Palm Transformer Oil Project Advances


Palm Transformer Oil Project Advances
Dielectric breakdown testing is performed on transformer oil at a facility in Bangkok, Thailand. © kajeab_pongsiri/shutterstock

Biofuels producer BBGI Group, along with fellow Thailand-based partners SCG Chemicals and QTC Energy, announced successful testing of their palm oil-based transformer oil in real transformers, meeting international standards.

It’s a first step toward commercial production.

BBGI also said it delivered the biobased transformer oil to customers for the first time in Rayong Province.

For years, Thailand’s National Energy Technology Center has headed a consortium researching transformer oils formulated with palm oil as part of the country’s efforts to find higher value applications for palm oil beyond its use in foods or biodiesel.

In mid-2021, BBGI Group, SCG Chemicals and QTC Energy signed a commercial cooperation agreement to develop and produce such a product.

Sumate Charoenchaidet, central research and development director of SCG Chemicals, said the company used catalyst technology to transform palm oil into higher-value biobased transformer oil.

“This marks a significant step for Thailand’s bio-economy, enabling the country to produce biobased transformer oil domestically, thus promoting domestic substitution and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, fostering Thailand’s transition towards a low-carbon society,” Charoenchaidet said in a May 31 press release.

QTC manufactures and distributes made-to-order transformers. CEO Poonphipat Tantanasin claimed that because the palm oil-based bio transformer oil compares favorably with foreign competitors – with a similar viscosity to mineral oil – it will allow for immediate substitution without transformer redesign.

“Moreover, it exhibits high dielectric breakdown voltage, flash point and fire point, ensuring significant safety in usage and environmental friendliness,” he said.

BBGI CEO Kittiphong Limsuwannarot stated, “The tested bio transformer oil met international standards for high fire point transformer oils, or IEC 62770, ensuring high safety in usage. Moreover, it’s biodegradable, making it suitable for actual transformer use, marking the first time in Rayong Province. The readiness for commercial expansion is on the horizon.”

The National Energy Technology Center-headed consortium’s research plan included developing a prototype biobased transformer fluid made from palm oil and testing to ensure it passes ASTM and IEC standards. The first year of research includes testing for thermal aging, and then for thermal and electrical aging. The second year was to involve production of a prototype of the biobased transformer oil, processing 300 liters per day and testing product quality control.

In the third year of research, a transformer would be filled with the prototype fluid and transformer testing would aim to confirm it passes the necessary performance standards. Field aging would also take place.