U 4.81 .34 1.45 2.49 8.55 11.1 33.71
SiR-T 2.90 2.5 0.80 1.70 3.83 6.15 20.58
SiR-U 5.28 .29 1.28 4.48 6.96 19.8 31.99
Note: EPDM-T denotes the top surface of the weathershed and EPDM-U, the undersides of the sheds.
It has the highest leakage length of the tested
samples, 7776. but produces leakage currents 3
times higher than SIR insulators during normal
weather conditions and up to 7 times higher during
rainfall. The long term trends show an increase in
leakage current with time. This is indicative of
pollution buildup on the discs as the leakage
currents do not retum to their initial values after
heavy rain.
Pol l ut i on A nal ysi s:
Two unenergised insulators (one EPDM and the
other Sin) were recovered in February 1994 after a
period of heavy rain. There were considerable
amounts of wind-bome dust (of aluminium and
silica) which had to be removed before an analysis
of the soluble pollutants could be made. This
analysis is given in Table 11. The results show the
EPDM and SiR insulators attracting similar types of
pollutants with the main ones being, Sulphates and
Chlorides of Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and
The wind-bome dust was more difficult to remove
fromthe SIR insulator. The silicon material attracts
and holds the non soluble dust (by encapsulating
with its oils), making it difficult to remove.
The equivalent salt deposit density was measured in
the range 14.13 pg/cm to 33.71 pg/cm, which is
generally regarded as light pollution. This contrasts
with what is known for porcelain discs on this tower
which require washing every 18 months. Clearly,
the composite insulators have a lower pollution
retention than the porcelain discs, and consequently,
lower leakage currents.
The equivalent salt deposit density measurements
show much higher levels of pollution on the
undersides of the sheds. This is because the
insulators are hung in suspension and the top
surfaces are washed by rain. There is a similar level
of pollution on the undersides of both insulator
types, but on the top surfaces, the silicon material
has higher values. Despite this, the silicon
material has produced lower leakage currents, thus
supporting the manufacturers claim that the silicon
oil continually migrates to the surface to maintain
the materials hydrophobicity.
Envi ronment al Effects:
There has been no visible evidence of polymer
degradation from solar or U.V. radiation in this
period of analysis. There have been only small
variations of temperature and barometric pressure
which has not significantly affected the leakage
Concl usi ons
At this stage, the test results show the SiR family of
insulators are performing better than the EPDM and
ceramic insulators. The initial values of leakage current
for the SiR insulators were approximately half of those
for the EPDM and a quarter of those for ceramic
insulators and there is less variation in leakage currents
over time. The low variations show that the SiR
insulators have consistently maintained hydrophobicity.
The EPDM insulators have provided mixed results.
EPDM-I has performed reasonably well in the
conditions, but there is some concern over the
performance of the EPDM-2 insulator under heavy
pollution and storm conditions. The insulator is showing
some evidence of degradation on the polymer housing
with white discolouration on a number of sheds towards
the line end. This appears to be due to the leeching out
of the tri-alumina hydrate or the silicon oil.
The analysis of pollution from the sheds of unenergised
insulators indicates that the composite insulators are
retaining lower levels of surface pollution than the
ceramic discs. The ceramic disc has consequently not
performed as well as the composite insulators. Leakage
currents were at much higher levels and have increased
with time.
The difficulty with removing the dust from the SIR
material suggests the material is attracting and holding
the pollution to the surface. This effect has not affected
the material maintaining its hydrophobicity in the short
A cknowl edgment
The authors wish to thank the QEC for permission to
publish this paper. The assistance of the QEC Northgate
Test Section for developing the leakage current monitor
is also acknowledged.