Investigation of the effects of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) dechlorination on the natural inhibitors and oxidation stability of uninhibited naphthenic based mineral oils.
PCBs are persistent organic pollutants that have intentionally and unintentionally (through contamination) been added to mineral insulating oil to improve its insulating and cooling properties within electrical equipment. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001) orders the eradication of PCBs from use by 2025. Sodium based dechlorination is a PCB destruction process that is non-thermal, relatively cost effective and allows for the recovery of a reusable end product. A comparative benefits study, contained in chapter 2 of this dissertation, describes the increased financial and environmental impact associated with incinerating large volumes of PCB contaminated mineral oil. The results of the comparative analysis indicate a cost ratio of 1: 2.5, in favour of sodium dechlorination. In addition to the financial benefit, the sodium based PCB dechlorination process is versatile and can be either batched or skid mounted and is typically combined with an oil regeneration step, allowing for transformers to be treated onsite and whilst energised. Eskom is currently considering obtaining the mobile dechlorination unit for the purpose of conducting dechlorination and regeneration on its PCB contaminated transformers while energised. Mineral insulating oil is considered a strategic asset within most industries. Eskom uses mainly uninhibited mineral oil in its older transformers and the effects of PCB dechlorination on the natural inhibitor content of the oil is uncertain. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of sodium dechlorination on the oxidation stability and thereby indirectly the natural inhibitor content of uninhibited naphthenic based mineral oil. The study involved the dechlorination, regeneration and subsequent chemical analyses of PCB contaminated oils in the PCB ranges <50ppm, 50 to 500 ppm and >500 ppm as stipulated by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001). The study confirmed the reduction in oxidation stability and thereby the natural inhibitor content of the mineral oil after sodium dechlorination. Based on the results obtain a preliminary algorithm was established to predict the reduction in oxidation stability after sodium dechlorination, as a function of the PCB concentration prior to dechlorination. This will provide an indirect indication of the rate of natural inhibitor depletion of the oil, based on its exposure to the sodium dechlorination reagents and process conditions.