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Electrical Protection in power Systems


The main power system protection function is to detect and disconnect the
faulted element. This prevents further damage in the faulted element and
protects the power system against the fault.
Another important function of protection systems is to provide an indication of
the fault in order to facilitate restoration. This is a target indication. In the past,
substation operation personnel used to read relay targets after a relay
operation and send the information to the relaying department. Modern digital
relays may send the information over a communications channel. Power
system operators may then use this information in real time to make better
restoration decisions.
We should not confuse this targeting function with fault location, which is an
accurate estimation of the faulted phase location on the transmission line. Fault
location information provided by digital relays helps line repair crews reduce
repair time.

Importance of protection

Protection of the system from damaging short circuit currents is obviously

important, but to underscore its importance consider that an extensive
overhead transmission system may be subject to temporary faults due to
lightning-induced flashover and permanent faults due to physical damage from
ice and wind loading as well as accidental destruction of poles and towers.
The frequency of these faults is obviously a function of the lines' overall
exposure to the damage, but faults may occur several times a day during
normal conditions. In the worst cases of storm damage, hundreds of faults may
occur in a few hours.

Also of great importance is protection from various abnormal system

conditions. For example, severe damage to steam turbine blades can occur at
low system frequencies, generator step-up transformers ma y be overexcited
at very low frequency operation as the unit starts up, certain relays may
respond to transient generator swings during disturbances resulting in
transmission line tripping. All these, and other, conditions must be foreseen by
the protective relay engineer.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Power System Faults

� Short Circuits
� Contacts with Ground
- Isolated-Neutral Systems
- High-Impedance Grounded Systems
� Open Phases
We may classify power system faults as shunt faults and series faults. Short
circuits comprise the most destructive type of shunt fault; there must be a
protection tripping action to protect against short circuits.
A fallen conductor in an isolated-neutral or in a high-impedance grounded
system is a shunt fault that shifts the system neutral without large fault
currents. The system may continue to operate for a short time in this condition.
We need the protection system to issue an alarm signal only for these
conditions, and we need very sensitive relays to detect ground faults in these
Open phases are series faults. Broken conductors and blown fuses are the
most common causes of open phase conditions. Series faults do not produce
high currents. They do, however, create system unbalance. Negative-
sequence currents may overheat and damage the rotors of generators and
motors in the system. We do not need to trip a line as a result of an open
phase, but we do need to provide protection against unbalance operation in
rotating machines.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Power System Abnormal Conditions

� Overcurrent
- Overloads
-External Faults
� Unbalanced Operation
� Power Swings
� Transformer Inrush Currents
� Cold Load Restoration
Power systems may suffer other abnormal conditions besides faults. A
generator or a transformer may be in danger of thermal damage during
overloads or external faults. Unbalanced operation (open phases, external
unbalanced short circuits) may damage the rotors of generators and motors.
Power system stability problems present a challenge to power system
protection. There are many protection schemes prone to misoperation during
stable or unstable power swings. Operation of these schemes should be
blocked. On the other hand, it is necessary when the system loses
synchronism to divide the system into electrical islands, each of which should
have a good generation-load balance. We then need special out-of-step
relaying systems for this condition.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Transformer magnetizing currents can reach very high transient values during
transformer energizing. Transformer differential relays may misoperate for the
inrush current, so we need to take special design measures for transformer
differential relays.
The current of a distribution substation can reach high transient values when
we energize the substation after a long out-of-service period. The current may
be several times greater than the normal current for several seconds. This
results from the loss of natural diversity between loads. For example, during
hot weather, all refrigeration and air-conditioning systems will be ready to start
at the same time after a long service interruption. The starting currents of all
motors contribute to the transient cold-load restoration current.

Electric power equipment is designed to work under specific normal conditions.

However, short circuit or failure may happen due to:
 Over-voltages due to switching.
 Over-voltages due to lightning strokes.
 Bridging of conductors by birds.
 Breakdown due to decrease of dielectric strength.
 Mechanical damage of the equipment.

Power System Elements

� Generators
� Transformers
� Power Lines
� Buses
� Capacitor Banks
� Motors
Electrical Protection in power Systems

The function of a power system is to generate, transmit, and distribute electric

energy. We use different voltage levels for generation, transmission, and
distribution, so we need power transformers. Buses are connecting nodes
between power system elements. We also need capacitor banks for voltage
control and electric motors.

Protective Systems

It continuously monitors the power system to ensure maximum continuity of

electricity supply with minimum damage to life, equipment & properties.
It consists of :
� Protective Relays
� Circuit Breakers
� Current and Voltage Transducers
� Communications Channels
� DC Supply System
� Control Cables
Electrical Protection in power Systems

The Protective Relay

It’s a device, which detects abnormal conditions in a part of a power system

and gives a signal to isolate that part from the healthy system or gives an
alarm to the operator.
The relays are: compact, self-contained devices, which respond to abnormal
Electrical Protection in power Systems

This is a typical simplified dc tripping system. The normally-open 52a breaker

contact is closed when the breaker is closed. Relay operation for a fault implies
the closing of the relay contact. This completes the circuit and establishes
current through the breaker trip coil, 52TC. When the breaker trips, the opening
of the 52a contact interrupts the tripping current, protecting the relay contact.
Relay contacts can often make, but not break, the tripping current, creating the
need for a more robust contact to interrupt the highly inductive dc current.
Interruption of the dc current in this circuit is the function of the 52a contact.
A contact-sealing auxiliary relay, SI, provides additional protection to the relay
contact. The seal-in contact (SI) closes when the tripping current begins to
flow, bypassing the relay contact. The action of the seal-in contact prevents the
relay contact from interrupting the tripping current under any circumstances.

Power System Protection Requirements

There are several protection requirements. The most important of these are
reliability, selectivity, speed, and sensitivity. We may also mention simplicity
and economics.

� Reliability
- Dependability
- Security
� Selectivity
� Speed
- System Stability
- Equipment Damage
- Power Quality
� Sensitivity
- High-Impedance Faults
- Dispersed Generation
� Simplicity
� Economics
- Protection Costs
- Equipment Costs
- Outage Costs
Electrical Protection in power Systems


Speed is the ability of the protection system to operate in a short time after
fault inception. This is important in preserving system stability, reducing
equipment damage, and improving power quality. Relaying system operation
time includes relay and breaker operation time. We typically measure relaying
system operation time in cycles (periods of the power system frequency (1
cycle = 16.67 ms)). Breaker operation times are from 2 cycles to 8 cycles.
Instantaneous relay operating times are about 1 cycle. For example, a 1-cycle
relay and a 2-cycle breaker provide a fault clearing time of 3 cycles (about

Clearing time: It is the time interval within which a faulty system element is
disconnected from the system.

Fault clearing time = Relay time + Circuit breaker time

Relay time: operating time of the protection relay from the instant of fault up to
the closure
of contacts in the trip circuit of the circuit breaker.

CB time: is the time from the closing of the trip circuit up to the time when the
current is interrupted (final arc extinction of the circuit breaker)

Relaying Classifications:

1. Instantaneous: these relays operate as soon as a secure decision made.

No intentional time delay is introduced to slow down the relay response (1
– 6 cycles).
2. Time delay: an intentional time delay is inserted between the relay
decision time and the initiation of the trip action.

a) High speed: a relay that operates in less than a specified time. The
specified time in present practice is 50 milliseconds (2 – 3 cycles).
b) Ultra high speed: a relay that operates in 4 milliseconds or less.

I) Definite time relay (Instantaneous): the time of operation is fixed and

not function of the quantity causing operation.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

II) Inverse time lag relay: the time operation is inversely proportional to the
magnitude of the quantity causing operation. The relay must separate the
meaningful and significant information with the necessary degree of
certainty. The relationship between the relay response time and its degree
of certainty is an inverse one.

Time-current characteristics of various families of overcurrent relays

2. Selectivity, discrimination

Protective relay systems that are well designed will always exhibit selectivity,
which means that the fewest possible numbers of relays will operate for a
given fault. To assure that the protective system is selective, relay coordination
studies must be performed.

Much of the time expended by the relay engineer consists of coordinating the
operation of adjacent relays to ensure that the proper relays operate, but that
those covering adjacent zones do not. To complicate this coordination, often-
nearby relays will have a secondary role as backup protection. Much more will
be said about backup protection and its coordination in the course.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Selectivity is the ability of a protection system to eliminate a fault in the

shortest possible time with the least disconnection of system components.
We also use the term coordination for selectivity. Protection coordination
implies that primary protection eliminates the faults, and that backup protection
operates only when primary protection fails. We also call coordination the
process a protection engineer uses in calculating relay settings.

Zones of protection:

In the event of a fault in a zone, the protection of that zone should initiate the
tripping of the necessary circuit breakers to isolate that zone, and only that
zone, from all live supplies

The zone of protection of a relay consists of that part of the system covered by
the relay. One basic tenet of good protective relay practice is to maintain
overlapping zones of protection over the entire system. As an example,
consider a generator, its step-up transformer, a line, and a substation. Note
that the zones of protection and the switchgear locations are interrelated. As in
many design problems, the exact arrangement of the zones of protection will
depend on the design philosophy of the engineers involved.

The power system is divided into protective zones, which can adequately be
protected with minimum part of the system disconnection. Any failure occurring
within a given zone will cause the opening of all breakers within that zone.
The system can be divided into the following protective zones:

1. Generators. 2. Transformers. 3. Bus bars.

4. Transmission lines. 5. Distribution circuits.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

The boundaries of the protective zone are decided by C.T. locations.

In order to cover all power equipment by their protection systems, the zones of
protection must meet these requirements:

a. All power system elements must be covered by at least one zone.

b. Zones of protection must overlap to prevent any system element from
being unprotected.

A zone of protection may be closed or open. When the zone is closed, all
power elements inside the zone are protected. All the circuit breakers inside
the zone must trip.

Consider a fault at F1. This fault lies in a closed zone and will cause C.B.s ( B1 )
and ( B2 ) to trip. The fault at F2, being inside the overlap between the zones of
protection of the T.L. and the B.B. , will cause B1, B2, B3 & B4 to trip.
Now consider a fault at F3. This fault lies in two open zones. The fault should
cause B6 to trip. B5 is the backup and will trip if B6 fails to clear the fault (fails to

3. Sensitivity

A protective system is said to be sensitive when it will operate for very small
internal fault currents. If an overhead conductor breaks and falls on dry ground
or hedges, the fault current can be very small, and it is quite a problem to
provide a protection sufficiently current-sensitive to detect this fault condition.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Sensitivity is the ability of the protection system to detect even the smallest
faults within the protected zone. It is important to ensure the detection of high-
impedance faults or the reduced contribution to faults from small, dispersed

Sensitivity can be defined in terms of sensitivity factor Ks where:

Ks = Is or Vs
Io Vo

Where Is = minimum short circuit current in the zone

Io = minimum operating current of protection
The operating current should not be kept too small for the following reasons:
 The protection should not operate on maximum loads.
 The protection should not operate for faults somewhere else in the

4. Reliability

Reliability is the ability of a protection system to operate correctly. A reliable

system is one that trips when required (dependability) but does not trip when
not required (security). We can obtain dependability through relays that try to
trip the same breaker (parallel connection of the contacts (OR logic)). We can
obtain security through series connection of the relay contacts (AND logic).
There is a bias among protection engineers toward dependability in protection
system design. This bias reflects the fact that power systems are redundant to
a certain extent. In theory, we may lose a line because of a relay misoperation
without having a system collapse. In modern power systems, however, this
concept is changing.

Dependability means that each relay sends a trip signal when a fault is
present in its zone. It is defined as the measure of the certainty that the relays
will operate correctly for all the faults for which they are designed to operate

Security means that no relay sends a trip signal if no fault is present in its
zone. It is the measure of the certainty that the relays will not operate
incorrectly for any fault.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Since no human invention is perfect, and the protective relay system is no

exception, compromise between dependability and security are inevitable.
Lack of dependability means that faults are not cleared, unless backup
protection is active (which usually involves a considerable time delay to allow
coordination between backup and primary relays). Lack of security means that
false trips may occur, leading to unnecessary customer outages.

As the relaying system becomes dependable, its tendency to become less

secure increases. Thus, in the present day, there is a tendency to design
relays that are more dependable at the expense of some degree of security.
Much of the art of protective relaying arises because of the tension between
dependability and security. A typical problem is to choose between two
available protection schemes, the one having better dependability and worse
security, the other having better security and worse dependability.

Primary and backup protection

It should be obvious that some form of backup protection is needed, especially

for transmission and generation levels of the system. Since protective relays
do fail and since compromises in protection are sometimes required, backup
relays will be necessary for any important line, transformer, or generator.

Main protection is the system, which is normally expected to operate in the

event of an internal fault.
Back-up protection is a second (often cheaper, slower) protective system
which supplements the main protection should the latter fail to operate. The trip
contacts of the relays are in parallel. The failure to clear the fault could be due
to some component common to both systems (e.g. the circuit breaker), so
most schemes provide overall back-up to clear the fault at another circuit
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Short-circuit protection includes two protection systems: primary and backup

protection. Primary protection is the first line of defense. The figure shows the
one-line diagram of a power system section. We may observe that we use
breakers to connect adjacent system elements. Using the breakers in this
manner permits the protection system to completely isolate a faulted element.
An exception is the case of the generator-transformer units. Generators have
dedicated step-up transformers in this arrangement, and we may omit the
breaker between them. The zones indicated with dotted lines are the primary
protection zones. The significance of these zones is that a fault inside a zone
implies the tripping of all the breakers belonging to that zone. Protective relays
define these zones. Adjacent protection zones overlap to provide full primary
protection coverage in the power system. A fault in the overlapping areas
produces the tripping of more breakers than the breakers needed to isolate the
fault. We need the overlapping areas to be as small as possible. Primary
protection operation should be as fast as possible, preferably instantaneous,
for stability and power quality reasons.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Protective relays define the primary protection zones. Relays use system
currents and voltages as input signals. We will see during the course that
current information is instrumental for the relays in determining fault location.
Then, current transformer location defines the limits of the primary protection
zones in many cases.
In lower-voltage systems we use bushing-type current transformers installed
inside breaker and transformer bushings. In this case, protection zones overlap
around the breaker, and the breaker lies in the ovelapping zone. A breaker
fault produces the tripping of all breakers at both zones.
In higher-voltage installations we use multiwinding current transformers. We
use different secondary windings for the relays of the two protection zones.
The overlapping zone is inside the current transformer. The probability of an
overlapping-zone fault is very low. The price we pay for this arrangement is
that it could be necessary to trip some Zone B breakers with Zone A relays to
completely disconnect some Zone B faults.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

The figure shows the one-line diagram of a power system and helps illustrate
the concept of backup protection. The tie circuit breaker (T) is assumed to work
normally closed. For a fault at CD, Line Breakers 5 and 6 should operate as
the primary protection. If Protection 5 fails to operate, with existing technology,
we have two possibilities for cutting the fault current contribution from A, B, and
F: open Breakers 1, 3 and 8; or open Breakers 2 and T. In any case, backup
protection needs time delay. The primary protection needs to be given an
opportunity to operate before using the decision of a backup operation.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

Breakers 1, 3 and 8 are located in a remote substation. This is the remote

backup protection. An advantage of remote backup protection is low cost: the
remote backup protection comes from protection equipment that is needed for
primary protection functions of adjacent system elements. Therefore, there is
no need for additional investment.

Breakers 2 and T represent local backup protection, which is located in the

same substation as the primary protection. Local backup protection is more
expensive than remote backup because additional equipment is needed.
Advantages of local backup over remote backup are greater sensitivity, greater
selectivity, and faster operation speed.

5. Simplicity

Protection requirements of modern power systems imply the necessity of

combining many protection functions. It is very important to keep the protection
as simple as possible. Complexity is a very common cause of human errors
leading to protection operation problems.
Electrical Protection in power Systems

6. Economy and adequateness

Economics is always an important factor. In the case of protection, an

investment decision should take into account the cost of the protected
equipment and the cost of a power system collapse. In this sense, protection is
like insurance: we need to define the level of protection and the protection cost
according to the economic loss that the protection system may prevent.

Too much protection is as bad as too little. Good engineering design

compromise between practical situation and cost.
The designer should consider the following:
a. Rating of the system (or element to be protected).
b. Location of the protected element.
c. Probability of abnormal conditions.
d. Cost and importance of the protected element.
e. Continuity of the supply as affected by failure of this element.

Types of Relays

Relays may be classified in several ways, but here we look at their logical
In other words, the fundamental type of relay is determined by its function. One
functional classification system is given in the table below:

1. Magnitude Relays
2. Directional Relays
3. Ratio Relays
4. Differential Relays
5. Pilot Relays

Note that these types are not always mutually exclusive; for example, a relay
may be a ratio relay and also be a directional relay. Despite this, these terms
are commonly used and should be understood.

Magnitude relays respond to the magnitude of a current or voltage. They may

trip on low or high values, such as an overcurrent relay (trips when the current
it senses is above its pickup setting), or an under-frequency relay (trips when
Electrical Protection in power Systems

the frequency is below its setting). A current magnitude relay may be combined
with a directional relay to make a directional overcurrent relay.

Differential relays respond to the difference between two quantities. For

example, in providing short circuit protection for a power transformer, a
differential overcurrent relay will trip if the current on the primary does not
balance the current on the secondary (taking into account the turns ratio),
since this indicates an internal fault. An external fault will not produce a trip,
since the primary and secondary currents balance regardless of the magnitude
of the current.

Directional relays respond to phase angle differences. Since phase angles

must be measured with respect to some reference, these relays require a
polarizing quantity.

Common Relay Terms

Rated value
It is the value of the energizing quantity, marked on the rating plate, on which
the performance of the relay is based. In the case of a current-operated relay,
its rated current will normally be the rated secondary current of the C.T. to be
used with the relay (i.e. 1 A or 5 A).

Setting value
It is the nominal value(s) (usually as a percentage of rated value), marked on
the setting plug (or dials) of the relay, at which the relay is designed to operate
(e.g. 40% of 5 A). Since a protective relay and its C.T. cannot be considered
separately, the setting of a protective system is often quoted as a percentage
of the, rated primary current of the C.T.

Pick-up or operating level: the operation of a relay is called pick-up. Pick up

level or operating level is the threshold value above which the relay operates
and closes its contacts.

Dropout or reset time: dropout is the value below which the relay resets and
opens its contacts to return to its normal position.
Drop-out / pick-up ratio is called Reset Ratio or Holding Ratio
Electrical Protection in power Systems

AC 90 – 95 %
DC 60 – 65 %

Flag: is a device usually operates to indicate the relay pick-up.