IEC TC10 MT27, at Sea Marconi, for the revision of the international norms on PCBs-Askarel

Tuesday May 25th, 2010

On 19th May, at the Sea Marconi HQ, the first international meeting of IEC TC10 MT27 took place finalised toward the revision of the norms on PCBs – Askarel:

  • IEC 60588-1, First edition 1977-01, Askarels for transformers and capacitors, Part 1: General
  • IEC 60588-2, First edition 1978-01, Askarels for transformers and capacitors, Part 2: Test methods
  • IEC 60588-3, First edition 1977-01, Askarels for transformers and capacitors, Part 3: Specifications for new Askarels
  • IEC 60588-4, First edition 1979-01, Askarels for transformers and capacitors, Part 4: Guide for maintenance of transformer askarel in equipment
  • IEC 60588-5, First edition 1979-01, Askarels for transformers and capacitors, Part 5: Screening test for compatibility of materials and transformer askarels

The meeting had as its objective the revision of the entire normative body related to PCBs based synthetic insulating liquids classified as Askarel (synthetic, fireproof insulating liquid which, when decomposed by electrical arc, will evolve predominantly non combustible gaseous mixtures. NOTE Askarels usually consist of polychlorinated biphenyls with or without the addition of polychlorinated benzenes), i.e. fluids that subject to electric arches develop non-flammable gaseous mixtures. The application scenario of these liquids is well known at international level since, in view of the special functional features (insulating, non-flammable and chemically stable) they have been largely used in tens of millions equipment such as electric transformers and capacitors in generation, transportation, distribution and use of power.

At the working group participated international experts such as Jérémie Walker, Arkema (FR); Maria Augusta G. Martins, Labelec EDP Group (PT); Shubhender Kapila (Missouri University of Science and Technology – USA); Claudio Puliti, ACEA spa (IT); Mauro Salvatori, ENEL Distribuzione (IT) brilliantly coordinated by doct Ing. Roberto Campi, Fratelli Parodi (IT).

Vander Tumiatti, as Assistant Secretary IEC TC10, actively participated to the discussion providing his proven forty years experience and unique technical background.

The first result of this meeting has been to propose keeping such norm as an historical memory, with a few modifications and/or recommendations in order to ensure the continuity in the international normative references in which Askarel is present in electrical equipment within the terms prescribed by national or local norms.

In Europe the obligations deriving from Directive 59/96/EC prescribe the decontamination and/or the disposal of electrical equipment with concentrations of PCBs exceeding 500 mg/kg within 31/12/2010. At international level (i.e. China, India, Mexico etc.) the use of PCBs is allowed in equipment, in closed systems, based upon local obligations or complying with the prescriptions of the Stockholm Convention of 22/05/2001 extending the terms of use through 2025.

Also, it is recommended that the Best Available Techniques – BAT and Best Environmental Techniques – BET for the management of the life cycle of electrical equipment (LCM – Life Cycle Management) containing Askarel-PCBs based fluids and/or contaminated by PCBs are applied, in accordance with international or local legislations.

Le linee guida CENELEC (CLC/TR 50503) sono raccomandate come BAT & BEP.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a mixture of 209 possible congeners (individual substances) classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs – Stockholm Convention 22/05/2001), widely spread over the territory and various environmental sectors, including animal and human organs.

IPCBs represent a technological “paradigm” for sustainable development: the application “Points of Force” (insulation, stability, un-flammability) become specific “Points of Weakness” (environmental persistency, bio-accumulation in living organisms).

The lesson coming form it stimulates a more alert evaluation of the risks and an integrated analysis of the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of products. The PCBs case is an emblematic model of the evolution of scientific know-how and technological capability, over a period of two centuries, and a global challenge for the new millennium.

XIX Century– First laboratory synthesis (1867 GRIEFS, Germany)

XX Century – Industrial production (1927 SWAN, then incorporated by Monsanto USA, later extended to other Countries in Europe, Asia by various producers and commercial brands, until its end at the end of the 1980s and beginning 1990s.

XXI Century– New sustainable solutions and technologies for the prevention and mitigation of the risk PCB/POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants)

The global production of pure PCBs can be estimated at 1,200,000 through 1,700,000 tons between 1927 through 1986 (source UNEP, May 2007, Geneva-CH).

The various formulations and commercial mixtures of PCBs present different levels of chlorination (Aroclor 1016-16% chlorine, Aroclor 1221, 1232, 1242, 1254, 1260, etc.) and include also possible diluting mixtures as Polychlorinated benzenes up to 40% of mixtures for transformers.

PCBs have been widely used as insulating liquids for transformers and electrical equipment (capacitors, reactors, tap-changers, switches, bushings etc.) in generation, transportation, distribution and use of electric power (utilities, industries, services, defence etc.).

Other applications in open or semi-open systems have been: adhesives in protective coverings, anti-flame additives for paints and plastics, hydraulic diathermic and lubricant fluids, self-coping paper, additives for agricultural applications etc.

In the waste and/or residual materials sector, PCBs are present in significant concentrations in the chain of used oils, scrapping or recycling of metals (i.e. scrapping of automobiles, Fluff – PCBs with concentration up to 60 mg/kg, scrapping of electrical and electronic waste RAEE etc.).

The contamination by PCBs in the various environmental matrices results being significant: industrial soils up to 2-300 mg/kg (limit in Italy 5 mg/kg); underground waters up to 0.1 – 1 µg/L (limit in Italy 0,01µg/L); milk up to 1000 µg/Kg; human fat up to 12.000 µg/Kg; etc. (source Analytical Chemistry of PCBs – Second Edition, Mitchell D. Erickson – CRC- Lewis , New York 1997)

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