Wednesday, April 2, 2014




ECONOMIC CONSIDERATION.........................................................................
THE NEED..............................................................................................................
THE APPLICATION..............................................................................................
BACKUP FUSES....................................................................................................
Types of Protection.............................................................................................
The Fuse...................................................................................................................
Inverse Definite Minimum Times (I.D.M.T.) Relay..................................................
Tripping Batteries...................................................................................................
INDUCTION DISC..............................................................................................
Inverse-time Overcurrent (OCIT)...........................................................................
Other Single-quantity Relays..................................................................................
ELECTRONIC RELAYS.....................................................................................


Protection is needed to remove as speedily as possible any part of the equipment in which a fault has developed.  So long as it is connected the whole system is in jeopardy from three main effects of the fault, namely:
·         a risk of extended damage to the affected plant.
·         a risk of damage to healthy plant.
·         a risk of extending the outage to other plant on the consumer’s premise and even to other consumers of the Board, with resultant loss of protection and interruption of vital processes.
It is the function of protective equipment, in association with the automatic switch fuse or circuit breaker to avert those effects.

Where continuity of supply is considered essential alternative feeds are necessary.  But, if full advantage is to be gained from this additional capital outlay, the protection must be highly ‘selective’ in its function.

For this it must possess the quality known as ‘discrimination’ whereby it is able to select and disconnect only the faulty element leaving all others in normal operation so far as it is possible.

If we consider some typical electrical layouts the need for discrimination will become clear.

Figure 5.1:- shows an 11kV Oil fuse switch (OFS) controlling a transformer beyond which there are a bank of Low Voltage (LV) fuses.  Clearly a fault as indicated must be interrupted by fuse A so that supply may continue to the other circuits.  The 11kV OFS. must not trip.


Figure 5.2 shows a Radial System.  A fault as indicated must be interrupted by a circuit breaker at C, even though the fault is on the LV side of one transformer.  The Board owned circuit breaker must not trip.


If the protection has discriminated correctly supply will remain via the two transformers controlled by A and B.

Repairs will, of course, be required before supply can be restored to the remaining two transformers.

Figure 5.3 shows a Closed Ring Main System.  A fault as indicated must be cleared by circuit breaks at A and B so that all supplies remain uninterrupted.


Figure 5.4 shows a more economic Ring Main System using non-automatic oil switches.  A fault as indicated must, however, be cleared by a circuit breaker at the main substation thereby causing loss of supply to substation No. 1.  This supply can be restored by manual switching before repairs commence.



The type of layout will depend upon how important the supply of electricity is, the load required, and whether, in the circumstances, the capital outlay can be justified considering that OCB’s with relay protection may cost over 4 times as much as a fuse switch or contactor with fuse backup.

The cost of protection, however, can be likened to a premium for insurance against damage to plant and loss of supply.  The cost will normally be small compared to the amount of capital protected.

With your insurance it is not sufficient to await a disaster before reading the small print to see if you are covered.  So it is with Protection that you must pay close attention to detail, before a fault occurs, to ensure that the maximum benefit is obtained.



It has already been stated that one of the main purposes of protection was to remove a faulty equipment or circuit from the electrical system so that as much as possible of the system could continue to function normally.  It is therefore desirable that any particular fault should be cleared by that protection device which will perform the service with the least effect on healthy parts, and not by some device further upstream which would disconnect an unnecessarily large section of the system.  For example, if a fault occurs on one of a number of circuits fed from one transformer, it is better to isolate that particular circuit by its own circuit breaker or fuse than that the transformer should be disconnected from the supply by its primary overcurrent protection or the generator tripped.  This preferential or selective operation of protection devices is known as 'discrimination'.


Almost all switchgear is fitted with overcurrent protection of some sort.  If a fault develops low down in the system, fault current will flow right through the network from the supply generator, through every intervening switch, down to the fault point itself.  All these overcurrents will be detected by the relays of each individual switch, and, if no steps were taken to prevent it, all might trip together, so shutting down the whole system for what might have been a purely local fault.


The overall protection system is therefore developed so that the breaker (or fuse) nearest the fault operates first, thereby isolating only the fault itself.  If this does not clear it, the breaker nearest upstream of the fault operates next, thereby isolating only the minimum number of consumers.  If this one does not clear, the next upstream breaker operates, and this continues until the generator breaker trips, but only as a last resort.  Each breaker backs up the one below it.

It has already been shown that most protective devices, such as overcurrent relays and fuses, have an inverse-time characteristic as shown in the middle column of Figure 5.5.  This causes the tripping time to vary inversely as the magnitude of the fault current.  It has also been shown that in relays the characteristic curve can be altered by adjustment of the relay current and time settings.  For fuses the characteristic cannot be altered, but a different characteristic can be obtained by choosing a different fuse.

In Figure 5.5 it has been assumed that relay settings have been chosen and applied:
·           for the generator circuit-breaker (breaker C),
·           for the HV feeder circuit-breaker (breaker B),
·           for the LV feeder overcurrent device (breaker or fuse A),

as shown in the characteristic curves of the middle column.  For the purposes of direct comparison the three curves have been drawn to the same scales of time and current referred to a common base voltage.

All three curves are superimposed on the right.  If the settings have been properly chosen, the curves should appear as shown, each clear of the other at all points.  Since these curves are subject to tolerance (a relay accuracy of +7% is usual, and there will be other errors), the curves should all be well clear of each other.

If a fault of current value F (adjusted to a common base voltage) appears at point P on the network, the fault current flows through all the breakers A, B and C.  Characteristics of A, B and C show that this current would trip (or blow the fuse) A in time T1 , B in time T2 and C in time T3.  Provided that A does trip or blow in time T1 , the fault will be removed and B and C will not trip at all and all the other consumers on both boards will remain in service.

Should A fail to trip or blow, or if the fault were at point Q higher in the network, the first breaker to trip would be B in time T2, but C would remain closed.  More consumers would be lost, but the generator would remain on-line feeding all others.  Only if both A and B failed to clear would C trip and take the generator itself off-line.

It should be noted that the time delay increases as the tripping point moves nearer the supply source (in this case the generator).  For this reason generators and their HV switchgear have to have a 3-second through-fault rating under British and European rules, calling in general for heavier copperwork, whereas distribution switchgear normally has only a 1-second through-fault rating.  (The 3-second rating does not apply in the US.)

Restricted earth fault and differential protection, it should be noted, which are instantaneous and cover only faults within the protected zone, do not form part of a discriminating pro­tective system.  They may however be used together with one.  If, for example, a fault occurred within a transformer, the differential protection would deal with it instantly without waiting for the time-delayed transformer HV breaker to trip.


To achieve adequate discrimination between two fuses of similar type, it is usual to give the major fuse about three times the normal current rating of the minor fuse.  Between a moulded case circuit-breaker and a minor fuse the ratio can be reduced to about two.

Because Moulded Case Circuit-breakers (MCCBs) and Miniature Circuit-breakers (MCBs) have instantaneous trips in addition to their normal thermal trips, they will not discriminate with each other at the higher currents.  For this reason it is bad practice to install two MCCBs or MCBs in series, even though they may have different trip units.


Contactors, MCCBs and MCBs are not described as part of this manual and although they can all close onto a fault and carry it for a very short time, their breaking capacities are strictly limited and are far below those of conventional circuit-breakers.

When used to control equipment in networks, their breaking capacities are usually much lower than the fault levels of the system at the points where they are installed.  For example, a high-voltage contactor with a maximum breaking capacity of, say, 180MVA at 6.6kV is often used on a high-voltage switchboard where the fault level may be 500MVA.  Similarly low voltage contactors with a maximum breaking capacity of 15MVA at 440V, or an MCCB with a breaking capacity of l5MVA, may well be installed in an LV system where the fault level is 3lMVA, or even 50MVA.  If any one of these was ever called upon to break such fault currents, it would undoubtedly fail and probably cause a fire.  To remove this risk contactors, MCCBs and MCBs are where necessary backed up by HRC fuses in series.  Such fuses would be chosen with a breaking current rating to suit the fault levels of the system at the switchboard in which they are used.  LV fuses used on offshore or onshore installations have a maximum breaking current rating up to an equivalent of 61MVA.


An LV back-up fuse and its contactor are shown (in single-line) in Figure 5.6 (a).  The fuse, and the contactor (or MCCB) in series with it, both pass the same fault current.  The character­istics of most HRC fuses, which are thermal devices and therefore of the inverse-time form, are generally of a somewhat different shape from those of the overcurrent relay protecting the contactor or of the MCCB tripping device.  Two typical characteristics, for the fuse and for the contactor relay or MCCB, are shown in Figure 5.6(b).

The contactor relay or MCCB settings and the HRC fuse ratings are so chosen that their characteristics cross just below the limiting breaking current (for example 20kA at 440V) of the contactor or MCCB.  Suppose the curves cross at point P, corresponding to the maximum permissible fault current F for the contactor or MCCB, then for a fault current F1 less than F, the contactor or MCCB will be the first to open in time T1 , and it will be well within its rating.  For a fault current F2 greater than F which could damage the contactor or MCCB, the fuse will operate first in time T2, so protecting the contactor or MCCB which will then open on a 'dead' circuit.  Fuses can even be used to back up a main circuit-breaker where the fault level is near to, or exceeds, its rated breaking capacity.  (This can happen, for example, when the generating capacity of a network is extended after the switchgear has been installed.)

This use of fuses as a back-up for both HV and LV switchgear is very common on offshore installation systems.  Unlike circuit-breakers or contactors they cannot be reclosed but must be physically replaced after blowing.

It should be noted that the back-up fuse selected is chosen solely for its characteristic curve and not for its normal current rating.  It is not intended as overload protection, which is catered for by the contactor.  It is there only to protect the contactor itself against heavy short-circuits.  The actual normal current rating of such a fuse may seem to bear little relation to the load on the circuit in which it is used, and it must always be replaced by an identical fuse, not one with a normal rating apparently more suited to the circuit.  If this is not done the whole back-up protection is lost.

Types of Protection

The Fuse

The simplest form of protection is the fuse, which is mostly used on L.V. systems.  On the H.V. systems it is commonly used for transformer protection and occasionally as back-up for motor protection.

When used in H.V. Fuse switches, the blowing of a fuse is arranged to trip the switch and disconnect all three phases.

Inverse Definite Minimum Times (I.D.M.T.) Relay

The I.D.M.T. relay will give much more reliable settings and discrimination, and it usually used with a tripping battery, and D.C. trip coil on thecircuit breaker.

The time of operation of the relay varies inversely with the current in the operating coil, with a definite minimum time of operation.

The construction of the relay is shown in Figure 5.7, where it can be seen that tappings are brought out to give various current settings.  For overcurrent relays these settings will usually be 50% to 200% rated current in 25% steps.  Earth fault relays usually have settings between 20% and 80% in 10% steps.


In addition to a variety of current settings, adjustment of the starting point of the disc is possible.  This is known as the time setting multiplier, usually calibrated from 0 to 1.

Both these settings will be applied to the basic operating curve, Figure 5.8.

Figure 5.8  -  Basic Current/Time curve of IDMT Relay

An I.D.M.T. relay will give discrimination in terms of current and time, and the connections shown in Figure 5.7  will allow one relay to discriminate as to type of fault, i.e. earth fault.

Earth fault settings can usually be lower, since operation on load current does not have to be avoided.

I.D.M.T. relays are used which can also discriminate as to the direction of the fault.  These directional I.D.M.T. relays contain a nearly normal I.D.M.T. relay element, but its operation is permitted or prevented by an additional directional element.  The direction element compares the current to the voltage to determine the direction of flow.

Directional I.D.M.T. relays are particularly concerned with fault current, and the directional element is usually arranged to be subjected to maximum torque at very low power factors.

This is different from a reverse power relay, usually associated with generators, which usually compares voltage and current directly on one disc, and maximum torque is arranged to occur at high power factors.

Tripping Batteries

These vary in type, but all have on common feature.  Failure of tripping battery causes all the associated protection to be ineffective.


This type of relay is used in a number of forms; the principal ones are as follows:

Inverse-time Overcurrent (OCIT).

This has a single shaded-pole driving magnet energised by alternating current from the associated current transformer, producing a torque which varies with the square of the current. When the current exceeds a predetermined value the driving torque overcomes the resistance of the restraining spring and the disc starts to rotate until eventually a moving contact attached to the spindle (or actuated by it) strikes a fixed contact (Figure 5.9).


The motion of the disc is opposed by the drag exerted by the permanent braking magnet, and this gives rise to an appreciable and consistent time delay. The greater the coil current relative to the minimum operating current, the faster the disc has to rotate before the braking torque balances the driving torque, and the shorter is the operating time. This results in the kind of inverse-time characteristic illustrated in Figure 5.9, with a long delay at currents barely greater than the minimum operating current but only a relatively short delay at high overcurrents.

Adjustment of both the operating current and the delay time-scale is provided for in order to enable a standard relay to accommodate variations in current transformer (CT) ratios and line currents and to facilitate discrimination in regard to other protection devices in the system.  Current adjustments are made by selecting taps on the driving coil, usually by moving a plug between a number of holes at the front of the relay; typically the range covered is from 50% to 200% of the normal operating current (1A or SA). The time delay is adjusted by moving the 'fixed' contact, or by altering the starting position of the disc, and so altering the travel of the disc necessary to close the contacts; this means that a particular adjustment alters all times on the inverse-time characteristic in the same ratio.

Figure 5.10 shows a typical resulting family of characteristics scaled in terms of multiples of the current selector plug setting and the time multiplier set by the contact adjustment.


An inverse-time relay may be equipped with an additional instantaneous element in the same casing set to a high current value, referred to as a 'High Set' element. This gives it the feature of a combined 'inverse-time and high-set instantaneous relay, the instantaneous feature overriding the time delay only on the most severe faults. An example of this additional feature is shown dotted in Figure 5.9.  The modification to the time/current character­istic is indicated in that figure by the dotted section of the curve.

Very Inverse and Extremely Inverse Overcurrent.

There are two variations of the inverse-time overcurrent relay: they are referred to as 'very inverse' and extremely inverse'. The differences lie mainly in the shape of the time! current characteristic, and examples of each are shown in Figure 5.11, where they are compared with the characteristic of a normal type. There are no recognised special abbreviations for these variations of OCIT relays.

Both these variations have characteristics which are steeper than that of the normal inverse-time type. Advantage is taken of this when there is a long chain of circuit-breakers with inverse-time relays and it is desired to achieve sufficient discrimination between their tripping times for a given fault current. This is indicated in principle in Figure 5.12, although the full explanation is more complicated.



The two thick curves are the characteristics of two adjacent relays in the chain, with the same time settings and with their current plug settings appropriate to the fault levels at those points. The two thinner curves are the corres­ponding characteristics of two very inverse-time relays installed at those points in place of the normal relays.

It can be seen that, for a given fault current, the difference (t2) in operating time between the two very inverse relays is greater than the difference (t1) between the two normal inverse-time relays. Therefore, if the discrimination time between circuit-breakers in a distribution time is 'tight', the use of very inverse overcurrent relays could offer a solution. For example, this might occur where there is a relatively long chain and the tripping time delay at the supply end would otherwise be unacceptable.

The further variation of the 'extremely inverse' relay merely exaggerates this feature. It is often employed when it is necessary to discriminate with a fuse, which also has a steep characteristic at the lower current. The longer time delay at the lower end also permits large 'switching-in' currents such as might occur when reclosing a circuit which has loads still connected. For example heaters or refrigerators may remain connected even after a prolonged interruption of supply. The in-rush currents of large transformers can be similarly passed.


Inverse Definite Minimum Time Overcurrent (OCIDMT).

The exact shape of the inverse-time characteristics is controlled to some extent in design by appropriate design of the driving electromagnet. A common variation is the Inverse Definite Minimum Time characteristic, shown in Figure 5.13, in which a lower limit is set to the delay time as the current increases.

Other Single-quantity Relays.

The type of relay described above for inverse- time overcurrent protection is also applied to a variety of other functions for which an inverse-time characteristic is appropriate, such as earth-fault and overvoltage protection. Voltage relays have higher-resistance windings, in some cases with series resistors for adjustment, and are normally fed from voltage transformers.

Voltage-restrained Overcurrent Relay.

The voltage-restrained OCIT relay is designed to overcome a difficulty encountered in protecting generators, namely that even a severe fault causes a relatively low overcurrent after the initial tran­sient period, because of the high synchronous reactance which is normal in synchronous generators.  Such a fault is therefore not cleared before an undesirably long delay has elapsed. In this modification an additional driving element is coupled to the disc (or a separate disc may be mounted on the same spindle) energised by the line voltage and arranged to produce a res­training torque in opposition to that produced by the current coil. When the fault causes a drop in system voltage, this additional restraining torque is weakened, so making the relay more sensitive and reducing the time delay. Allowance is made in the current setting for the increased restraining torque and for the consequent longer time delay occurring when operating at normal voltage.

Voltage-controlled Overcurrent.

This relay achieves a similar effect to that of the voltage-restrained type, but by a different method. The normal solid- copper shading rings in the pole faces of the driving magnet are replaced by windings which are normally connected across resistors, resulting in a mod­erate torque and long delay times. If a fault is sufficiently severe to reduce the system voltage appreciably, an  instantaneous (attracted-armature) undervoltage relay short-circuits the shading windings; the consequent increase in torque then reduces the delay time to something more compatible with the characteristics of other protective devices in the system.



Power relays are 'two-quantity' relays (i.e. voltage and current) which incorporate the type of driving magnet structure used for induction watt- meters and kilowatt-hour meters, in which the torque exerted on the disc depends upon the product of the currents in the two energising coils, and upon the phase-angle between them. Figure 5.14 illustrates the basic structure. Because power flow is directional, power relays are also used to give a directional bias to other relays.

The sensitivity of this arrangement to the phase-angle between the inputs gives the relay directional properties; a flow of power in one direction generates torque in the direction required to close the relay contact, while the only effect of a power flow in the opposite direction is to produce a thrust against the back-stop. The principal use for such a relay is in reverse- power protection.




To a considerable extent protection relays of the electromagnetic type, in which a moving armature or disc is actuated by some kind of electromagnet, are being superseded by electronic types. In these the functions of signal detection and processing are carried out by entirely static circuits, and only the final operation of contacts is done by electromechanical relays, which can be of any suitable but simple control type. The advantages of this technique include a greater flexibility in providing virtually any desired function, however complex, better accuracy, ease of adjustment, and the usual benefits of static circuits with regard to reliability and freedom from regular servicing requirements.

The diversity of functions and principles to be found in static protection relays is such that no comprehensive discussion is possible here. The various characteristics and adjustments established in electromagnetic relay practice are readily reproduced electronically. Figure 5.15, without exactly representing any actual apparatus, illustrates as an example the application of analogue principles to inverse-time overcurrent protection. (An analogue system is one in which continuously variable internal signals are used to represent external quantities such as current and time.)

In Figure 5.10(a) the input from the line current transformer is fed through a small matching transformer to a low-pass filter R1/C1 which suppresses transient voltage surges. A voltage proportional to the input current is developed across the current-setting potentiometer R2. This voltage is applied to the bridge rectifier.

The d.c. output voltage, which is proportional to the line current, is used to charge the capacitor C2 through the potentiometer R5. The setting of this potentiometer determines the rate at which the voltage across C2 increases and hence the timing of the inverse-time operating characteristic of the relay. When the voltage across C2 reaches a predetermined value, the detector circuit operates to switch the electromechanical relay RLA through the output amplifier and power transistor T2.

'Instantaneous' operation is obtained by applying the output voltage of the bridge rectifier directly to the input of the amplifier through R4. Thus, for higher values of fault current, the inverse-time delay circuit is bypassed.

The power supply for the solid-state circuits is applied through D3 and R6. It is stabilised by zener diode DZ1, and spike protection is afforded by R7 and C3. The diode B3 guards against reversed polarity of the d.c. power supply.

Figure 5.15(b) shows the corresponding circuit in block form.

The flexibility and scope of present-day electronics enables a very wide variety of characteristics to be created with relative ease. While a simple analogue overcurrent circuit has been described above for the purpose of illustration, digital techniques have latterly been adopted very widely as a result of the availability of microprocessors and other digital integrated circuits.
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