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Creepage in thermal substations

The term creepage distance is specifically associated with porcelain insulators used in the Air Insulated substations. Insulator surface attracts dust, pollution (in industrial areas) and salt (along the sea coast) and these form a conducting layer on the surface of the insulator body when the surface is wet. As long as this surface is dry, there is not much problem. But when it becomes wet during early morning or during winter season the outer surface forms a conducting path along the surface from high voltage terminal to earthed metal fitting at the end of metallic structure and may lead to surface conduction and finally external flash-over. The insulators are provided with Sheds to limit the direct exposer to mist or dew. The protected area of the sheds will not allow formation of continuous conducting layer along the surface of insulator as the part of surface which is under the sheds may not become wet due to mist or dew and this part (length along the bottom surface) of the insulator surface is called protected creepage.

Measurement of corona inception and extinction voltages give a fair idea about the possible flashover even with protected creepage. But these will change under different levels of pollution.
This problem is not present with Composite insulators as the Silicone rubber sheds surface does not allow formation of continuous wet conducting layer as the surface of these insulators is Hydrophobic. Hence higher creepage is not considered for composite insulators.

However air density is also a limiting factor for deciding the creepage of insulators, necessitating higher creepage in case of higher altitudes.
You may have to assess the level of pollution and altitude of substation and select the creepage accordingly.
Medium pollution levels may be 25mm/kV
Very high pollution areas like on the sea coast and chemical and pharmaceutical industrial areas 31mm/kV where the insulators may become expensive alternatively periodic hot line washing is also another solution for cleaning of pollution on insulators.
In case of very high pollution levels GIS may be safe solution (if cost is not an issue)

Thermal substations where there are no electrostatic precipitators may also experience equipment failures due to pollution. Pressurized equipments like SF6 gas circuit breaker experienced external flash-overs during winter months in Northern India The utility was not accepting the theory of insulation failure due to pollution initially but they had to accept the cause of failure as pollution when they had similar failure in the consecutive year during the same winter months and they have resorted to hot line washing since then and there are no more such failures. Sometimes these deposits may not be seen glaringly but failure may happen.

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