Vegetable transformer

A CSIRO-led research team has developed a vegetable-based fluid for use in power and electricity distribution transformers.


In an environmental breakthrough that it’s said could save millions of dollars, a CSIRO-led research team has developed a vegetable-based fluid for use in power and electricity distribution transformers.


The new vegetable-oil-based dielectric fluid could replace the estimated 40 billion litres of toxic mineral oil which is currently used in transformers across the world.


Major oil spills, associated with transformer failures, have prompted governments and environmental protection agencies to enact increasingly strict laws and regulations. The newly-developed low viscous vegetable oil-based fluid will meet current as well as future environmental requirements.


Funded by an ARC linkage grant, the research to develop the vegetable-based oil was jointly done by CSIRO Petroleum’s Dr. Mohammed Amanullah, with Curtin University of Technology’s Prof. Syed Islam, Master Student Samer Chami and Testing and Commissioning Services (Australia) researcher Gary Ienco.


Dr. Amanullah is a CSIRO Petroleum Principal Research Scientist and drilling fluid specialist.


He said the new vegetable oil-based dielectric fluid was readily biodegradable. Using it would improve the safety of power and distribution transformers, the occupational health and safety of power workers and protect habitats around electricity facilities.


“Another driving force behind this innovation was to find a sustainable source of base fluid in dielectric fluid formulation, given the finite supplies of mineral oil,” Dr Amanullah said. “Our work has also broken new ground in the processes used to develop a low viscous vegetable oil-based dielectric fluid, with all the required characteristics.”


A provisional patent application has been filed to protect the project’s intellectual property and a new company – Biolectric Pty Ltd – has been formed to take the product to the market after testing in a field transformer.