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Applications and Characteristics Of

Overcurrent Relays (ANSI 50, 51)
Post ed O CT 8 2 01 4 by EDVA RD i n E NER GY AND P O WE R , PR O TEC TI O N wi th 3 C OM M EN TS

Applications and Characteristics Of Overcurrent Relays (ANSI 50, 51)

50/51 and 50/51N relays
Overcurrent relays are the most commonly-used protective relay type. Time-overcurrent relays are available with various timing
characteristics to coordinate with other protective devices and to protect specific equipment. Instantaneous overcurrent
relays have no inherent time delay and are used for fast short-circuit protection.
Figure 1 below shows the timing characteristics of several typical 51 time-overcurrent relay curve types , along with the 50
instantaneous characteristic.

The 50 instantaneous function is only provided with a pickup setting. . the time dial settings are different to give enough space between the curves to show their differences.Figure 1 – ANSI 50 and 51 overcurrent relay characteristics The pickup level is set by the tap setting. Each relay curve has a time dial setting which allows the curve to be shifted up or down on the time-current characteristic curve. In Figure 1. electromechanical relays must be ordered with a given characteristic that cannot be changed. A solid state electronic or microprocessor-based relay will have all of these curves available on one unit. On solid-state electronic and microprocessor-based relays. The 30ms delay shown in figure 1 for the 50 function is typical and takes into account both the relay logic operation and the output contact closing time. depending upon the relay make and model. Most microprocessor-based units will also have an adjustable delay for the 50 function . the 50 function may be enabled or disabled. others are available. when an intentional time delay is added the 50 is referred to as a definite-time overcurrent function. which is usually set in CT secondary amperes but may be set in primary amperes on some microprocessor-based relays. The above are IEEE-standard curves.

In solidly-grounded medium voltage systems. When an overcurrent relay is utilized with a zero-sequence CT it is referred to as a 50G. Typically. a zero-sequence CT is recommended. 51G or 50/51G relay depending upon relay type used. the 50 function can be added as an instantaneous attachment to a 51 time-overcurrent relay. . the use of an overcurrent relay connected to a CT in the service transformer or generator neutral is usually the best option. This relay is referred to as a residual ground overcurrent or 51N (or 50/51N) relay. overcurrent relays are employed as one per phase. This CT should have a ratio smaller than the phase CT’s. including 50/51N For a low-resistance-grounded system . For a feeder circuit downstream from the service transformer. and the relay pickup range in conjunction with the neutral CT should allow a pickup as low as 10% of the neutral resistor rating. again with a ratio small enough to allow a pickup as low as 10% of the neutral resistor rating. the most common choice for ground fault protection is to add a fourth relay in the residual connection of the CT’s to monitor the sum of all three phase currents. Figure 2 – Overcurrent relay arrangement with CT’s. If a relay has both 50 and 51 functions present and enabled is referred to as a 50/51 relay. Figure 3 shows typical arrangements for both these applications.On electromechanical relays. The CT arrangement for 50/51 and 50/51N relays for a solidly-grounded system is shown in Figure 2 below.

Low voltage solidly-grounded systems are discussed below. Figure 4 – Typical application of overcurrent relays . The typical application of phase and residual neutral ground overcurrent relays in one-line diagram form is shown in figure 4.Figure 3 – Transformer neutral and zero-sequence ground relaying applications for resistance-grounded systems For ungrounded systems . the ground detection methods are recommended since little ground current will flow during a single phase-to-ground fault.

The phase relays are designated 51 and the residual ground overcurrent relay is designated 51N (both without instantaneous function). The dotted line from the relays to the circuit breaker denotes that the relays are wired to trip the circuit breaker on an overcurrent condition. allowing it to only respond to overcurrents at reduced voltage. . The 51 V relay pickup current shifts as the voltage changes. The 51C relay does not operate on overcurrent unless the voltage is below a preset value. Both require voltage inputs. Another type of overcurrent relay is the voltage-restrained overcurrent relay 51 V and the voltage-controlled relay 51C.In Figure 4.2-1996 designation for a circuit breaker. and thus require voltage transformers for operation. the designation 52 is the IEEE Std. Both are used in generator applications to allow the relay to be set below the generator full-load current due to the fact that the fault contribution from a generator will decay to a value less than the full-load current of the generator. C37. The bracketed denotes that there are three phase overcurrent relays and three CT’s.