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Identification of a chemical indicator of the rupture of 1,4-β-glycosidic bonds of cellulose in an oil-impregnated insulating paper system

Jalbert, Jocelyn, Gilbert, Roland, Tétreault, Pierre, Morin, Brigitte, Lessard-Déziel, Denise
Cellulose 2007 v.14 no.4 pp. 295-309
air, byproducts, cellulose, equipment, gas chromatography, headspace analysis, hemicellulose, insulating materials, kraft paper, lignin, mass spectrometry, methanol, mineral oil, oxygen, temperature
In this study, headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry has been used to assess the volatile by-products generated by the ageing of oil-impregnated paper insulation of power transformers. Sealed-glass ampoules were used to age under oxidative conditions 0.5-g specimens of insulating paper in 9 mL of inhibited mineral oil in a temperature range of 60-120 °C and moisture of 0.5, 1 and 2% (w/w). A linear relationship between one of the oil-soluble degradation by-products, i.e. methanol, and the number of ruptured 1,4-β-glycosidic bonds of cellulose, regardless of the type of paper (ordinary Kraft or thermally-upgraded (TU) Kraft paper), was established for the first time in this field. Ageing at 130 °C of model compounds of the Kraft paper constituents (α-cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin) and two cellulosic breakdown by-products (D-(+)-glucose and 1,6-anhydro-β-d-glucopyranose) confirmed that the α-cellulose degradation was mostly responsible for the presence of this molecule in the system. Furthermore, additional 130 °C-tests with six different papers and pressboard samples under a tight control of initial moisture indicated that at least one molecule of methanol is formed for each rupture of 1,4-β-glucosidic bond of the molecular chains. Stability tests showed that the ageing indicator is stable under the oxygen and temperature conditions of open-breathing transformers. The presence of methanol was detected in 94% of oil samples collected from over than 900 in-service pieces of equipment, confirming the potential for this application. Lastly, the tests have shown that oil-oxidation by-products and TU-nitrogenous agents modify the methanol partitioning coefficients in the paper/oil/air system, which makes their study essential over a range of field conditions encountered by power transformers. Results are presented and discussed in comparison with 2-furfuraldehyde, which is the current reference in the domain.