Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 32

Principles of Shunt Capacitor Bank

Application and Protection

Satish Samineni, Casper Labuschagne, and Jeff Pope

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.

Presented at the
64th Annual Georgia Tech Protective Relaying Conference
Atlanta, Georgia
May 57, 2010

Previously presented at the

63rd Annual Conference for Protective Relay Engineers, March 2010,
and 9th Annual Clemson University Power Systems Conference, March 2010

Originally presented at the

36th Annual Western Protective Relay Conference, October 2009

Principles of Shunt Capacitor Bank

Application and Protection
Satish Samineni, Casper Labuschagne, and Jeff Pope, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.

AbstractShunt capacitor banks (SCBs) are used in the

electrical industry for power factor correction and voltage
support. Over the years, the purpose of SCBs has not changed,
but as new dielectric materials came to market, the fusing
practices for these banks changed from externally fused to
internally fused, fuseless, and finally to unfused [1]. This paper
gives a brief overview of the four most common types of SCBs.
What are the differences between them? Which is the best one to
use? What type of protection is best suited for each bank
The paper provides a quick and simple way to calculate the
out-of-balance voltages (voltage protection) or current (current
protection) resulting from failed capacitor units or elements.
While the identification of faulty capacitor units is easy with an
externally fused bank, it is more complex with the other types of
fusing, making maintenance and fault investigation difficult. This
paper presents a novel method to identify the faulted phase and
section in capacitor banks.
Fig. 1. Four most common capacitor bank configurations
I. INTRODUCTION A. Grounded/Ungrounded Wye
SCBs mean different things to different people. From the Most distribution and transmission-level capacitor banks
system operators viewpoint, an SCB is a system tool that are wye connected, either grounded or ungrounded.
provides voltage support, power factor correction, and/or Characteristics of a grounded bank are as follows:
harmonic filtering. To use this tool, the protection and control Provides a low impedance to ground for lightning
scheme must provide the information and the means to control surge currents
the SCBs. From a designers viewpoint, an SCB provides a Provides a degree of protection from surge voltages
challenge to find the optimum balance of system Reduces recovery voltages for switching equipment
requirements, cost, maintenance, and spares. From a (approximately twice normal peak voltage)
protection engineers viewpoint, the protection must cover all Provides a low impedance to ground for triplen and
faults internal and external to the SCB, and it must be immune other harmonic currents
to transients, fast, sensitive, and dependable. Characteristics of an ungrounded bank are as follows:
This paper provides information for both the design Does not provide a path for zero-sequence currents,
engineer and the protection engineer by giving an overview of triplen, and other harmonic currents
bank fusing and grounding, and the more common protection
Does not provide a path for capacitor discharge
used for these applications. It also shows a simple way to
currents during system faults
calculate current and voltage out of balance for use during
Requires the neutral to be insulated to full line voltage
commissioning or setting calculations. The final section of the
paper shows a novel method that identifies the phase and
section with the faulty unit/element in a shunt capacitor bank.
IEEE Std C37.99-2000 [1] defines a number of operating
II. SHUNT CAPACITOR BANKS criteria for capacitor units. From a fusing viewpoint, the
following two requirements are important:
Fusing and protection are the two aspects that determine
Abnormal operating conditions must be limited to 110
the optimum bank configuration for a given capacitor voltage
percent of rated root-mean-square (RMS) terminal
Fig. 1 shows the four most common wye-connected
capacitor bank configurations [1]: The capacitor should be able to carry 135 percent of
nominal RMS current
Capacitor banks are constructed by the series/parallel
combination of capacitor units. Units are connected in parallel
(parallel groups) to meet the VAR specification of the

capacitor bank. These parallel groups are then connected in

series to meet the nameplate voltage rating of the capacitor
units. Capacitor units are available over a wide voltage range
(216 V to 24,940 V), and VAR ratings (2.5 kVAR to around
800 kVAR [1]).
With this wide range of VAR and voltage ratings, the bank
designer must find a good compromise between cost (number
of units in the bank, the complexity of the bank construction,
maintenance and spares) and the impact of an element/unit
failure. For example, when a fuse blows in an externally fused
bank, one whole unit is disconnected. If the bank used only a
few units of large kVAR rating, a significant amount of kVAR
could be lost. Depending on the function of the bank, a large
kVAR (capacitance) loss impacts the amount of available
voltage support, the degree of power factor correction, or the
effectiveness of the filtering (filter banks).


Although many factors influence the design of a capacitor
bank, developments in the dielectric play a major role in
determining the character of element failures within a unit.
Earlier capacitor units used kraft paper with a PCB
impregnant as dielectric. Although the kraft paper was highly
refined, there were still many non-uniformities in the paper
[2]. To avoid weak spots in the dielectric, capacitor units had
several layers of paper inserted between the foil layers. When
dielectric material of this type failed, the foil layers did not
weld together to form a solid connection. Instead, the cellulose
continued to arc, resulting in charring of the paper that
generated gas inside the sealed capacitor unit. In many cases,
this gas buildup caused the unit to rupture, resulting in damage
beyond the failure of a single element.
Present-day dielectrics are manufactured with as few as
two to three layers of impregnated polypropolene film (as Fig. 2. Three stages of a fuse blowing
opposed to many layers of kraft paper). Because the film The labels in Fig. 2 are as follows.
layers are thin, failures now cause the foils to weld together, XC = The reactance of each element/unit (10 )
thus forming a solid connection between the foils without
XP = Reactance of a parallel group of elements/units
arcing or charring.
XT = Total reactance of the circuit
To visualize the three stages of a fuse blowing, consider the
arrangement in Fig. 2. This arrangement shows four series VF = Voltage across the faulted parallel group of
groups of 10 capacitors in parallel, with an applied voltage of elements/units
12 V. A capacitor symbol represents either one row of an VH = Voltage across the healthy parallel group of
internally fused unit or a complete unit in an externally fused elements/units
bank. In Fig. 2(a), the system is healthy and the voltage across
each of the four series groups is 3 V. Fig. 2(b) depicts the
circuit just after a short circuit occurs, but before the fuse
blows (fused application). In a fuseless bank, Fig. 2(b) shows
the final state. In this state, the following circuit conditions
All the elements/units in parallel with the faulted
element/unit are shorted out
The total reactance decreases
The total current increases
The voltage across the healthy series elements/units
The increased voltage is evenly distributed among the
healthy series elements/units

Fig. 2(c) depicts the circuit after the fuse blew. At this unit, many elements can fail before unbalance tripping is
time, the following circuit conditions prevail: necessary.
The reactance of the faulted parallel group increases (1) Impact on Bank Design
The voltage across all the elements/units in the faulted To construct a bank with the fewest number of units, select
parallel group increases units with the highest available kVAR rating. The minimum
The total reactance increases number of units in parallel should be two units; the maximum
The total current decreases number of units in parallel depends on the value of discharge
The voltage across the healthy elements/units current from the parallel units. Select this value according to
decreases the capacitor manufacturers recommendation.
The decreased voltage is evenly distributed among the c) Fuseless Banks
Based on modern-day high-quality dielectrics, fuseless
healthy elements/units
units are similar in construction to externally fused units (few
When a capacitor element fails, there is an increase in
elements in parallel, but many elements in series). When an
current through the fuse of the failed element. This current
element fails (welds together), the entire row of elements
consists of two components:
shorts out (Fig. 2[b]). However, unlike the fused installations,
Increase in fundamental frequency current resulting
there are now no fuses to blow, and the effect of a failed
from the decrease in reactance
element on the bank is permanent. Because there are no fuses
Increase in transient current, resulting from the
in this bank, we can visualize the bank in terms of elements
discharge from the healthy parallel elements
rather than units.
Both components must be considered when selecting a fuse
(1) Impact on Bank Design
size: the fuse on the healthy elements must not blow when Fuseless banks are constructed with at least 10 elements in
discharging into an adjacent faulted capacitor, but must series to ensure that when an element fails, the remaining
quickly and effectively remove a failed element/unit. series elements do not exceed the 110 percent overvoltage
a) Externally Fused Units requirement. For example, if there are 10 capacitor units in
Units in an externally fused bank have a few elements in
series, and each unit has 10 elements (total 100 elements in
parallel but many elements in series [2]. When an element
series), then the increase across the remaining series elements
fails (welds together), the entire row of elements shorts out
is 100/99 or approximately 1 percent (see Fig. 2[b]). The
(Fig. 2[b]). With only a few elements in parallel, the
higher the voltage of the bank, the more capacitor elements
capacitance lost is small, and with many elements in series,
must be connected in series.
the increase in voltage across the healthy series units is also
d) Unfused Banks
small. Units can be designed for a relatively high voltage, Unfused banks are constructed with elements in a
because the external fuse can interrupt a high-voltage fault. series/parallel combination. These units are similar to fuseless
(1) Impact on Bank Design units, i.e., when an element fails (welds together), the entire
Carefully consider the series/parallel combinations of the
row of elements is shorted out (Fig. 2[b]).
units when constructing an externally fused bank, particularly
(1) Impact on Bank Design
regarding voltage and kVAR ratings. Selecting units with the For unfused banks, the general overvoltage requirement
highest available voltage rating results in the fewest series applies, i.e., the voltage on the healthy elements/units must not
groups and also provides the greatest sensitivity for unbalance exceed 110 percent of their rating (or the recommended rating
protection. Selecting larger kVAR ratings means fewer units that the manufacturer specifies).
(for the same VAR requirement), but increases the voltage
across the healthy parallel units following a fuse blowing. V. UNBALANCE PROTECTION METHODS
Because of this high voltage stress, subsequent failures in the
same parallel group are likely to occur. Unbalance protection provides protection against faults
Select the minimum number of units in parallel greater than within an SCB. For this protection, we use either voltage or
10 to ensure that one open fuse does not leave more than 10 current measuring methods. The particular protection depends
percent overvoltage on the remaining units in that parallel on the fusing method (externally fused banks use the fuse as
group [3] [4]. Select the maximum number of units in parallel the first line of protection), the size of the bank, the method of
such that the total energy a parallel group stores is less than grounding, and the required insulation of the CT/PT [5].
15 kJ (all-film dielectric) or 10 kJ (all-paper or paper-film Following are examples of the more common unbalance
dielectric) at peak maximum voltage. protection methods.
b) Internally Fused Units A. Unbalance Protection for Ungrounded, Single-Wye Banks
Internally fused units are manufactured with many The simplest method for this application is to measure the
elements in parallel [2]. When an element fails (welds bank zero-sequence voltage [1]. The voltage-sensing device
together), the fuse of the faulty elements blows, disconnecting can be a voltage transformer, capacitive potential device, or
the faulty element from the other parallel elements (Fig. 2[c]). resistive potential device. Fig. 3 shows three methods to
With many elements in parallel, lost capacitance is small and measure the zero-sequence voltage. Fig. 3(a) shows a broken-
the increase in voltage across the healthy parallel units is also delta connection to measure 3V0, Fig. 3(b) shows a PT
small. Because of the large number of parallel elements in this

between the bank neutral and ground to measure V0, and Fig. grounded or ungrounded. When we make the connection
3(c) shows a compensated neutral unbalance method. Unlike between the two strings near the mid-point of the strings, the
the first two methods, the compensated neutral unbalance connection is known as an H-bridge. The protection is
method removes the system unbalance. insensitive to system unbalances.

Fig. 5. Unbalance protection for grounded, single-wye banks

D. Unbalance Protection for Grounded, Double-Wye Banks

Fig. 3. Unbalance protection for ungrounded, single-wye banks
Fig. 6(a) shows unbalance current and Fig. 6(b) shows
B. Unbalance Protection for Ungrounded, Double-Wye Banks unbalance voltage protection. In Fig. 6(a), a CT is installed in
Splitting the bank into two equal wye sections and the neutral of each wye-connected bank and the neutrals
measuring the neutral current (Fig. 4[a]) or voltage (Fig. 4[b]) connect to ground. The CTs are cross-connected to form a
provides for protection that is insensitive to system voltage differential measurement, then connected to an overcurrent
unbalance. The measurement is insensitive to this unbalance element. In Fig. 6(b), the protection uses two PTs per phase
because the protection senses the neutral current or voltage connected to similar tap positions on the two phases.
differentially, i.e., both wye sections are affected equally by
any system voltage unbalance.

Fig. 4. Neutral current and neutral voltage unbalance

C. Unbalance Protection for Grounded, Single-Wye Banks

Fig. 5(a) shows unbalance voltage protection using busbar
PTs and PTs connected to tap points. Unbalances in the bank
change the tap point voltage with respect to the busbar
voltage, causing the relay to operate. Fig. 5(b) shows an
example of a phase unbalance differential current
measurement whereby a CT is connected between two equal
strings of the same phase. Notice that this application can be Fig. 6. Unbalance current and unbalance voltage protection

VI. UNBALANCE CALCULATIONS In the following examples, we calculate the C37.99 per-
The calculations we use to determine the effects of failed unit quantities and resulting primary quantities and compare
units, elements, or fuses in a capacitor bank play a key role in these quantities to simulations of various unit, element, or fuse
the knowledge necessary for the proper application of the failures within the capacitor bank. The equations, and the
protective relay. Calculating equations occur often on an as- simulations, are for failures occurring within the same group
needed basis, depending upon capacitor bank configuration, or string within the capacitor bank.
system operating parameters, and the type of protection being 1) Case 1: Externally Fused Bank With Voltage Tap
applied. Selection of the correct equations, and then In this case, we apply the C37.99 standard equations to an
verification of the results can be a confusing and time- example capacitor bank with the design parameters shown in
consuming process. Table I:
A. Unbalance Calculations Using IEEE Standard C37.99- TABLE I

The IEEE Standard C37.99-2000, IEEE Guide For The Cap Bank Configuration Units
Protection of Shunt Capacitor Banks, provides one source of Series Groups (S) 4
possible calculations for determining the voltages and current
Parallel Units per Phase (Pt) 6
imbalances created by failures within the capacitor bank. The
C37.99 standard provides calculations for internally fused, Grounding Grounded
externally fused, fuseless, and unfused capacitor banks. We Rated Capacitor Bank Voltage (kV line-line) 139.00 kVLL
separate the calculations into unbalance and tapped
Nominal System Voltage (kV line-line) 125.00 kVLL
applications. Unbalance applications refer to those capacitor
banks using phase or neutral differential current, or phase-to- Rated Cap Bank Power (KVAR) 27000.00 kVAR
neutral voltage to measure the amount of unbalance in the PT Ratio Bus 695.00
capacitor bank. Tapped applications refer to a voltage
PT Ratio Tap/Neutral 232.00
differential application that use a tapped voltage within the
capacitor bank to measure the voltage division ratio of the Series Groups Within Tap Portion (St) 2
capacitor bank.
Using the IEEE C37.99 per-unit system for the initial
The results of the C37.99 standard calculations are in per-
calculations, the following results were converted to primary
unit quantities. The determination of the base needed to
and secondary voltage, as shown in Table II.
convert the per-unit values to primary quantities depends on
the system and capacitor bank rated voltages, and also the These results were then compared with a simulation of a
capacitor bank configuration and power ratings. Conversion mathematical model that used the same system and capacitor
of the primary quantities into secondary quantities that the bank values, as shown in Table III.
relay uses is a matter of applying the correct voltage or current
transformation ratios used on the respective input.

Number of Tap Primary Tap Primary Tap VoltageFault Tap VoltageFault Voltage On Affected
Faulted Voltage (V) Fault Voltage (V) Fault Above Tap, Secondary Below Tap Secondary Capacitor Group (kV)
Units Above Tap Below Tap Voltage (V) Voltage
0 36084.392 36084.392 155.536 155.536 18.042
1 34366.087 37802.696 148.130 163.943 20.620
2 32075.015 40093.769 138.254 172.818 24.056
3 28867.513 43301.270 124.429 186.643 28.868
4 24056.261 48112.522 103.691 207.382 36.084
5 16037.507 56131.276 69.127 241.945 48.113


Number of Calculated Tap Simulated Tap Error (%) Calculated Tap Simulated Tap Error (%)
Faulty Primary Voltage Primary Voltage Primary Voltage Fault Primary Voltage
Units Fault Above Tap Fault Above Tap Below Tap Fault Below Tap
0 36084.39 36097.80 0.04% 36084.39 36080.80 0.01%
1 34366.09 34358.80 0.02% 37802.70 37799.10 0.01%
2 32075.02 32067.80 0.02% 40093.77 40090.20 0.01%
3 28867.51 28860.60 0.02% 43301.27 43297.80 0.01%
4 24056.26 24049.90 0.03% 48112.52 48109.30 0.01%

Fig. 7 shows the simulation software representation of

2) Case 2: Internally Fused with Current or Voltage
Case 1.
A The second case presented is of an internally fused
V capacitor bank with the configuration shown in Fig. 4.
Table IV shows the resulting currents and voltages under
2.47uF healthy conditions and with up to six blown fuses in Table V.

Cap Bank Configuration Units

2.47uF Series Groups (S) 3
Parallel Units Per Phase (Pt) 6
Parallel Units Per Phase in Left Wye (Pa) 3
Parallel Elements Per Group (N) 7
Number of Series Element Groups in Capacitor 4
Unit (Su)
Grounded Cap Bank (0 = Grounded, 1
1 = Ungrounded)
Rated Capacitor Bank Voltage (kV line-line) 139.00 kVLL
Nominal System Voltage (kV line-line) 125.00 kVLL
Rated Cap Bank Power (KVAR) 28000.00 kVAR
Current Imbalance CT Ratio 3.20
PT Ratio Bus 695.00
PT Ratio Tap/Neutral 232.00

Fig. 7. Externally fused, tapped simulation example for fault below tap point

In this case, we calculate all secondary quantities by

multiplying the per-unit values provided by the IEEE C37.99
standard by the system line-to-neutral voltages.


Number of Faulty Primary Neutral Voltage on Primary Neutral Primary Difference

Units/Elements/ to Ground Secondary Neutral Affected Unit (kV Current Between Current, Equal
Fuses Voltage to Ground Voltage L-N) WYEs WYES
0 0.00 0.00 24056.26 0.00 0.00
1 53.98 0.23 24290.17 0.12 0.12
2 124.21 0.54 24594.53 0.27 0.27
3 219.36 0.95 25006.81 0.48 0.48
4 355.51 1.53 25596.81 0.77 0.77
5 566.47 2.44 26510.98 1.23 1.23
6 937.26 4.04 28117.71 2.04 2.04
Fig. 8 shows the simulation software representation of Case 2.

Fig. 8. Simulation of the internal capacitor bank

Table VI shows the results of the calculated values as compared to the values from the simulations.

Primary Simulated Calculated Simulated
Neutral to Primary Calculated Simulated Primary Primary
Number Ground Neutral to Voltage on Voltage on Neutral Neutral
of Faulty Voltage Ground Error Affected Affected Error Current Current Error
Units (87VN) Voltage (%) Unit (V) Unit (%) Between WYEs Between WYEs (%)
0 0.00 0.00 0.00% 24056.26 24195.00 0.58% 0.00 0 0.00%
1 53.98 54.56 1.07% 24290.17 24430.20 0.58% 0.12 0.113 5.83%
2 124.21 125.20 0.80% 24594.53 24936.40 1.39% 0.27 0.2594 3.93%
3 219.36 220.90 0.70% 25006.81 25151.00 0.58% 0.48 0.4576 4.67%
4 355.51 357.84 0.65% 25596.81 25744.50 0.58% 0.77 0.74132 3.72%
5 566.47 570.02 0.63% 26510.98 26663.90 0.58% 1.23 1.181 3.98%

6 937.26 942.94 0.61% 28117.71 28279.90 0.58% 2.04 1.953 4.26%


The error shown for the simulated primary neutral current For example, for the externally fused capacitor bank in
between wyes is largely due to the small signal generated by Fig. 9, and the capacitor bank configuration values in
the model, as well as errors generated by the individual Table VII, the general equations are as follows:
capacitive elements within the model. A-Phase
Note in Table V that the Primary Neutral Current between B-Phase

Wyes and the calculated Primary Difference Current, Equal C-Phase

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
Wyes is identical. This is because this capacitor bank
configuration has half of the parallel units per phase (Pt) on
each side of the neutral CT. S=3
The conversion from per-unit to secondary quantities
displayed in Table V was according to the following base
quantities: Ps = 4

Voltage Neutral to Ground : Vng System L-N Neutral CT

Unbalance Current
Voltage (Vng is the IEEE C37.99 per-unit quantity)
S = series groups, line to neutral
Voltage on Affected Unit : Vcu Unit Nominal Ps = parallel units per phase
Voltage (Vcu is the IEEE C37.99 per-unit quantity, Pt = total parallel units per phase, 4 + 4 =8
and Unit Nominal Voltage is the voltage across the
capacitor unit under normal operating conditions) Fig. 9. Externally fused capacitor bank with two parallel strings per phase
Neutral Current Between WYEs: In Iph (In is the
IEEE C37.99 per-unit quantity, and Iph is the phase EXTERNALLY FUSED CAPACITOR BANK CONFIGURATION
current at nominal system voltage).
Prompt Range Default Variable
Difference Current, Equal WYEs : Id Iph (Id is the
IEEE C37.99 per-unit quantity, and Iph is the phase System Frequency (50, 60) 50, 60 60 <NFREQ>
current at nominal system voltage). Total Number Parallel Units in One
199 4 <Ps>
In general, the calculations from the IEEE C37.99 standard Group (199)
provide a reliable method for predicting per-unit values of Number of Series Groups Line to
199 3 <S>
voltage and current unbalance with a variable number of Neutral (199)
failures within the capacitor bank. The simulations support the Line-to-Line Voltage in kV (1
methods used to convert from primary to secondary quantities. 199999 88 <KVLL>
99999 kV)

B. Unbalance Calculations Using Millmans Theorem Capacitance of Capacitor Unit in

1999 20 <CAPVAL>
uF (1999 uF)
The calculations in IEEE C37.99 can be difficult to
interpret if one must understand the underlying calculations Neutral CT Ratio (199999) 199999 2 <CTRN>
leading to the condensed equations shown in the guide. Number of Blown Fuses (099) 099 0 <n>
Another method for calculating voltage and current imbalance
quantities for capacitor banks is more intuitive. This method Pt 2 Ps. Note that this capacitor bank example uses
uses the conversion from capacitor unit capacitance to reactive two parallel strings with equal numbers of capacitor units in
impedance (Xc), and uses Millmans theorem for calculating each group.
the neutral-to-ground voltage on the affected string. Use (2) to convert from capacitance to reactance.
Millmans Theorem states that: If any number of 1 10 6
admittances Y1, Y2, Y3, ... Yn meet at a common point P, and Xc = (2)
the voltages from another point N to the free ends of these
admittances are E1, E2, E3, ... En then the voltage between Reduce the capacitor bank to that shown in Fig. 9 by
points P and N is: [6] paralleling the two B-phase strings into a single B-phase
string. Do the same with the C-phase. For this calculation, the
E n Yn
VPN = (1) faulted capacitor unit will be (arbitrarily) in the A-phase.
Yn Therefore, keep the two A-phase phases separate: one will be
Millmans theorem requires that we condense the capacitor healthy, the other will be faulted.
bank down to three equivalent admittances, where two of the Use (3) to calculate the total reactance of a healthy group
three values represent the unaffected healthy phases of the (combined wyes), healthy phases.
capacitor bank, and the third represents the phase with the Xc
faulted units. Xgh = (3)

Use (4) to calculate the reactance of a healthy group, faulty VII. FAULTED PHASE AND SECTION IDENTIFICATION (PATENT
phase (A-phase). PENDING)
Xc SCBs play a critical role in providing local reactive power
XghA = (4) support and thereby regulating the voltage. It is very important
that SCB outages be as short as possible. Part of the outage
Use (5) to calculate the reactance of the faulty group, faulty
time is spent identifying the faulty unit. Identifying the faulty
phase (A-phase).
units in an SCB helps return the bank to service in a minimum
Xc time. If the SCB is externally fused, then the unit with the
XgfA = (5)
Ps n blown fuse is usually the faulty unit, making the identification
Use (6) to calculate the total reactance of the healthy obvious. If the SCB is internally fused, fuseless, or unfused,
phase(s). then fault identification is very difficult because there is no
visual indication of the faulted element. The result is an
Xphh S Xgh (6)
extended outage. Although it might not be possible to identify
Use (7) to calculate the total reactance of the faulty leg. the faulty unit in internally fused, fuseless, or unfused bank,
XlegfA S 1 XghA XgfA (7) identifying the faulted phase helps minimize the outage time.
Use (8) to calculate the total reactance of the healthy leg, To identify the faulted phase, we propose a novel method
faulty phase. based on phase relationship between quantities measured by
the protective relay.
XleghA S XghA (8)
For grounded SCBs with tapped voltage differential
Use (9) to calculate the reactance of the healthy group, protection, the faulted phase is the phase for which the
faulty phase (A-phase). protection has operated. Furthermore, we can identify the
Xlegfa Xlegha faulted section (top or bottom from the tapped point) based on
Xphf = (9)
Xlegfa + XleghA the differential voltage dVp [5] polarity (where p = A, B, C).
If the differential voltage dVp is less than or equal to zero and
This completes the calculations for the various reactances.
SCB has no fuses, then the faulty unit is on phase p and in the
Applying Millmans Theorem, the neutral-to-ground voltage,
top section from the tap point. If the differential voltage dVp
VNG, is as follows:
is greater than zero, the faulty unit is on phase p and in the
bottom section from the tap point. If the SCB has fuses, then
section identification is opposite (if dVp is less than or equal
(10) to zero, then the faulty unit is in the bottom section, and if
dVp is greater than zero, the faulty unit is in the top section).
Use (11) to calculate VNG, the neutral voltage in primary
For ungrounded SCBs with voltage unbalance or current
volts, using Millmans Theorem.
unbalance protection, identifying the faulted phase is not
KVLL 1000 e j0 KVLL 1000 e j120 KVLL 1000 e j120 obvious because the protection is based on neutral voltage or
+ +
3 Xphf 3 Xphh 3 Xphh
VNG = current (a quantity derived from all three phases).
1 2
Xphf Xphh
For a single-wye, ungrounded SCB, as shown in Fig. 10,
(11) the protection we use is neutral voltage unbalance protection.
We measure the neutral point voltage (VNG) which includes
Use (12) to calculate VNG in secondary volts
the system unbalance as well as the SCB unbalance. We also
VNG measure the zero-sequence voltage at the bus (3V0). The
VNG sec = (12) difference between the two voltages gives the unbalance in the
SCB. If we correct the difference both in phase and
Once we know the neutral-to-ground voltage, we can
magnitude, then the difference (for example, difference
calculate the difference current by dividing the VNG value by
voltage DVG) is zero for normal conditions.
the Thevenin equivalent reactance for the faulty capacitor
bank string.
60 N = (13)
Calculation and simulation of capacitor bank failures has
shown that using either the IEEE C37.99 standard equations
or the equations that use capacitor bank impedances and
Millmans Theorem provide satisfactory results for calculating
the effects of failures on unbalance currents and voltages
within a wide variety of capacitor banks.

Fig. 12. Phase relationship between difference voltage DVG and positive-
sequence voltage V1 for faulty units in different phases in a SCB with fuses
Fig. 10. Single-wye ungrounded SCB
Consider the double-wye, ungrounded SCB in Fig. 13. For
Consider an SCB that is not fused. A fault develops in a
this application, we use neutral current unbalance protection,
unit in the A-phase, resulting in a difference voltage, DVG.
measuring the neutral current (IN) that is the capacitor bank
For this fault, the phase angle of the difference voltage and the unbalance. We reference the measured neutral current with the
phase angle of the positive-sequence voltage (V1) are in
positive-sequence current (I1) drawn by the two banks. If we
phase. If the faulty unit is in the B-phase, then the phase angle
correct the measured neutral current both in phase and
of DVG lags the phase angle of V1 by 120 degrees. Similarly, magnitude, then the unbalance (for example, unbalance
if the fault is on C-phase, the phase angle of DVG leads the
current [60KN]) is zero for normal conditions.
phase angle of V1 by 120 degrees. Using the phase
relationship between DVG and V1, we can identify the phase
with the faulty units.
For security, we need to apply 15 degree blinder for
unbalances not resulting from capacitor failures. For
sensitivity, we can either use the trip (or alarm) condition for
supervising the phase identification.
Fig. 11 shows the phase relationship between DVG and V1
for faulty units in different phases in an SCB without fuses.

Fig. 13. Double-wye ungrounded SCB

Consider an SCB with no fuses that develops a fault in a

unit in Phase A of the left bank. This fault causes unbalance
current to flow in the neutral. This unbalance current will be in
phase (or 180 degrees out of phase, according to the polarity
of the neutral CT) with I1. If the faulty unit is in Phase A of
the right bank, then 60KN will be 180 degrees out of phase
with I1. If the faulty unit is in Phase B of the left bank, then
Fig. 11. Phase relationship between difference voltage DVG and positive- 60KN lags I1 by 120 degrees. If the faulty unit is in Phase B
sequence voltage V1 for faulty units in different phases in a SCB with no
of the right bank, then the unbalance current leads I1 by 60
degrees. If the faulty unit is in Phase C of the left bank, then
If the SCB has fuses, then the phase relationship will be 60KN leads I1 by 120 degrees. If the faulty unit is in Phase C
180 degrees out-of-phase compared to an SCB with fuses. of the right bank, then 60KN lags I1 by 60 degrees.
Fig. 12 shows the phase relationship between DVG and V1 for Using the 60KN and I1 phase relationship, we can identify
faulty units in different phases in a SCB with fuses. both the phase with the faulty unit and the faulty section of the
bank (left or right).
For security we need to apply a 15 blinder for
unbalances not resulting from capacitor failures. For

sensitivity, we can either use the trip (or alarm) condition for Fig 16 shows the bus voltage, bus current, neutral voltage,
supervising the phase identification. difference voltage magnitude (DVGM), and difference voltage
Fig. 14 shows the phase relationship between 60KN and I1 angle (DVGA). An element in A-phase of the SCB is shorted,
for faults on different phases and on different sections of the resulting in a difference voltage magnitude of 38 V and a
SCB with no fuses. Green vectors represent 60KN for faults phase angle close to 0 degrees.
on the left bank. Red vectors represent 60KN for faults on the
right bank (polarity of neutral CT agreeing with Breaker CT).

Fig. 14. Phase relationship between unbalance current 60KN and positive-
sequence current I1 for faults on different phases and on different sections of
the SCB with no fuses

If the SCB has fuses, then the phase relationship will be

180 degrees offset to the SCB without fuses. Fig. 15 shows the Fig. 16. Ungrounded single-wye SCB with a faulty element in A-phase
phase relationship between 60KN and I1 for faults on different An element in B-phase of the SCB is shorted, causing a
phases and on different sections of the SCB. Green vectors difference voltage of magnitude 38 V and a phase angle close
represent 60KN for faults on the right bank. Red vectors to 120, as shown in Fig. 17.
represent 60KN for faults on the left bank (polarity of neutral
CT agreeing with Breaker CT).

Fig. 15. Phase relationship between unbalance current 60KN and positive
sequence current I1 for faults on different phases and on different sections of
the SCB with fuses

To demonstrate the proposed concept, we modeled a power

system in the RTDS. The system consists of a source, SCB Fig. 17. Ungrounded single wye SCB with a faulty element in B-phase
(five strings per phase) and a load. The source voltage is 230 An element in C-phase of the SCB is shorted, causing a
kV. For the first case, consider an SCB configured as an difference voltage with magnitude of 38 V and phase angle
ungrounded, fuseless, single-wye bank. A potential close to +120 degrees, as shown in Fig. 18.
transformer measures the unbalance voltage between the
neutral of the SCB and ground. Each string has 12 units in
series and each unit has 6 series connected elements. The
capacitance of each element is 60.8 F (courtesy of Terry Fix,
Dominion Virginia Power). We simulated a faulty element by
shorting an element in the unit.

Fig. 18. Ungrounded single-wye SCB with a faulty element in C-phase Fig. 20. Ungrounded double-wye SCB with a faulty element in A-phase of
right section
For the second case, an SCB is configured as an
ungrounded double-wye bank, with the two neutrals An element in the B phase, Left section of the SCB is
connected. The SCB has five strings per phase on the left bank shorted, causing an unbalance current magnitude of 129 mA
and four strings per phase on the right bank. A neutral current and a phase angle close to 120 degrees, as shown in Fig 21.
transformer measures the bank unbalance. Each string has 12
units in series and each unit has 6 series connected elements.
The capacitance of each element is 60.8 F (courtesy of Terry
Fix, Dominion Virginia Power).
Fig. 19 shows the bus voltage, bus current, neutral current,
neutral current magnitude (60KNM), and neutral current angle
(60KNA). An element in the A-phase left section of the SCB
is shorted, causing an unbalance current magnitude of 130 mA
and a phase angle close to 0 degrees.

Fig. 21. Ungrounded double wye SCB with a faulty element in B-phase of
left section

An element in B-phase right section of the SCB is shorted,

causing an unbalance current magnitude of 161 mA and a
phase angle close to 60 degrees, as shown in Fig. 22.

Fig. 19. Ungrounded double-wye SCB with a faulty element in A-phase of

left section

An element in the A-phase, right section of the SCB is

shorted, causing an unbalance current magnitude of 163 mA
and a phase angle close to 180 degrees, as shown in Fig. 20.

Fig. 22. Ungrounded double wye SCB with a faulty element in B-phase of Fig. 24. Ungrounded double wye SCB with a faulty element in C-phase of
right section right section

An element in C-phase left section of the SCB is shorted, We can use the same concept for many other types of
causing an unbalance current magnitude 130 mA and a phase capacitor bank configurations like H-bridge, Double-WYE
angle close to 120 degrees, as shown in Fig. 23. ungrounded with neutral voltage, etc.

A large number of SCB configurations are possible, and
these configurations can be grounded or ungrounded, fused or
without fuses, and with either voltage or current unbalance
Although the way in which fused and fuseless
elements/units fail is different, the principle of protection
remains the same: prevent an overvoltage of greater than
110 percent on the healthy elements or units.
Millmans theorem provides an easy way to calculate the
unbalance current and voltage during commissioning.
The new faulted-phase indication algorithm correctly
identifies the phase (and section) with the faulted
element/unit, thereby significantly reducing the outage time
necessary for replacing a faulty unit.

[1] IEEE Guide for the Protection of Shunt Capacitor Banks, IEEE
Fig. 23. Ungrounded double wye SCB with a faulty element in C-phase of
Standard C37.99-1990.
left section
[2] M. Dhillon, D. Tziouvaras, Protection of Fuseless Capacitor Banks
An element in C-phase right section of the SCB is shorted, Using Digital Relays, presented at 26th Annual Western Protective
causing an unbalance current magnitude 163 mA and a phase Relay Conference, Spokane, WA, October 1999.
angle close to 60 degrees, as shown in Fig. 24. [3] IEEE std 18-1992, IEEE std 18-2002
[4] E. O. Schweitzer III, J. Schafman, Unified Shunt Capacitor Bank
Control and Protection, 45th Annual Georgia Tech Protective Relaying
Conference Atlanta Georgia, May 13, 1991.
[5] B. Kasztenny, J. Schaefer, E. Clark, Fundamentals of Adaptive
Protection of Large Capacitor Banks, presented at the 60th Annual
Georgia Tech Protective Relaying Conference Atlanta, May 35, 2006.
[6] A.H Morton, Advanced Electrical Engineering, London: Sir Isaac
Pitman & Sons Ltd., 1966, p. 13.

Satish Samineni received his B.E degree in electrical and electronics
engineering from Andhra University College of Engineering, Visakhapatnam,
India. He received his Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from
University of Idaho, USA, in 2003. Since 2003 he has been with Schweitzer
Engineering Laboratories, Inc. in Pullman, USA, where he presently holds the
position of Lead Power Engineer. His research interests include power
electronics and drives, power system protection, synchrophasor-based control
applications, and power system stability. He is a registered Professional
Engineer in the State of Washington.

Casper Labuschagne earned his Diploma (1981) and Masters Diploma

(1991) in Electrical Engineering from Vaal University of Technology, South
Africa and is registered as a Professional Technologist with ECSA, the
Engineering Counsel of South Africa. After gaining 20 years of experience
with the South African utility Eskom, where he served as Senior Advisor in
the protection design department, he began work at SEL in 1999 as a Product
Engineer in the Substation Equipment Engineering group. He transferred in
2003 to the Research and Development group where he held the position of
Senior Power Engineer. In 2009 he was promoted to Transmission
Engineering Development Manager. His responsibilities include the
specification, design, testing, and support of transmission protection and
control devices. Casper holds four US patents and has three more patents
pending. He has written and co-written several technical papers in the areas of
protection and control.

Jeff Pope is the Senior Product Engineer for the Transmission Product Group
at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL). Jeff is a member of the IEEE
Power Engineering Society, and has been involved with the commissioning,
control, protection, monitoring and automation of power system apparatus for
20 years. Jeff received his BSEET in 1986 from the DeVry Institute of
Technology, a Master of Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison
in 2005.

Previously presented at the 2010 Texas A&M

Conference for Protective Relay Engineers.
2010 IEEE All rights reserved.
20100303 TP6388-01
2003 Conference for Protective Relay Engineers - Texas A&M University
April 8-10, 2003, College Station (TX)

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection

Gustavo Brunello, M.Eng, P.Eng Dr. Bogdan Kasztenny Craig Wester

GE Multilin, Canada GE Multilin, Canada GE Multilin, USA

gustavo.brunello@indsys.ge.com bogdan.kasztenny@indsys.ge.com craig.wester@indsys.ge.com


Shunt capacitor banks are used to improve the quality of the electrical supply and the efficient
operation of the power system. Studies show that a flat voltage profile on the system can
significantly reduce line losses. Shunt capacitor banks are relatively inexpensive and can be
easily installed anywhere on the network.

This paper reviews principles of shunt capacitor bank design for substation installation and basic
protection techniques. The protection of shunt capacitor bank includes: a) protection against
internal bank faults and faults that occur inside the capacitor unit; and, b) protection of the bank
against system disturbances.

Section 2 of the paper describes the capacitor unit and how they are connected for different bank
configurations. Section 3 discusses bank designs and grounding connections. Bank protection
schemes that initiate a shutdown of the bank in case of faults within the bank that may lead to
catastrophic failures are presented in Section 4. The paper does not address the means (fuses)
and strategies to protect individual elements or capacitor units, nor the protection of capacitor
filter banks. System disturbances and basic capacitor bank control strategies are also discussed.


Shunt capacitor banks (SCB) are mainly installed to provide capacitive reactive compensation/
power factor correction. The use of SCBs has increased because they are relatively inexpensive,
easy and quick to install and can be deployed virtually anywhere in the network. Its installation
has other beneficial effects on the system such as: improvement of the voltage at the load, better
voltage regulation (if they were adequately designed), reduction of losses and reduction or
postponement of investments in transmission.

The main disadvantage of SCB is that its reactive power output is proportional to the square of
the voltage and consequently when the voltage is low and the system need them most, they are
the least efficient.


2.1 The Capacitor Unit

The capacitor unit, Fig. 1, is the building block of a shunt capacitor bank. The capacitor unit is
made up of individual capacitor elements, arranged in parallel/ series connected groups, within a
steel enclosure. The internal discharge device is a resistor that reduces the unit residual voltage
to 50V or less in 5 min. Capacitor units are available in a variety of voltage ratings (240 V to
24940V) and sizes (2.5 kvar to about 1000 kvar).

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 1

Internal Discharge

Group of



Fig 1 The capacitor Unit

2.1.1 Capacitor unit capabilities

Relay protection of shunt capacitor banks requires some knowledge of the capabilities and
limitations of the capacitor unit and associated electrical equipment including: individual capacitor
unit, bank switching devices, fuses, voltage and current sensing devices.

Capacitors are intended to be operated at or below their rated voltage and frequency as they are
very sensitive to these values; the reactive power generated by a capacitor is proportional to both
of them (kVar 2 f V 2). The IEEE Std 18-1992 and Std 1036-1992 specify the standard ratings
of the capacitors designed for shunt connection to ac systems and also provide application

These standards stipulate that:

a) Capacitor units should be capable of continuous operation up to 110% of rated terminal
rms voltage and a crest voltage not exceeding 1.2 x 2 of rated rms voltage, including
harmonics but excluding transients. The capacitor should also be able to carry 135% of
nominal current.

b) Capacitors units should not give less than 100% nor more than 115% of rated reactive
power at rated sinusoidal voltage and frequency.

c) Capacitor units should be suitable for continuous operation at up to 135%of rated

reactive power caused by the combined effects of:
Voltage in excess of the nameplate rating at fundamental frequency, but not over
110% of rated rms voltage.
Harmonic voltages superimposed on the fundamental frequency.
Reactive power manufacturing tolerance of up to 115% of rated reactive power.

2.2 Bank Configurations

The use of fuses for protecting the capacitor units and it location (inside the capacitor unit on
each element or outside the unit) is an important subject in the design of SCBs. They also affect
the failure mode of the capacitor unit and influence the design of the bank protection. Depending
on the application any of the following configurations are suitable for shunt capacitor banks:

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 2

a) Externally Fused
An individual fuse, externally mounted between the capacitor unit and the capacitor bank fuse
bus, typically protects each capacitor unit. The capacitor unit can be designed for a relatively high
voltage because the external fuse is capable of interrupting a high-voltage fault. Use of capacitors
with the highest possible voltage rating will result in a capacitive bank with the fewest number of
series groups.

A failure of a capacitor element welds the foils together and short circuits the other capacitor
elements connected in parallel in the same group. The remaining capacitor elements in the unit
remain in service with a higher voltage across them than before the failure and an increased in
capacitor unit current. If a second element fails the process repeats itself resulting in an even
higher voltage for the remaining elements. Successive failures within the same unit will make the
fuse to operate, disconnecting the capacitor unit and indicating the failed one.

Externally fused SCBs are configured using one or more series groups of parallel-connected
capacitor units per phase (Fig. 2). The available unbalance signal level decreases as the number
of series groups of capacitors is increased or as the number of capacitor units in parallel per
series group is increased. However, the kiloVar rating of the individual capacitor unit may need to
be smaller because a minimum number of parallel units are required to allow the bank to remain
in service with one fuse or unit out.
phase A

phase C
phase B

Fig. 2 Externally fused shunt capacitor bank and capacitor unit

b) Internally Fused
Each capacitor element is fused inside the capacitor unit. The fuse is a simple piece of wire
enough to limit the current and encapsulated in a wrapper able to withstand the heat produced by
the arc. Upon a capacitor element failure, the fuse removes the affected element only. The other
elements, connected in parallel in the same group, remain in service but with a slightly higher
voltage across them.

Fig. 3 illustrates a typical capacitor bank utilizing internally fused capacitor units. In general,
banks employing internally fused capacitor units are configured with fewer capacitor units in
parallel and more series groups of units than are used in banks employing externally fused
capacitor units. The capacitor units are normally large because a complete unit is not expected to

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 3

phase A

phase C
phase B
Fig 3 Internally fused shunt capacitor bank and capacitor unit

c) Fuseless Shunt Capacitor Banks

The capacitor units for fuseless capacitor banks are identical to those for externally fused
described above. To form a bank, capacitor units are connected in series strings between phase
and neutral, shown in Fig. 4.

The protection is based on the capacitor elements (within the unit) failing in a shorted mode,
short- circuiting the group. When the capacitor element fails it welds and the capacitor unit
remains in service. The voltage across the failed capacitor element is then shared among all the
remaining capacitor element groups in the series. For example, is there are 6 capacitor units in
series and each unit has 8 element groups in series there is a total of 48 element groups in
series. If one capacitor element fails, the element is shortened and the voltage on the remaining
elements is 48/47 or about a 2% increase in the voltage. The capacitor bank continues in service;
however, successive failures of elements will lead to the removal of the bank.

The fuseless design is not usually applied for system voltages less than about 34.5 kV. The
reason is that there shall be more than 10 elements in series so that the bank does not have to
be removed from service for the failure of one element because the voltage across the remaining
elements would increase by a factor of about E (E 1), where E is the number of elements in the

The discharge energy is small because no capacitor units are connected directly in parallel.
Another advantage of fuseless banks is that the unbalance protection does not have to be
delayed to coordinate with the fuses.

Fig 4 Fuseless shunt capacitor bank and series string

d) Unfused Shunt Capacitor Banks

Contrary to the fuseless configuration, where the units are connected in series, the unfused shunt
capacitor bank uses a series/parallel connection of the capacitor units. The unfused approach

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 4

would normally be used on banks below 34.5 kV, where series strings of capacitor units are not
practical, or on higher voltage banks with modest parallel energy. This design does not require as
many capacitor units in parallel as an externally fused bank.


The protection of shunt capacitor banks requires understanding the basics of capacitor bank
design and capacitor unit connections. Shunt capacitors banks are arrangements of series/
paralleled connected units. Capacitor units connected in paralleled make up a group and series
connected groups form a single-phase capacitor bank.

As a general rule, the minimum number of units connected in parallel is such that isolation of one
capacitor unit in a group should not cause a voltage unbalance sufficient to place more than
110% of rated voltage on the remaining capacitors of the group. Equally, the minimum number of
series connected groups is that in which the complete bypass of the group does not subject the
others remaining in service to a permanent overvoltage of more than 110%.

The maximum number of capacitor units that may be placed in parallel per group is governed by
a different consideration. When a capacitor bank unit fails, other capacitors in the same parallel
group contain some amount of charge. This charge will drain off as a high frequency transient
current that flows through the failed capacitor unit and its fuse. The fuse holder and the failed
capacitor unit should withstand this discharge transient.

The discharge transient from a large number of paralleled capacitors can be severe enough to
rupture the failed capacitor unit or the expulsion fuse holder, which may result in damage to
adjacent units or cause a major bus fault within the bank. To minimize the probability of failure of
the expulsion fuse holder, or rupture of the capacitor case, or both, the standards impose a limit
to the total maximum energy stored in a paralleled connected group to 4659 kVar. In order not to
violate this limit, more capacitor groups of a lower voltage rating connected in series with fewer
units in parallel per group may be a suitable solution. However, this may reduce the sensitivity of
the unbalance detection scheme. Splitting the bank into 2 sections as a double Y may be the
preferred solution and may allow for better unbalance detection scheme. Another possibility is the
use of current limiting fuses.

The optimum connection for a SCB depends on the best utilization of the available voltage ratings
of capacitor units, fusing, and protective relaying. Virtually all substation banks are connected
wye. Distribution capacitor banks, however, may be connected wye or delta. Some banks use an
H configuration on each of the phases with a current transformer in the connecting branch to
detect the unbalance.

3.1 Grounded Wye-Connected Banks

Grounded wye capacitor banks are composed of series and parallel-connected capacitor units
per phase and provide a low impedance path to ground. Fig. 5 shows typical bank arrangements.

Advantages of the grounded capacitor banks include:

Its low-impedance path to ground provides inherent self-protection for lightning surge
currents and give some protection from surge voltages. Banks can be operated without
surge arresters taking advantage of the capability of the capacitors to absorb the surge.
Offer a low impedance path for high frequency currents and so they can be used as filters
in systems with high harmonic content. However, caution shall be taken to avoid resonance
between the SCB and the system.
Reduced transient recovery voltages for circuit breakers and other switching equipment.

Some drawbacks for grounded wye SCB are:

Increased interference on telecom circuits due to harmonic circulation.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 5

Circulation of inrush currents and harmonics may cause misoperations and/or over-
operation on protective relays and fuses.
Phase series reactors are required to reduce voltages appearing on the CT secondary due
to the effect of high frequency, high amplitude currents.

Multiple Units in Series Phase to Ground Double Wye

When a capacitor bank becomes too large, making the parallel energy of a series group too great
(above 4650 kvar) for the capacitor units or fuses, the bank may be split into two wye sections.
The characteristics of the grounded double wye are similar to a grounded single wye bank. The
two neutrals should be directly connected with a single connection to ground.

The double Wye design allows a secure and faster unbalance protection with a simple
uncompensated relay because any system zero sequence component affects both wyes equally,
but a failed capacitor unit will appear as un unbalanced in the neutral. Time coordination may be
required to allow a fuse, in or on a failed capacitor unit, to blow. If it is a fuseless design, the time
delay may be set short because no fuse coordination is required. If the current through the string
exceeds the continuous current capability of the capacitor unit, more strings shall be added in

Multiple units grounded single Wye Multiple units grounded double Wye

Fig. 5 - Grounded Wye Shunt Capacitor Banks

3.2 Ungrounded Wye-Connected Banks

Typical bank arrangements of ungrounded Wye SCB are shown in Fig. 6. Ungrounded wye
banks do not permit zero sequence currents, third harmonic currents, or large capacitor discharge
currents during system ground faults to flow. (Phase-to-phase faults may still occur and will result
in large discharge currents). Other advantage is that overvoltages appearing at the CT
secondaries are not as high as in the case of grounded banks. However, the neutral should be
insulated for full line voltage because it is momentarily at phase potential when the bank is
switched or when one capacitor unit fails in a bank configured with a single group of units. For
banks above 15kV this may be expensive.

a) Multiple Units in Series Phase to Neutral - Single Wye

Capacitor units with external fuses, internal fuses, or no fuses (fuseless or unfused design) can
be used to make up the bank. For unbalance protection schemes that are sensitive to system
voltage unbalance, either the unbalance protection time delay shall be set long enough for the
line protections to clears the system ground faults or the capacitor bank may be allowed to trip off
for a system ground fault.

b) Multiple units in series phase to neutral-double wye

When a capacitor bank becomes too large for the maximum 4650 kvar per group the bank may
be split into two wye sections. When the two neutrals are ungrounded, the bank has some of the

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 6

characteristics of the ungrounded single-wye bank. These two neutrals may be tied together
through a current transformer or a voltage transformer. As for any ungrounded why bank, the
neutral instrument transformers should be insulated from ground for full line-to-ground voltage, as
should the phase terminals.

Multiple units ungrounded single Wye Multiple units ungrounded double Wye

Fig. 6 - Ungrounded Wye Shunt Capacitor Banks

3.3 Delta-connected Banks

Delta-connected banks are generally used only at distributions voltages and are configured with a
single series group of capacitors rated at line-to-line voltage. With only one series group of units
no overvoltage occurs across the remaining capacitor units from the isolation of a faulted
capacitor unit. Therefore, unbalance detection is not required for protection and they are not
treated further in this paper.

3.4 H Configuration
Some larger banks use an H configuration in each phase with a current transformer connected
between the two legs to compare the current down each leg. As long as all capacitors are normal,
no current will flow through the current transformer. If a capacitor fuse operates, some current will
flow through the current transformer. This bridge connection can be very sensitive. This
arrangement is used on large banks with many capacitor units in parallel.


The protection of SCBs involves: a) protection of the bank against faults occurring within the
bank including those inside the capacitor unit; and, b) protection of the bank against system
disturbances and faults.

This paper only discusses relay based protection schemes that provide alarm to indicate an
unbalance within the bank and initiate a shutdown of the bank in case of faults that may lead to
catastrophic failures. It does not deal with the means and strategies to protect individual elements
or capacitor units.

The protection selected for a capacitor bank depends on bank configuration, whether or not the
capacitor bank is grounded and the system grounding.

4.1 Capacitor Unbalance Protection

The protection of shunt capacitor banks against internal faults involves several protective devices/
elements in a coordinated scheme. Typically, the protective elements found in a SCB for internal
faults are: individual fuses (not discuss in this paper), unbalance protection to provide alarm/ trip
and overcurrent elements for bank fault protection.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 7

Removal of a failed capacitor element or unit by its fuse results in an increase in voltage across
the remaining elements/ units causing an unbalance within the bank. A continuous overvoltage
(above 1.1pu) on any unit shall be prevented by means of protective relays that trip the bank.
Unbalance protection normally senses changes associated with the failure of a capacitor element
or unit and removes the bank from service when the resulting overvoltage becomes excessive on
the remaining healthy capacitor units.

Unbalance protection normally provides the primary protection for arcing faults within a capacitor
bank and other abnormalities that may damage capacitor elements/ units. Arcing faults may
cause substantial damage in a small fraction of a second. The unbalance protection should have
minimum intentional delay in order to minimize the amount of damage to the bank in the event of
external arcing.

In most capacitor banks an external arc within the capacitor bank does not result in enough
change in the phase current to operate the primary fault protection (usually an overcurrent relay)
The sensitivity requirements for adequate capacitor bank protection for this condition may be very
demanding, particularly for SBC with many series groups. The need for sensitive resulted in the
development of unbalance protection where certain voltages or currents parameters of the
capacitor bank are monitored and compared to the bank balance conditions.

Capacitor unbalance protection is provided in many different ways, depending on the capacitor
bank arrangement and grounding. A variety of unbalance protection schemes are used for
internally fused, externally fused, fuseless, or unfused shunt capacitor.

a) Capacitor Element Failure Mode

For an efficient unbalance protection it is important to understand the failure mode of the
capacitor element. In externally fused, fuseless or unfused capacitor banks, the failed element
within the can is short-circuited by the weld that naturally occurs at the point of failure (the
element fails short-circuited). This short circuit puts out of service the whole group of elements,
increasing the voltage on the remaining groups. Several capacitor elements breakdowns may
occur before the external fuse (if exists) removes the entire unit. The external fuse will operate
when a capacitor unit becomes essentially short circuited, isolating the faulted unit.

Internally fused capacitors have individual fused capacitor elements that are disconnected when
an element breakdown occurs (the element fails opened). The risk of successive faults is
minimized because the fuse will isolate the faulty element within a few cycles. The degree of
unbalance introduced by an element failure is less than that which occurs with externally fused
units (since the amount of capacitance removed by blown fuse is less) and hence a more
sensitive unbalance protection scheme is required when internally fused units are used.

b) Schemes with Ambiguous Indication

A combination of capacitor elements/ units failures may provide ambiguous indications on the
conditions of the bank. For instance, during steady state operation, negligible current flows
through the current transformer between the neutrals of an ungrounded wye-wye capacitor bank
for a balanced bank, and this condition is correct. However, the same negligible current may flow
through this current transformer if an equal number of units or elements are removed from the
same phase on both sides of the bank (Fig. 7). This condition is undesirable, and the indication is
obviously ambiguous.

Where ambiguous indication is a possibility, it is desirable to have a sensitive alarm (preferably

one fuse operation for fused banks or one faulted element for fuseless or unfused banks) to
minimize the probability of continuing operation with canceling failures that result in continuing,
undetected overvoltages on the remaining units.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 8

It may also be desirable to set the trip level based on an estimated number of canceling failures in
order to reduce the risk of subjecting capacitor units to damaging voltages and requiring fuses to
operate above their voltage capability when canceling failures occur.

C C C - Cx C C C - Cx


Fig. 7 Compensating failures in the same phase result in no unbalance signal

c) Undetectable Faults
For certain capacitor bank configurations some faults within the bank will not cause an unbalance
signal and will go undetected. For example: a) rack-to-rack faults for banks with two series groups
connected phase-over-phase and using neutral voltage or current for unbalance protection; and,
b) rack-to-rack faults for certain H-bridge connections.

d) Inherent Unbalance and System Unbalance

In practice, the unbalance seen by the unbalance relay is the result of the loss of individual
capacitor units or elements and the inherent system and bank unbalances. The primary
unbalance, which exists on all capacitor bank installations (with or without fuses), is due to
system voltage unbalance and capacitor manufacturing tolerance. Secondary unbalance errors
are introduced by sensing device tolerances and variation and by relative changes in capacitance
due to difference in capacitor unit temperatures in the bank.

The inherent unbalance error may be in the direction to prevent unbalance relay operation, or to
cause a false operation. The amount of inherent unbalance for various configurations may be
estimated using the equations provided in reference (1).

If the inherent unbalance error approaches 50% of the alarm setting, compensation should be
provided in order to correctly alarm for the failure of one unit or element as specified. In some
cases, a different bank connection can improve the sensitivity without adding compensation. For
example, a wye bank can be split into a wye-wye bank, thereby doubling the sensitivity of the
protection and eliminating the system voltage unbalance effect.

A neutral unbalance protection method with compensation for inherent unbalance is normally
required for very large banks. The neutral unbalance signal produced by the loss of one or two
individual capacitor units is small compared to the inherent unbalance and the latter can no
longer be considered negligible. Unbalance compensation should be used if the inherent
unbalance exceeds one half of the desired setting.

Harmonic voltages and currents can influence the operation of the unbalance relay unless power
frequency band-pass or other appropriate filtering is provided.

e) Unbalance Trip Relay Considerations

The time delay of the unbalance relay trip should be minimized to reduce damage from an arcing
fault within the bank structure and prevent exposure of the remaining capacitor units to
overvoltage conditions beyond their permissible limits.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 9

The unbalance trip relay should have enough time delay to avoid false operations due to inrush,
system ground faults, switching of nearby equipment, and non-simultaneous pole operation of the
energizing switch. For most applications, 0.1s should be adequate. For unbalance relaying
systems that would operate on a system voltage unbalance, a delay slightly longer than the
upstream protection fault clearing time is required to avoid tripping due to a system fault. Longer
delays increase the probability of catastrophic bank failures.

With grounded capacitor banks, the failure of one pole of the SCB switching device or a single
phasing from a blown bank fuse will allow zero sequence currents to flow in system ground
relays. Capacitor bank relaying, including the operating time of the switching device, should be
coordinated with the operation of the system ground relays to avoid tripping system load.

The unbalance trip relay scheme should have a lockout feature to prevent inadvertent closing of
the capacitor bank switching device if an unbalance trip has occurred.

f) Unbalance Alarm Relay Considerations

To allow for the effects of inherent unbalance within the bank, the unbalance relay alarm should
be set to operate at about one-half the level of the unbalance signal determined by the calculated
alarm condition based on an idealized bank. The alarm should have sufficient time delay to
override external disturbances.

4.1.1 Unbalance Protection Methods for Ungrounded Wye Banks

a) Unbalance Protection for Ungrounded Single Wye Banks

The simplest method to detect unbalance in single ungrounded Wye banks is to measure the
bank neutral or zero sequence voltage. If the capacitor bank is balanced and the system voltage
is balance the neutral voltage will be zero. A change in any phase of the bank will result in a
neutral or zero sequence voltage.




Fig. 8 (a) Fig. 8 (b)

Fig. 8 (a) shows a method that measures the voltage between capacitor neutral and ground using
a VT and an overvoltage relay with 3th harmonic filter. It is simple but suffers in presence of
system voltage unbalances and inherent unbalances. The voltage-sensing device is generally a
voltage transformer but it could be a capacitive potential device or resistive potential device. The
voltage-sensing device should be selected for the lowest voltage ratio attainable, while still being
able to withstand transient and continuous overvoltage conditions to obtain the maximum
unbalance detection sensitivity. However, a voltage transformer used in this application should be
rated for full system voltage because the neutral voltage can under some conditions rise to as
high as 2.5 per unit during switching.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 10

An equivalent zero sequence component that eliminate the system unbalances can be derived
utilizing three voltage-sensing devices with their high side voltage wye-connected from line to
ground, and the secondaries connected in a broken delta. The voltage source VTs can be either
at a tap in the capacitor bank or used the VTs of the bank bus.

Figs. 8 (b) shows a neutral unbalance relay protection scheme for an ungrounded wye capacitor
bank, using three phase-to-neutral voltage transformers with their secondaries connected in
broken delta to an overvoltage relay. Compared to the scheme in Fig. 8(a), this scheme has the
advantage of not being sensitive to system voltage unbalance. Also, the unbalance voltage going
to the overvoltage relay is three times the neutral voltage as obtained from Fig 8(a). For the same
voltage transformer ratio, there is a gain of three in sensitivity over the single neutral-to-ground
voltage transformer scheme. The voltage transformers should be rated for line-to-line voltage.



59N 59N
Calculated Calculated

Fig. 9 (a) Fig. 9 (b)

Modern digital relays can calculate the zero sequence voltage from the phase voltages as shown
in Fig 9 (a), eliminating the need of additional auxiliary VTs to obtain the zero sequence voltage.
Fig 9 (b) shows the same principle but using the VTs on the capacitor bank bus. Although
schemes shown in Fig 8(b), 9(a) and 9(b) eliminate system unbalances, they do not eliminate the
inherent capacitor unbalance.

Fig. 10 shows a protection scheme that removes the system unbalance and compensate for the
inherent capacitor unbalance. It is a variation of the voltage differential scheme for grounded
banks described in section 4.1.2 c). The best method to eliminate the system unbalance is to split
the bank in two Wyes; however, it may not be always possible or desirable. The system
unbalance appears as a zero sequence voltage both at the bank terminal and at the bank neutral.
The bank terminal zero sequence component is derived from 3 line VTs with their high side Wye
connected and their secondaries connected in broken delta. The difference voltage between the
neutral unbalance signal due to system unbalance and the calculated zero sequence from the
terminal VTs will be compensated for all conditions of system unbalance. The remaining error
appearing at the neutral due to manufacturers capacitor tolerance is then compensated for by
means of a phase shifter.

b) Unbalance Protection for Ungrounded Double Wye Banks

Ungrounded banks can be split into two equal banks. This bank configuration inherently
compensates for system voltage unbalances; however, the effects of manufacturers capacitor
tolerance will affect relay operation unless steps are taken to compensate for this error.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 11

phase C
phase A

phase B

VT unbalance

Fig. 10 Compensated Neutral Voltage Unbalance method

Three methods of providing unbalance protection for double wye ungrounded banks are
presented. Fig. 11(a) uses a current transformer on the connection of the two neutrals and an
overcurrent relay (or a shunt and a voltage relay). Fig. 11(b) uses a voltage transformer
connected between the two neutrals and an overvoltage relay. The effect of system voltage
unbalances are avoided by both schemes, and both are unaffected by third harmonic currents or
voltages when balanced. The current transformer or voltage transformer should be rated for
system voltage.

The neutral current is one-half of that of a single grounded bank of the same size. However, the
current transformer ratio and relay rating may be selected for the desired sensitivity because they
are not subjected to switching surge currents or single-phase currents as they are in the
grounded neutral scheme.

Although a low-ratio voltage transformer would be desirable, a voltage transformer rated for
system voltage is required for the ungrounded neutral. Therefore, a high turns ratio should be



Fig.11 (a) Fig. 11 (b)

Fig. 12 shows a scheme where the neutrals of the two capacitor sections are ungrounded but tied
together. A voltage transformer, or potential device, is used to measure the voltage between the
capacitor bank neutral and ground. The relay should have a harmonic filter.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 12


Fig. 12

4.1.2 Unbalance Protection Methods for Grounded Wye Banks

a) Unbalance Protection for Grounded Single Wye Banks

An unbalance in the capacitor bank will cause current to flow in the neutral. Fig. 13 (a) shows a
protection based on a current transformer installed on the connection between the capacitor bank
neutral and ground. This current transformer has unusual high overvoltage and current
requirements. The ratio is selected to give both adequate overcurrent capability and appropriate
signal for the protection.

The current transformer output has a burden resistor and a sensitive voltage relay. Because of
the presence of harmonic currents (particularly the third, a zero sequence harmonic that flows in
the neutral-to-ground connection), the relay should be tuned to reduce its sensitivity to
frequencies other than the power frequency.

The voltage across the burden resistor is in phase with the neutral-to-ground current. This
neutral-to-ground current is the vector sum of the three-phase currents, which are 90 out of the
phase with the system phase-to-ground voltages. This scheme may be compensated for power
system voltage unbalances, by accounting for the 90 phase shift, and is not unusually
appropriate for very large capacitor banks requiring very sensitive settings.

Each time the capacitor bank is energized, momentary unbalanced capacitor charging currents
will circulate in the phases and in the capacitor neutral. Where a parallel bank is already in
service these current can be on the order of thousands Amps causing the relay to maloperate
and CT to fail.


59 R CT

Fig. 13 (a) Fig. 13(b)

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 13

Fig.13 (b) presents an unbalance voltage protection scheme for single grounded wye connected
SCBs using capacitor tap point voltages. An unbalance in the capacitor bank will cause an
unbalance in the voltages at the tap point of the three phases. The protection scheme consists of
a voltage sensing device connected between the capacitor intermediate point and ground on
each phase. A time delay voltage relay with third harmonic filter is connected to the broken delta
secondaries. Modern digital relays use the calculated zero sequence voltage instead as shown in
Fig. 13(b).

b) Unbalance Protection for Grounded Double Wye Banks

Fig. 14 shows a scheme where a current transformer is installed on each neutral of the two
sections of a double Why SCB. The neutrals are connected to a common ground. The current
transformer secondaries are cross-connected to an overcurrent relay so that the relay is
insensitive to any outside condition that affects both sections of the capacitor bank in the same
direction or manner. The current transformers can be subjected to switching transient currents
and, therefore, surge protection is required. They should be sized for single-phase load currents if
possible. (Alternatively, the connections from neutral to ground from the two wyes may be in
opposite directions through a single-window current transformer).

51 CT

Fig. 14

c) Voltage differential protection method for grounded wye banks

On large SCBs with large number of capacitor units, it is very difficult to detect the loss of 1 or 2
capacitor units as the signal produced by the unbalance is buried in the inherent bank unbalance.
The voltage differential provides a very sensitive and efficient method to compensate for both
system and inherent capacitor bank unbalances in grounded wye capacitor banks. Fig. 16 shows
the voltage differential scheme for a single wye-connected bank and Fig. 16 for a double wye-
connected bank.

The scheme uses two voltage transformers per phase: one connected to a tap on the capacitor
bank; the other, at the bank bus for single Wye banks; or, for double Wye banks, at a similar tap
on the second bank. By comparing the voltages of both VTs, a signal responsive to the loss of
individual capacitor elements or units is derived.

The capacitor bank tap voltage is obtained by connecting a voltage-sensing device across the
ground end parallel group (or groups) of capacitors. This may be a midpoint tap, where the
voltage is measured between the midpoint of the phase and ground. Alternatively, the tap voltage
may be measured across low-voltage capacitors (that is, a capacitive shunt) at the neutral end of
the phase.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 14

phase C
phase A

phase B
VT 59 VT

x3 x3

Fig. 15 Voltage Differential Scheme for Grounded Single Wye SCB

For commissioning, after checking that all capacitors are good and no fuses have operated, the
voltage levels are initially adjusted to be equal. The initial difference signal between the capacitor
bank tap voltage and the bus voltage (for single Wye banks) signals is zero, and the capacitor
tolerance and initial system voltage unbalance is compensated. If the system voltage unbalance
should vary, the relay system is still compensated because a given percent change in bus voltage
results in the same percent change on the capacitor bank tap. Any subsequent voltage difference
between capacitor tap voltage and bus voltage will be due to unbalances caused by loss of
capacitor units within that particular phase. For double Wye banks, the tap voltage is compared
the other Wye tap voltage.

Modern digital relay dynamically compensate secondary errors introduced by sensing device
variation and temperature differences between capacitor units within the bank.

If the bank is tapped at the midpoint the sensitivity is the same for failures within and outside the
tapped portion. If the bank is tapped below (above) the midpoint, the sensitivity for failures within
the tapped portion will be greater (less) than for failures outside the tap portion. This difference
may cause difficulty in achieving an appropriate relay setting. The sensitivity for a midpoint tap
and a tap across low-voltage capacitors at the neutral end of the phase is the same.

Tapping across the bottom series groups or a midpoint tap is not appropriate for fuseless banks
with multiple strings because the strings are not connected to each other at the tap point. Tapping
across the low-voltage capacitors is suitable for fuseless capacitor banks.
phase C

phase C
phase A

phase B

VT 59 VT

x3 x3

Fig. 16 Voltage Differential Scheme for Grounded Double Wye SCB

4.2 Protection against Other Internal Bank Faults

The are certain faults within the bank that the unbalance protection will not detect or other means
are required for its clearance.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 15

a) Mid-Rack Phase to Phase Faults
Usually individual phases of a SCB are built on separate structures where phase to phase faults
are unlikely. However, consider an ungrounded single Wye capacitor bank with two series groups
per phase where all three phases are installed upon a single steel structure. A mid-rack fault
between 2 phases as shown in Fig. 17 is possible and will go undetected. This fault does not
cause an unbalance of the neutral voltage (or neutral current if grounded) as the healthy voltage
is counter balance by the 2 other faulty phase voltages.

The most efficient protection for mid-rack phase to phase faults is the negative sequence current.
Tripping shall be delayed to coordinate with other relays in the system.

Fig. 17 Mid-rack Fault

b) Faults on the Capacitor Bank Bus

Time overcurrent relays for phase and ground are required to provide protection for phase and
ground faults on the connecting feeder (or buswork) between the bank bus and the first capacitor
unit. Directional overcurrent relays looking into the bank are preferred to avoid maloperation of
the TOC 51N for unbalance system faults.

4.3 Protection of the SCB Against System Disturbances and Faults

4.3.1 System Overvoltage Protection

The capacitor bank may be subjected to overvoltages resulting from abnormal system operating
conditions. If the system voltage exceeds the capacitor capability the bank should be removed
from service. The removal of the capacitor bank lowers the voltage in the vicinity of the bank
reducing the overvoltage on other system equipment. Time delayed or inverse time delayed
phase overvoltage relays are used.

4.4 Relays for Bank Closing Control

Once disconnected from the system a shunt capacitor bank cannot be re-inserted immediately
due to the electrical charge trapped within the capacitor units, otherwise catastrophic damage to
the circuit breaker or switch can occur. To accelerate the discharge of the bank, each individual
capacitor unit has a resistor to discharge the trapped charges within 5min.

Undervoltage or undercurrent relays with timers are used to detect the bank going out of service
and prevent closing the breaker until the set time has elapsed.


The protection of shunt capacitor banks uses simple, well known relaying principles such as
overvoltage, overcurrents. However, it requires the protection engineer to have a good

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 16

understanding of the capacitor unit, its arrangement and bank design issues before embarking in
its protection.

Unbalance is the most important protection in a shunt capacitor bank, as it provides fast and
effective protection to assure a long and reliable life for the bank. To accomplish its goal,
unbalance protection requires high degree of sensitivity that might be difficult to achieve.

The main concepts for the design of a shunt capacitor bank and its protection have been
reviewed in the paper. The latest IEEE Guide for the Protection of Shunt Capacitors Banks shall
be the guiding document when implementing a protection scheme to a shunt capacitor bank.

(1) IEEE Std C37.99-2000, IEEE Guide for the Protection of Shunt Capacitors Banks

Gustavo Brunello received his Engineering Degree from National University in Argentina and a
Master in Engineering from University of Toronto. For several years he worked with ABB Relays
and Network Control both in Canada and Italy. In 1999, he joined GE Power Management as an
application engineer where he is responsible for the application and design of protective relays
and control systems. Gustavo is a Professional Engineer of the Province of Ontario and a
member of the IEEE.

Bogdan Kasztenny received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from the Wroclaw University of
Technology (WUT), Poland. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering of WUT after his
graduation. Later he was with the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Texas A&M
University in College Station. From 1989 till 1999, Dr. Kasztenny was involved in a number of
research projects for utilities, relay vendors and science foundations. Since 1999 Bogdan works
for GE Power Management as a Chief Application Engineer. Bogdan is a Senior Member of
IEEE, has published more than 100 technical papers, and is an inventor of 5 patents. His
interests focus on advanced protection and control algorithms for microprocessor-based relays,
power system modeling and analysis, and digital signal processing.

Craig Wester received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a strong emphasis on power
systems from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989. Craig joined General Electric in 1989
as a utility transmission & distribution application engineer. Currently, he is the Regional Sales
Manager (Southern US) for GE Multilin. His role consists of providing sales management, power
system protection application and support to the investor-owned utilities, rural electric
cooperatives, electric municipals, consultants, and OEMs throughout the southern US for GE
relaying equipment. Craig is a member of the IEEE.

Shunt Capacitor Bank Fundamentals and Protection 17