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High Impedance Busbar Differential Protection
We covered the basic operating principles of high impedance busbar differential protection in
our previous post, I Want to Know How a High Impedance Differential Scheme Works. You
should read that post first before we dig deep into the calculations and considerations that
explain how high impedance busbar differential schemes function.

BONUS: Click here to sign up and we'll send you the free High Impedance Busbar Protection
Cheat Sheet you can take with you.
We received this question from the Ask Chris section at relaytraining.com. Follow this link to ask
your own question and it might appear in a future blog post.

I had a lot of help with this question from Rodney Hughes at Rod Hughes Consulting Pty Ltd
(www.rodhughesconsulting.com). His explanations are much more comprehensive than this one
and I highly recommend you visit his website to really dig into it.

High Impedance Busbar Protection Principles and Calculations


The previous article left off with a single line drawing of our busbar protection.

Complete High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line

The equivalent circuit of this busbar protection scheme would look like the following:

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit

That is far too complicated for our purposes. We can combine 52-2 CT, 52-3 CT, and 52-4 into
one CT to simplify the circuit to look like the following:

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit

But we’re going to apply an external fault through two feeders to make it easier to understand.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - External Fault

Any current flowing through the 52-1 CT (52-1CT IP1) is shown on the left hand side of our two-
feeder equivalent circuit below. The primary current creates a magnetic field (Ie1, Ze1) that
usually uses a small amount of current to inject the secondary current (IS1) into the CT
secondary circuit.

The secondary winding is made from a conductor that has resistance and is coiled around a
core to create inductance. That impedance is shown on the drawing as ZCT1. The external
conductors connecting the CT to the rest of the circuit also have an impedance that is
represented by ZL1.

Our high impedance busbar protective equipment has a 2000Ω impedance represented by the
Rs, 87, 87Z, and MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) in the middle of the circuit.

The 52-2 CT has the same characteristics as the 52-1 CT, which is represented on the right-
hand side of the equivalent circuit. The CTs are connected in parallel with all polarity marks
connected to the same point so that external faults theoretically cancel each other out, and
internal faults combine to create larger currents during a fault for shorter trip times.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault


What Happens Inside a High Impedance Busbar Protection Scheme During an External Fault
When One CT Saturates?
High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - External Fault - Saturated CT

This scenario is THE reason why busbar protection can’t use simple instantaneous overcurrent
elements (50). We have the same fault current as the ideal example in the previous single line
drawing, but the 52-2 CT has saturated. The CT could have saturated because of:

The DC Offset that commonly occurs during faults (You can get more info in the What is DC
Offset? Ask Chris post)
Residual magnetism in the CT (Remanence) from previous faults or improper testing
Too much burden on the CT secondaries
A normal CT has a CT ratio (1200:5 in our example), which defines the turns-ratio (240:1 in our
example). 83.33 should be exported When 20,000A flows through the 240 turns in a properly
functioning CT, but:

A normally insignificant amount of excitation current (0.035A) is used to create a magnetic field
inside the CT to maintain the current transformation, which means
83.295A is injected out of the CT secondary terminals. (The actual CT ratio may be slightly
higher than the reported 240:1 to compensate for the excitation current losses.)
When a CT saturates, the magnetic field requires more current than normal to maintain the
current transformation, which means that there is less current injected into the CT secondary
circuit. We’re showing the worst case scenario in our example where ALL of the primary current
is used in the magnetic field, and zero amps is injected into the CT secondaries.

One hundred percent CT saturation is rare because the waveform becomes distorted when a
CT saturates (as shown below), and most CTs will have varying degrees of saturation
throughout a cycle, which makes the math in our equivalent circuit extremely difficult. Therefore,
most high impedance busbar differential protection calculations use extremes to make the math
easier.

CT Saturation Waveform in Busbar Protection

High Impedance Busbar Differential Protection Maximum Voltage Calculation


The high impedance differential busbar protection has an impedance of 2000Ω. That means
that the current will want to flow around the outside of the equivalent circuit because the outside
circuit has a lower impedance path during external faults. When 52-2 CT fully saturates, its
magnetic field impedance is effectively 0.00Ω. Let’s see what that does to our equivalent circuit.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault Saturated CT

We can combine the ZCT1 and ZL1 impedance to get Z1 = 0.5Ω (0.387Ω + 0.113Ω). Then we
can simplify the ZL2, ZCT2, and Ze2 impedances to get Z2 = 0.5Ω (0.387Ω + 0.113Ω + 0.00Ω).
High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault Saturated CT
We can combine the Z2 and Z87 impedances to get 0.5Ω (2000Ω*0.5Ω / (2000Ω+0.5Ω)).

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault Saturated CT

The equivalent circuit impedance for the 52-1 CT is 1.0Ω when 52-2 CT is saturating. Using
Ohm’s Law, the voltage across 52-1 CT’s magnetic field with 83.33A of fault current is 83.33V.

Anyone designing or creating settings for a high impedance busbar differential protection
scheme should calculate the maximum voltage that will be applied during an external fault with
a 100% saturated CT as we just did in our example. We will use this maximum voltage to make
sure that the CTs are sized appropriately for the application. Our CTs must operate normally
with a secondary voltage of 83.33V.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Protection Minimum Allowable CT Saturation Voltage


Calculation
High impedance busbar differential protection will not work properly if the CTs are not sized
correctly for the connected circuit. We calculated that the voltage across the non-saturated CT,
when another CT saturates, is 83.33V. Any CT with a saturation voltage greater than 83.33V
should work correctly in our example. However, electrical engineers should always err on the
side of caution when designing protection schemes; so we usually double the high impedance
busbar differential protection maximum voltage calculation to determine the minimum CT
saturation voltage to make sure that the CTs are adequately sized for the application. Our CTs
should operate normally when 166.66V (2 * 83.33V) appears across the secondary terminals to
be safe.

CT Ratings
A protection class CT is usually defined by its ratio, accuracy, construction, and burden. We’ve
already discussed the CT ratio (1200:5 in our example). If you look back to the single line
drawing, you’ll see that there was another designation beside the CTs (C200).

Complete High Impedance Differential Single Line

This designation defines:

The accuracy class in percent (10% if no number appears in front of the letter)
How the CT was constructed using a letter (C = Minimum leakage flux and CT performance can
be calculated)
The burden and saturation voltage in volts (200)
How can a voltage define the burden, you might ask? All standard protection class CT ratings
are valid between 1 to 20x nominal current. If our CT’s have 5A nominal secondary currents,
they are allowed to be +/-10% accurate between 5 and 100A secondary. If the maximum burden
is 200V, we can apply Ohm’s Law to determine that the maximum impedance connected to the
CT secondaries is 2.0Ω (200V / 100A). That’s the standard calculation that ALL CT testers
should know and apply when they are performing their CT tests. Did you?

All protection class CTs also have a saturation curve like the graph below. The 200 in our rating
means that if the voltage across the CT’s magnetic field is greater than 200V, the CT is no
longer guaranteed to operate within its 10% error. 200V is greater than 166.66V (our minimum
allowable CT saturation voltage), so the CTs in our example are appropriate for our application.

Determine CT Excitation Current


We can use the CT saturation curve to see how much excitation current will be used to maintain
the current transformation at 83.33V with these steps:

Start by drawing a horizontal line from 83.33V until you reach the 1200:5 curve.
Then draw a vertical line to the secondary excitation current x-axis.
Determine the excitation current using the log scale on the x-axis (0.035A).
C200 CT Exitation Curve for use in high impedance busbar protection

It is important to remember that this curve is a generic one, which gives an approximation of
what the CT characteristic should be, and not what it actually is. Our class C CTs have a +/-
10% accuracy rating and when we get numbers from this curve, there may be significant
differences between the information we calculate or obtain from the graph compared to actual
CT operation. We would have to isolate every CT in the circuit and measure their performance
to get exact performance numbers; or the design engineer could order a special class X CT
where the performance characteristics are built and measured to ensure they meet exacting
specifications.

Rodney Hughes (www.rodhughesconsulting.com) stresses that every high impedance busbar


differential scheme should use class X CTs with exacting specifications to make sure we don’t
get false trips due to CT mismatch. If you use class X CTs, you don’t have to worry that your
CTs from the 1980s might not have the same operating characteristics as the new feeder CTs
added to the scheme in the 2010s; they should have almost identical operating characteristics.
The same CANNOT be said for standard class C CTs.

We don’t have the luxury of class X CTs in our example, so we’re going to use the excitation
current (0.035A) we measured from the graph for all future calculations. The excitation voltage
across the CTs will be less under normal conditions, but we don’t want to constantly go back
and forth to this chart for every scenario. The chart states that the excitation current won’t
exceed 25%; so let’s use 0.035A (our number from the graph) for CT1 and 0.044A (0.035 *
1.25) for CT2.

What Happens Inside a High Impedance Busbar Protection Scheme During an External Fault
Without CT Saturation?
The following single line shows an external fault with CTs that are functioning as per the
excitation graph.
High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - External Fault With CT Error
We have 20,000A flowing into the primaries of the CTs in the opposite direction. A perfect CT
would send 83.33A into the secondary circuit, but the CTs’ magnetic field requires some current
to make the current transformation (0.035A and 0.044A); so the actual CT output is 83.295A for
52-1 CT, and 83.286A for 52-2 CT. (The CT would normally have some hidden turns added to
compensate for the excitation current.) The difference in CT secondaries creates a differential
current of 0.009A that flows through the high impedance busbar differential circuit. We can
apply Ohm’s Law to calculate 18.00V across the 87Z high impedance busbar protection circuit.
This means that the 87Z pickup setting must be greater than 18.00V to prevent mis-operations
during external faults. (The differential current would likely be higher in the real world due to CT
mismatch.)

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault - No Saturation

What should the high impedance busbar differential voltage setting be?

High Impedance Busbar Differential Protection Minimum Pickup Setting Calculation


The high impedance busbar differential protection scheme’s minimum pickup setting is
calculated using our first scenario with the saturated CT.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - External Fault - Saturated CT

We can re-organize and simplify the equivalent circuit to:

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault Saturated CT

How much voltage is across the 87Z element in this scenario?

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - External Fault - No Saturation

The 87Z element is in parallel with Z2. The 87Z circuit has a much higher impedance compared
to the Z2 impedance, which makes the equivalent impedance almost 0.5Ω. We can use Ohm’s
Law to calculate that there will be 41.65V (83.295A * 0.5Ω) across Z2 and 87Z during this
scenario. Remember, we DO NOT want the relay to trip for external faults; so the setting should
be higher than 41.65V.

Let’s imagine that we set the relay to 50V. We can calculate how much differential current will
cause the relay to trip under normal conditions using Ohm’s Law. The 87Z is 2000Ω in our
example with a 50V setting. That means that 0.025A (50V / 2000Ω) of differential current will
cause the relay to trip. This setting might be OK with class X CTs with specific operating
characteristics, but we will probably get a false trip with normal class C CTs, especially if we
have different vintages of CTs in our high impedance busbar differential circuit.
Most design engineers add a safety factor starting at 1.5x the minimum setting to account for
potential increases in fault current. We will increase the setting by a factor of two and then round
up to 100V. This means that the differential current caused by CT mismatch (0.05A or
100V/2000Ω) must be twice our previous setting, or higher, to cause a mis-operation during
normal conditions or through-faults.

What Happens Inside a High Impedance Busbar Protection Scheme During an Internal Fault
With One Source?
Here is a single line displaying what happens during an internal fault.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - Internal Fault

We have 20,000A flowing into the 52-1 CT which should equal 83.333A flowing out of its
secondary terminals. However, the CT needs excitation current to create secondary current. If
we use our previously calculated 0.035A for this scenario (that amount would not technically
apply here, but we need to pick something and I don’t want to do more math for such a small
amount of current), 83.295A should flow out of the CT secondaries.

High Impedance Busbar Differential Equivalent Circuit - Internal Fault

Since the 52-2 CT has zero amps flowing in the primary windings, zero amps should flow out of
the secondaries. Without a magnetic field however, the 52-2 CT’s secondary winding is just a
bunch of coiled wire with a low impedance. The 52-1 CT secondary current will want to flow
through the low impedance in the 52-2 CT secondaries, but once a small amount of current
(0.044A from our previous example) starts flowing in the secondary circuit, a magnetic field will
be created and the CT will try to maintain its turns-ratio. Zero amps of the primary should equal
zero amps on the secondary minus the excitation current. Once the magnetic field is built, the
52-2 CT secondaries will become an open circuit (like it does when you perform your saturation
and ratio tests) and the remaining current will flow through the 87Z circuit because it will now
have a lower impedance.

Using Ohm’s Law, 83.251A through 2000Ω should create 166,502V. The MOV will protect the
secondary circuits from damage by limiting the possible voltage to a number much smaller than
166,502V, but the secondary voltage could rise to the system voltage without the MOV. Either
way, it is extremely unlikely that the voltage will reach those heights because the CT should
start saturating at 200V. The CT is guaranteed to saturate during an internal fault and will
produce a waveform that looks like this:

CT Saturation Waveform

Our relay better be able to operate when this waveform appears; so it is often beneficial to use a
single-purpose relay for a high impedance busbar differential relay scheme to minimize the trip
time. Some digital relays need extra time to measure, apply filters, and analyze the waveform
before they can operate, which may mean that the fault may stay on the system longer than
necessary. The longer a fault stays on the system, the greater potential for system de-
stabilization, which could cause a larger system outage than necessary.

The voltage during an internal fault should always be larger than our setting and the relay
should trip in the shortest time possible.

What Happens Inside a High Impedance Busbar Protection Scheme During an Internal Fault
With Multiple Sources?
Most distribution busses have multiple sources and we should look at this scenario to see what
happens:

High Impedance Busbar Differential Single Line - Internal Fault Multiple Sources

The CT secondary currents are headed in the same direction in this scenario and will combine
at the 87Z circuit to theoretically produce 333,162V (166.581A * 2000Ω). Both CTs will drive the
highest voltage they can while in parallel, which will trip the relay.

Conclusion
The dirty little secret about all forms of differential protection is that we know the relay will trip for
all internal faults. When we’re designing and testing differential schemes, we’re primarily
concerned with making sure the relay will NOT trip during external faults. Did you notice that all
of the important calculations above occurred during external fault scenarios? Have you noticed
that most differential tests try to find the point where the relay will operate during an external
fault (currents 180° apart), instead of applying single source or multiple source fault in the same
direction?

High impedance differential schemes can filter out non-sinusoidal differential current that occurs
when CTs saturate during external faults, but they cannot filter out true error caused by CT
mismatch. Therefore, it is important that you use class X CTs when you are designing high
impedance differential schemes, and that you are aware that CT mismatch can cause mis-
operations when using standard protection class CTs.

I hope this article helped you better understand high impedance differential schemes. If you
liked it, please share it to help us get noticed, which helps us continue to produce free content
like this.

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About the Author Chris Werstiuk
Chris is an Electrical Engineering Technologist, a Journeyman Power System Electrician, and a
Professional Engineer. He is also the Author of The Relay Testing Handbook series and founder
of Valence Electrical Training Services. You can find out more about Chris here.
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LF says
Great article thanks for taking the time to create graphics and breaking each section down etc –
Concepts explained well which made it easy to understand how this form of protection works.

Reply

idougal says
Thanks!

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sk_srndrn2006 says
Thank you very much.

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