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Prepared by: Erfan Saberi Date: 25-Apr-2010

What is REF Protection?

Restricted earth fault (REF) protection is a sensitive way to protect a zone between two measuring points against earth faults. The CT secondaries are wired to cancel each other's currents during through faults and to drive all secondary current to the relay when the fault is inside the protected zone. The Zone is defined by CTs location. The stabilizing resistor RS guarantees that the relay will not trip during a through fault. The VDR is used to protect the Relay, CTs and the wiring by limiting the voltage VS during heavy inside faults.

Why REF Protection?

Power transformers constitute the single most expensive item of primary plant in a substation. To protect this investment properly, transformer protection schemes contain a combination of protection elements, with biased differential protection widely used. Although biased differential protection provides excellent protection for phase-to-phase and most phase-to-earth winding faults, this element is less sensitive for single-phaseto-earth faults close to the earth point in star point earthed transformers. For these faults, phase current changes very little, but large current flows in the neutral conductor. REF takes advantage of the large current in the neutral conductor to provide sensitive and fast protection for transformer faults close to the earth point. REF protection applied to transformers may be referred to as unit earth-fault protection, and the restricted part of the earth-fault protection refers to an area defined between two CTs.

Generally, REF protection can be applied in one form or another to all transformer windings, even delta-connected windings with neutral earthing compensator On solidly earthed star windings, fault coverage is possible from the first turn above the star point, provided the REF element connects to a CT in the transformer neutral. This high winding coverage is possible because the relay operates on the high fault current in the neutral conductor instead of on the small fault current in the phase.

REF protection provides more sensitive earth-fault protection than does biased current differential protection.

By connecting an REF relay to CTs installed in correct locations on the transformer, REF protection completes differential protection in detecting transformer earth faults.

REF Protection for Star Winding Earthed Transformer

For a solidly earthed star winding, an earth fault anywhere on the winding is similar to an autotransformer with a fault on the secondary side. R HV Y B LV


Tratio =

In Ip

Nc + Ns Nc

1 X
Distance per unit

X Nc In In = Tratio * Ip = Ip X

In =

Ip X

Therefore, for faults close to the neutral (when x is very small, on the order of 0.1 p.u.), the current flowing in the neutral is In = Ip/0.1 = 10 Ip. Clearly, the change in neutral current is much greater than the change in phase current.

In the case of a resistance-earthed star winding, the relationship between fault location and fault current is linear, and the value of the earthing resistance determines the amount of fault current. Assuming that the neutral is earthed through a resistor, we can see that the following is true: V = the healthy phase-to-phase voltage R = the value of the earthing resistor In = X * V 3*R

A linear relationship between the fault location and the neutral current available to operate the relay. For small values of x, In is small and there may not be sufficient current to operate the relay. Therefore, for a resistance earthed star winding, relay sensitivity is important for faults near the neutral. The value of x where the relay will begin operation is related directly to the relay operating current and the CT characteristics, i.e., how much magnetizing current the CTs on the healthy phases will require.

How REF Protection Works?

P1 P2

P1 P2

Il Il3

lt Condition
Vs = 0






If3 + Ifn


Normal Condition
Is = Il1 + Il2 + Il3 = 0 Vs = Is * Rs = 0


REF Relay


Ifn * Rs

CT Connection

CT Requirement
Any difference between the CTs will give a misleading residual current signal to the relay. Especially during heavy through faults (i.e. when the fault is outside the protected zone) the different saturation of the CTs should not yield to a REF trip.

Class X CT
In restricted earth fault protection the high and low side CTs should give similar responses even for high over currents. Class X CTs will fulfill this requirement. Their performance is defined in terms of a knee-point voltage (VKP), the magnetizing current at the knee point voltage and the resistance of the secondary winding at +75 C. Knee point voltage (VKP) is the secondary voltage at which a 50 % increase of primary current is needed to increase the secondary voltage by 10 %. Minimum required Vkp is 2Vs.

Value of stabilizing resistor RS

The voltage VS is:

Vs =


* (Rct + Rw)

Ifmax = Maximum fault current

N = CT Ratio Rct = Resistance of CT secondary. Rw = Total resistance of wiring, connections etc. Vs Iset

Rs =

Voltage limitation
During heavy inside faults the voltage in the secondary circuit may rise to several kilovolts depending on the fault currents, CT properties and the stabilizing resistor RS. If the secondary voltage would exceed 2 kV it should be limited by using a voltage dependent resistor (VDR). The peak voltage according a linear CT model is:

Vp =


* (Rct + Rw + Rs)

The peak voltage of a saturating CT can be approximated by:

Vsp = 2 2Vkp (Vp Vkp)

This approximating formulae does not hold for an open circuit condition and is incorrect for very high burden resistances.

Example Ifmax = 25 KA
N = 2000/1 A, Rct = 6 Iset = 0.05 A Vs = 25 KA 2000

Rw = 0.4

Vk = 200 V

* (6 + 0.4) = 80 V

Vk min. = 2Vs = 160 V

80 Rs = = 1600 0.05 Vp = 25 KA 2000 * (6 + 0.4 + 1600) = 20 KV

Vsp = 2 2*200 (20 KV 200) = 5.6 KV > 2KV