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Improved Safety

edium-Voltage Replacement Breaker Project

Part Two

his paper is the second installment exploring medium-voltage replacement breakers. The first paper dealt with the types of life
By Jim Bowen, PE Powell Electrical Mfg. Co.

extension projects available and the manufacturers type testing required by the IEEE standards. This final portion of the paper will explore the testing and data analysis needed to determine if an installation is a candidate for a life extension project and the commissioning process required to ensure a successful start-up of a replacement-breaker project.


Candidates for Conversion Breakers Projects

Over the last 30 years safety interlocks have evolved significantly. In addition, the standards require a ground connection system that ensures the breaker frame is grounded during the entire racking process. Older designs engage the circuit breaker frame ground at or near the point of primary conductor contact. Many of todays replacement or conversion breakers have gone the extra step by offering modern interlock features. Further, manufacturers are offering as an option some form of remote racking to allow racking of the circuit breaker while the operating personnel are located outside the arc flash boundary zone.

Ted Burse Powell Electrical Mfg. Co.

Environmental Issues
Most of the original arc chute designs were made with asbestos and often had high levels of radon. The percent of content varied from one

Based on Medium-Voltage Replacement Breaker Projects by Jim Bowen, PE, and Ted Burse, which appeared in IEEE PCIC 2000. 2000 IEEE.
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manufacturer to the next. These older breakers require special environmental procedures during removal and inspection of the arc chutes. The need for fully reconditioning an older arc chute is rare and requires a high degree of expertise to be executed safely within current environmental requirements. The process of switching the load current contaminates the bottom portion of the arc chute with conductive material. The arc melts and vaporizes the contact material while portions of the metal vapor

and oxides condense on the surrounding insulating surfaces, decreasing the insulation resistance. Repetitive arc interruptions at low current levels will increase the contamination, and under severe conditions the circuit breaker will not withstand the interrupted circuit (transient recovery) voltage, resulting in failure to interrupt the current. In the past, reconditioning of an arc chute was typically accomplished by lightly bead blasting the contaminated surfaces. This activity resulted in airborne asbestos. Current environmental regulations make this process difficult and costly. As a result, conversion should be considered for maintenance of a circuit breaker containing asbestos arc chutes or arc chutes with a high level of radon.

Dielectric Testing
Maintenance of a circuit breaker must include insulation tests across the terminal connection of each arc chute. An alternating current high-potential test across the arc chutes gives the most reliable indication of the service condition. A direct current highpotential test may not be a reliable measure of the service condition due to the nonuniform voltage distribution across the contaminated surface of the arc chute. The material used in the construction of an arc chute is normally hygroscopic and any moisture absorbed is detrimental to the dielectric test results. Leaving a breaker in the open position for extended periods of time or closed and with a low level of current flowing deprives the breaker of the heat that may be necessary to compensate for the hygroscopic nature of the arc chutes. A power-factor test can be used as an indication of acceptable arc chute condition, but it is generally understood that these tests require an extensive comparative database on a particular piece of equipment to evaluate the test results. The arc chute is a sophisticated mechanism typically containing arc runners, ceramic/asbestos stacks, arc shields, blowout coils, baffles and deflectors, and a magnetic structure, all assembled in an insulating jacket. Visual inspection for cracks and flaws, while difficult to perform adequately, plays an important part in determining the life of the arc chute. Even the smallest sign of physical damage in the arc chute is a concern and may compromise the ability of the arc chute to withstand the forces exerted during a fault. If evaluating arc chute replacement, be aware that most of the original manufacturers designs are now obsolete and the originally qualified original equipment manufacturer components are no longer available. Substitute materials used in the reconditioning process must be subjected to a full series of interrupting tests.

The arc chute is not the only item requiring evaluation and testing. The insulators that support the conductors, the interphase barriers that help make the dielectric structure of the breaker, and the operating rods that transfer the mechanical force from the mechanism to the interrupter contacts can all degrade. Typical degradation mechanisms include age, contamination and partial discharge. This total dielectric system needs to be inspected and given a voltagewithstand test. In this case, it is recommended the asfound leakage current and the as-left leakage current be recorded and trended from one maintenance interval to the next as a measure of future life. The assembled breaker test must be coupled with arc chute inspections to gain a comprehensive evaluation of the breaker condition. The database of dielectric test results is a good predictor of the future dielectric breakdown by the indications of the open and closed circuit breaker leakage current.

Mechanical Life Mechanism

In addition to the dielectric strength, the mechanical ability of the breaker is an important consideration in determining the life of the circuit breaker. The breaker operating times and velocities combined with the operating coil currents and times as-found and as-left should be measured and recorded during regular maintenance intervals. Trending these operating parameters is a good indication of the remaining mechanical life of the breaker mechanism. Allowing a mechanism to remain in the closed position for months or years without operation can adversely affect the tripping speed of the circuit breaker. One mechanism of physical deterioration is grease solidifying with age in the presence of heat. The solidifying of the grease can be sufficient to stall a breaker or slow the operation below an acceptable speed to safely interrupt current. Typically, the speed of a breaker with hardened grease will increase after several operations only to begin to degrade again once back in service. This may result in the breaker not responding properly when required to interrupt current. If the circuit breaker time to trip or the mechanism velocity at contact part is slower than the manufacturers recommendation on the first operation after removal from the cubicle, the maintenance interval must be reduced to ensure the safe operation of the circuit breaker. If reduction of the maintenance interval is not possible, it is time to replace the breaker. It is also important to remember that a breakers life is not only a function of age but of the environment and the total number of operations. With too many operations the mechanism wears out, but with too few operations the mechanism may become sluggish or inoperative.


Mechanical Endurance Racking Mechanism

Ensuring all interlocking and auxiliary functions will operate properly is perhaps the most difficult task facing the maintenance engineer today. Operating personnel are most vulnerable to safety incidents when moving the breaker to and from the connected position. The close proximity of the operator to the arc flash hazard that is normally required while racking a breaker between positions results in the highest exposure to the operator. The racking mechanism and the inability of the breaker to move into and out of the compartment is often one of the first signs of failure of aging equipment. Again, the condition of the lubrication plays an extremely important part in the ability of the racking mechanism to function correctly. The older air circuit breakers are heavy devices. Along with the alignment of the breaker within the compartment, this weight plays an important role in the physical loading and wear of the racking system. Correct engagement of the primary and secondary disconnects deteriorates with wear associated with normal use. The use of the circuit breaker and cell in a misaligned system can result in significant deterioration.

The design of bus bracing systems required to successfully withstand the short-circuit, short-time, and momentary rating are well understood. Field inspection of the existing bus configuration is normally required because of the multitude of bus arrangements used in any particular original design. The existing arrangement is analyzed to determine the need for additional bus supports to allow incremental increases in the short-circuit withstand capability of the switchgear. This type of design verification does not normally require additional high-current testing.

Physical Condition of the Enclosure

The physical condition of the equipments existing enclosure must be evaluated for possible limitations. All metal-clad equipment relies on the structure as an integral part of the equipment bracing and the groundfault path. Simple corrosion of the hardware can severely affect the ability of the switchgear to operate per design during short-circuit conditions. The enclosure also becomes a part of the groundfault path during heavy faults. The sheet metal hardware plays a significant part in assuring the touch potentials of the enclosure during a fault are not a significant hazard.

Trend Analysis
Trending of breaker maintenance data is an effective predictor of circuit breaker life. If the breaker asfound condition indicates that the predicted data points will be unacceptable within the next two maintenance intervals, either a change in technology is required or the breaker maintenance interval must be shortened to compensate for the breaker aging. If the as-found conditions indicate a marginally acceptable breaker and the as-left test results indicate the breaker will be approaching the as-found levels within the next two maintenance cycles, it is time to evaluate the cost of a replacement circuit breaker project. In other words, maintenance is not improving the condition of the breaker to a satisfactory level.

When Replacement Breakers Are Not Enough

The switchgear condition must be evaluated from an overall standpoint to understand how long the life extension will postpone switchgear replacement. Evaluating the return on investment of deferring the outage required to replace the switchgear versus investing in replacement breakers is a function of the expected life of the retained equipment. The physical condition of potted bus joints, the deterioration of instrument, control power, and current transformers, the control wiring insulation, and the antiquated relays are some of the areas that should be evaluated for replacement at the same time the breakers are changed.

Ratings and Capabilities

We often find that in 30 to 40 years of service utility expansion, greater motor fault contribution or additional cogeneration has increased the available shortcircuit current to a higher level than when the substation was first installed. The result is the short-circuit rating of the switchgear and circuit breakers may not be sufficient. A new, higher rated conversion or replacement circuit breaker can often be installed in the existing compartment to meet the increased requirements. The switchgear bus bracing must be evaluated for performance at the increased levels and modified at the site, if required. However, this involves the shutdown of the entire lineup of switchgear to add additional bus supports.

It is essential that both classroom and hands-on equipment training accompany any installation of new replacement, retrofill, or conversion circuit breakers. The operator and maintenance technicians must be trained in all tasks they are expected to perform relating to the operation and the maintenance of the equipment, including how the circuit breaker must properly interface with the existing switchgear. In addition to training, a checkout must be performed to confirm the breaker was not damaged in shipment and is compatible with the existing cell. During this procedure adjustments may be required to match the two devices.

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Physical inspection and mechanical checkout of the breaker and cell must be performed to confirm the new breaker nameplate is consistent with the existing switchgear rating and the breaker and cell are functioning separately. Typically, these tests should include all tests recommended in the circuit breaker manufacturers instruction bulletin. At a minimum, the breaker should undergo an inspection, functional checks, a circuit breaker timing test, and a vacuum integrity test (with a vacuum integrity tester or an alternating current high potential test set). Moreover, a high potential test of the circuit breaker is required to assure phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground dielectric integrity. An insulation resistance test of the control wiring should also be performed. Once these checks are completed, it must be confirmed that the replacement breaker correctly racks into and out of the cell. The replacement breaker has been designed to be compatible with the existing cell, but checks must be made to fit the breaker with the specific switchgear compartment. For example, this may require the adjustment of the front cover to minimize gaps and overlaps. Once the replacement breaker cover matches the existing equipment, the ground shoe (circuit breaker ground connection) and primary disconnects should be checked to confirm that the breaker is engaging the switchgear fully. To confirm breaker engagement, apply a very thin layer of the manufacturers recommended stab grease to the breaker connections. Deenergize the switchgear and rack the replacement breaker into and out of the cell without closing the circuit breaker. Inspect the primary disconnects and ground shoe for uniform distribution of the lubricant. If the switchgear can remain de-energized for the time needed, the insertion test can be followed by a direct current resistance test from the line side to load side of each cell. With the circuit breaker installed and closed, confirm resistance and ensure the primary disconnects are in good contact with the compartment. This step is impossible if the switchgear cannot be deenergized, but it is important to remember that the circuit breaker primary disconnects are only part of the total current path. Even though the circuit breaker may be new, if the contact surfaces in the switchgear are dirty or corroded the resulting connection between the circuit breaker and switchgear may be highly resistive. This would lead to overheating of the connection and possible premature failure of the connection. Once the ground shoe connection and primary disconnects have been checked, the secondary control disconnect should be checked to confirm that the switchgear secondary disconnect engages properly and the compartment wiring matches the replacement breaker wiring. The control wiring of some of the older solenoidoperated circuit breakers and switchgear may need modification for the new stored-energy mechanism to operate correctly. Some equipment designs and control schemes do not have a steady-state control volt4

age available at the secondary disconnect that is required for the stored energy feature to operate. It should also be noted that most of the old solenoid-operated circuit breakers required substantially higher current to operate than the replacement breaker. This means that the control fuses in the closing circuit are normally 60 amperes or greater. It is prudent to protect the charging motor circuit with fuses appropriate for this load. These fuses can either be integral to the replacement breaker or located upstream in the switchgear cubicle. The original circuit breaker may also have tripping current requirements far above the requirement of the replacement circuit breaker. These trip coils were normally wound with larger wire in order to accommodate the higher current. Due to the higher thermal capability of these coils, fairly high trickle currents flowing in these coils for healthy coil monitoring lamps could be tolerated without damage to the coil or any negative impact on breaker operation. This may not be the case with the replacement circuit breaker. In a worst case, excessive current flowing through the trip coil may overheat the coil or cause partial operation of the coil. Either of these may negatively affect circuit breaker operation. Induction disc-protective relay-target settings should be reviewed to insure that the targets will operate by the reduced trip current of the new circuit breaker. The last step is to confirm the breaker properly operates the cells mechanism-operated contact (MOC) and truck operated contact (TOC) switches and that all breaker-to-cell interlocks work correctly. This step deserves extra emphasis. As stated previously, some of the modular elements used in replacement breakers may not have sufficient surplus energy to properly operate all of the existing original equipment manufacturer MOC assemblies. In all of the known original designs, the MOC was operated parasitically by the circuit breaker mechanism. The energy required to operate the MOC switch may vary greatly due to the original design parameters, the quality and level of maintenance, the number of total operations on the assembly, and the number of spring-return mechanisms used in accordance to assembly. If the MOC switch requires more energy for operation than is available, the replacement circuit breaker may fail to operate properly. Once the MOC and TOC switch have been verified, the insertion and withdrawal interlock functions must be verified. Although these interlocks are normally adjusted and checked at the factory, the existing compartment may not be within the originally specified tolerances. Deviation from the originally specified dimensions may be due to wear, original installation deviations to specification, or field modifications made throughout the service life of the equipment. Adjustments may be required to the circuit breaker and/or the compartment to ensure correct operation of these critical interlocks.

This paper outlines some clear choices to extend the life of a substation and defer total switchgear replacement costs. Standards now exist to identify some basic requirements for the design and testing of conversion circuit breakers, replacement breakers, and with the upcoming revision to C37.59, retrofill cell conversions. Testing must be performed on the existing equipment at regular intervals to predict the expected life of the circuit breakers. Candidates for conversion may be justified based on: Improved safety Environmental issues (e.g., arc chutes containing asbestos) Dielectric integrity of the insulation Mechanical life of the circuit breaker mechanism Mechanical endurance of the racking mechanism Changes in the rating requirements Any or all of these candidates for conversion may play a part in the decision to initiate a switchgear life extension project.

Many factors influence the decision process, and these vary from one installation to the next. Age is only one factor in this process. The plant maintenance engineer must prepare the organization for this type of a project prior to allowing the circuit breakers to deteriorate to an unsafe level. This requires predicting an effective life and preparing the organization for the project years in advance. Commissioning replacement breakers is a vital part of a successful overall project. The replacement of circuit breakers alone may not produce the expected results if the operating condition of the basic compartment varies widely. Commissioning must be accomplished with closely coordinated cooperation of the manufacturer and end user to ensure a long and reliable life of the equipment.

ANSI/IEEE C37.059-1996, IEEE Standard Requirements for Conversion of Power Switchgear Equipment, New York, NY: IEEE ANSI/IEEE C37.04-1999, IEEE Standard Rating Structure for AC High-Voltage Circuit Breakers Rated on a Symmetrical Current Basis, New York, NY: IEEE ANSI/IEEE C37.09-1999, IEEE Standard Test Procedure for AC High-Voltage Circuit Breakers Rate on a Symmetrical Current Basis, New York, NY: IEEE B. Bridger, Replacing Older Medium Voltage Circuit Breakers with Vacuum Circuit Breakers Powell Technical Brief #32, Oct 92 J.G.Bishop, editor, Electrical Maintenance Hints, Trafford, PA: Westinghouse Electric Corp., 1974

Jim Bowen was born in Baytown, Texas in 1953 and graduated from Texas A&M 1976. He joined Powell Electrical Manufacturing in 1997 as the Technical Director after working for Exxon Chemicals for 17 years in various project and plant positions. He is an IEEE member, is involved in IEEE continuing education, and has published several papers. Ted A. Burse was born in Canton, Ohio in 1955. He began his professional career in 1974 with Ohio Transformer working in the circuit breaker repair and calibration area. He joined Arbuckle Electric, Houston, Texas, in 1976 as the switchgear shop foreman. He joined Powell Electrical Manufacturing Company in 1979 as an engineer in the research and development area, and became Manager of R and D in 1993. In 1999 he became the Product Line Manager for Replacement Products for the Powell Apparatus Service Division. Burse is a member of the IEEE/PES Switchgear Committee and has served as Chair of the Switchgear Assemblies Subcommittee.

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Main Interrupter Stacks Blowout Coil Blowout Magnet Core Center Arc Horns Transfer Stacks Rear Arc Horn

7. 8. 9. 10.

Rear Arc Horn Disconnecting Contact Shunt Connector Ceramic Arc Shield Front Arc Horn

Pole Unit with Arc Chute Section View

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