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Rev 1

May 2000

SECTION 4 SWITCHGEAR - GENERAL

CONTENTS

Switchgear - General

Page 4 - 14

Where the system fault level exceeds the limited breaking capacity of the contactor. It is required to enable generators. SF6 or vacuum-break type. A circuit-breaker may be of the oil-break.Rev 1 May 2000 SWITCHGEAR . Contactors are designed only to make and carry fault current for a short time not to break it. Because of the fire hazard only air-break and vacuum-break units tend to be used on offshore installations.GENERAL The subject of 'Switchgear' is regarded as covering all types of switching devices such as circuit-breakers. Switchgear . Contactors are designed to undergo repeated and frequent operation without undue wear. This switching is necessary both for normal operational purposes and for the rapid disconnection of any circuit that becomes faulty. transformers and motors to be connected to and disconnected from the high-voltage or low-voltage system. SF 6 or vacuum-break type. Switchgear is used on both high-voltage and low-voltage systems. as well as fuses and protective devices like relays. This section deals with switching devices as applied to high-voltage systems. Two types of switchgear are considered in this section: Circuit-breakers Circuit-breakers are used to control generators. Contactors Contactors are used to control motor circuits and sometimes transformers.General Page 4 . feeders. contactors and hand-operated switches. They may be of the air. air-break. transformers. interconnecting cables between switchboards and the starting and running of very large motors. but oil-break circuit-breakers are widely used onshore. each type is used both onshore and offshore. They are not designed for continuously repeated operation. fuses are inserted in series with the contactor contacts. low voltage is covered in another section. The switchgear also allows any circuit to be isolated from the live system and for that circuit to be made safe so that work may be carried out on equipment connected to it.14 . they are designed to MAKE and BREAK full fault currents. A switchboard may be made up of a mixture of circuit breaker and contactor cubicles depending on the nature of the individual loads and the distribution requirements. bus-sections buscouplers.

which was generally mounted close to the switch. these being particularly popular for domestic installations. The normal limit for this type of switch is from 300 to 400A. Breaking Capacity. but generally most switchgear is today enclosed. Voltage. its operation and its assembly into switch boards. In all cases it is impossible to open the cover with the switch in the 'on' position. Normal Current. air-break.General Page 4 . without damage.14 . the full fault current before that current is broken. Making Current. This is the maximum peak asymmetrical current (expressed in kA) that the switch can carry in any pole during a making operation. vacuum.V. Originally all switchgear consisted of open knife switches mounted on a slate or composition panel and operated by hand. For the smaller capacities insulated cases are obtainable in place of the metal type. and the great increase in total power in a system necessitated the use of oil-break. This is the current that the switch will carry continuously without overheating.c. giving a quick make and break with a free handle action which makes the operation of the switch independent of the speed at which the handle is moved. the switchgear generally includes the necessary protective devices that are desirable in order that the particular section may be automatically isolated under fault conditions. The use of high voltage a. 5. Any knife switches are usually spring controlled. This is the maximum time (usually specified as 3 sec or 1 sec) for which the switch will carry. 4. and in some instances open-type boards are being installed. This is the maximum fault current (expressed in kA (rms) or MVA) which the switch will interrupt on all three phases.Rev 1 May 2000 A circuit breaker or contactor has five ratings: 1. This is the nominal system voltage at which the switch will operate without breakdown. Moulded case circuit breakers with ratings up to 3000A and capable of interrupting currents up to 200kA (for the larger ratings) are becoming popular for control of L. The choice of suitable switchgear depends to a larger extent on the actual duty than any other type of electrical plant. Switchgear . For low voltages (up to 1000V) knife-type switches may still be used. The descriptions that follow are concerned with the actual hardware. 3. The theory and manner in which the various types of circuit-breaker and contactor extinguish the arc and interrupt the current is dealt with elsewhere. but larger units can be made Miniature circuit breakers are used widely as protective devices in consumer premises and for group switching and protection of fluorescent lights in commercial and industrial buildings. The protective device consisted of a fuse. Short-time Rating. Metalclad switch or combined switch and fuse units are used either singly or to form a switchboard. In addition switching on or off any section of an electrical installation. networks. SF6 or air blast switchgear. 2.

although regular checks on the mechanical operation and the cleanliness of exposed insulation is always advisable. SF6 circuit-breakers come in a number of forms. SF6 circuit-breakers take over and are used up to 420kV. the SF 6 circuit-breaker has other advantages that make it equally as acceptable for industrial and distribution use. Vacuum interrupters are sealed-for-life ceramic 'bottles' containing movable contacts in a high vacuum.V.3kV to 11kV has an arc control device that is suitable for motor switching and is used mainly in power stations. The arc is struck within the control device and the resultant gas pressure sweeps the arc through cooling vents in the side of the pot. A major part of circuit-breaker cubicle cost is the protection and instrumentation systems that are associated with the particular panel protection and its interlocking with adjacent circuits. In fact. which are protected by complex relay systems. in most cases. All new units are designed to minimise the maintenance that is required to the interrupting unit . For higher voltages. distribution systems despite the perceived fire risk. For L. For small breakers. While the life of the contacts is not as great as those in a vacuum. High reliability and simple maintenance are available from these devices. consist of an oil enclosure in which contacts and an arc control device are mounted.General Page 4 . Vacuum circuit-breakers were the first type of oil-less circuit breaker to be available and have been used in industrial situations since the later 1960s. All circuit-breaker systems up to 36kV are three-phase units but for higher voltages up to 420kV three separate single-phase breakers are sometimes used to facilitate single-phase opening and closing for transient faults.V. air break. Its cost makes general use in industry and distribution systems unusual. the operation of one of the relays of the protection system releases the tripping mechanism in a similar manner. Low voltage threephase systems of up to 415V are usually controlled by air circuit-breakers with or without series fuses. all utilising the good dielectric and arc extinguishing properties of this gas to provide another type of oil-less circuit breaker. The circuit breaking performance of this design is very high and a large number of shortcircuit operations can be achieved before any replacement is necessary. For large units. For higher voltage systems up to 36kV. Switchgear . the protection is provided by overload coils or thermal releases inside the unit itself. Oil circuit-breakers. Protection from overload is obtained by means of a device that releases the mechanism and opens the breaker. The air-break circuit-breaker for 3. oil. systems the air-break circuit-breaker is usually a moulded case unit.14 . this will never be required. vacuum and SF 6 breakers are available. together with automatic operation it is necessary to use special control devices to interrupt the fault current. which still are popular for H.Rev 1 May 2000 When any breaking capacity rating is required.

Truck-type. With conventional switchgear. and the greatest r.s. Provision for instruments which may be required. A breaker is usually classified according to the voltage of the circuit on which it is to be installed.General Page 4 . The difference between a switch and circuit breaker is that the switch is a device for making and breaking a current not greatly in excess of its rated normal current. but it is always necessary on the outgoing side if that part of the network can be made alive through any other control gear or alternative supply. both on the incoming and outgoing side. 3. Isolation of the internal mechanism for inspection. the normal current which it is designed to carry continuously in order to limit the temperature rise to a safe value. Draw-out type of gear in which the whole of the circuit breaker is withdrawn vertically from the busbar chamber before it can be opened up. always required on the incoming side. 4. Oil switches. Switchgear . Current.m. and the circuit-breaker is a device capable of making and breaking the circuit under both normal and fault conditions. of course. These may be in the form of either an ammeter or voltmeter on the unit itself or the necessary current and voltage transformers for connecting to the main switchboard or a separate instrument panel.e. 6.e. Insulation from breaker contacts to the side of the enclosure must be adequate for the voltage and maximum load that the breaker will be called upon to deal with. isolation is effected in the following ways: 5. usually 1 or 3 sees.Rev 1 May 2000 Some essential features of all switchgear are: 1. the instantaneous peak current. the frequency of the supply.14 . By isolating links in or near the busbar chamber. Provision for manual operation in case the electrical control (if provided) fails to operate. Isolation is. 7. double isolating devices are necessary i. 2. have to be capable of making onto a shortcircuit. which it will carry without damage for a specified length of time. its making capacity in kA (peak). isolation of both sides takes place automatically. i. its interrupting capacity in kA. This is important and full interlocks are always provided to prevent the opening of any part of the enclosure unless access to the higher voltage supply is prevented. in which the circuit-breaker with its connections is isolated in a horizontal manner before inspection or adjustment. It should be noted that in certain cases. For switchgear up to 11kV and most circuit breakers up to 33kV. however.

All circuit-breakers shall be capable of carrying out a given number of mechanical and electrical operating cycles.c.c. each one consisting of a closing operation followed by an opening operation (mechanical endurance test) or a making operation followed by a breaking operation (electrical endurance test). the circuit-breaker shall remain closed for a maximum of 2 seconds The manufacturer shall supply detailed instructions on the adjustments or maintenance required to enable the circuit-breaker to perform the number of operating cycles specified. and 1200V d.Rev 1 May 2000 Rated Thermal current in Amperes Number of Operating Cycles per hour All Circuit Breakers Number of operating cycles† Circuit Breakers Circuit Breakers designed to be designed not to maintained‡ be maintained Ith 100 100 Ith 315 315 Ith 630 630 Ith 1250 1250 Ith 2500 2500 Ith 240 120 60 30 20 10 With current. Switchgear .1 NUMBER OF OPERATING CYCLES FOR THE MECHANICAL ENDURANCE TEST (FROM BS 4752) † ‡ Ith During each operating cycle. Without Total Withou Total without current t Maintenance current 4000 16000 20000 4000 8000 2000 18000 20000 6000 8000 1000 9000 10000 4000 5000 500 4500 2500 3000 100 1900 2000 900 1000 Agreement between manufacturer and user TABLE 4. The numbers of cycles for the mechanical endurance test are shown in the table.14 . the rated thermal current of the circuit-breaker BS4752 covers circuit breakers of rated voltage up to and including 1000V a.General Page 4 .

Particular care is therefore necessary when working on. sometimes encapsulated in epoxy resin. form a continuous switchboard. and from its top contacts back to the bottom level to feed the circuitbreakers on the other side.TYPICAL HIGH VOLTAGE SWITCHBOARD The panels. Nevertheless the principles explained above will apply in all cases. Sometimes (as here) use is made of the front of a narrow transfer panel to accommodate extra relays. Panel 5.1 . together with their withdraw able circuit-breakers. The switchboard acts as an electrical 'manifold'.Rev 1 May 2000 HIGH VOLTAGE SWITCHBOARDS A number of complete housings. with a common set of busbars running the length of the board. or near to.14 . the bus-section cubicle may still have live copper work on the other side of the circuit-breaker.1. can be assembled into a single switchboard. the bottom run on one side passes into the bus-section circuit-breaker. FIGURE 4.1. Switchboards other than the one described and made by other manufacturers. even when the busbars on one side of a section breaker have been made safe for maintenance by complete isolation and earthing down. which can be opened for mechanical control of the breaker or for withdrawing it. In most offshore boards the busbars run along the bottom. This arrangement is also shown in Figure 4. At a bus-section panel. At a busbar transfer panel. whose upper parts carry the local controls. bus-section cubicles. such as Panel 9. as shown typically in Figure 4. and tee-offs are made from them to the lower contacts of each circuit-breaker (Panels 1-8) and contactor (Panels 10-13). will differ in the detail of their busbar arrangements. protective relays and indicating instruments. the copper work run is changed from the bottom level (for the circuit-breakers) to two levels for the tiers of contactors.1 it will be seen that.General Page 4 . Switchgear . By studying Figure 4. The circuit-breakers are at the bottom behind doors.

Rev 1 May 2000 FIGURE 4.General Page 4 .14 .TYPICAL VACUUM CONTACTOR SWITCHBOARD A set of vacuum contactor panels.2. Switchgear .2 . can be assembled to form a complete switchboard. space-saving switchboards. as shown in Figure 4. sometimes also with vacuum circuit-breaker panels. Vacuum switch panels are very narrow compared to the equivalent air-break circuit-breaker panels and lend themselves well to very compact.

There are three contactors (10. through circuit-breakers or contactors. and feeders are taken from it.1. In Panel 9 (a bus transfer panel) the busbar splits into two . and one interconnector breaker (2). controls it and distributes it.3 . Switchgear . 12 and 13) feeding medium-sized motors and one (11) feeding a transformer.one for the high-level and one for the low-level contactors. 7 and 8) supplying very large motors which are too big for contactors. in diagram form. The busbars act as a 'manifold'. motors or interconnectors. the bus-section breaker (5).TYPICAL OFFSHORE HIGH VOLTAGE SYSTEM Figure 4. 4.3 shows. A common busbar system runs through the board to which the power sources are connected through switchgear. a typical air-break HV switchboard. to all power-consuming services such as transformers. On the right are the four-contactor panels. four feeder breakers (1. FIGURE 4.Rev 1 May 2000 SWITCHBOARD DISTRIBUTION A high-voltage switchboard is an assembly point that receives power from the HV generators or other sources. It shows the two generator incomer breakers (3 and 6).14 . It is in fact the diagram of the HV switchboard shown pictorially in Figure 4. all four contactors have back-up fuses.General Page 4 .

A large switchboard may include as many as 30 or more MCC panels. On each side of the circuit-breaker panels are MCC panels.General Page 4 . Switchgear .14 . Each contains a number of motor control contactor cubicles and fuse-switch cubicles mounted one above the other to control the outgoing circuits.Part of Typical Offshore 440v Switchboard Part of a typical offshore 440V switchboard is shown in Figure 4.Rev 1 May 2000 LOW VOLTAGE SWITCHBOARDS General Figure 4. Further MCC panels are added as required.4 . the main busbars run through busbar chambers at the top and to the rear of the panels. the centre three panels contain cubicles for the incoming feeder.5. The arrangement of the busbars and circuit connections is shown diagrammatically in Figure 4. Power is supplied to each outgoing feeder cubicle by a set of dropping housed in a vertical enclosure at the rear of each MCC panel. control switches and indication equipment are mounted on the fronts of each panel.4. bus-section and heavy feeder circuit-breakers. they are connected through the length of each section of switchboard. Additional MCC panels are mounted on each side of the centre section to house the feeder cubicles necessary to meet the requirements of the system concerned. one of which is shown in Figure 4.4 on each side of the centre panels. The fuse-switch cubicles control those circuits not associated with motors such as sub-distribution boards or welding sockets. the associated protective relays. The part shown consists of five panels mounted side by side.

FIGURE 4.Rev 1 May 2000 On many switchboards each incoming switchgear panel has provision for earthing the neutral busbar through a bolted link. as by no means all the feeder circuits supply power to motors.5 shows a typical onshore LV system with two transformer incomers. a heavy feeder and two grouped distributing sections. Switchgear . (Note: This is a somewhat misleading term. earthing both the neutral busbar and the star-point of the transformer. It is not switched with the breaker. left and right. Centre (Incomer) Section An LV switchboard is usually supplied from one or two step-down transformers fed from the HV system. installed behind a panel and with their LV terminals connected directly onto the copper work of the incomer panel. Heavy-current feeders and the larger interconnectors feeding power to or from other LV switchboards sometimes require circuit-breaker protection and are then brought into the centre section. this feature is not provided at the switchboard. a bussection breaker. with power being passed to left and right by the busbars.General Page 4 . On some installations where dry-type encapsulated transformers are used. also called Motor Control Centres (MCCs). this provides an earth for that particular part of the LV system.14 . this link is closed. the transformers themselves form part of the LV switchboard.) The circuit breakers usually form the centre section.TYPICAL ONSHORE 415V SYSTEM Figure 4.5 . When the incoming supply is from a transformer. LV operating voltages are normally 415V onshore and 440V offshore. On systems where the transformer star-point is earthed direct.

care is needed when withdrawing or replacing them.6(a). The largest is seven tiers high. although they are shrouded. Such feeder cubicles have a simple rotary isolating switch on the hinged panel-front door. The following description is typical and is widely used in both onshore and offshore installations. All MCC feeder cubicles used for motor control have a contactor in the circuit following the isolator switch or fuse-switch. but their vertical height depends upon the rating and function of the unit. This is shown in Figure 4.6(c) and (d).and there is space for ten of them. depending on the manufacturer. Larger sizes of switch panel are provided with a fuse-switch for isolation. An isolating handle on the door of the unit operates this with a mechanical drive to the fixed fuseswitch through a dog-clutch which is engaged only when the door is closed.General Page 4 . The fuses are dead when the fuse-switch is off.6 . FIGURE 4.TYPICAL MCC CUBICLES The MCC feeder cubicles occupy the full width of an MCC panel. In practice a panel usually contains a mixture of cubicles of different heights to suit the particular distribution requirement.a 'one-tier' cubicle . In the smallest (one-tier) feeder cubicles the HRC fuse bases are permanently fixed to the busbar droppers and. as shown in Figure 4.Rev 1 May 2000 MCC Section A feeder cubicle controls each outgoing circuit (other than interconnectors) on one of the MCC 'wings' of the switchboard. Switchgear . These cubicles are of different types. The smallest unit occupies one module of height . the two types are shown in Figures 4.14 .6(b). Both isolating switches and fuse-switches are interlocked with the doors of their associated switch unit so that the door cannot be opened unless the switch is off.

However each motor cubicle at the MCC has an emergency stop pushbutton. It is very rare for provision to be made to start a motor at the MCC cubicle itself (some ventilation fans are exceptions). Great care is needed with the busbar fuses in one-tier cubicles. the fuses themselves are still connected to the live busbar. In this case protection against accidental contact is afforded by the cubicle enclosure itself. A small cubicle at the top of the MCC panel provides the test supply through small distribution fuses. Low-voltage control and instrument fuses are usually panel-mounted in their own carriers. In one design they are either direct on the busbars (for one-tier units) or embodied in the isolating switch as a 'fuse-switch' in larger units . Their physical size is determined by their normal current rating.see Figure 4.see Figure 4. In all cases they are of the HRC type. for various control and instrumentation circuits. the isolator having first been opened. Access to a fuse-switch is only possible after the fuse-carrying blades of the switch have been put in the isolated (open) position and the door opened.6. caution should be shown when removing or replacing them. The contactor can then be operated while its main contacts are isolated from the mains. When used as back-up the fuses are inside the individual distribution cubicles on the MCC section of the switchboard. it is labelled 'TEST' or 'CONTROL'. Although the fuse links are well shrouded. Motors are normally started and stopped by remote control from the control room or the motor site. Although the door cannot be opened until the isolating switch has been opened.General Page 4 . Starting pushbuttons or switches at those points cause the contactor at the MCC to close.6(a) and (c).Rev 1 May 2000 It is possible to test the contactors without actually starting the motor. as back-up for distribution contactors or 9. a switch inside can be closed to provide an alternative supply to the contactor coil. FUSES Fuses are used with low-voltage switchgear: 8. When the cubicle door is opened. Switchgear .14 . The fault level current of the circuit in which they are connected determines their breaking capacity. though not carrying current .

PANEL HEATERS Each switchboard panel is fitted with an anti-condensation heater. where it is firmly fixed by various mechanical means. Care should be taken when working inside a switch cubicle as the panel heaters are usually supplied from a separate source and are not isolated when the cubicle doors are opened.7. butt contacts held by insulated screw pressure.COMPLETE LV FUSE UNIT (TYPICAL) A typical low-voltage fuse assembly is shown in Figure 4.7.General Page 4 . It is held in an insulated 'fuse carrier' which completely shrouds all live metal.7 . A tongue-contact type is shown in Figure 4. The carrier is supported on an insulated 'fuse base'. and controlled either by a hand switch or by an auxiliary switch that connects the heater when the circuit-breaker is open.Rev 1 May 2000 FIGURE 4. this is usually energised at 240V or 250V a. Switchgear . or wedge contacts pressed in by insulated screws.14 . The replaceable ceramic cartridge with its metal terminal caps is known as the 'fuse link'. among them tongue contacts.c.