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Clustering in routing algorithms is one of the effective solutions to enhance energy efficiency and scalability of large- scale wireless sensor networks. An energy-efficient distributed multi-level clustering algorithm (EEDMC) for wireless sensor networks (WSN) is presented. According to the local information of the networks, a node with higher residual energy and closer to the base station is more likely elected as a cluster head. Whereafter the clusters are formed, a near optimal chain-based multi-hop routing among the cluster heads is constructed. Each cluster head communicates only with its close neighbor node, and the cluster head closest to the base station transmits data to the base station. Therefore, EEDMC minimizes energy consumption per round and balances the energy load among all nodes. In order to ensure the correctness, completeness and reliability of EEDMC, colored Petri nets (CPN) are employed to model and analyze EEDMC. Simulation results demonstrate that EEDMC effectively prolongs the network lifetime, and improves the energy consumption efficiency.