Mineral and Vegetable Transformer Oils Equally Green?

By Cecilia Wetterholm, Nynas AB

Vegetable transformer oils are often perceived as more environmentally friendly than mineral oils. But is this really true? To find the answer, one needs to make a thorough investigative comparison. A useful tool for such comparisons, life cycle assessment (LCA), can be used to examine the cradle-to-grave environmental consequences of making and using products. Dealing with environmental impact categories such as acidification potential, global warming potential and resource depletion, LCA is a continuing process, and new findings force users to frequently re-evaluate studies and results.

Click here to enlarge image

Unfortunately, there are no LCA studies comparing mineral and vegetable ester oils for use in transformers. However, the production of mineral oil and rapeseed oil and their use in hydraulic fluid has been studied, as has the environmental impact of transformers. From these, one can assess the environmental influence of the entire life cycle of mineral and vegetable transformer oils.

Two LCA studies comparing the environmental impact of the production of mineral and rapeseed oil show slightly differing results due to the use of different limitations and LCA models. However, both studies indicate the overall impact does not differ much between the production of mineral and rapeseed oil. Some find this surprising, but they may not have considered all factors involved.

The production of rapeseed oil requires seedbed preparation, sowing, fertilizing, crop protection (pesticide use), rapeseed growth, harvesting, drying and storing, and crushing or extraction and refining. For mineral oil production, drilling and extraction of crude oil is followed by refining. These contrasting production methods have very different effects on the environment. The main difference between mineral oil and vegetable oil is of course the raw materials used, but the cultivation stage, with the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the extensive further processing involved in vegetable oil production affect the results, making vegetable oil production more energy-intensive.

How the oil is used will also influence its environmental impact. It can be argued that, since almost all used transformer oil is reused as fuel, it gives back some of the energy consumed during production. Nevertheless, if the combustion or final degradation of oil is included this will have a large negative impact on the global warming potential and the total environmental impact of mineral oil, especially in comparison to vegetable oil that is made from renewable resources and therefore not burdened by this. The performance of the oil in transformers and how this affects the life of transformers will also contribute greatly to its environmental impact.

It is difficult to establish whether one of these types of oil is less harmful to the environment than the other. When using LCA to estimate the total environmental burden of transformer oil, there are many factors to consider. How the study is set up, limits, assumptions, interpretations, data source and so on can give you different results. It is clear that the production and use of both mineral and vegetable oil affect the environment. Their impacts differ, but detailed life cycle analysis show that the total contributions of these oils are quite similar. To crown one as the most environmentally friendly choice is not an easy task.

Wetterholm works in technical market support, naphthenics, for Nynas AB. Nynas produces premium naphthenic specialty oils and is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of quality bitumen. Nynas is owned by Petràƒ³leos de Venezuela S.A. and Neste Oil Oy.

Matt Myers Named KUA Meter Reader of the Year

Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) recently named Matthew “Matt” Myers its 2007 meter reader of the year.

Click here to enlarge image

Myers, 24, was chosen from among the utility’s 23 full- and part-time meter readers for his meter reading volume and accuracy. Myers read 102,365 electric, water and irrigation meters in 2007 with just seven errors–a 99.99 percent accuracy rate.

Myers began his career at KUA in 2003 and is a graduate of Poinciana High School.

Angel Quiles was recognized as the 2007 runner-up for reading 130,329 meters with 25 total errors–an accuracy rate of 99.98 percent. Quiles also ranked second in 2006.

KUA’s meter readers ended 2007 with 1.8 million total meter reads with an accuracy rate of 99.95 percent.

Founded in 1901, KUA is Florida’s sixth largest community-owned utility providing electric and telecommunication services to 170,000 residents in five central Florida counties.

EPRI, Ford Want to Plug your Car into the Grid

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Ford Motor Company announced a three-year agreement to develop and evaluate technical approaches for integrating plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into the nation’s electric grid system, a key requirement to facilitate widespread adoption of the vehicles.

EPRI will form a collaborative of utilities in the New York-New Jersey area that will test Ford Escape PHEVs. Subsequent trials will be conducted with customers of the participating utilities.

Ford, which is also working with Southern California Edison (SCE), is the first automotive manufacturer to partner with the utility industry to facilitate advancing PHEVs. The new EPRI-Ford program will build on the ongoing Ford-SCE partnership and help determine regional differences in how PHEV operation will impact the electric grid.

“This partnership represents a concerted effort by the transportation and electric sectors to work together in advancing PHEV technology,” said Mark Duvall, EPRI’s program manager for electric transportation. “This effort should accelerate the pace of PHEV development while enabling the utility industry to prepare for the introduction of these vehicles.”

Ford has designed and is building 20 Escape PHEVs for testing in the Los Angeles area under the Ford-SCE partnership. With this new EPRI-Ford agreement, Ford is able to expand the evaluation and demonstration program to include other utilities.

“EPRI brings our collaborative efforts related to the potential of plug-in electric vehicle technology to a new level,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of sustainable mobility technologies. “PHEVs have great promise, but still face significant obstacles to commercialization, including battery costs and charging strategies. Ultimately such vehicles must provide real value to consumers.”

The evaluation and demonstration trials should provide solid technical information on PHEVs that will enable the development of common standards among utilities to accommodate the vehicles.

“Expanding on the work Ford and SCE are doing can help move the automotive and utility industries closer in addressing the challenges of our transportation future,” said Ed Kjaer, SCE’s director of electric transportation.

EPRI, Ford and SCE’s research and analysis on the Ford PHEVs will include data from four primary areas: battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage and grid infrastructure. The analysis will also explore possible stationary and secondary usages for advanced batteries.


EDF to buy into Spain? In late March, The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported that French giant àƒâ€°lectricitàƒ© de France (EDF) and Spanish construction company Actividades de Construcciàƒ³n y Servicios might be putting their heads–and their cash–together to snap up on-the-market/off-the-market Spanish utility Iberdrola and another utility a couple of sizes smaller, Union Fenosa. Iberdrola has had a tumultuous history on the sales block in the last couple of years, garnering a bevy of bids only to be yanked back into the fold repeatedly by a Spanish government unwilling to allow that much outside influence over their largest utility (and they’ve dealt with some EU warnings because of their continued unwillingness to open those doors). Insiders on this particular deal are reported as being rather skeptical that the $134 billion takeover will even make it out of the starting gate.

Smart Metering All the Rage in Europe: The importance of smart metering for European energy organizations cannot be overstated as organizations look to implement next-generation technologies, according to the European Utilities Telecom Council (EUTC). In fact, they see smart metering playing a crucial role enabling the vision of smart grids, the upgrading of the overall electrical grid–a major, and stated, goal of the European Union. The EUTC recently staged an exhibition at the European Parliament in Brussels smart metering applications. This exhibition featured a presentation by Iberdrola on the importance of the use of open standards in the provision of telecommunication services and their interface to the energy and water meters to successfully drive implementation of large scale multi-meter solutions. “Smart Metering is an essential element of the Smart Grid solution which will enable better effectiveness and efficiency in regards to the overall energy and water reliability worldwide, ” said William R. Moroney, president and CEO of the Utilities Telecom Council.

NxtPhase Supplies Turkish Grid: NxtPhase T&D Corp., a provider of fiber optic solutions for the electric power industry, has fulfilled a contract with the Turkish Electricity Transmission Corporation (TEIAS) to supply nine fully redundant optical systems to measure high-voltage power quality in Turkey. The order consists of NXVCT combination optical current and voltage sensors and NXCT optical current sensors ranging from 36 kV to 420 kV. These systems will provide improved transient response due to wider frequency band and enhanced dynamic range to achieve a highly accurate power quality assessment of the high voltage transmission line. These sensors have bandwidth of up to 20 kHz. They will be used in a variety of applications including calibration and measurement of harmonics and transients.

Newton-Evans Releases Highlights of Control Systems Study

Newton-Evans Research Co. released preliminary findings and observations from its multi-month study of transmission and distribution monitoring and control systems used in international electric power utilities.

Click here to enlarge image

Early highlights of the international 2008 study of mission critical, real-time electric utility operational systems including energy management, supervisory control, and distribution network management include the following:

  • Outage Management: Nearly half of the international utilities surveyed so far this year have implemented a separate outage management system (OMS). This reflects a strong increase from 2005’s 30 percent of responding utilities reporting having a separate OMS at that time.
  • Links to External Systems: Linkage to other utility enterprise systems continued to be on the increase on a global scale; despite cyber security concerns. For many sites, the key to remaining secure seems to be either: (a) the restricted provision of non-real-time access via periodic downloads to authorized requestors or (b) indirect access to and from the control system via historian files. The most frequently mentioned plans for additional control system links this year from managers at international control centers were reported as: geographic information systems (24 percent), enterprise application integration (24 percent) and customer information systems (20 percent).
  • External Services Required: By early 2008, about one-third of international respondents and one-half of North American respondents indicated a current need for one or more of the nine listed “services” that could be available from external service providers. More than one-third of North American respondents now require training services, followed by “long-term maintenance agreements.” Among international utility officials, commissioning and testing of new systems was in demand. Installation support and maintenance agreements followed. By 2010, utilities around the world plan to bring in outside help to conduct vulnerability assessments.
  • Smart Grid Initiatives: Just as there are important variances with regard to communications protocols, control systems supplier rankings, and new product development objectives within the global electric power community, so too are there differences in priorities for focusing on “smart grid” initiatives. International utilities are placing more emphasis at this time on automating the distribution network and upgrading their control systems, while North American utilities are more likely to emphasize automated metering infrastructure as the priority task for enabling the smart grid.

More information on the Newton-Evans Research series titled “Worldwide Market Study of Energy Management Systems, SCADA and Distribution Management Systems in Electric Utilities: 2008-2010″ is available from the company: www.newton-evans.com.

Study Says Transmission Investment could Save Texas Consumers Billions

A recent study conducted by the Texas Wind Coalition shows proposed transmission improvements being considered by the Texas Public Utilities Commission will save consumers more than $3 billion annually in electric costs starting in two years. A recently released ERCOT report listed costs ranging from $2.3 billion to $6.3 billion for new transmission line construction, but when savings tied to lower fuel costs are factored in, ratepayers realize huge savings.

“This investment will pay for itself in two years and will displace more expensive energy, offering a savings to Texas consumers of about $3 billion per year,” Wind Coalition executive director Paul Sadler said.

“Every wind-generated megawatt added to the system is good for the economy, environment and electricity customers,” Sadler said. “Transmission costs will be more than offset by the savings realized from lower fuel costs as we bring additional wind capacity onto the grid. Not only will consumers realize cost savings in the billions of dollars, emissions reductions will be substantial as we add wind capacity.”

With the Public Utility Commission set to review the ERCOT findings related to the development of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), Sadler pointed to data extrapolated from a December 2006 ERCOT report titled “Analysis of Transmission Alternatives for Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in Texas,” as well as a March 21, 2008, draft report done by General Electric at ERCOT’s request, titled “Analysis of Wind Generation Impact on ERCOT Ancillary Service Requirements.” Both studies calculated fuel costs, and environmental impacts, from added wind capacity. Both studies suggest fuel cost savings of $18 billion over 10 years for the addition of 11,553 MW of wind generation.

“Wind energy saves consumers money and protects the environment by increasing air quality and decreasing water consumption,” Sadler said. “Furthermore, the cost of transmission improvements are spread out over time, while fuel savings are immediate once additional wind capacity is plugged into the grid.

“The greatest protection we can offer to ratepayers is to provide a diverse mix of energy sources for power production so Texans don’t suffer rate shock when one particular commodity experiences a price spike,” Sadler said.

Yazoo Valley Electric Selects Cellnet+Hunt

Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association, an electric cooperative utility located in central Mississippi, has begun deploying the TS2 advanced metering solution from Cellnet+Hunt.

Click here to enlarge image

Yazoo Valley Electric will fully deploy the TS2 system to more than 10,000 meters. The utility cited Cellnet+Hunt’s strong customer service track record and proven technology as key reasons for their selection of TS2.

Ronald White, Yazoo Valley Electric’s manager of system services, said, “The cost savings from manual meter reading was key to our business case, but we’re also looking forward to using the system’s two-way capabilities to provide enhanced services to our customers.”

Yazoo Valley Electric provides power for more than 9,300 residential and more than 900 commercial customers from its headquarters in Yazoo City, Miss. With a distribution system consisting of more than 2,700 miles of line that cover portions of six counties, Yazoo Valley Electric’s 3.2 customers per mile of line make it one of the most geographically dispersed electric cooperatives in the Southeast United States.


Boulder, Colorado, is “Smart Grid City.” Xcel and its Smart Grid Consortium partners recently chose the town to be their test bed for researching and developing intelligent grid technologies.


Georgia Power customers in Atlanta decreased their electricity usage by nearly 4 percent during Earth Hour on March 29. The average reduction during the hour was 7.05 MWh. People around the world were encouraged to shut off appliances and lights during Earth Hour to show solidarity for energy conservation.

ACCR Fires Up at Platte River

Platte River Power Authority, a utility owned by and serving four major communities in north-central Colorado, has energized a key transmission line upgraded with 3M’s ACCR (Aluminum Conductor Composite Reinforced) high capacity overhead conductor.

3M ACCR was energized on a three-mile line linking the Timberline and Harmony Substations in Fort Collins, primarily to help ensure adequate transmission capacity during summer peak-demand hours. Platte River also serves Estes Park, Longmont and Loveland. All four communities are situated north of Denver.

Already in service in major metropolitan areas, including Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Shanghai, China, 3M ACCR is also finding application in less-populated areas, where minimal environmental disruption may be required. For example, Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) recently installed the new conductor on its Topac-Davis-Lake Mead line in rural western Arizona.

According to Mike Dahl, Platte River Power Authority’s division manager of electric operations, the Timberline-Harmony line “is an important part of the grid between Denver and Cheyenne, and we chose 3M ACCR as a way to safeguard against overloading when demand is high.”

Duke, Echelon Partner for “Utility of the Future”


What’s the deal?

Earlier this year, Echelon and Duke Energy announced an expansion of the Duke Energy Utility of the Future project. Echelon will sell Duke Energy 57,500 advanced meters–Echelon’s first U.S. utility contract.

Click here to enlarge image


What does this news impact?

Duke Energy, one of the largest utilities in the United States, has spent considerable effort rethinking what it means to operate an electric utility in the 21st century, hence the “Utility of the Future” project. This deal is a part of that larger project.

What is the Utility of the Future program?

Duke Energy’s long-term vision is to transform the operation of its electric power grid by creating a reliable and scalable networked infrastructure capable of delivering and receiving information from intelligent devices distributed across its power systems, automating components of the distribution systems, and leveraging the linked networks for improved operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Duke Energy refers to this new networked infrastructure as the Utility of the Future (UoF) project. (See December 2007 UAE for details of the project.)

What is the revenue implication for Echelon?

Echelon expects revenue for the current Utility of the Future shipments to be on the order of $6 million.

When will shipments start?

Shipments are already under way.

What experience does Echelon have in metering applications?

More than 27 million meters in Italy are networked using Echelon’s power line communications and data concentrator products. Additional NES customers include utilities around the globe, such as Integral Energy and Powercor in Australia, Linzagstrom in Austria, ELRO in Denmark, Nuon in the Netherlands, ENERGOAUDITCONTROL in Russia, and E.ON and Vattenfall in Sweden. Echelon has shipped nearly 1 million NES meters to utilities throughout the world. All of these meters are based on the same core networking and metering standards that Duke Energy is using.


  • The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

Previous articleELP Volume 86 Issue 3
Next articleStudy: Utility companies fared well for an internal agreement of contact center measurement
The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

No posts to display