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Copyright 2008 IEEE.

Paper presented at IEEE PES 2008 T&D Chicago meeting, Apr. 21 24, 2008
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A Synthetic Test Circuit for Current Switching

Tests of HVDC Circuit Breakers
Baoliang Sheng, Senior Member, IEEE

Abstract High voltage direct current (HVDC) circuit
breaker current switching test in a test laboratory is difficult due
to the limited test power installation. Reproduction of test
stresses by means of direct testing confronts huge investment.
Synthetic testing, as an alternative method, could amplify the test
power more than ten times with a relative low cost. A synthetic
test circuit based on the most used parallel current injection
method was developed for the current switching test of HVDC
circuit breakers. This synthetic test circuit could reproduce the
current and voltage stresses equal to or greater than those could
meet in service.
Index terms HVDC circuit breakers, load current
switching, synthetic test circuit, testing

HVDC circuit breakers are used in the HVDC transmission
lines to reroute the direct current (DC) current during
reconfiguration of the main circuit and to help extinguish fault
current while system fault occurs. In multi-terminal systems
the HVDC circuit breakers give the operational circuit
changes with an uninterrupted power flow or rapid restoration
of the power flow following a fault.
Typical switching current and voltage for a metallic return
transfer breaker, which normally has a high request than other
breakers such as ground return transfer switch, neutral bus
switch and neutral bus grounding switch, are around 4kA and
70kV for 500kV DC transmission system [5].
To verify the switching performance of a DC circuit
breaker it could be ideally using a practical power supply or
similar system in the test laboratory when a type test is
Theoretically it is possible for a laboratory to build up a test
circuit representative of the grid with all station equipment
installed. This test method is defined as direct test. This
method is preferred when both the test current and voltage are
low. At high current and high voltage ratings, this method,
however, is not feasible due to the huge power installation
needed in the test laboratory. For testing of a HVDC circuit
breaker this method is neither an economical nor a very
practical solution.
To test the HV DC circuit breakers a synthetic testing
method has to be developed. In a synthetic test circuit, the test
B.L. Sheng is with ABB AB, HVDC, 77180 Ludvika, Sweden (e-mails:

978-1-4244-1904-3/08/$25.00 2008 IEEE

current and voltage are supplied from two or more power

sources. Due to the fact that current and voltage stress the
circuit breakers at different time intervals, each source
supplies either a high current or a high voltage only.
Several methods have been investigated in the way to
connect the two or more sources together in the synthetic
testing. To minimize the influence caused by transit from one
source to another, especially from the current source to the
voltage source, an overlap of these two sources is preferable.
A synthetic test circuit based on the parallel current
injection method has been successfully developed for test of
HVDC circuit breakers. This paper reports this synthetic test
circuit and the result of full-scale test of a HVDC breaker used
in a r500kV 3000MW HVDC transmission system.
Absence of cyclic moments of current zero in a DC system
makes the DC current switching difficult for arc distinguishes
only at current zero. To create current zeros for a HVDC
breaker is un-separated part in DC current switching [1][2][3].
To use auxiliary circuits, together with a breaker, is the
most used method in direct current switching in HVDC
application. Figure 1 in below illustrates this combination
method of SF6 circuit breaker (CB) and auxiliary circuits in
The auxiliary circuit consists of either a passive circuit or
an active circuit depending on the DC current range [4]. In an
active auxiliary circuit the capacitor C in Figure 1 is precharged prior to the current switching and one circuit breaker
is inserted between capacitor C and inductor L.



Fig. 1 A HVDC circuit breaker with a passive auxiliary circuit

After the contacts separation an arc voltage is established
inside the circuit breaker arc-quenching chamber. The arc
voltage increases with the travel of moving contact and, starts
a current oscillation if a parallel capacitor is fast used such as
the HVDC circuit breaker with an auxiliary circuit. This
oscillation current can lead to, depending on the arc chamber
design and capacitance in parallel, an instable arc with
oscillation current zeros or a stable arc without oscillation
current zeros. For the circuit breaker design without
oscillation current zeros an active auxiliary circuit has to be
employed to create current zero crossing for breaker current

circuit is used to supply the recovery voltage after current

switching. An auxiliary circuit breaker and a spark gap are
implemented in the circuit to connect these two sources to the
test object at specific time interval. The operation principle of
this synthetic test circuit is illustrated in Figure 3 and further
described as follows:
Injected current

Test current Id

TB arcing time

Trip TB & AB1

AB2 closes
AB1 clears

In spite of different type of auxiliary circuits in use, the

capacitor and reactor combination of the auxiliary circuit,
together with the arc voltage or pre-charged voltage,
determines the current derivative at zero crossing and rate of
rise of recovery voltage after current zero. These values are

TB clears

Recovery voltage across the TB



Fig. 3 Illustration of test circuit timing sequence

A. Principle
A synthetic test circuit, based on the parallel current injection
method, was developed in ABB at Ludvika, Sweden, to test
the HVDC circuit breakers used in the Three-Gorges 
Changzhou HVDC Transmission Project.
A conventional 12-pulse rectifier is used as the current
source to supply the DC test current and a voltage oscillation

The 12-pulse rectifier is controlled to generate a DC test

current to the test breaker (TB) through smoothing reactor
(Ls) and auxiliary breaker (AB1) at a relative low
generator driving voltage

AB1 and TB open simultaneously and DC current arcs

are established inside the interrupting chambers of these

Conv. 1








Conv. 2

Fig. 2 Synthetic test circuit for the current switching test of HVDC circuit breakers




Spark gap in the voltage circuit is ignited at the instant

that the arcing time of TB will be equal to the prospected

AB2 closes and bypasses the DC current

AB1 clears as the DC current transfer from AB1 TB

branch to AB2 bypass branch

TB is stressed by the injection current alone from the

voltage circuit after AB1 clears.

TB clears at injection current zero crossing and

withstands a transient recovery voltage and subsequent
DC voltage afterwards

DC source rectifiers is blocked by stopping firing signal


B. Determination of circuit parameters

DC current source shall provide a DC current equal to the
current in service. This current source could be with a low
driving voltage. This driving voltage, however, shall be
higher than the sum up of arc voltages in AB1 and TB. A
back-to-back HVDC bridge, Figure 4, is operated as a rectifier
to supply the DC current.
A voltage oscillation circuit is used to represent the DC
current change prior to the current zero crossing and the
transient recovery voltage after switching. This circuit, Figure
5, consists of a DC charger, two capacitor banks, one reactor
bank and one resistor bank. The circuit parameters shall give
close representation of the service current before the current
zero crossing and representation of a recovery voltage (both
transient and DC voltage) after the current zero crossing. To
meet these, better understanding to auxiliary circuit parameter
and arc behavior of the circuit breaker is necessary.

Fig. 5 Section of the voltage circuit

The HVDC circuit breaker for Three Gorges  Changzhou
HVDC transmission project [4] has been tested in this
synthetic test circuit. One typical test oscillogram is given in
Figure 6.
As described in section IV of this paper a 12-pulse HVDC
thyristor valve provides the prospective DC current. This DC
current is adjustable from a few hundreds of amperes up to
4300A depending on the test requirements.
A main capacitor bank, Ch, is pre-charged to the level
slightly higher than the voltage that circuit breaker should
withstand in service after current switching. The spark gap,
Gap in Figure 2, is triggered at the instant that can lead the
total arc time equal to the prospected arc time. The transient
recovery voltage (TRV) control branch, Lh Re Ce, together
with the charge voltage on capacitor bank Ch, is chosen to
produce a TRV similar to the one that will meet in service.
Several tests were made with voltage circuit spark gap
triggered at various instants to acquire the minimum arc time
of circuit breaker for a successful current switching.

Fig. 4 A 12-pulse HVDC thyristor valve in the current section

supplies a DC current up to 4300A

Figure 6 is a typical test osillogram to show that DC

breaker successfully switched off the load current and
withstand the subsequent recovery voltage. When the arc time
is too short the injection current will flow more than one halfloop until the breaker arc chamber can create sufficient
pressure to extinguish the arc.


2 k/div
40 k/div
10 ms/div





Fig. 6 Test oscillogram

To use a direct test circuit to verify the current switching
performance of an HVDC circuit breaker is infeasible and
unappreciable due to the need of huge test power installation
in the test laboratory. Synthetic testing, as an alternative, is a
favorable economical and technical solution. Synthetic testing
can make equivalent test if the synthetic test circuit is properly
A synthetic test circuit based on the well-known parallel
current injection method was successfully developed. The use
of current injection method to couple the voltage circuit into
the current circuit exposes the test breaker to the same circuit
parameters in the switching interval of circuit breaker. This
method is superior to others in test equivalence.
Laboratory test for the HVDC circuit breakers used in the
Three-Gorges HVDC transmission projects reveals this circuit
is of high flexibility on the circuit parameter adjustment and
close representation of current and voltage stresses. The DC
current switching characteristics of HVDC circuit breakers
used in Three-Gorges have been investigated in this test
circuit. The circuit breakers passed the test successfully.




W. Pucher, B. Koetzold and P. Joss, Fundamentals of HVDC

interruption, ELECTRA, No. 5, June 1968, pp. 24-38
Cigr WG 13-03: Introduction to the Testing of High Voltage Direct
Current Circuit Breakers; Electra, No.56, pp. 29-59, 1978
. Ekstrm, H.Hrtel, H.P.Lips, W.Schultz, P.Joss, H.Holfeld and
D.Kind: Design and testing of an HVDC circuit-breaker; in Cigr
1976 Session 13-06
Dag Andersson and Anders Henriksson: Passive and Active DC
Breakers in the Three Gorges  Changzhou HVDC Project; in
proceeding of 2001 International Conference on Power Systems
(ICPS2001), pp. 391-395
S. Tokuyama, K. Arimaysu, Y. Yoshioka, Y. Kato and K. Hirata:
Development and Interrupting Tests on 250kV 8kA HVDC Circuit
Breaker; IEEE Trans. On Power Apparatus and Systems, Vol. PAS-104,
No.9, Sep. 1985, pp. 2453 2459

Baoliang Sheng obtained his B.Sc degree from

Xian Jiaotong University, China, and his Ph.D.
from Delft University of Technology, the
Netherlands, both in Electrical Engineering. From
1982 to 1992 he was a test and research engineer at
XIHARI, China. He was a research engineer at
KEMA B.V., the Netherlands, and pursued his
Ph.D. at Delft University of Technology from 1992
to 1996. He joined ABB Ludvika, Sweden in May
1996. He is Company Specialist in High Power
Testing of Electrical Power Equipment and Senior
Specialist in Testing of HVDC Converter Valves and SVC Valves. He is
convenor of IEC SC22F WG15 and member of several working groups in IEC
TC33 and IEC SC22F. He is Senior Member of IEEE.