Overcurrent Protection

Introduction Overcurrent protection is widely applied at all voltage levels to protect lines, transformer, generators, and motors. There are two types of overcurrent relays: 1) instantaneous (NEMA #50) and 2) time-delay (NEMA #51). Instantaneous Overcurrent Relays operate without any intentional time delay. They are normally used for faults close to the source when the fault current is very high. The relay can detect and respond to a fault in a few cycles. Time-delay Overcurrent Relays operate with an adjustable time delay. For a given setting, the actual time delay depends on the current through the relay coil. In general, higher currents will cause a faster operation of the relay. The minimum current at which the relay will respond (called the pick-up value) is also adjustable. Principle of Protection Instantaneous overcurrent protection is considered the simplest protection scheme. It is widely used because of its quick reaction time. A simple logic diagram, as shown in Figure 1, can illustrate this protection scheme.

Figure 1 Logic diagram of instanteous overcurrent scheme

The relay pick up value is commonly set to a value anywhere between 125-135% of the maximum load current and 90% of the minimum fault current. These values help to minimize unnecessary responses from the relay. The following formula is used to calculate the pick up value:

1.2 × Max load current ≤ Pick up value ≤ 0.9 × Min fault current


Transient sag/swell is not an uncommon phenomenon in power systems, especially in high voltage transmission systems. The instantaneous overcurrent relay will usually treat tolerable transients as faults and trip the circuit breaker. It is therefore necessary to add some time delay to allow the transients to decay. This is when a time-delay relay is used. Coincidently, a typical electromechanical relay has some degree of time delay.

It describes a radial distribution line that has three major segments. This scenario shows that the time delay setting is necessary in some applications and should be preciously calibrated among relays. Consider the scenario illustrated in Figure 3. Relays from different manufactures may have different inverse time characteristics. regardless of the actual input value corresponding to a specific tap setting. In order to use these curves. an inverse time characteristic. The protection system should be designed to satisfy the following requirements: 1) Under normal conditions the breakers are not tripped 2) Under fault conditions only the breaker closest to the fault will trip 3) If the closest breaker fails to operate. Some standard curves were made according to IEEE C37. hence. Four typical curves are attached at the end of this lab manual. Breaker 1 and breaker 2 should remain closed so that power can still be delivered to loads on the first two segments. Notice that each segment has one overcurrent protection relay connected to it. if a fault occurs at the third segment.112-1996 Standard Inversed-Time Characteristic Equations for Overcurrent Relays. Over the years various shapes of time curves have evolved. The curves are plotted in terms of multiples of the pickup value. then the next breaker closest to the fault should trip. But if breaker 3 fails to trip. There are two settings that must be applied to all time-delay overcurrent relays: 1) the pickup value and 2) the time delay. Time-delay overcurrent relays are designed to produce fast operation at high current and slow operation at low current. This allows the same curves to be used.Figure 3 Overcurrent relay coordination system A reasonable time delay is necessary so that relays can be coordinated with each other. breaker 2 should trip after a time delay while breaker 1 remains closed. you must first calculate the following: fault current pick up value “Multiples of pickup values” = (2) . For example. and not in terms of the actually pickup value of current. then breaker 3 should trip.

Laboratory Procedure 1.RTA c. Fill out tables 2-4 using the data of different states. To change the states click on the middle arrow icon that is located below “Results”. Click on the SEL 5401 icon. Choose File > Open > floppy disk > OverCurrentAMS. IC) PTR Phase (VA. You will see some interaction between SEL_AMS and relay. From the ACSELERATOR menu go to Settings > Open > MISS STATE 351S > OK. b. Table2 State 1 (Prefault State) IA IB IC VA VB VC Table 3 State 2 (Fault State) IA IB IC VA VB VC Table 4 State 3 (Post Fault State) IA IB IC VA VB VC 3. e. A message box with title Transfer Statue will show up. f. You should note that the states names appear on the right side of the screen. > Group 1 > OK.. VB. From the second menu choose File > Import > floppy disk >SEL Project > InstantOverCurrent > set_1 > OK. Click on the ACSELERATOR icon. IB. Usually it takes 15 seconds to complete the transfer. Setting up the programs a. d. d. Table 1 SEL-351S Setting Value (Instantaneous OverCurrent) CTR Phase (IA. b. VC) 50PIP Level 1 (Pickup Value) 2. Find the pickup value from GROUP 1 > SET 1 > Phase Instantaneous Overcurrent. Setting up relay a. Fill out the ctr and ptr values on table 1 using the data from GROUP1 > SET1 >GENERAL SETTING. From the second menu bar choose File > Send. Click on Run > Download Test and Run it. Viewing the waveforms . c.

It usually takes around two minutes to complete the file transfer. Repeat step 1f. Record this value in the appropriate table (tables 5 or 7). Count the number of cycles from fault occurrence to fault clearance. Table 5: Instantaneous Overcurrent Fault Current 15 A 30 A Operating Cycles Operating Time (sec) 4. the Event Waveform Window. e. Click on Run > Download Test and Run it. b. d. Different scenarios a. and the Relay Event History window. Then repeat step 3 to get a new output waveform. b. Another window will come up showing you all the voltage and current waveforms and some logical levels (don’t worry about the logic levels).a. Close the Waveform Window. Make sure that IA in the fault state is set to 15. click ANALYSIS > EVENT WAVEFORM > READ HISTORY. Figure 4 shows an example of the graph you should see. f. From the ASCESERATOR menu. d. Use this value to calculate the operating time of the relay (operating at 60 Hz). select the recent event (the top one) and set EVENT TYPE as 4 samples/cycs and EVENT LENGTH as 15. e. then repeat step 3. Repeat step 4a. c. When prompted to save the file click NO. After that. From the ASCESRATOR window click FILE > IMPORT > floppy disk >SEL Project > TimeOverCurrent > set_1 > OK c. Go back to the SEL 5401 window and change the value of IA in the state 2(fault state) to 25. you will see a window titled Event Waveform. Fill out table 6 by checking GROUP1 > SET1 > Phase Time-OverCurrent. then click GET EVENT. From the dialogue window. Table 6: SEL-351S Setting Value (Time OverCurrent) 51PIP Level 1 Pickup Value 51DIC Level 1 Curve 51PITD Level 1 Time Dial Table 7: Time-Delay Overcurrent Fault Current 15 A 30 A Operating Cycles Operating Time (sec) .

Does the fault current change the operating time of these two types of relay? 3. fault current = 50 A 2. Write a short paragraph about your understanding of the difference of these two types of overcurrent relay.Figure 4 Instant overcurrent relay event report Figure 5 Time delay relay event report Discussion 1. 4. use the attached curves to pinpoint the operating time and compare it with the calculated value. For time-delay overcurrent relay. . based on table 6. Calculate the pick up value given the following information: Max load current = 10 A Min.

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