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Over current Protection is very widely protection in our Power system.


. Arcing Time Pre Arc Time

We can find this protection at LV as well as EHV level power systems. Fuses and MCB are also a type of overcurrent protection.

The simplest form of overcurrent protection is the fuse. The fuse is capable of operating in less' than 10ms for very large values of current, thus considerably limiting fault energy,
Fuse A

Total Operating Time


IE=:r-1 ----,,--IIE=l-1

Fuse B


However, it does have a number of disadvantages, namely; ' Can be difficult to co-ordinate Its characteristic is fixed Needs replacing following fault clearance Has limited sensitivity to earthfaults since it is rated above the full load current of the feeder Operation of single fuse results in a condition refereed to as single phasing. Single phasing can be disastrous for rotating plant such as motors.

of switchgear in order to isolate the faulty part of the system. The protection must thus be discriminative, that is to say it shall, as far as possible, select and isolate only the faulty part of the system leaving all other parts in normal operation. Discrimination can be achieved by overcurrent or by time, or by a combination of overcurrent and time.

Discrimination by Current
Discrimination by current relies upon the fact that the fault current varies with the position of the fault. This variation is due to the impedance of various items of plant, such as cables and transformers, between the source and the fault. Relays throughout the system are set to operate at suitable values such that only the relay nearest to the fault operates, Relays which adopt this principle of operation are generally termed Instantaneous overcurrent relays.

The fuse characteristic is split into two sections, the 'Pre-arcing Time' and the 'Arcing Time', The addition of these times is referred to as the 'Total Operating Time'.

Principle of Overcurrent Protection

The purpose of overcurrent protection, as with other forms of protection, is to detect faults on a power system and as a result, initiate the opening


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Note : Where the fault level does not vary greatly between two relay location then the use of instantaneous overcurrent relays is not possible.
(IF1 = IF2)



ation by Time

I-x ~
0.9 sec 0.5 see

(Relay Current Setting)

Applied Current

If the fault level over a system is reasonably constant then discrimination by current will not be possible. An alternative is to use time discrimination in which each overcurrent relay is given a fixed time delay with the relay farthest away from the source having the shortest time delay. Operating time is thus substantially independent of fault level but the main disadvantage is that the relay nearest the source will have the longest time delay and this is the point with the highest fault level. Relays which adopt this principle of operation are generally termed definite (independent) time overcurrent relays. NOTE: When applying definite time overcurrent relays, care must be taken to ensure that thermal rating of current measuring element is not exceeded.

relays have adequate additional time to prevent them from operating. If the relay nearest to the fault fails to clear the fault, and the co-ordination is correct, then the next up-stream relay should operate and so on towards the source, thus isolating the minimum amount of plant. The principle of co-ordination is often referred to as 'grading'. When performing any co-ordination exercise the following need to be considered:

Relay Characteristics Relay Current Setting Grading Margin




~ Time Multiplier Setting Relay Characteristics

Applied Current V>





~~ f-~' ~


by both Time and Current

Due to the limitations imposed by the independent use of either tim~ or current, the inverse time overcurrent characteristic has been developed. With this characteristic the time of operation is inversely proportional to the current applied, i.e.; basically the higher the current applied, the faster the relay operates. Thus, the actual characteristic is a function of both time and current settings, thereby gaining the advantages of the previous mentioned methods and eliminating some the disadvantages.

E i=



~ <l> a. o

t=.1--11'0;;;;;;; I-



0.1 1 10


100 Current (Multiples of Is)

There are numerous characteristics, however they all confirm to either IEEE/IEC standards. IEC standard incorporates some of the following characteristics: Standard Inverse Very Inverse

Principles of Co-ordlnation
The principle of co-ordination refers to the procedure of setting overcurrent relays to ensure that the relay nearest the fault operates first and all other


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t = ----.-1'---3_.5_

Long Time Inverse The ANSI/IEEE standard incorporates some of the

{i, - I}
Extremely Inverse Time - With this characteristic
the operating time is approximately of the current. inversely The long of load which proportional operating to the square


characteristics: Inverse


Very Inverse Extremely Inverse

time of the relay at peak values of feeders

current make the relay particularly with fuses and also for protection are subject to peak currents feeders supplying is commonly interruption etc., which remain connected of supply. refrigerators,

suitable for grading in, such as


Short Time Inverse Inverse

on switching

Standard Inverse - This characteristic

known setting as the 3/10 characteristic, current

pumps, water heaters even after a prolonged

i.e. at ten times

and TMS of 1 the relay will operate This characteristic curve can be defined by the an 12tfunction. This characteristic curve can be defined : by the is also widely used for protecting since overheating is usually plant against overheating

in 3 secs. The characteristic mathematical


0.14 t = --o--~----'-''--02 fl } --1 Is {

where I = applied Is = setting



current current of setting current is widely on HV

t={I}2 -

80 -1


I/Is = multiple The standard applied on EHV systems and MV distribution In general, are used when: There

Long Time Inverse - This type of characteristic

has a long time characteristic protection and may be used for time at 5 of neutral earthing resistors (which normally setting is 30 secs at TMS of 1 . by :

inverse time characteristic and as the main protection systems. inverse

at all system voltages

- as back up protection

have a 30 sec rating). The relay operating times current

the standard


This can bedefined

t requirements further characteristics with out on of equipment thermal


are no co-ordination of protective e.g. fuses, motors etc.

Current Setting
The current setting of a relay is typically described as either transformer a percentage primary or multiple of the current

other types the system, transformers,

Very Inverse'Time - This type of characteristic

normally used to obtain greater time selectivity overall time factor does at any point conditions. the limiting fault current with system there the distance steeper intervals. current setting



or secondary

rating. on the close of

is very low, and the not vary too widely suitable, if as The of fault current increases. time longer

The choice of current setting thus depends load current to but above carrying and the CT ratio and is normally the maximum of course load current the circuit load.

It is particularly reduction gives source


is a substantial inverse curve

10%) - assuming

is capable

from the power

the maximum

foreseeable to consider of the setting

grading doubled

It is also important reduced to 90%-95%

the resetting the current (Depending

of is on to are

Its operating

time is approximately

the relay. The relay will reset when relay design) this value, operate cleared

for a reduction

in setting from 7 to 4 times the relay relays in series. curve : can be defined by the

setting. This permits the same time multiplier for several

and if the normal load current is above through fault conditions which

the relay will not reset after starting

The characteristic mathematical



by other switchgear.


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The setting for a typical overcurrent relay with a reset ratio of 95% can be determined using the following: Is

grade overcurrent relays with fuses. When the fuse is downstream of the relay the following formula can be used to calculate the grading margin: Grading Margin = OATf characteristic.

1.1 x IF/0.95

+ 0.15s over the whole

Where: Is


IFL= Full Load Current

The above formula assumes a minimum fuse operating time of 0.01 seconds Generally for this type of application a Extremely Inverse characteristic should be chosen to grade with the fuse and the current setting of the relay should be 3 - 4 x rating of fuse to ensure co-ordination.

Grading Margin
As previously mentioned, to obtain correct discrimination it is necessary to have a time interval between the operation of two adjacent relays. This time interval or grading margin depends upon a number of factors: a) The circuit breaker fault interrupting time b) The overshoot time of the relay c) Errors d) Final margin on completion of operation (safety margin) The discriminating relay can only be de-energised when the circuit breaker has completely interrupted the fault current.

Time Multiplier Setting

The time multiplier setting is a means of adjusting the operating time of an inverse type characteristic. It is not a time setting but a multiplier. In order to calculate the required TMS (Treq), calculate the operating time of the nearest downstream protection device at the maximum fault level seen by both devices, add to this the grading margin, calculate the operating time of the upstream device at this fault level with a TMS equal to one (T1) and then use the following for formula: TMS

Traditional breaker op time relay overshoot allow for errors safety margin Total Calculate using formula
t' = (2Er + Ect) t/100

Treq 1 T1

Overcurrent Protection
0.1 0.05 0.15 0.1 OAs Grade relay B with relay A Co-ordinate at max fault level seen by both relays = 1400 A Assume grading margin of OAs Relay B is set to 200A primary, 5A secondary Relay A set to 100A Therefore if (1400A) = PSM of 14 relay A OP time = t = (0.14xTMS)/(1002 - 1) = (0.14

Co-ordination Example

t. "'--. ,\ ""' ..... "'... V't..)& . ~,(io%,..,

+ tcb + to + ts

Er t

relay timing error relay

Ect = CT measurement error tcb = CB interrupting time to = relay overshoot time ts


. op time of downstream
safety margin


1) = 0.13

Op time of Downstream Relay t = 0.5s 0.37s margin for EM realy, oil CB 0.24s margin for static relay, vacuum CB

Relay B Op time

+ grading margin = 0.13 + OA



=0.53s Relay A uses SI curve so relay B should also use SI curve.

Grading Overcurrent Relays with Downstream Fuse

For some applications it will be necessary to

High Set Overcurrent

Where the source impedance is small in comparison with the protected circuit impedance, the

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use of high set instantaneous overcurrent units can be advantageous (for example on long transmission lines or transformer feeders). The application of an instantaneous unit makes possible a reduction in the tripping time at high fault levels and also allows the discriminating curves behind the high set unit to be lowered thereby improving overall system grading. It is important to note that when grading with the relay immediately behind the high set units, the grading interval should be established at the current setting of the high set unit and not at the maximum fault level that would normally be used for grading IDMT relays. When using high set units it is important to ensure that the relay does not operate for faults outside the protected section. The relays are normally set at 1.2 - 1.3 times the maximum fault level at the remote end of the protected section. This particularly applies when using instantaneous units on the HV side of a transformer when the instantaneous unit should not operate for faults on the LV side. The 1.2 - 1.3 factor allows for transient overreach, CT errors and slight errors in transformer impedance and line length. Modern relays have integral instantaneous elements which have low transient overreach. The degree of transient overreach is normally affected by the time constant of the measured fault current. For example, a typical transient overreach of a numerical overcurrent relay is less than 5% for time constants up to 30 ms and less than 10% for time constant up to 100 ms. This allows the instantaneous elements to be used as high set units for application to transformers and long feeders, The low transient overreach allows settings to be just above the maximum fault current at which discrimination is required. The instantaneous elements are also suitable for use as low set elements in conjunction with auto-reclose on distribution systems.
Economise using 2 x OC relays


with OC relays

Sensitive Earth Fault Relays

Where the earth path resistivity is high which may be the case on systems that do not utilise earth conductors, the earth fault current may be limited to such an extent that normal earth fault protection may not be sensitive enough. To overcome these problems a very sensitive relay is required, but the relay must have a very low burden in order that the effective setting is not increased. This very sensitive protection cannot be graded with other conventional systems and it is normal to apply this protection with a definite time delay of up to 10 or 15 sees. This time delay will prevent unwanted operation due to transient unbalance under phase fault conditions.

Earth Fault Protection

Earth faults, which are by far the most frequent type of fault, will be detected by phase overcurrent units as previously described but it is possible to obtain more sensitive protection by utilising a relay which responds only to the residual current in a system. Residual (or zero sequence) current only exists when a current flows to earth.

Advisable to use core balance CT

A------+-~----~ B------~~----~ c------~~----~

Niraj Agarwal
ArevaT&D, Chennai


December 2011

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