A Safer Way to Deliver Electricity
To power the world with reliable, environmentally friendly energy, Cargill develops an unexpected formula for dielectric fluid.
January 01, 2015
Across the globe, power companies are continually searching for safer, more efficient ways to provide electricity to communities while lessening their environmental impact. There has been growing interest in replacing mineral oil, which is commonly used as the insulator in transformers—the electric devices that transform electric energy between circuits. While mineral oil served as the most popular electrical fluid for 30 years, it presented multiple problems. It was highly flammable, caused major cleanup issues and was toxic to fish and wildlife.
Cargill was on the forefront of a new idea: vegetable oil. Using the clean, renewable natural ester in place of mineral oil, the company began developing a product that would provide improved performance as well as environmental benefits.
In 1998, Cargill introduced Envirotemp™ FR3™, a transformer oil that insulated high-voltage electric transformers much like mineral oil did, but with soybean oil as its base. For companies that began using FR3 fluid, the benefits were immediately clear: the fluid had twice the fire point as mineral oil—significantly reducing fire risk—and featured a transformer filled with FR3, which could handle up to 20% more capacity than one filled with mineral oil. In addition, it protected the transformer’s insulation paper five to eight times longer than mineral oil, enabling the transformer to last longer. Finally, it proved non-toxic and non-hazardous in soil and water, and was ultimately biodegradable, providing significant advantages for companies like TransnetBW, a German transmission grid operator concerned with their carbon footprint.
“The bio-oil transformer not only sets standards in terms of technical progress and performance, but also for the protection of humans and the environment.”
— Rainer Joswig, CEO, TransnetBW
In 2013, Cargill was presented with the prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its work developing FR3 fluid. The product is currently used in over 750,000 transformers on six continents, helping to power everything from homes to hospitals, and paving the path for more economical and environmentally safe methods of delivering electricity.
[image caption] Compared to mineral oil, long used in electricity transformers, the soybean oil used in FR3 fluid withstands higher temperatures, which prevents equipment from eroding.