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Product Guide

High Voltage Gapless ZnO Surge Arresters

HV Components
Surge Arresters
Ludvika, Sweden
2009 Edition












Historical Background



Features Of ZnO Arrester Design



Design Requirements For ZnO Surge Arresters



Arrester Classification as per Standards



Standards and Testing



Arrester Selection



Installation Guidelines



Maintenance and Monitoring



Special Applications





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All electrical systems and equipment are subjected to electrical stresses caused by higher than
normal voltages many times during their lifetime. Such overvoltages are caused by atmospheric
disturbances (lightning), switching phenomena as well as system disturbances, and these
cannot be avoided.
It is vital that the electrical equipment operates fault-free during such abnormal conditions.
However, for economic reasons, it is not possible to insulate the electrical equipment with a
sufficiently high withstand level to survive all these overvoltages, particularly those resulting
from lightning or switching surges. Consequently, these pose a very real danger for causing
failure of the electrical equipment. An economical and safe on-line network therefore requires
extensive protection against unacceptable overvoltage loads.
Overvoltage protection is not new, and has been used in one form or another for well over
100 years. Today, overvoltage protection can basically be achieved in two ways (sometimes in
Avoid or limit the overvoltages at the point of origin. For example, through the use of
overhead shield earth wires and lower tower footing resistance as countermeasures
against atmospheric overvoltages and pre-insertion resistors and/or controlled switching
against switching overvoltages.
Limit overvoltages near the electrical equipment with surge arresters
In isolation, shield earth wires and pre-insertion resistors offer a degree of protection. However,
by their nature, surge arresters provide the primary protection against different types of
overvoltages (atmospheric and switching). They are generally connected between each phase
and ground, in parallel with the equipment to be protected and function to divert the surge
current safely to earth; thereby limiting the overvoltage seen by the protected object.
Insulation co-ordination is the art and science of choosing the right insulation strength of
electrical equipment taking into account normal and abnormal service conditions as well as the
characteristics and location of suitable surge arresters.
Despite being a well-established technology, there remains a degree of mysticism about the
design, selection and application of surge arresters in electrical networks. This is not made
easier through the continual improvement and development of the active elements by leading
manufacturers as well as the designs and housing material, ultimately leading to new
applications for surge arresters.
This guide is intended to clear away some of this mystification, and guide the reader to a better
understanding of how to select and use modern day surge arresters. It is principally limited to
the common application of the protection of transformer insulation between phase and ground in
outdoor air-insulated substations. Other applications are briefly discussed, but are, for the most
part, considered beyond the scope of this Guide. Instead, the reader is referred on to additional
technical literature which covers the topic in more detail. In addition, International Standard
IEC 60099-5 Surge arresters - Selection and application recommendations is recommended
Finally, the reader is referred to the ABB surge arresters Arresters Online web page
( for continually updated information on surge arresters.

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To permit the reader to understand the basis for the selection and application of surge arresters,
it is important to make a brief review of some of the common terminology used throughout this
The surge arrester standards referred to herein are the prevailing editions of:

IEC 60099-4, Ed. 2.2 (2009-05)

Metal-oxide surge arresters without gaps for a.c. systems

IEEE C62.11, 2005 together with Amendment 1, 2008

Metal-Oxide Surge Arresters for AC Power Circuits (>1 kV)

Occurs when lightning strikes the transmission line tower structure or overhead shield wire. The
lightning discharge current, flowing through the tower and tower footing impedance, produces
potential differences across the line insulation. If the line insulation strength is exceeded,
flashover occurs, i.e. a backflashover. Backflashover is most prevalent when tower footing
impedance is high.
Continuous current (Ic)
The current that flows through the arrester at continuous operating voltage (Uc or MCOV).
This current is predominantly capacitive (in the range of mA) and is generally expressed as a
peak value.
Continuous operating voltage
It is the maximum permissible r.m.s. power frequency voltage that may be applied continuously
between the arrester terminals. This voltage is defined in different ways (verified by different test
procedures)in IEC and IEEE.
IEC (Uc)
IEC gives the manufacturer the freedom to decide Uc. The value is
verified in the operating duty test. Any uneven voltage distribution in the
arrester shall be accounted for.
IEEE lists the maximum continuous operating voltage (MCOV) for
arrester ratings used in a table. The value is used in all tests specified by IEEE.
Note! MCOV is less stringent as regards uneven voltage distribution in an arrester.


Duty-cycle voltage rating (IEEE)

The designated maximum permissible voltage between its terminals at which an arrester is
designed to perform its duty cycle.

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Solidly earthed system
A system whose neutral points are earthed directly.
Impedance earthed system
A system whose neutral points are earthed through impedances to limit earth
fault currents.
Resonant earthed system
A system in which one or more neutral points are connected to earth through
reactances which approximately compensate the capacitive component of a singlephase-to-earth fault current
Isolated neutral system
A system where the neutral point is not intentionally connected to earth, except for high
impedance connections for protection or measurement purposes.
Earth-fault factor (ke)
The ratio of the voltages in the healthy phases during and prior to earth-fault conditions.
Energy capability
The energy that a surge arrester can absorb in one or more impulses, without damage and
without loss of thermal stability. The capability is different for different types and duration of
Standards do not explicitly define the energy capability of an arrester. The only measure
specified is the Line Discharge Class in IEC. Often, this is not enough information to compare
different manufacturers. Therefore ABB presents energy capability also in kJ/kV (Ur). This is
done in 3 different ways:
Two impulses as per IEC switching surge operating duty test
This is the energy that the arrester is subjected to in the switching surge
operating duty test while remaining thermally stable thereafter against the specified TOV
and Uc.
Routine test energy
This is the total energy that each individual block is subjected to in production tests.
Single-impulse energy
This is the maximum permissible energy, which an arrester may be
subjected to in one single impulse of 4 ms duration or longer and remain
thermally stable against specified TOV and Uc.
Follow current
The current from the connected power source which flows through an arrester with series gaps
following the passage of discharge current.

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Hydrophobicity Classification
The superior electrical performance of composite
insulators and coated insulators stems from the
hydrophobicity (water-repellency) of their surfaces. The
hydrophobicity will change with time due to exposure to
the outdoor environment and partial discharges
Seven wettability (hydrophobicity) classes (WC) have
been defined with a value between 1 and 7
(IEC TS 62073). WC 1 corresponds to a completely
hydrophobic (water-repellent) surface and WC 7 to a
completely hydrophilic (totally wetted filmed) surface.
These classes provide a coarse value of the wetting
status and are particularly suitable for a fast and easy
check of insulators in the field.

Fig. 1

Wettability class
(source IEC TS 62073)

Impulse (of current or voltage)

A unidirectional wave which rises rapidly to a maximum and falls, a little less rapidly, to zero. Its
waveshape is expressed by two numbers (T1/T2). T1 refers to the virtual front-time and T2 to the
virtual time to half-value of the tail; both expressed in microseconds. Some important current
impulses are defined below.
Steep current impulse
Lightning current impulse
Switching current impulse

Waveshape (T1/T2)
T1 = 1 s
T2 < 20 s
T2 = 20 s
T1 = 8 s
30s < T1 < 100 s
T2 ~ 2T1
(usually designated 30/60 s)
T2 = 10 s
T1 = 4 s

High current impulse

A special impulse is the rectangular current impulse which is in the shape of a

rectangle. Common durations are 2000, 2400, 2800 and 3200s.
Insulation withstand characteristic
A general term for the equipment insulation withstand voltages and comprises:
Withstand level
Lightning impulse withstand level
Switching impulse withstand level
Power-frequency withstand


Voltage waveshape
1.2/50 s
250/2500 s
50 Hz or 60 Hz sinusoidal

Lightning classifying current (IEEE)

The designated lightning current used to perform the classification tests.

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Maintainability prediction
Mean-time-between-failure (MTBF) is the average time between failures, typically measured in
hours. MTBF is a statistical value and is meant to be the mean over a long period of time and
large number of units. In practice, MTBF is only relevant with reference to repairable items,
since calculations of MTBF assume that a system is "renewed", i.e. fixed, after each failure and
then returned to service immediately after failure. Mean-time-to-failure (MTTF) is the average
time expected to the first failure of a piece of equipment and should be used instead of MTBF in
cases where a non-repairable item is replaced after a failure. However, MTBF is commonly
used for both repairable and non-repairable items. Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) is the total
amount of time spent performing all corrective maintenance repairs divided by the total number
of those repairs.
A common misconception about MTBF is that it specifies the time (on average) when the
likelihood of failure equals the likelihood of not having a failure. This is only true for certain
symmetric distributions. For typical distributions with some variance and uncertainty, MTBF only
represents a statistical value and hence is not suitable for predicting detailed time of failure.
Maximum system voltage (Um)
The maximum voltage between phases during normal service expressed in kV r.m.s.
Mean breaking load, MBL
The average breaking load for porcelain-housed arresters.
Nominal discharge current (In according to IEC)
The peak value of the lightning current impulse which is used to classify the arrester.
Normal service conditions
The service conditions which the surge arresters should normally be suitable to operate under
without any special consideration in design, manufacture or application.
Ambient temperature
Solar radiation
Altitude above sea level
Power system frequency
Wind velocity

-40 C to +40 C
< 1.1 kW/m2
< 1000 m (< 1800 m according to IEEE)
48 62 Hz
< 34 m/s

This should be seen as the minimum requirement for compliance with the Standards, and
individual designs may operate in wider extremes, even without the need for special
A voltage level exceeding the maximum allowable continuous operating voltage for an electrical

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Protective characteristic
The combination of the arresters residual voltages for different current impulses. For good
protection, the arrester characteristic should lie well below the equipment insulation withstand
characteristic at all points.
Lightning impulse withstand level (LIWL or BIL) is the equipments insulation
withstand level against lightning impulses
Switching impulse withstand level (SIWL or BSL) is the equipments insulation
withstand level against switching impulses
Lightning impulse protection level (LIPL
residual voltage for the nominal discharge current








Switching impulse protection level (SIPL or Ups) of the arrester is the residual voltage
for a specified switching impulse current
Note! IEEE standards refer to LIWL as BIL and SIWL as BSL

of the


of the


Protective margin

Protection level
Upl / Ups
TOV capability

Fig. 2

Protective function of a surge arrester

Protective margin
The protective ratio minus 1 and expressed as a percentage. As an absolute minimum, the
margin should cover the voltage increase due to the connections between the arrester and the
protected equipment as well as the increase in the residual voltage due to the discharge
amplitude and front-time being different from the nominal discharge current of the arrester.

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Protective ratio
The ratio of the equipment insulation withstand level to the corresponding protection level of its
Rated voltage (Ur)
For other apparatus, the voltage that may be applied continuously is usually called its rated
voltage. However, this is not the case for surge arresters. An arrester fulfilling the IEC standard
must withstand its rated voltage (Ur) for 10 s after being preheated to 60 C and subjected to
two long duration current impulses, corresponding to its line discharge class as defined in the
standard. Thus, Ur shall equal at least the 10 second TOV capability of an arrester. Additionally,
rated voltage is used as a reference parameter.
Reference current (Iref)
The peak value of the power frequency resistive current at which the reference voltage is
Reference voltage (Uref)
The peak value divided by 2 of the voltage measured across the arrester at reference current.
Residual voltage/ Discharge voltage
This is the peak value of the voltage that appears between the terminals of an arrester during
the passage of discharge current through it. Residual voltage depends on both the magnitude
and the waveform of the discharge current.
Protection of phase conductors from direct lightning strokes; generally by means of additional
conductor(s) running on the top of the towers and grounded through the tower structures to
earth. Stations can also be shielded by earth wires or lightning masts.
Shielding failure
Occurs when lightning strikes a phase conductor of a line protected by overhead shield wires.
Short circuit (pressure relief) capability
The ability of the arrester, in the event of its overloading due to any reason, to conduct the
resulting system short-circuit current through it without a violent explosion which may damage
nearby equipment or injure personnel. After this operation, the arrester must be replaced.
Specified long-term load, SLL
A bending moment allowed to be continuously applied during service without causing any
mechanical damage to the arrester. Often referred to simply as continuous load.
Specified short-term load, SSL
The maximum bending moment allowed to be applied during service without causing any
mechanical damage to the arrester. Often referred to simply as short-term load.

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Surge Impedance
Studies of transient disturbances can be a complicated process involving many calculations and
iterations through travelling wave analysis. A transmission line can be modelled as a distributed
parameter network consisting of series inductance and resistance and shunt capacitance and
resistance. Partial differential equations are then written and solved for the voltage and current.
Computer programs specifically designed for solving these equations are available.
A simplified method is to approximate the transient phenomenon by considering that a lightning
strike to a conductor or the closing of a breaker will produce a travelling wave of voltage e and
current i that are related by a surge impedance Z equal to e/i that travels along the conductor at
the speed of light c. The surge impedance Z is purely resistive and therefore e and i have the
same shape. Only system components such as a transmission lines and towers, cables or a
GIS bus present a surge impedance. The surge impedance and velocity v of propagation can
be obtained from their inductance and capacitance, i.e. Z = (L / C) and v = 1 / (LC).
From which the equations can be derived: L = Z / v and C = 1 / (Zv)
where L is the inductance and C is the capacitance per unit length.
For an overhead line, v = 300 m/s and the surge impedance of a single conductor varies in a
narrow band between about 400 and 500 ohms. The surge impedance of an oil-paper cable
varies from about 30 to 60 ohms and the velocity of propagation is taken to be around 150 m/s.
In many cases, an equivalent surge impedance or a combined surge impedance of two or more
conductors is desired, leading to the need for more complicated calculations. Furthermore, the
simplified analysis does not take into consideration line geometry, coupling factor (whereby a
travelling wave voltage and current are impressed on only one conductor, leading to a voltage
being induced or coupled to the other conductor) points of discontinuity nor corona effects. More
detailed guidance is given in Cigr 63 and IEC 60071-2.
Temporary overvoltages (TOV)
Temporary overvoltages, as differentiated from surge overvoltages, are oscillatory power
frequency overvoltages of relatively long duration (from a few cycles to hours or longer). The
most common form of TOV occurs on the healthy phases of a system during an earth-fault
involving one or more phases. Other sources of TOV are load-rejection, energization of
unloaded lines, etc.
Temporary overvoltage withstand strength factor (Tr or Tc)
This is the TOV capability of the arrester expressed in multiples of Ur or Uc respectively.
Tower footing impedance
The impedance seen by a lightning surge flowing from the tower base to true ground (earth).
The risk for backflashover increases with increasing footing impedance.
Travelling wave
Occurs when lightning strikes a transmission line span and a high current surge is injected onto
the struck conductor. The impulse voltage and current waves divide and propagate in both
directions from the stroke terminal at a velocity of approximately 300 m/s with magnitudes
determined by the stroke current and line surge impedance.

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An overvoltage is defined as a voltage level exceeding the maximum allowable continuous

operating voltage for an electrical system. Overvoltages may be of different types, which can
be divided into three generic groups:
atmospheric overvoltages (lightning)
switching overvoltages
temporary overvoltages
Depending on the origin of the overvoltage, a differentiation is made between external
overvoltages (caused by lightning), and internal overvoltages originating from switching
operations in the network (switching overvoltages) or faults and other abnormal system
disturbances. Overvoltages can cause severe problems for the operation of the system, which is
why it is essential to limit these to a low and harmless level. One way of limiting overvoltages is
to use surge arresters to protect important apparatus.

External Overvoltages
Atmospheric overvoltages are normally divided into two different groups: those arriving from
direct lightning strokes to the lines or equipment and those induced from nearby strokes to
ground or between clouds.
3.1.1 Direct lightning strokes
A direct lightning stoke to a transmission line will result in two identical travelling
waves propagating in either direction along the line. Arrester currents of extreme amplitude and
steepness can occur in arresters located on an unshielded transmission line. For lower system
voltages, the current in these cases will be approximately a third of the stroke current since
flashover to all three phases is likely to occur.
When lightning strikes a transmission line, the line itself is usually not damaged but the
overvoltage generated may result in flashovers of the line insulators and can also cause
insulation breakdowns in apparatus in sub-stations connected to the line. A lightning impulse
has a very short front time, microseconds (s), and the voltage on the transmission line can
rapidly increase to several thousands of kilovolts when lightning strikes the line. If the earthing
impedances of the towers are not sufficiently low, a lightning stroke to the tower or to the
overhead shield wires (if any) might cause a so called backflashover across the insulator
strings to the phase conductors. Travelling waves are generated at the location where the
lightning hits the line and these waves propagate along the line. The insulation is stressed
further if the travelling waves reach an open end of the line where they are reflected; causing a
doubling of the voltage.
It has been acknowledged that many lightning strikes are not a single stroke, but instead consist
of a series of consecutive strokes of varying magnitude and intervals. The incidence of multistroke flashes naturally varies considerably by region and season. In some cases, about
70 - 80 percent of lightning strikes may consist of multiple strokes; 3 - 4 pulses on average, with
an interval between each pulse of less than 50 milliseconds. Distribution lines are generally
unshielded, and hence bear the full force of direct strikes. Consequently, multipulse
performance is a decisive measure of survival ability and reliability of distribution arresters near
direct strikes.

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3.1.2 Induced overvoltages

The induced overvoltage on the line resulting from an indirect lightning stroke is
proportional to the stroke current
inversely proportional to the distance between the line and the location of the stroke
proportional to the height of the line above ground
Induced surges are lower in magnitude and the front of the wave is usually substantially longer
than for direct strokes. The front steepness is therefore seldom decisive from a protection point
of view.
However, despite the fact that discharge currents are mostly lower than for direct strokes,
induced strokes can nevertheless be decisive for arrester duty requirements. This is especially
true for low voltage systems in areas where the lightning intensity is high. Due to a substantially
larger collection area compared to direct strokes, the number of arrester operations per year
can be substantial. For distribution and low voltage systems it is often the induced overvoltages
which cause the most damage to unprotected equipment.
Internal overvoltages
Internal overvoltages, i.e. switching overvoltages and temporary overvoltages, are caused by
transient phenomena including, for example, switching of transmission lines or transformers,
faults between phases and earth, etc. The duration for these overvoltages can range anywhere
from milliseconds to days, depending on the cause of the overvoltage and the system
Due to the common insulation practice with relatively low insulation levels for higher system
voltages, switching overvoltages will normally only be of interest for system voltages above
245 kV.
Switching overvoltages occur in connection with all kinds of switching operations in a network.
The waveshape can be of practically any form, with the fundamental frequency normally in the
order of some hundred to some thousand Hertz.
Large overvoltages can occur in connection with switching operations, particularly with the
following types of loads:
Interruption of short circuits
Disconnection of unloaded transformers and shunt reactors
Switching of long unloaded lines
The switching overvoltages are usually defined in terms of per-unit of the system voltage. The
overvoltage factor is defined as the ratio of the peak value of the overvoltage to the peak value
of the maximum phase-earth voltage. In EHV networks, for example, it is desirable for cost
reasons to reduce the insulation level as much as possible, and thus overvoltages higher than
2.5 p.u. are usually not accepted.

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Temporary overvoltages (TOVs) can be defined as overvoltages which are sustained for a
number of cycles. The frequency can either be the network fundamental or a higher frequency
determined by system resonances superimposed on the power frequency.
Temporary overvoltages typically arise from events such as:
Earth faults
Sudden change of load
Resonance phenomena
These overvoltages can normally be kept to acceptable levels with the help of a high shortcircuit power in the supply network, line compensation with shunt reactors, suitable generator
control, automatic fault clearing, etc. Hence, this type of overvoltage is normally not of concern
for the system equipment itself (although at system voltages of 550 kV and above it may
become significant).

1 p.u =


Um x 2

Lightning over-voltages

Switching over-voltages

Fig. 3
Classification of
overvoltages showing
duration and amplitudes of
stress on insulation in
HV networks

Temporary over-voltages

System voltage



10 -4


10 0



Protection measures
Atmospheric overvoltages are particularly dangerous for low voltage, distribution and even subtransmission systems. Transmission lines for 300 kV and above are usually equipped with
overhead shield wires as a protection against direct lightning strokes. These overhead shield
wires are installed along the entire transmission line and are earthed at each tower and
connected to the common earthing system in the substations at the ends of the line. Lines for
lower systems voltages usually lack overhead shield wires along the entire line length. Instead,
they are only used in close vicinity (1 2 km) out from the substations in order to prevent direct
strokes to the phase conductors close to the stations. The amplitudes of incoming lightning
surges to the stations will thus be limited.
In some cases, earthed crossarms or spark gaps have been used close to substations in an
attempt to limit the amplitude of incoming lightning overvoltages. However, such measures tend
to increase the likelihood of flashovers near the station with the consequent generation of fastfront surges. Special attention should be given to tower earthing near the station to lower the
probability of back flashovers at this location.

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Surge arresters are used as protection in the stations against

incoming overvoltages. In close vicinity to the arresters,
these overvoltages are reduced to low and harmless levels.
However, at some distance away from the arresters, high
overvoltages may still occur, which is why it is essential to
position the arresters as close as possible to important
equipment. More recently, special arresters have been taken
into use out on the transmission lines. These so called Line
Surge Arresters (LSA) are installed at selected towers along
the line in order to prevent lightning and/or switching related
faults on the line itself.
A commonly used method for limiting line switching
overvoltages is to use pre-insertion resistors on the line
breakers. Other means, such as synchronized control of
breaker closing times and the use of surge arresters (alone
or in combination), can also be used to limit these kinds of

Fig. 4

Station protected by
surge arresters

Surge arresters are not normally required to protect against temporary overvoltages (although
special cases exist), but they must survive them. TOVs can thus be decisive in selection of the
rated voltage for the arresters.
3.3.1 Cable connected to a lighting endangered line
If a travelling wave coming from an overhead line enters a cable that is connected to a
transformer, reflections will take place at the point where the surge impedance changes.
Typically, about 80% of the wave in question will be reflected at the point of changed impedance,
which means that the voltage passed into the cable will be about 20% due to the lower surgeimpedance of the cable.

Ucable = 20% of U

Ureflect = 80% of U

Fig. 5

Wave reflection with a cable connected to a transformer

For the purpose of analysis of cables connected to a transformer, the surge impedance of the
transformer is considered as infinite, so that total reflection occurs at the transformer terminals.
To further simplify the matter, the incoming wave is assumed to be rectangular. The result is a
step-wise increase in the voltage, up to potentially double the initial incident voltage, U. In
contrast, for a cable connected between two overhead lines, the voltage reflected in both ends
of the cable will increase to the value of the incoming voltage U.
In practice, the wave front is not rectangular, but has a rate of rise. This rate of rise will change
the way the cable is charged, but not the value. Generally a cable can be considered as a
concentrated capacitance, which will be able to bring down the steepness of the incoming wave,
but if the wave energy is sufficiently high, the cable does not limit the voltage rise.

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The flashover to earth of a busbar or line conductor will cause a brief power outage, but
subsequent serious damage is rare. In contrast, flashovers (puncture) in cables or at cable
terminations can cause severe damage to insulation and require extensive and expensive repairs.
The resultant outage times can be very long and costly. Cables should therefore be treated as
station equipment and be protected against lightning by well-specified surge arresters.

Fig. 6

Cable termination protected

by surge arresters

As a general rule, surge arresters are recommended to be

mounted at both ends of the cable; especially where the
cable is exposed to lighting from either end. In specific
cases where a transformer is connected to an overhead
line by means of a short cable, only one set of arresters is
sometimes used. However, the effectiveness of this
arrangement is less than with double-end protection. The
definition of a short cable - and thereby the resultant
protective zone - depends, among other factors, on
whether or not the line is provided with overhead shield
wires against direct strokes, the insulation withstand level,
arrester protection level and the presence of additional
arresters on the incoming line into the substation. The
effective protective zone will in turn influence which end of
the cable the arresters should be fitted to afford the best
protection for both the transformer and the cable itself.

For transformers which are manufactured with internally connected cable boxes, the cable is
connected directly to the transformer terminal, without any possibility of connecting arresters at
this point. Therefore arresters can only be installed at the far end of the cable. A certain higher
degree of associated risk for insulation failure may therefore have to be accepted.
In order to achieve the greatest possible protection zone and ensure a sufficient protective
margin between the cable/transformer LIWL and the voltage that may occur, special attention
should be paid to the following for cables operating at 72.5kV and above:

The incoming overhead line connected to the cable should have a zone of about 2km
out from the substation equipped with shield wires for cables lengths of up to 1000m.
For longer cables, the length of line with shield wires should be equivalent to at
least double the length of the cable. The shield wires and tower configuration must
effectively shield the line against direct strikes to the phase conductors as well as back

Inside this zone out from the substation, the footing resistance of the towers must be
kept sufficiently low, i.e. a few ohms.

The incoming lines should be fitted with surge arresters, to further limit the overvoltages
actually transferred into the substation.

The location of the arresters for cable protection must be as close as possible to the
cable terminal in order to achieve the maximum degree of protection.

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Protection of Line-side station equipment
High voltage equipment in line bays of a substation are dielectrically designed and tested in
accordance with applicable Standards. Sometimes, however, breakdown of insulation on
equipment may still occur due to lightning overvoltages with higher amplitude and rate of rise
than prescribed by the Standards.
Specifically, flashovers are known to occur in cases when the line circuit breaker is open. This
risk is most likely to arise during normal operation as a result of subsequent strokes of the
lightning flash during the open-close cycle; presuming that prolonged opened breaker condition
normally dictates that the breaker disconnecting switches are also opened and grounded. Due
to the open breaker the incoming voltage surge will be doubled. As a result, there may be a
flashover across the open breaker or an insulation breakdown of other line-side equipment;
notably instrument transformers.
A backflashover on the transmission line towers adjacent to the substation can also lead to a
steep voltage wave propagating on the phase conductor towards the substation. The risk of
insulation failures in the substation is proportional to the rate of back flashovers on the lines.
Other important parameters are the steepness and the amplitude of the voltage wave entering
the substation. When selecting the MTBF for the substation insulation, it is important to
consider the consequences of a fault in terms of outage and repair times and costs.
Regardless of the cause, some form of protection should be used to prevent surges impinging
on the line-side equipment. Arresters should always be located adjacent to the power
transformers in the substation. With the line breaker closed, these arresters are often (subject
to their effective protective distance) all that is needed to protect apparatus connected to the
same line within the substation; presuming a low backflashover rate. However, with the breaker
opened, no protection exists for the line side of the breaker, making it and other equipment
vulnerable. Occurrence of overvoltages that may lead to flashovers is related to the key design
and protection of the incoming overhead line.
A Cigr survey made in 1990 showed that almost 60% of all reported violent failures of
instrument transformers were due to lightning. The survey concluded that the number of failures
due either to an inadequate lightning protection or to an inadequate transient withstand voltage
is significant and that this field has to be investigated to reduce the number of failures of
Instrument transformers
A similar Cigr survey conducted in 1997 regarding circuit breakers concluded:
Line insulation and spark gaps cannot be dimensioned to protect the breaker
Appropriate shielding and sufficiently low tower resistance gives low risk of flashovers
For existing lines, surge arresters placed at the incoming line end gives efficient
There are a number of advantages with additional arresters located on the line side of the
station; i.e. in front of line breaker
Reduces the overvoltage seen at the station transformer
Reduces overvoltages seen at the closed breaker; especially with long distance to the
station arresters
Protects the open breaker by limiting the effects of multiple lightning strokes
Protects all equipment at the line entrance e.g. instrument transformers
Removes the risk for backflashover; especially when fitted on transmission line towers
with high footing resistance
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Surge arresters constitute the primary protection for all equipment in a network against
overvoltages which may occur as the result of lightning or switching operations in the network.
The earliest overvoltage protection devices were introduced during the last decade of the
19th Century and consisted of a simple air gap for which the sparkover voltage changed with
weather conditions, i.e. temperature, air pressure and humidity. One major disadvantage with this
device was that its operation led to a power arc and consequent interruption of power supply on
systems having earthed neutral points.
The next significant step in the development was the so called conventional arrester, or gapped
arrester, developed during the 1930s. The arrester comprised of voltage dependent silicon
carbide (SiC) resistor blocks in series with spark gaps, mounted together in a porcelain housing.
The gapped arrester was improved through several generations
during the subsequent decades. The voltage across the series
connected spark gaps was controlled with grading components
comprising non-linear resistors and capacitors and the protection
characteristics were improved by introduction of current limiting
(active) gaps around 1960. Better protection was achieved through
the active gaps permitting the use of SiC resistors with a lower
residual voltage.
The conventional spark-gap assembly consisted of stacked brass
electrodes with steatite spacers and grading resistors (if present)
between them. Between each electrode was a device for preionization of the ignition point. This ensured that the ignition was
distinct and as free as possible from variations resulting from
different surge steepnesses.
Active gaps were formed between electrodes riveted to discs of arcresistant material, with several assembled to form a stack. The
stack also comprised a blow-out coil with a parallel-connected
voltage-dependent resistor.
Active gap arresters had better
extinguishing capacity, a lower discharge level and a greater
discharging capacity for switching surges than conventional gapped

Fig. 7

The most advanced gapped SiC arresters in the middle of the 1970s gave good protection
against overvoltages, but the technique had reached its limits. It was difficult, for example, to
design arresters with several parallel columns to cope with the very high energy requirements
needed for HVDC transmissions. The statistical scatter of the sparkover voltage was also a
limiting factor with respect to the accuracy of the protection levels.

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The metal-oxide (also called MO, zinc-oxide or ZnO) surge arrester was introduced in the mid to
late 1970s and proved to be a solution to the problems which could not be solved with the old
technology. The protection level of a surge arrester was no longer a statistical parameter, but
could be accurately given. The protective function was no longer dependant on the installation or
vicinity to other apparatus - as compared to SiC arresters, whose sparkover voltage could be
affected by surrounding electrical fields. The ZnO arrester could be designed to meet virtually any
energy requirements by connecting ZnO varistors in parallel (even though the technique to ensure
a sufficiently good current sharing, and thus energy sharing, between the columns is
sophisticated). The possibility to design protective equipment which could handle extremely high
energy stresses also opened up new application areas; protection of series capacitors, for
Some of the first arresters with ZnO blocks utilised spark gaps in series with the ZnO blocks or in
parallel with sections of the block column (shunt gaps). These designs reflected, to some extent,
a concern for the long-term stability of the ZnO material. Using spark gaps in series or parallel
consequently decreased the voltage stress on the blocks. These designs are not found on the
market any longer for HV applications. With experience, the elimination of gaps permitted the
building of very compact, reliable, low profile arresters compared to what was possible with the old

The ZnO technology was developed

further during the 1980s and 1990s
through to present day, towards improved
protection levels, higher permissible
voltage stresses on the material, greater
specific energy absorption capabilities and
better current withstand strengths.

E (kJ/kV)







Active spark-gaps

Passive spark-gaps










Polymer housings

Fig. 8 Surge arrester development

New polymeric materials, superseding the

traditional porcelain housings, started to be
used in the mid 1980s for distribution
arresters. By the end of the 1980s,
polymer-housed arresters were available
up to 145 kV system voltages, and today
polymer-housed arresters have been
accepted even for 800 kV system voltages.

Many of the early polymeric designs utilized EPDM rubber as an insulator material, but during the
1990s more and more manufacturers changed to silicone, which is less affected by
environmental conditions, including UV radiation and pollution.
Operation of gapped and gapless surge arresters
A non-linear resistor type gapped arrester, commonly known as a silicon carbide (SiC) arrester,
comprises SiC valve resistor blocks in series with either passive or active (current limiting) spark
gaps. The purpose of the gaps is to protect the valve elements, give an exact sparkover voltage,
carry the arc during the discharge without being damaged and to deionize the arc sufficiently at
the short time at zero passage to avoid a reignition of the gap. The active gap has the additional
function to create an arc voltage drop resulting in a counter voltage, and thus a current limitation,
during the follow current and extinction interval. In series with the active gaps, a coil is connected
electrically in parallel with a non-linear resistor valve block. See Figure 9.

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The operating principle for SiC arresters with passive (non current limiting) gaps and active
(current limiting) gaps differs. For the passive gaps, the overvoltage wave creates an increasing
voltage across the gaps until sparkover occurs and, during a short period of time, an impulse
current rushes through the arrester. Thereafter, the normal power frequency voltage will force a
follow current through the arrester of several hundreds of amperes. Due to the non-linearity of the
resistor blocks, the current is reduced much faster than the voltage, and when the voltage
approaches zero, the current is choked and the arc extinguishes.
Practically the entire voltage is across the blocks, with only some small percentage being across
the gaps as an arc voltage drop. When the current has been reduced to below about 1 ampere,
occurring some electrical degrees before zero, the arc voltage drop is suddenly increased since
the low current cannot support any plasma. The arc is transformed to a corona discharge and is
extinguished some hundred microseconds before the zero crossing.
The function of an arrester with active gaps is somewhat different. A lightning overvoltage, which
has a high steepness, causes a sparkover of the gaps and the impulse current passes through
the non-linear resistor blocks in parallel with the coils, since the impedance of the coil for the steep
wave is much higher than that for the non-linear resistor. The follow current is, however, much
lower, both in steepness and magnitude, and the current is forced into the coil and a magnetic
field is built up.


Fig. 9

Stack of spark-gaps
Shunt resistor
Valve resistor
Grading resistor

One section of an active-gap arrester

The magnetic field results in an electromagnetic force acting on the arc, which is forced from the
initial ignition point out into a narrow chamber where the arc is lengthened 50 - 100 times. The arc
is cooled against the walls and starts to take up voltage. The resulting voltage reduces the follow
current and, as soon as the momentary value of the power frequency voltage falls below the arc
voltage, the follow current ceases. This is in contrast to a passive gap, which must wait until the
voltage is almost zero before it can interrupt the current.

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Voltage distribution for steeper waves is determined by the capacitance of the arrester. The
function of the grading resistors in gapped arresters is to distribute the voltage evenly across the
gaps in the event of relatively slow voltage variations. The sparkover voltage at power frequency
and for switching surges is then determined by these grading resistors. There are two kinds of
grading resistors, those with linear resistance and those with non-linear resistance. Generally,
the sparkover voltages for this frequency range needs to be fairly high to prevent false
operations for normal service voltage variations.
Service under polluted conditions has always been a problem for gapped arresters. The
formation of so called dry bands on the porcelain surface under such conditions leads to a
disturbed voltage gradient, which affects the internal gaps by means of coupling capacitance
between gaps and porcelains. As a result, some arresters may then even sparkover at service
voltage during periods of heavy pollution. Repeated sparkover may result in overheating when
the gaps fail to reseal, leading to complete failure of the arrester. Improved reliability under
conditions of high contamination requires a strong grading, which can be achieved with highly
non-linear grading resistors.
Should a SiC resistor be placed on high service voltage without series gaps, it would draw a
continuous current of some hundreds of amperes and thus quickly destroy itself. A gapless SiC
arrester is therefore not a possibility.
Zinc-oxide (ZnO) varistors, in contrast, represent a high impedance at normal service voltage and
draw only a small leakage current (predominantly capacitive), with the resistive component of the
current in the order of only 50 to 250Apeak (depending on the varistor diameter). Such a low
leakage is neither dangerous to the varistor nor uneconomic for the system. Therefore ZnO
varistors can be placed directly on voltage, and it is possible to remove the series gaps entirely
from the arrester.
ZnO varistors have an extremely non-linear, but well defined, volt-amp operating characteristic.
The working principle of a gapless ZnO arrester is therefore very simple: When an impulse
occurs, the arresters impedance reduces via its operating characteristic and subsequently
changes over from conducting a small, predominantly capacitive current to a large resistive
current. Due to the passage of the impulse current, a voltage is consequently built up across the
arrester (residual voltage), the magnitude of which is determined by the volt-amp operating
characteristic of the arrester for the applied impulse current and waveshape. Once the impulse
has been dissipated, the arrester thereafter immediately returns back along its operating
characteristic to its non-conducting state.
Even though a lightning overvoltage causes an impulse current through a gapless ZnO arrester
as for the gapped arrester, the normal power frequency voltage after the discharge is not high
enough to force a follow current through the arrester. Hence, a ZnO arrester is only subjected to
the energy from the lightning, in contrast to the SiC arrester, where a large energy contribution is
obtained from the follow current. See Figure 10.
Protection levels for gapless ZnO arresters depend only on the residual voltages determined by
the operating characteristic for the respective waveshapes and currents and thus are better
defined and more stable compared with gapped types. In general, the protection levels are lower
(i.e. better) than for gapped SiC arresters of equal rated voltage. This improvement is particularly
marked when steep-fronted impulses and switching surges are considered.

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Function of a silicon carbide

(SiC) arrester
with passive gaps
Fig. 10

Function of a metal oxide

(ZnO) arrester
without series gaps

Comparison in operation of a silicon carbide (SiC)

and a gapless metal-oxide (ZnO) arrester without series gaps





The following Table 1 gives a summary of the major differences between gapless ZnO and
gapped SiC arresters.
Metal-oxide type (gapless)
No sparkover, current flows as per U-I
Small scatter band for residual voltages,
typically 3%
Excellent steep-front wave characteristics
(only approx. 10%)
Temporary power frequency load above
Uc possible
Energy absorption capability can be
increased (arresters in parallel)
Simple active part with few components
Practically no ageing effect

Gapped type
Sparkover, afterwards power frequency follow
Usual scatter band for spark-gaps (up to 15%
scatter; even higher for poorly graded arresters)
Strong rise (>25%) in sparkover voltage due to
steep-front overvoltages
Continuous voltage at power frequency, always
lower than rated voltage
Restricted energy absorption capacity, parallel
connection has no effect
Complex structure for active part
Ageing of spark-gaps due to arc erosion

Table 1 Summary of the major differences between gapless ZnO and gapped SiC arresters

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A zinc-oxide (ZnO) surge arrester for high voltage applications comprises the following main
ZnO varistors (blocks)
Internal parts
Housing of porcelain or polymeric material with end fittings of metal (e.g. flanges)
A grading ring arrangement where necessary
The internal parts can differ considerably between a porcelain housed arrester and a polymerhoused arrester. The only certain commonality between these two designs is that both include a
stack of series connected zinc oxide varistors, together with components to keep the stack

Surge arrester with porcelain housing (left)

Fig. 11

Surge arresters with silicone-housing

in an open-cage (centre) and
tubular design (right)

Cut-away view of three principal designs for ZnO surge arresters

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ZnO varistor
The most important component in the arrester is the zinc-oxide (ZnO) varistor itself, which gives
the arrester its protective characteristics. All other components are simply used to protect or keep
the ZnO varistors in place.
The ZnO varistor is a densely sintered block, pressed to a cylindrical body. The block consists of
approximately 90% zinc oxide and 10% of other rare earth oxides (additives). During the
manufacturing process a powder is prepared, which is then pressed to a cylindrical body under
high pressure. The pressed bodies are sintered in a kiln for several hours at a temperature in the
order of 1200 C. During the sintering, the oxide powder transforms to a dense ceramic body with
varistor properties, whereby the additives form an intergranular layer surrounding the zinc oxide

ZnO Grains
1015 m

Fig. 12

ZnO varistor blocks and their microstructure

These layers, or barriers, give the varistor its non-linear characteristics. Metal is applied on the
end surfaces of the finished varistor to improve the current carrying capability and to secure a
good contact between series-connected varistors. An insulating layer is also applied to the
cylindrical surface to give protection against external flashover and chemical influence.
Before the blocks are assembled in an arrester, they must be subjected to a variety of tests to
verify their protection performance, energy and current capability as well as long term electrical

5.1.1 How does a ZnO varistor work?

With reference to the following Figure 13, the voltage-current characteristic for the varistors can
be divided into three different regions with respect to the slope.
In the low current region, called the prebreakdown region (Region 1), the resistivity of the
material is temperature dependant. The normal continuous operating voltage is found in this
region. Here the surge arrester acts as a capacitor, with only small resistive currents through it.
This is mainly due to the metal-oxide barrier (intergranular layers) between the zinc-oxide grains
acting as insulating barriers. However, the varistors temperature influences the insulation
capability slightly, i.e. an increased temperature leads to a higher resistive current.

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In the breakdown region (Region 2), when the voltage stress has increased due, for example,
to temporary overvoltages or switching overvoltages, the intergranular layers switch from
insulating barriers to conducting layers and the current carrying capability of the varistor
increases many-fold. For example, if the voltage stress increases from 200V/mm to 300V/mm,
the current increases 10 000 times. This acts as a voltage limitation, and gives the arrester its
protective characteristics.
At even larger current densities, the arrester is working in the high current region (Region 3)
and the curve turns upwards, which determines the impulse behaviour of the surge arrester.
The barriers between the ZnO grains are electrically broken down and the current increase is
solely limited by the resistivity of the ZnO grains.
When the voltage across the arrester is reduced to a normal level, the working point returns again
to Region 1, without delay.

Voltage (p.u.)
Min protection levels in kV (peak)
according IEC60099-4

Region 1

Region 3

Region 2

Protection against lightning overvoltages


Protection against switching overvoltages

Rated voltage (Ur)

1.0 x 2

Ires, resistive current

Continuous operating voltage (Uc)

0.8 x 2

Effect of increased
block temperature
on Ires


Icap, capacitive
current (no influence
from temperature)






Log scale

Current (Ampere)
Fig. 13

Current-voltage characteristic of a ZnO-varistor.

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Housing of a surge arrester
The main purpose of the insulator housing is to :
Keep the internal parts together
Protect against external flashovers
Secure that the function of the arrester is independent of external influences
An arrester must also be equipped with fastening devices to ease the erection. This is achieved
by assembling flanges (or similar) at one or both ends of the insulator. If the arrester consists of
several series connected units, the flanges are also used to mechanically and electrically secure
arrester units to each other.
Insulators can be manufactured with different mechanical fracture values. The required fracture
value for a specific insulator is determined by the design and intended use of the arrester.

5.2.1 Mechanical design

A surge arrester consists internally of series-connected ZnO varistors (blocks), plus additional
hardware as necessary for individual designs: metal spacers, assembly plates, sealing rings,
pressure relief device, etc. To ensure a controlled environment for the blocks, the internal parts
must be shielded against the ambient environment, and this is achieved by housing the blocks in
a well designed and securely sealed insulator.
The insulator housings for surge arresters have traditionally been made of porcelain. However,
today there is a strong trend, and even a preference, towards the use of silicone insulators for
arresters at all system voltages.
There are a number of reasons why silicone is seen as an attractive alternative to porcelain,
Better behaviour in polluted areas
Better short-circuit capability with increased safety for other equipment and personnel
Low weight
Better earthquake withstand capability
It is incorrect, however, to believe that all polymer-housed arresters automatically have these
features just because the porcelain has been replaced by a polymeric insulator. The design must
be scrutinised carefully for each specific type, which can be grouped generally into the following
Open or cage design
Closed design
Tubular design
These are discussed in more detail at the end of this chapter.

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5.2.2 Pollution performance

The creepage distance is the total length of the outer contour of the insulator. Simplified, the
longer this length is, the more severe environmental conditions the arrester will be able to operate
under without increasing the risk for an external flashover. Surge arresters can be supplied with
different creepage distances, and one type of insulator frequently used has a long-short
shed-form, thus enabling a short assembly height for a given creepage distance.
Silicone insulators generally perform better in polluted
environments compared to a porcelain insulator. This is mainly due
to the hydrophobic behaviour of the silicone material, i.e. the ability
to bead water and prevent wetting of the insulator surface.
Hydrophobicity results in reduced creepage currents during heavy
pollution episodes, minimising electrical discharges on the surface;
thereby reducing the effects of material ageing. However, it should
be noted that whilst most polymer materials are hydrophobic when
new, not all polymeric insulators necessarily retain their
hydrophobic properties over their service lifetime.

Fig. 14
Insulators made from silicone
retain their hydrophobic
properties over their
in-service lifetime

Two commonly used polymeric materials for the arrester housing

are silicone and EPDM rubber (Ethylene-Propylene Diene
Monomer), and both exhibit hydrophobic behaviour when new.
Polymer materials may lose their hydrophobicity during an
extended period of severe pollution, such as salt in combination
with moisture. Silicone, however, will ultimately recover its
hydrophobicity, through diffusion of low molecular silicone oils to
the surface restoring the original material behaviour. EPDM
rubber, in contrast, lacks this ability. Hence the material is very
likely to lose its hydrophobicity completely with time, and is
consequently often regarded as a hydrophilic insulator material,
similar to porcelain.

Polymeric materials can potentially be more affected by ageing due to partial discharges and
leakage currents on the surface, UV radiation, chemicals, etc, compared to porcelain, which is a
non-organic material. For this reason, the raw material is often blended with a variety of additives
and fillers to achieve the desired material features: UV stability, anti-tracking, flame-retardancy,
etc. Silicone, as a material, has a natural resistance against these effects, and thus such
additives simply aid in further improving the materials inherent properties.

5.2.3 Short-circuit capability

A correctly selected arrester can divert surges to ground almost endlessly, provided the energy
to be dissipated is within the capability of the arrester.
In the event that an arrester is required to dissipate more energy than it is capable of, it will
sacrifice itself by failing short circuit. Most commonly, arresters are connected between phaseground and the resultant earthfault will immediately collapse the voltage on that phase, thereby
protecting other equipment on the same phase. The upstream protection will initiate a breaker
trip to clear the fault, and the failed arrester can then be replaced.

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If steps are not taken, there is a likelihood that arresters which contain an enclosed gas volume
might explode due to the internal pressure increase caused by the heat generated from the
short circuit arc. This leads to the need for these arresters to be fitted with some type of
pressure relief system which will open quickly to release the enclosed gas volume to the
outside. Such arresters are normally supplied with devices at the top and bottom of each unit,
which operate as soon as the internal pressure reaches a certain value. The ionized gas will
subsequently be evacuated to the outside of the arrester, and when the two gas streams meet
the internal arc will commute to the outside, thus preventing a continual internal pressure
Fig. 15
Operating principle of the pressure
relief device of an ABB type EXLIM
porcelain housed arrester.
(1) Arrester in its healthy state
(2) Arrester has failed short-circuit,
pressure relief plates open and gas
begins to be expelled through the
venting ducts
(3) The two gas streams meet and the
internal arc is commuted safely to
the outside




The sealing cover in ABBs high voltage EXLIM porcelain-housed arresters also acts as an
overpressure relief device. Other manufacturers may have other solutions; a blast plate for
During normal service, the sealing
cover tightens against the porcelain.
At an internal short-circuit of the
arrester, an open arc occurs across
the block column. Due to the heat
from the arc, the internal pressure
increases and would soon reach a
value that could cause an explosion of
the insulator if no pressure relief
device was present. The sealing
cover is designed such that it will
open, both at the top and bottom, as
soon as the internal pressure reaches
a certain value (significantly below the
bursting pressure of the porcelain)
and the enclosed gas volume can be
evacuated to the outside of the
arrester. The internal pressure is thus
relieved, and a violent shattering of
the porcelain is avoided.

Pressure relief
and Sealing plate

Flange cover
Venting duct

Indicating cover

Fig. 16
The position of the overpressure relief device on an ABB
type EXLIM T porcelain housed arrester. The figure shows the key
parts of an arrester with the pressure relief and sealing plate,
block column, spring device and the cemented metallic flange.

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Safer short-circuit performance is not, however, automatically achieved simply by replacing the
porcelain housing with one made of polymer. In the past, there has been the incorrect belief that
all polymer-housed arresters, irrespective of design, were capable of carrying enormous
short-circuit currents. Standardised short circuit test procedures within IEC (for both porcelain and
polymer-housed arresters) now take into consideration what might happen at failure of the ZnO
blocks for individual designs.
Fig. 17
Operating principle of pressure relief for an ABB type PEXLIM
moulded open-cage design.
(1) Arrester has failed short-circuit and gas begins to be expelled
through the soft silicone housing
(2) The gas streams trigger an external flashover and the internal
arc is commutated safely to the outside

The short circuit capability for surge arresters (porcelain and polymer) is verified by tests to
minimize the risk for damage to surrounding equipment and personnel. However, the risks
related to an open arc in service can also be influenced by the physical positioning of the
equipment as well as by the circuit connections.

5.2.4 Internal corona

A low corona (partial discharge, PD) level during normal service conditions is essential for all
apparatus designs intended for high voltage applications. Arresters with an annular gas-gap
between the active parts and the external insulator may have large voltage differences between
the outside and inside of the arrester during external pollution and wetting of the housing surface.
To fully avoid corona under such conditions is not technically or economically feasible. Instead
the internal parts, including the ZnO blocks, must be able to withstand these conditions.
In order to prevent internal corona during normal service conditions for these type of arresters, the
distance between the block column and insulator must be sufficiently large to ensure that the
radial voltage difference between the blocks and insulator will not create any partial discharges.
For polymer-housed arresters lacking such annular space in their design, the radial voltage
difference is entirely across the rubber insulator. In order to avoid puncturing of the insulator, the
rubber must be sufficiently thick. It is also very important that the insulator is free from voids to
prevent internal corona in the material which might lead to problems in the long term.
The maximum voltage stress occurring across the polymer material is proportional to the length of
the insulator. A longer insulator therefore requires that the thickness of the material is
proportionally increased with respect to the increase in length. Another solution is to reduce the
height of the individual units in a multi-unit arrester, since the maximum voltage across each unit
is limited by the non-linear current-voltage characteristic of the ZnO blocks.
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5.2.5 Voltage grading

The performance of a ZnO surge arrester is defined by its protective levels, its temporary
overvoltage and energy discharge capabilities and the long term-stability of the zinc oxide
The temporary overvoltage and energy handling capabilities are closely related to the
temperature of the ZnO blocks during normal operation. This temperature depends on the
power losses, which increase rapidly with voltage stress, due to the block material s non-linear
voltage-current characteristics. Therefore, the most essential parameters to minimize the
temperature during normal operation are inherently low power losses in the zinc oxide material,
together with a linear voltage distribution along the block column.
Under normal operating conditions and voltage, the ZnO blocks act like a capacitor. The voltage
distribution along the block column then depends on the capacitance of the ZnO blocks and the
influence of stray capacitances. The stray capacitances are strongly dependent on the height of
the block column. Short arresters - up to about one meter in height - usually have a sufficiently
linear voltage distribution along the block column, as the self-capacitance of the ZnO blocks is
relatively high. For taller arresters, the influence of stray capacitances makes the voltage
distribution less linear. If no measures are taken to prevent an uneven voltage distribution on a
tall arrester, the local voltage stress at the top may reach (or even exceed) the knee-point of
the voltage-current characteristic of the zinc oxide material. This leads to a localized increase in
the power losses, with high temperatures in the block column as a consequence.
Above the knee-point of the current-voltage characteristics, the
blocks start to conduct large currents, which would ultimately lead
to the failure of the arrester. The amount of this current is
determined by the applied voltage and the total stray-capacitance
of the arrester to earth and can be considerable; particularly for
high-voltage arresters. Further, the localized heating of the ZnO
blocks (hot-spots) leads to a reduced energy absorption capability
of the arrester.
Tall arresters therefore must be equipped with some type of
voltage grading. This can be achieved by additional grading
capacitors and/or grading rings. Provision of suspended grading
rings is the most common way of improving the voltage distribution.



It should be noted that it is only grading rings hanging down from

its electrical connection point that helps to improve the voltage
grading of the arrester. Large metallic electrodes, including
metallic flanges or rings to reduce corona without any suspension
from its electrical contact point to the arrester, actually increases
the stray-capacitances to earth, thereby amplifying the uneven
voltage distribution.
An important point, which often remains unconsidered, is that an
actual surge arrester installation constitutes a three-dimensional
problem with three phase-voltages involved together with certain
stipulated minimum distances between phases and to grounded
(earthed) objects. All this must be considered when making
electrical field calculations. To not consider the influence of
adjacent phases, for example, will lead to an underestimation of
the maximum uneven voltage distribution of up to 10%.

Fig. 18
Example of grading ring
and corona ring arrangement
on an ABB type EXLIM surge
arrester for 550KV system

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Both IEC and IEEE standards require the maximum voltage stress to be taken into
consideration in accelerated ageing tests on ZnO blocks. However, it is not possible to
determine the correct voltage stress to be used in these tests without proper calculations of the
maximum voltage stress occurring in practical three-phase installations. If no such calculations
have been performed, the tests should therefore be carried out with a voltage stress
corresponding to the knee-point of the voltage-current characteristics, i.e. at the reference
Type tests in accordance with Standards to verify the long-term stability of the ZnO blocks are
hence not valid if the actual voltage stress on the arrester during service is allowed to exceed the
applied voltage stress proven in the type tests.
When grading arrangements for surge arresters are based on complete electrical field
calculations for each arrester design at the maximum continuous operating voltage and with the
maximum possible three-phase influence taken into account, this guarantees that the voltage
stress remains below the critical level at all points along the block column. This maximum
voltage stress level is then used in accelerated ageing tests on the ZnO blocks. In this way, the
long-term stability of the ZnO blocks is verified at the highest possible voltage stress found in
any installation under normal service conditions.
A guide for the determination of the voltage distribution along surge arresters using simplified
representations of arrester geometries and boundary conditions (applied voltage, proximity and
voltage applied to other objects in the vicinity) is given in IEC 60099-4.
Polymer arrester designs
The potential weight reduction for polymer arresters can be considerable compared to porcelain
housed arresters. As an example, one of the standard ABB type EXLIM arresters with porcelain
insulator for a 362 kV system voltage has a mass of approximately 430 kg. A PEXLIM siliconehoused arrester for conventional up-right erection, with the same rated voltage, has a mass of
only approximately 125 kg.
This leads to the obvious benefit of lighter structures with subsequent reduced costs, and even
the possible complete elimination of the need for a structure at all if alternative mounting
arrangements are acceptable; e.g. suspended mounting.

Fig. 19
Two examples of possible mounting arrangements for ABB type
PEXLIM silicone housed surge arresters
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Since the soft outer polymeric insulator does not have the necessary mechanical strength to keep
the ZnO column together, other insulator materials must be used in the design. The most common
material used for this purpose is glass-fibre reinforced plastic.
There are then several types of mechanical designs in common use: loops or rods, cross-winding
and tubes. These designs can be grouped generally into three basic categories:
Open or cage design
Closed or wrap design
Tubular design
5.3.1 Open or cage design
This design may consist of loops of glass-fibre, glass-fibre rods or a cage of glass-fibre weave
around the block column. It is worth noting that there are solutions which can be considered
open or cage or a combination open-cage. What defines this type of design is that the active
components are not fully enclosed by hard materials. Instead, a body of soft polymer material
directly surrounds the internal components.
An outer insulator with sheds is required over the inner body, with two common methods for
achieving this being:
A pre-moulded polymer insulator is made in a separate process, and then slipped over the
internal component assembly (which itself may be enclosed in soft polymer). The
boundary between the internal assembly and the outer polymer insulator is usually filled
with grease or gel, generally of silicone.

The outer housing is moulded directly onto the internal components to form a void-free,
sealed housing along the entire length of the insulator.

Such designs lack enclosed gas volume. Should the arrester be stressed in excess of its design
capability, an internal arc will be established. Due to the design principle, the arc will easily tear or
burn its way through the polymer material, permitting the arc, along with any resultant gases, to
escape quickly and directly. Hence, special pressure relief vents or diaphragms are not required
for this type of design. However, it is important that the design is not too open, otherwise the
internal active elements may be violently cast out.
It is of great importance that these designs are totally void-free and no air pockets are present,
otherwise partial discharges might occur, which would lead to the destruction of the insulator over
Penetration of water and moisture must also be prevented, which places strict requirements on
the sealing of the insulator at the metallic flanges (in the case of a pre-moulded housing) and
adherence or bonding of the rubber to all internal parts (in the case where the polymer is directly
moulded onto the inner body).
ABB employs a unique, patented design for the PEXLIM arrester to enclose the ZnO blocks of
each module under pre-compression in a cage formed of glass-fibre reinforced loops fixed
between two yokes which form the electrodes. A special mineral-fibre is wound as belts around
the loops resulting in an open-cage design for the module. This achieves high mechanical
strength and excellent short circuit performance, through the belt-windings preventing explosive
expulsion of the internal components.

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Each module is then passed through a computer-controlled cleaning and priming process.
Thereafter, the module is loaded in a highly automated vulcanising press, where silicone is
injected at high pressure and temperature to completely bond to the active parts, leaving no
internal voids or air spaces.
5.3.2 Closed or wrap design
Surge arresters in this category incorporate a void-free (partial or total) polymer housing around
the internal assembly, while surrounding the active components themselves with hard material. In
contrast to the open design, they have been mechanically designed to not include a direct path for
externalising the arc during internal short circuit.
Typical designs include a glass-fibre weave wound directly on the block column or a separate
tube in which the ZnO blocks are mounted.
A soft polymer insulator is then fitted (either
pre-moulded or directly moulded) over this internal component assembly; often together with
grease or gel to fill the interfaces.
In order to obtain a good mechanical strength, the weave/tube must be made sufficiently strong,
which, in turn, might lead to a too strong/closed design with respect to short-circuit strength. The
internal overpressure could rise in the tube design to a high value before cracking the tube, which
may lead to an explosive failure with parts being thrown over a wide area. To prevent a violent
shattering of the housing, a variety of work-around solutions have been utilised, e.g. slots in the
tube. When glass-fibre weave is used, an alternative has been to arrange the windings in a
special manner to obtain weaknesses that may crack. These weaknesses are intended to ensure
a pressure relief and commutation of the internal arc to the outside; thus preventing an explosion.
Note that such alterations do not inherently then make these an open/cage design, as the arc
path is not considered to be direct and the internal components are still, in practical terms,
completely surrounded by hard material.
Sealing and partial discharge issues also require consideration in a similar manner as for the open
or cage design.

5.3.3 Tubular design

The tubular design incorporates a distinct annular gas-gap between the active parts and the
external insulator. It is designed in more or less the same way as a standard porcelain arrester,
but with the porcelain housing having been substituted by an insulator of a glass-fibre reinforced
plastic tube, moulded with an outer insulator of silicone or EPDM rubber.
The internal parts are, in general, almost identical to those used in an arrester with porcelain
housing. In particular, the arrester must be equipped with some type of sealing and pressure
relief devices, similar to what is used on porcelain-housed arresters.
This design has the prime advantage that high mechanical strength is possible (potentially even
higher than for porcelain). Among the disadvantages compared to other polymeric designs is less
efficient cooling of the ZnO blocks and, if appropriate precautions are not taken in the design, an
increased risk of exposure of the polymeric material to corona that may occur between the inner
wall of the insulator and the block column during external pollution.

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Silicone for use as an insulator
There is a worldwide trend towards the use of polymer housings for surge arresters because of
their light weight, flexibility and non-shattering performance. Silicone is recognised and proven
world wide as the technically superior polymer for all high voltage outdoor applications. It's
exclusive use is prevented only by it's comparatively high raw material cost. Nevertheless, an
increasing number of utilities are specifying the more expensive silicone composite insulators;
especially for more demanding or polluted environments; recognising silicone's long-term cost
benefits over porcelain and other polymer materials.
The unique properties of silicone makes it ideal for use as an electrical insulator due to its
superior properties in the following key areas:
Fig. 20

Natural resistance to Ultra Violet (UV)

Silicone demonstrates a natural resistance to UV
radiation without the need for additives. Of all the
polymers, it best resists UV energy induced
polymer chain scission.
Because the main
polymer chain has silicon-oxygen bonds instead
of carbon-carbon bonds (which are subject to
oxidation) silicone polymer molecules do not split,
and therefore surface properties do not degrade
to any significant extent. This results in inherently
superior UV performance compared to other

Stable pollution/anti-tracking performance


Silicone polymeric chain

CH 3

CH 3


O Si O Si

CH 3

CH 3

n > 1000





H H CH 3 H CH 3 H m

m > 1000

Silicone has a wet-polluted withstand strength much greater than a similarly dimensioned porcelain
or alternative polymeric insulator. Experiments show that even with the deposit of extreme pollution,
silicone materials provide superior performance with respect to leakage current, electrical withstand
and anti-tracking when compared with other polymers and certainly porcelain.

Unique hydrophobic recovery mechanism

Silicone gains the advantage in pollution performance due to
its superior hydrophobic properties, i.e. the ability to bead
water. Importantly, this property is maintained with age. Whilst
other polymeric materials may demonstrate the ability to bead
water when new, they can eventually degrade under
contaminated conditions over a period of time. Not so with
silicone rubber - even with a large amount of contamination on
the surface, the hydrophobic recovery properties of silicone
rubber reverses degradation of its surface properties.
This exceptional pollution performance is achieved due to
silicones unique dynamic surface properties resulting in low
molecular weight silicone oils diffusing towards the surface to
encapsulate the pollution layer, so that no electrolyte is present
that can conduct current. As a result, silicone-housed arresters
exhibit lower leakage and consistently higher flashover values
over the total lifetime of the arrester.
Fig. 21 Principle of silicone
hydrophobicity recovery

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Fire self extinguishing and freedom from any toxic combustion products.
Due to an inherently high temperature index (temperature required to sustain burning in air),
silicone is the last to catch fire with increasing temperature and the first to self-extinguish. This
natural performance of silicone can be further enhanced by the addition of functional fillers
typically Aluminium Trihydrate (ATH) - which releases bound water at high temperature to cool the
arc resulting from the short-circuit after an arrester overload.

Negligible thermal ageing

Silicone has low surface energy, resulting in it remaining stable over a wide temperature range.
Due to its high continuous rating, no significant embrittlement occurs.

Well tested and proven

Silicone materials have been used in various applications for insulators and cable
terminations since 1960. ABB has been using silicone housings on surge arresters since 1985.
PEXLIM silicone-housed arresters tested according to IEC 60099-4 for 1000 hours saltfog and
5000 hours multi-stress show no deterioration in material performance or change in electrical
characteristics from before to after the test. Similar superior performance apply with other
customer-specific tests; including long-term site tests.

5.4.1 Comparison between types of silicone

Silicone covers a wide range of materials, with those used in high voltage applications including
dielectric fluids, greases, coatings and polymers. These in turn can be grouped based on their
form and application. All nevertheless have the same silicone-oxygen backbone structure that
provides the inherent stability and low reactivity common to all silicones.
RTV is the generic group of Room Temperature Vulcanised silicone materials, which includes
many of the commercially available household sealants, grease coatings, etc.

RTV 1 component

Condensation curing at room temperature through catalyzation by

the moisture in the air diffusing into the rubber. Typical
applications are gluing and sealing.

RTV 2 component

Addition curing with platinum catalyst; permits faster curing at

higher temperatures. Typical applications are casting and

LSR is the generic group of Liquid Silicone Rubbers. These are two component addition
cured by platinum catalyst at high temperature. Typical application is injection moulding.
HCR is the generic group of High Consistency Rubbers. These are a one component solid
rubber compound which crosslinks at high temperature (130 190 oC) with the aid of either a
peroxide or platinum catalyst. Typical applications are injection moulding and extrusion, and
includes the HTV (High Temperature Vulcanised) silicone used for ABB type PEXLIM surge
HCR currently holds around 85% of the insulator market at high voltage, but LSR market use is
growing (particularly in niche markets). HCR is a solid rubber material while LSR has a pasty to
liquid consistency, which lends them to use in different applications and different processing

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Allows the use of low pressure injection systems, leading to lower investment costs
Can be fully automated
Fast cycle times at relatively low temperature
Physical properties compared to HCR
Higher mechanical strength
Lower specific gravity (weight)
Lower hardness, more flexible
Permits more angled shed profile
Electrical properties compared to HCR
Lower dielectric constant
Higher dielectric strength
Similar tracking resistance
Erosion resistance similar to common HCR, but not as good as the best HCR


Needs high pressure & clamp force injection machine, leading to high investment costs
Platinum cured HCR faster cure rate than peroxide cured HCR, but slower than LSR
Mould may not need as close tolerances as for LSR, leading to lower cost
Physical properties compared to LCR
Elongation and tear strength relatively low
Higher hardness
Specific gravity is typically between 1.5 1.65
Electrical properties compared to LCR
Higher tracking resistance
Best material shows no erosion at 3.5, 4.5, 6.0kV tracking and erosion test Application
All groups belong to the silicone family and therefore each permit the fundamental and generic
advantages of silicone to be utilized. However, since there is an expectation of a long in-service
life for HV surge arresters, a high degree of security is required. The manufacturer must
carefully consider the complete design as a whole including the choice of housing material - to
ensure the final product has adequate performance in all key areas of concern for a given
application and not just excellent in one specific area at the expense of others.
For example, ABB type PEXLIM surge arresters utilize a housing moulded from a specially
formulated HTV-silicone in order to ensure excellent performance in all key areas; including:

Physical properties
Wet electrical performance
Tracking and erosion resistance
Salt-fog performance

Electrical properties
Hydrophobicity recovery
Environmental ageing resistance
Flame retardancy

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There are a variety of parameters influencing the dimensioning of an arrester, but the demands as
required by a user can be divided into two basic categories:
Protection against overvoltages
High reliability and a long service life
Additionally, there is the requirement that the risk of personal injury and damage to adjacent
equipment shall be low in the event of an arrester overloading. Users are also beginning to put
requirements on environmental aspects, for example that arresters should be separable,
recyclable and only contain non-hazardous materials.
The above two main requirements are somewhat in contradiction to each other. Aiming to
minimise the residual voltage normally leads to the reduction in the capability of the arrester to
withstand power-frequency overvoltages. An improved protection level may therefore be achieved
by slightly increasing the risk of overloading the arresters. The acceptance for increase of this risk
is, of course, dependent on how well the amplitude and duration of the temporary overvoltages
(TOVs) can be predicted. The selection of an arrester is therefore always a compromise between
protection levels and reliability.
A more detailed classification could be based on what stresses a surge arrester is normally
subjected to and what continuous stresses it shall withstand. For example:
Continuous operating voltage
Ambient temperature
Rain, pollution, sun radiation
Wind and possible ice loadings as well as forces in line terminal connections
and additionally, non-frequent, abnormal stresses, for example:
Temporary overvoltages, TOVs
Overvoltages due to transients, which affect
thermal stability and ageing
energy and current withstand capability
external insulation withstand
Large mechanical forces (e.g. from earthquakes)
Severe external pollution
and finally, what the arrester can be subjected to only once:
Internal short-circuit
For transient overvoltages, the primary task for an arrester is to protect. But it must also normally
be dimensioned to handle the current through it, as well as the heat generated by the overvoltage.
The risk of an external flashover must also be very low.
Detailed test requirements are given in International and National Standards, where the surge
arresters are classified with respect to various parameters such as energy capability, current
withstand, short-circuit capability and residual voltage.

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Designing for continuous stresses

6.1.1 Continuous operating voltage

Maximum continuous operating voltage, denoted as Uc in the IEC standard, is the maximum
r.m.s. voltage level the arrester is designed to operate under during its entire lifetime. The arrester
shall act as an insulator against this voltage. The entire voltage is across the ZnO varistors and
these must be able to maintain their insulating properties during their entire lifetime.
The continuous operating voltage for AC surge arresters is mainly at power frequency, i.e. 50 Hz
or 60 Hz with some percent of superimposed harmonics. For other applications, e.g. HVDC, the
waveform of the voltage might be very complex or even a pure DC voltage. It must therefore be
verified for all applications that the ZnO varistors are able to withstand the actual voltage under
their technical and commercial lifetime; normally stated to be in the order of 30 years.
The basis for the dimensioning is the result from ageing procedures where possible ageing effects
are accelerated by performing tests at elevated temperature.
6.1.2 Ambient temperature
All arresters, according to the IEC standard, must be designed to withstand an ambient air
temperature of -40 C to +40 C without impairing the surge arresters function. Due to the varistor
current-voltage characteristic, higher temperatures may be decisive for the arresters design as
resistive leakage current increases with higher temperatures at Uc. In order for a manufacturer to
verify that the arresters are capable of withstanding the highest possible temperatures, certain
type tests must be performed. It is, however, worth noting that the ambient air temperature
surrounding the arrester is not necessarily the temperature of the ZnO blocks themselves.
Arresters installed outdoors, for example, will always have a proportion of their housing in the
shade. Thus, even if the ambient temperature is considered higher than +40 C, it is the average
ambient temperature of the blocks themselves which should be the determining factor for the
evaluation of verifications made for thermal stability during the type tests. Further, this
temperature is normally considered to be the average over a 24 hour period.
6.1.3 Rain, pollution, sun radiation
A contaminated insulator surface in combination with moisture causes a creepage (external
leakage) current on the insulator surface that can reach high values. This leakage current may
negatively influence the arrester with respect to internal corona, heating of ZnO blocks and
external flashovers. Thus the arrester must be designed in such a way that the internal parts will
endure, during a limited time, a high internal corona level (for arresters with an annular gap
between insulator and block column), and that the blocks will withstand a higher grading current,
and subsequent higher power losses, than normal without failing. The risk of an external flashover
must also be minimized.
Heating of the arresters due to direct sun radiation and self-heating is normally a minor problem.
The influence from the sun radiation is sometimes thought to be significant, as one might
assume that sun radiation can result in considerably high surface temperatures. However, it is
the average surface temperature of the complete arrester that counts, and sun radiation falls on
less than half of the insulator surface at any point in time. In fact, the closer to the equator an
arrester is situated, the smaller the fraction of the insulator surface that is subjected to direct
radiation due to the sheds. The effects of direct sun radiation are included in the Operating Duty
test of arrester sections. Heating from sources other than sun radiation must be checked
separately for each case.

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For a given pollution level, the performance of gapless arresters can be generally improved by
employing any or all of the following measures:
Increasing the creepage distances of the housings to reduce external leakage current
Using ZnO blocks of larger volume to improve the energy absorption capability
Improving the TOV capability, i.e. by increasing the rated voltage (Ur) for the same
arrester type
Improving the heat transfer mechanism
Using blocks with lower losses at Uc
A well-designed arrester should already employ blocks with very low losses and the heat
transfer mechanism should be optimized for these blocks. Thus, in practical terms, pollution
performance is usually improved by using one or more of the first three methods. In this regard,
it is important to note that an increased Uc without corresponding improvement in TOV capability
is not effective.
6.1.4 Wind, ice, external forces
A surge arrester is not a post insulator and should not be used as such, since normally its
mechanical strength is limited. In all but extreme cases, wind and ice loads are usually not a
problem for surge arresters. It is only if hurricanes (gales) could be expected at the arrester
location, that a detailed check is necessary of whether or not a standard arrester will mechanically
withstand the wind forces. By suitable selection of the housing strength or its physical mounting, a
surge arrester may be designed to withstand very high winds. Similarly, severe ice storms are
normally required to build up sufficient ice to load the arrester significantly.
The most suitable way to connect an arrester to the overhead line is to arrange the tee-off
vertically and slack to the line terminal of the arrester to minimize the bending moment on the
arrester. Since surge arresters have a certain maximum bending moment for each design type,
expressed in Nm, the maximum force at the line terminal is lower for a tall arrester than for a
shorter one of the same type.
6.1.5 Considerations for polymer arrester designs
The design for continuous stresses on polymer arresters must also take into consideration their
effect on the behaviour and characteristics of the polymer material. For example, polymeric
materials can potentially be more affected by ageing due to partial discharges and leakage
currents on the surface, UV radiation, chemicals, etc, compared to porcelain. Further, polymers,
as a rule, become softer at higher temperatures with a higher degree of creeping (cold flowing),
while at cold temperatures the material becomes brittle.
Many of these characteristics are strongly dependent on temperature and load time. It therefore
is of great importance that the arrester design is tested with different temperature and load
combinations to verify that all possible sealings operate adequately over the entire temperature
Composite materials, such as glass-fibre joined in a matrix with epoxy or other polymeric
materials, can exhibit behaviour changes at high loading. The rate of this material degradation is
determined by temperature, applied force, velocity of the applied force, humidity and the time
during which the load is applied. It is therefore not sufficient to simply dimension the arrester with
respect to its breaking force, but rather consideration must also be taken to how the arrester
withstands cyclical stresses.

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Designing for non-continuous stresses

6.2.1 Temporary overvoltages (TOV)

TOVs in networks are primarily caused by earth faults, load rejection, energising of unloaded
lines and resonance. By definition, a TOV is above Uc and normally will last from some few cycles
up to some seconds. However, in certain isolated systems, the duration of an earth-fault may last
several days. Further, the TOV's may be preceded by a switching surge.
A ZnO arrester is considered to have withstood a TOV if:
the ZnO-blocks are not destroyed due to energy under the TOV i.e. cracking, puncturing
or flashover of the blocks does not occur, and
the surge arrester is thermally stable against Uc after cessation of the TOV
Since the resistive leakage current through the arrester is temperature-dependent, achieving
thermal stability is also dependent on the final block temperature. If, for example due to a prior
switching surge, the arrester already has a high starting temperature before being subjected to a
TOV, it will naturally have a lower overvoltage capability.
This is exemplified in the TOV characteristic given below (Fig. 22), which shows the ability of a
specific ZnO arrester to withstand overvoltages with and without a preceding energy absorption.
The lower curve is valid for an arrester which has been subjected to maximum allowable energy,
for example from a switching surge prior to the TOV. The upper curve is valid for an arrester
without prior energy duty.
For ZnO arresters, the TOV amplitudes are normally at, or immediately above, the knee-point of
the current-voltage characteristic. If the arrester is designed to fulfil the IEC standard, it shall be
able to withstand a TOV equal to the rated voltage of the arrester for at least 10 seconds after
being subjected to an energy injection corresponding to two line discharges as per relevant line
discharge class of the arrester. This voltage level is also designated as the rated voltage of the
arrester in compliance with IEC.
Fig. 22
Example of TOV-capacity for
a specific ZnO surge arrester.
The upper curve is valid if the
arrester has not been
subjected to any energy prior
to the TOV and the lower
curve is valid if the arresters
has absorbed maximum
allowable energy prior to the
The TOV capability is
normally based on the lower
curve, being the worst

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The TOV is generally regarded as a stiff voltage source, i.e. the surge arrester cannot influence
the voltage amplitude. For the dimensioning to fulfil a certain TOV level, the varistor characteristic
must be chosen such that the current through the arrester, and consequently the energy
dissipation, will not result in a temperature above the thermal instability point.
The TOV capability given for a certain surge arrester should always be assumed with a stiff
voltage source. However, if this is not the case, the TOV capability of the arrester is, generally,
significantly higher.
An important parameter concerning the dimensioning for TOV's is to accurately control the kneepoint voltage, since the non-linearity of the characteristic is at its most extreme in the TOV range.
This is best achieved by defining a reference voltage close to the knee-point on the voltagecurrent characteristics, and then checking through routine tests that every arrester has a
reference voltage above a guaranteed minimum voltage.
A manufacturer is relatively free to assign any data for the arresters. A given arrester with ZnO
blocks capable of absorbing a certain amount of high energy could therefore be assigned a high
line discharge class with low TOV capability or, conversely, a low line discharge class with high
TOV capability. The ideal should naturally be to assign the highest line discharge class with the
highest possible TOV capability.
6.2.2 Transient overvoltages - Protective function
The arrester shall, for an expected maximum current, limit an overvoltage to a level well below the
insulation withstand level of the protected equipment.
The protective characteristic for a ZnO varistor is slightly dependent on the steepness of the
expected current. The below Figure 23 shows the characteristics for a specific arrester for three
different current shapes given in the Standards.

Fig. 23
Example of protective
characteristics for a specific
ZnO surge arrester.
The protection level is given
in % of the residual voltage
at a current impulse with
wave-shape 8/20 s and
amplitude 10 kA.

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As can be noted from the diagram, the protection level for currents having a front time of 1s are
approximately 10% higher compared to currents with a wave form 8/20s or longer. However,
even more important than this marginal increase for steep current waves, is the effect of
positioning the arrester in relation to the protected equipment and the length of the connections.
There is also an effect as a result of the arresters own height (length). These effects add
inductance (L) into the circuit, typically 1H/m for outdoor arresters, which results in a further
increase in the overall residual voltage against steep current impulses according to the formula
U = L.di/dt.
In order to obtain an efficient protection against fast transients, for example caused by
backflashover close to a substation, large margins are therefore required between the protection
level of the surge arrester and the protected equipments insulation level.
A ZnO block with larger diameter normally has a better protection level with maintained
overvoltage capability. A better protection level, in this case, also automatically results in a better
energy capability.
Computer programs are used to make accurate calculations of the resulting overvoltages in a
substation originating from lightning and detailed models of the transmission line and substation
are made. In these type of calculations, a ZnO arrester may be modelled as shown in Fig. 24.











Fig. 24

Equivalent scheme for ZnO arresters used in computer calculations

Apart from the standard current-voltage characteristic for an arrester (ZnO above) a circuit is
included for modelling the increase of the residual voltage for shorter times than 8/20 s (R1 and
L2 above). The effects from connection leads and arrester height is modelled with the inductance

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6.2.3 Transient overvoltages - Energy capability and current withstand strengths

In service, a surge arrester may be subjected to different energy impulses originating from such
sources as lightning, faults in the network, switching of lines or capacitor banks, etc. The
arresters must be designed in such a way that the ZnO blocks will withstand the energy or current
without failing. Additionally, the arrester must be able to withstand the thermal energy,
i.e. it must be able to cool against Uc after an energy absorption.
High voltage arresters are normally designated according to IEC with a specific line discharge
class. The below Figure 25a shows relative energies in kJ/kV rated voltage for the different line
discharge classes. The intention with this classification is naturally that a higher class should
represent a higher energy capability for a given arrester. Hence, the energy absorbed during a
single line discharge is approximately:
Class 1
1 kJ/kV (Ur)
Class 2
2 kJ/kV (Ur)
Class 3
3 kJ/kV (Ur)
Class 4
4 kJ/kV (Ur)
Class 5
5 kJ/kV (Ur)
However, this is only valid if the ratio between the switching impulse residual voltage, Ups, to the
rated voltage of the arrester, Ur, is approximately a factor of 2.0. If the ratio differs greatly from
this, the line discharge class becomes a useless measure, i.e. the higher the residual voltage for
a given rated voltage, the less energy the arrester is required to absorb during the line discharge,
and vice-versa.
Specific energy kJ/kV (Ur)

Specific energy kJ/kV (Ur)


Class 1
Class 2
Class 3
Class 4
Class 5









Class 72.5 - 150kV

Class 151 - 325kV
Class 326 - 400kV
Class 401 - 600kV
Class 601 - 900kV









Relative protective level Ua/Ur

Relative protective level Ua/Ur

Fig. 25a Relative energy stresses for different line

discharge classes according to IEC 60099-4.
Ups is designated as Ua.

Fig. 25b Relative energy stresses for different line

discharge classes according to IEEE C62.11.
Ups is designated as Ua.

Potentially even more confusing for the ordinary user is the classification as per the IEEE
standard, as depicted in the above Figure 25b. The diagram is drawn for lowest used rated
voltage on highest existing system voltage in each class. The highest relative energy occurs for
the Class 326 to 400 kV. In general, the energy is lower in IEEE than for the IEC classes. On the
other hand, the Line Discharge test as per IEEE shall be performed with 18 impulses in only 3
groups of 6 impulses, compared with IEC which prescribes 6 groups with 3 impulses in each
group. The interval between the impulses in each group shall be 50 - 60 seconds and full cooling
is allowed between groups.
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The energy absorption capability of an arrester is only defined in IEC as per the previously
mentioned Line Discharge classification. Different manufacturers assign the energy capability in
different ways. For example, the energy capability may be given as:

kJ/kV Ur, kilojoule per kilovolt rated voltage which is possibly complemented with the
shortest time during which the energy can be absorbed

kJ/kV Uc, kilojoule per kilovolt continuous operating voltage which is

complemented with the shortest time during which the energy can be absorbed

the sum of the energy resulting from two line discharges separated 50 60 seconds in
compliance with IECs line discharge classification


Therefore a surge arrester may be described with at least three different energy values, which is
why it is essential to state how the energy for a specific arrester has been given. As an example,
the following energy capabilities can be given for the same ABB arrester type EXLIM P (Class 4):

7.0 kJ/kV Ur, rectangular current impulse with a duration of at least 4 ms

8.8 kJ/kV Uc, rectangular current impulse with a duration of at least 4 ms

10.8 kJ/kV Ur, two line discharge impulses in compliance with IEC 60099-4

The ZnO blocks are normally able to withstand considerably higher energies with longer durations
(seconds), compared to shorter durations (milliseconds). Expressions like kJ/kV Ur or kJ/kV are
therefore meaningless unless the shortest time for which the arrester can be subjected to the
given energy is also stated.
As mentioned previously, a high voltage arrester is normally designed in compliance with a
chosen line discharge class as per IEC with respect to energy. For non-standard stresses, such
as capacitor discharges or high energies due to lightning, the design may need to be made with a
lower energy stress per varistor.
Aside from withstanding the energy from current impulses, the ZnO blocks must also have a
sufficiently high dielectric withstand so as to ensure that the voltage across the block will not result
in a puncture or a flashover across the block. To ensure a sufficient insulation withstand margin
for normal stresses, the ZnO blocks (together with all internal parts in a high voltage arrester) are
dimensioned to withstand current impulses with an amplitude of at least 100 kA, having a wave
form of 4/10 s.
Requirements for high energy absorption capability can be solved by increasing the block volume
- either by using blocks with larger diameter or by paralleling block columns and/or arresters. To
ensure that the latter designs will operate correctly during service, a very careful procedure is
required to ensure a good current sharing between the block columns and/or arresters connected
in parallel. Furthermore, possible changes of the block characteristic due to the normal applied
service voltage as well as energy and voltage stresses must be extremely small.

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6.2.4 Transient overvoltages - External insulation withstand

The primary function of an arrester is to limit, and thus render harmless, overvoltages to which
the protected equipment is exposed. It is obvious therefore, that its own insulation (both external
and internal) is the best-protected of all.
In contrast to other HV apparatus, the insulation level for surge arresters therefore does not
need to fulfil a standardised insulation class since the arrester will effectively protect its own
insulation against overvoltages. Distance effects need not to be considered. Instead, the
Standards stipulate a specific safety margin between the residual voltage of the arrester to the
voltage withstand level of its external insulation.
The voltage across an arrester can never be higher than that determined by the arrester's
protective characteristics. Only the need for an additional (statistical) safety factor (margin)
including correction for installation altitude can technically justify a higher external insulation
strength. Generally, the risk of an external flashover less than or equal to 10-3 is considered as
acceptable; which leads to a factor of approximately 1.10 to 1.15 (excluding altitude correction)
between the arrester protective levels and the LIWL and SIWL of the housing.
Both the IEC and IEEE standards clearly stipulate that such a margin is sufficient. IEEE
stipulates that the external LIWL of the housing shall be 20 % above the discharge voltage at
20 kA, 8/20 s impulse plus an altitude factor of 9% per every 3000 feet (roughly equal to 10 %
per every 1000 m). IEC stipulates a LIWL margin of 15 % above the discharge voltage at
nominal current plus an altitude factor of 13 % for up to 1000 m.
A longer arrester may, in fact, lead to less effective protection for steeper surges for which the
inductance of the arrester itself becomes more significant. Thus, the stipulation of high external
insulation withstand values (e.g. equal to that for the protected equipment) may thus be
disadvantageous for the protected equipment.
The complete arrester, including possible grading rings, must be designed to give a reasonable
safety margin against external flashovers. With the specified margins in the IEC Standard, an
acceptable low risk for external flashovers is obtained up to an altitude of 1000 m. For higher
altitudes, special consideration needs to be given on a case-by-case basis.
6.2.5 Large mechanical forces
It is relatively simple to calculate the maximum bending moment at the base of a self-supported
arrester from loads caused by wind and terminal pull. For the earthquake forces, however, the
situation can be a lot more complicated.
The US-based IEEEs Recommended Practice for Seismic Design of Substations (IEEE 693) is
often taken to be the worst case earthquake criteria since it provides a comprehensive
prescription for the seismic qualification of equipment. It allows for equipment to be certified as
meeting one of three levels of seismic resistance; with the appropriate level selected by
considering the peak ground acceleration for the 2500-year return period hazard spectrum at
the site, i.e. 2 % probability of occurrence in 50 years. Nevertheless, actual criteria for a specific
location should always be used in any analysis and caution is required when applying
earthquake design spectra from different design codes. True requirements demand
consideration with respect to the applicable zero period acceleration, return period, damping,
subsoil type, structural performance factors, assumed ductility, location, near-fault factors,
design methodologies and expected performance given the nature of the equipment.

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When the earthquake is defined as a maximum horizontal acceleration, the bending moment
can be easily calculated when considering the arrester as a rigid body. When more accurate
calculations are necessary, the elasticity and damping of the arrester must first be determined in
a snap-back test.
Knowledge about elasticity, resonance frequencies and related damping
is also required when the earthquake is specified by a frequency
spectrum, In such cases, a specially developed computer program will
need to be used. However, a reliable calculation needs to also have
adequate information about the structure on which the arrester is
erected. For example, mounting the arrester on a support structure
which has a sufficiently high natural frequency (e.g. a large power
transformer) may reduce or remove the seismic loading on the arrester.
Since polymer-housed arresters are more or less elastic, temporary loads
- including short-circuit forces and earthquake forces - can be looked
upon differently compared to rigid bodies like porcelain insulators. The
reason for this is that the forces do not have time to act fully due to the
elasticity of the material and mass inertia, i.e. the forces are spread out in
time leading to the arrester not encountering any high instantaneous
values. These advantages, combined with a design with small mass
participation, have been fully utilised by ABB for the 550 kV arrester
shown opposite in Figure 26. This arrester withstands a ground
horizontal acceleration in excess of the highest seismic demands as per
IEEE standards.
Seismic qualification testing has also been successfully made on other
standard ABB type PEXLIM surge arresters (without additional bracing),
even at the arduous 1.0g ZPA level. Alternatively, suspending polymer
surge arresters directly from the overhead line is a viable mounting
alternative to eliminate seismic and other large cantilever loads
Experience has shown that loads from short-circuit forces, wind and ice
have not had a significant influence during past earthquakes and
therefore arresters need not be designed for such loads to act
concurrently with an earthquake.

Fig. 26 ABB type PEXLIM

for 550 kV system voltage.
The arrester is designed to
meet extreme earthquake
requirements in the
Los Angeles area (USA).

6.2.6 Severe external pollution

For AC outdoor insulators under dry conditions, the voltage and electric field distribution are
determined by capacitive elements (both internal and external capacitances to ground). Under
completely wet conditions the voltage distribution is determined by the surface resistance.
Under partially wet conditions the electric stress distribution fluctuates between those
determined by capacitive and resistive elements. The geometry of the insulator, both shape and
surface property, cause outdoor insulators to be partially wet more often than completely.
High radial voltage stresses may occur between the block column and the outside of the
insulator during severe external pollution. Generally, external pollution may influence a surge
arrester in the following ways:
Possibility of internal corona
External flashover
Heating of the blocks
Tracking and/or erosion of the insulator
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The problems for arresters with porcelain housings installed in extremely polluted areas have
historically been solved by greasing the insulator, thus improving the pollution performance. The
aim of the greasing is to reduce the leakage currents on the insulator surface. Hydrophobic
materials, like silicone, give a similar effect. This is one of the strongest motivations for why
silicone has been seen as an attractive insulator material.
A common belief is that all polymer-housed arresters have better pollution performance
compared to arresters with porcelain housings. However, a more correct statement would be
that hydrophobic materials (like silicone) have better performance in polluted areas due to
reduced external leakage currents. In contrast, EPDM rubber, which can lose its hydrophobic
properties quickly, should be designed in the same manner as porcelain from a pollution
performance point of view.
It is very difficult to avoid internal corona during severe external pollution on arresters containing
an annular gap between the ZnO blocks and the insulator, irrespective of whether the insulator
is made of porcelain or a polymeric material. The design of such arresters must therefore be
able to withstand corona during such pollution episodes.
Some rules-of-thumb for designs such as these are:
No corona during dry conditions
Minimise the use of organic materials in the arrester. When organic materials are used,
they must have been thoroughly tested and subjected to realistic corona tests
Prevent the possibility of electrical discharges directly onto the ZnO blocks
For polymer-housed arresters which do not have any annular gap, large radial stresses may
occur between the blocks and the outside of the insulator during severe external pollution
episodes. It is therefore very important that the rubber insulator is sufficiently thick to avoid a
puncture of the material. Furthermore, steps need to be taken to avoid large air pockets or
cavities, otherwise corona may occur that would eventually lead to an arrester failure.
To avoid external flashover, the creepage distance of the arrester, i.e. the shed form and the
length of the insulator, is typically designed in compliance with the same criteria valid for other
insulation at the actual site.
Possible thermal stresses are determined by the leakage currents that might be present on the
outer surface of the insulator. For porcelain arresters, it has been shown that the integral of the
leakage current, i.e. the charge, can be regarded as independent of the creepage distance, and
instead is approximately linearly dependent on the diameter of the housing. An insulator with a
larger diameter thus may give rise to higher thermal stress during conditions with external
pollution, provided the service conditions are otherwise the same.
For applications requiring arresters with parallel housings and several units connected in series,
the general rule is that the units should not be connected in parallel except at the top and bottom.
This is because, during pollution episodes, the ZnO blocks in one unit could conduct the external
leakage current from all of the parallel connected arresters which consequently may give an
increased thermal stress on that unit.
Since the ZnO blocks have a negative temperature coefficient in the leakage-current region, i.e.
the leakage current increases with increased temperature, the heating of one unit will lead to a
reduction of the voltage characteristic with subsequent increase of the current. An increased
current through the unit leads to higher power losses with increased temperature, and so the cycle
continues. Not even a careful current-sharing test (matching) of the arrester units will be of help
below the knee-point of current-voltage characteristic.
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For a given pollution level, the performance of gapless arresters can generally be improved by
employing any or all of the following measures:
Increasing the creepage distances of the housings to reduce external leakage current
Using ZnO blocks of larger volume to improve the energy absorption capability
Improving the TOV capability, i.e. by increasing the rated voltage (Ur) for the same
arrester type
Improving the heat transfer mechanism
Using blocks with lower losses at Uc
Lower leakage currents on the insulator surface is achieved with a hydrophobic surface, i.e. the
use of silicone insulators. The below Figure 27 shows leakage currents as measured on a
porcelain insulator and a polymer-housed arrester having a silicone insulator. The values are
taken from testing at NGCs test station at Dungeness on the English Channel.

Fig. 27 Leakage currents for surge arrester

PEXLIM Q108-VV145M and porcelain
insulator at Dungeness test station.
The leakage current for the arrester includes
an internal leakage current of around 1 mA.
The creepage distance for the polymeric
arrester is 5148 mm and 4580 mm for the
porcelain insulator.

a 16adays
16 day
at Dungeness
Arrester with silicone insulator
Porcelain insulator

Current (mA)

As can be noted, the amplitudes of the

leakage currents on the silicone
insulator are roughly half to a third of
the corresponding leakage currents on
the surface of the porcelain insulator
during this specific measuring interval.





6.2.7 Thermal stability

Thermal stability is one of the most important application criteria for ZnO arresters, and hence a
thermally stable arrester is a pre-condition for the safe protection of equipment.
The majority of the previously mentioned stresses are potential sources of heat input to the
arrester, which must withstand them without loss of thermal stability. i.e.
Continuous operating voltage
Temporary overvoltages
Transient overvoltages
Ambient temperature
Pollution effects
Non-linear voltage distribution
Uneven current sharing between parallel columns

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The concept of thermal stability can be depicted with the help of a heat loss input balance
diagram, as depicted in the following Figure 28. This shows principally how the ability of an
arrester encapsulation to dissipate heat and the temperature dependent power losses of the
blocks result in a working temperature at a certain ambient temperature and chosen voltage
stress (A in the Figure). An upper maximum temperature also exists (B in the Figure), above
which the design is no longer thermally stable for a given voltage stress.
It can also be seen from Figure 28
that the instability threshold is very
much dependant on the applied
power frequency voltage. As the
power losses curve is non-linear, a
lower applied service voltage than
verified in test, for example, would
shift the upper intersection point
further to the right, thereby
temperature limit at which thermal
runaway becomes a risk.

Fig. 28
Thermal capacity for an
arrester housing and power
losses for ZnO blocks at
different relative voltage stresses
(ambient temperature +40 C)

Relative power losses


Porcelain curve
Losses at 0.9*Uref

Losses at 0.8*Uref
Losses at 0.7*Uref
Losses at 0.6*Uref


A = Service temperature at 0.8*Uref

B = Thermal limit at 0.8*Uref


100 120 140 160 180 200

Varistor temperature (C)

To explain the concept further: The power losses of a typical ZnO varistor (curved line) due to a
constant applied power frequency voltage is extremely temperature dependent. At the same
time, the ability of the arrester assembly to dissipate heat is generally linear (straight line) and
proportional to its thermal design and temperature rise above the ambient temperature.
Consequently, there are two intersections of the two curves: one at low temperature a so
called stable operating point, and the other at high temperature a so called instability
threshold. To obtain thermal stability, the temperature rise due to power losses in the ZnO
varistors must be balanced against heat dissipation to the environment.
If power losses exceeds heat dissipation, then excess energy is stored in the varistors and their
temperature slowly increases. Conversely, if heat dissipation exceeds power losses, the
temperature of the varistors decreases. The varistor temperature may well increase significantly
due to the application of transient or temporary overvoltages, but will always ultimately settle
back at the stable operating point, as long as the varistor temperature does not exceed the
instability threshold. As the two characteristics diverge beyond the instability threshold point, a
thermal runaway will invariably occur from varistor temperatures above this point, whereby the
temperature will continue to increase until the arrester ultimately fails.
Some rules-of-thumb for ensuring a design with good heat dissipation, and thereby low risk for
thermal runaway:
Low-loss blocks
Reduced voltage stress/mm
Increased block size
Homogenous block material
Non-ageing blocks
Good mechanical design with regards to thermal heat transfer

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According to the IEC 60099-4 standard, surge arresters are classified by their nominal
discharge current.
The test requirements and performance characteristics related to the
different classes must be upheld. These currents do not, however, reflect the limits of the
characteristics. For example, an arrester with nominal discharge current of 10kA can withstand
current impulses of significantly higher amplitude without damage or deterioration.
Standard nominal discharge current
20 000 A

10 000 A

5 000 A

2 500 A

1 500 A

Rated voltage, Ur (kV)

360 < Ur < 756

3 < Ur < 360

Ur < 132

Ur < 36

Under consideration

Line discharge class

4 or 5

1, 2 or 3

Table 2

Classification as per IEC standard

The classification as per the IEEE C62.11 standard is shown below (Table 3).
Arrester classification
Distribution, Heavy Duty
Distribution, Normal Duty
Distribution, Light Duty
Table 3

Max. system voltage (kV)

Impulse value crest (kA)

< 550


Lightning impulse classifying current as per IEEE standard

The switching surge protection level is defined at a current impulse with virtual front time of
30 to 100 s (IEC) or 45 to 60 s for time to actual crest (IEEE). The current amplitudes are
given in Table 4 below.
Arrester classification
IEC, 20kA, LDC 4 and 5
IEC, 10kA, LDC 3
IEC, 10kA, LDC 1 and 2
IEEE, Station
IEEE, Station
IEEE, Station
IEEE, Intermediate
Table 4

Max. system voltage (kV)

Peak current (A)


500 and 2000

250 and 1000
125 and 500

326 900
151 325
3 150
3 150


Current peaks for switching surge protection level.

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In order to fulfil the requirements of users, Standards specify uniform tests and test methods
aimed at verifying an arresters:
ability to protect against overvoltages
reliability and long lifetime
The protective function is verified with different measurements of the voltage level for different
current amplitudes and current waveforms (residual voltage tests) and the reliability is checked
through a number of electrical and mechanical tests. An important part of the electrical tests is the
operating duty tests in which an arrester, or a pre-scaled model of the arrester, is subjected to a
combination of stresses representing anticipated service stresses that an arrester might be
subjected to during its lifetime. The lifetime is further verified by subjecting the ZnO blocks to an
accelerated ageing test procedure.
According to Standards for testing of arresters, the tests can be divided into three main
Type tests (Design tests according to IEEE)
Routine tests
Acceptance tests (Conformance tests according to IEEE)
These test categories can be defined as follows:
Type tests are performed after completion of the development of a new arrester design to
establish representative performance and to demonstrate compliance with the relevant
standard. Once made, these tests need not to be repeated unless the design is changed
in a way which may negatively influence the performance. Only the relevant tests need to
be repeated in such a case.
Routine tests are made on each arrester or arrester unit, as well as components, as a
quality control integrated in the production. Their aim is to ensure that the products meet
the design specification.
Acceptance tests are made on a number of randomly chosen arresters from a delivery
lot when it has been specially agreed between the manufacturer and the purchaser at the
time of ordering. Acceptance tests should not be confused with routine tests.
Specifically how surge arresters shall be tested is defined in detail in the Standards, with the two
most widely accepted being IEC 60099-4 (International Standard) and IEEE C62.11
(American National Standard).
Since the IEC standards are international and thereby have a wider scope for use, the coming
sections focus primarily on the requirements specified by IEC 60099-4.
For comparison
purposes, a summary of the major differences between the IEC and IEEE standards is given in
Table 5.

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Table 5

Arrester classification
and (ANSI/IEEE) impulse
classifying currents

Rated voltage, Ur
Continuous operating

Relation between
Ur and Uc/MCOV

Impulse classifying
Switching surge
classifying current

Low current, long

duration current

Insulation withstand

Comparison of IEC and IEEE Standards for Surge Arresters

IEC 60099-4

IEEE C62.11

Only for metal oxide surge

arresters without spark gaps
In terms of nominal discharge
current 20, 10, 5, 2.5 or 1.5 kA

For metal oxide surge arresters with

and without spark gaps
20 kA
(System voltage 800kV)
15 kA
(System voltage 550kV)
10 kA
(System voltage < 550kV)
5 kA

Defined by the operating duty

Maximum permissible
continuous operating voltage
across the arrester with
consideration of voltage
Not a fixed relation. Ur and Uc
can be selected independently
depending on temporary
overvoltages and actual
continuous operating voltage
across the arrester in a
particular system.
See Arrester classification

currents (A)

20 kA,
LDC 4 and 5
10 kA, LDC 3
10 kA,
LDC 1 and 2
For 20 and 10kA arresters a
line discharge test with 5
classes. 20 kA arresters either
class 4 or class 5. 10 kA
arresters class 1, 2 or 3.
For 5kA arresters a rectangular
current impulse test with 75 A
and 1ms duration. For 2.5 kA
arrester a rectangular current
impulse with 50A and duration
See Table 9

Distribution, heavy duty

10 kA

Distribution, normal duty

5 kA

Distribution, light duty

5 kA

Duty-cycle voltage rating defined by

the duty-cycle test
Maximum permissible continuous
operating voltage across the arrester
with consideration of voltage
Tabulated; for each duty-cycle rating
an MCOV value is given. For Ur21kV,
MCOV = 0.79*Ur to 0.81*Ur

See Arrester classification

max. voltage






For station and intermediate arresters

a transmission line discharge test with
parameters defined for classes based
on system voltage (6 classes for
station and 2 for intermediate, 3-72
and 72.5-150 kV system). For
distribution arresters a 2ms rectangular
current impulse with 250 A for heavy
duty and 75 A for normal and light duty
See Table 9

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IEC 60099-4

High-current impulse

IEEE C62.11

Peak current

Arrester classification

20 kA
10 kA
5 kA
2.5 kA
1.5 kA
A quite complex test procedure
intended to determine possible
temperature rise with respect to
the site pollution classification.
A simplified method is allowed
to determine if a pollution test
is necessary or not. No test
specified yet for polymer
housed arresters
Test procedure well specified
for different designs and
housing types. Includes high,
intermediate and low test
currents. Clear distinction
made regarding specific
requirements particular to
polymer-housed arresters.

Pollution test (IEC)

Contamination test

Pressure relief tests

(short-circuit current

Test requirements specified for

all arrester types

Polymer housed

Distribution, heavy duty
Distribution, normal duty
Distribution, light duty
Two test cycles with application of a
pollutant to half the length of the
arrester and thereafter energizing at
MCOV. Test applicable to porcelainand polymer-housed station,
intermediate and distribution class
Test procedure well specified for
different designs and housing types.
Includes high, intermediate and low
test currents. Clear distinction made
regarding specific requirements
particular to polymer-housed arresters.
Intention was to harmonize with the
IEC standard, but some slight
differences remain.
Distribution arresters considered
separately, but otherwise test
procedures only for salt fog, cantilever
load and moisture ingress. Short circuit
current test requirements also
specifically considered in common
clauses. Extended weather ageing test
in an Annex as informative.

Line discharge classes as per IEEE for station class

arresters (lowest class for 3-72 kV systems not shown)

Line discharge classes as per IEC

Specific energy kJ/kV (Ur)

Specific energy kJ/kV (Ur)

Class 1
Class 2
Class 3
Class 4
Class 5

Class 72.5 - 150kV

Class 151 - 325kV
Class 326 - 400kV
Class 401 - 600kV
Class 601 - 900kV


Peak current








Relative protective level Ua/Ur









Relative protective level Ua/Ur

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The Standard IEC 60099-4 supersedes the old Standard for gapped silicon-carbide surge
arresters, IEC 60099-1, which is not applicable to ZnO arresters. Many countries also have their
own National Standards which more or less comply with IEC or IEEE. Changes to the IEC
Standard (from Amendment 2 in 2001) deal with specific issues of importance, including: polymer
housed arresters, short-circuit tests, accelerated ageing, voltage distribution, environmental and
weather ageing tests and mechanical testing.
The tests in the IEC 60099-1 standard are not generally applicable to ZnO arresters, and
IEC 60099-4 reflects a completely different approach on how to select test sections and verify the
protection characteristics.
Some of the major differences between these two IEC Standards are listed in Table 6.

IEC 60099-1

IEC 60099-4

Type Tests
Sparkover voltage test

No gaps in a ZnO arrester and thus no

sparkover voltage tests
Conditioning test

Residual voltage tests on prorated tests

sections verifies the absolute value for a
complete arrester

Residual voltage test at type testing gives

a relation to routine tests values

No accelerated ageing tests procedures


Accelerated ageing test for 1000 hours.

Consideration is taken to possible ageing
in the Operating duty tests

Changes of the residual voltage level


Changes of the residual voltage level 5%

Tests on open sections

Tests on open sections and thermal


No pre-heating

Pre-heating to +60 C
Strictly specified how the test sections
shall be selected and how the rated
voltage of the section shall be determined

Routine Tests
50 Hz sparkover voltage test

Table 6

Reference voltage measurement

Residual voltage measurement
Corona test (PD measurement)
Tightness check
Current sharing test on arresters with
parallel block columns

Comparison between test requirements according to IEC 60099-1 and IEC 60099-4

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Standard nominal discharge current

20 000 A

10 000 A

5 000 A

2 500 A

1 500 A

360 < Ur < 756

3 < Ur < 360

Ur < 132

Ur < 36

Under consideration

Lightning and
switching impulse
voltage test

If Ur > 200 kV
Lightning and
switching impulse
voltage test.
If Ur < 200 kV
Lightning impulse
and power
frequency voltage

Lightning impulse
and power
frequency voltage

Lightning impulse
and power
frequency voltage

Lightning impulse
and power
frequency voltage

b) Lightning impulse
residual voltage test

c) Switching impulse
residual voltage test
Long duration current
impulse test
Operating duty test
a) High current impulse
operating duty test

Not required

Not required

Not required

LDC 4 or 5

LDC 1, 2 or 3

75 A, 1 ms

50 A, 0.5 ms

Not required

Not required

with 100 kA

With 65 kA

With 25 kA

With 10 kA

LDC 2 and 3

Not required

Not required

Not required










Rated voltage, Ur (kV)

Insulation withstand
tests on the arrester

Residual voltage test

a) Steep current
impulse residual
voltage test

b) Switching surge
operating duty test
Short circuit
Arrester disconnector
(when fitted)
Polluted housing test
for porcelain-housed
multi-unit arresters
Internal partial
discharge test
Bending moment
Environmental tests
Seal leak rate test
for arresters with
enclosed gas volume
and separate sealing
Radio interference
voltage (RIV)
Moisture ingress test
for polymer-housed
Weather ageing test
for polymer-housed
arresters for outdoor
Lightning impulse
discharge capability for
arresters to be installed
in overhead lines

Table 7

Type test requirements for gapless ZnO arresters as per IEC 60099-4

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Type Tests
In general. set requirements on arresters and their dimensioning are considered to be
satisfactorily verified by subjecting the arresters to the following generic tests:

Residual voltage measurement at different current amplitudes and wave-shapes

Current impulse withstand
Operating duty
Accelerated ageing
External insulation withstand
Short circuit (pressure relief)
Artificial pollution
Partial discharge
Radio interference voltage (RIV)

The above tests are considered to be type tests (design tests) but some of these may instead
be performed during the manufacturing process and/or assembly as part of a manufacturers
quality assurance. This is acceptable, and even preferable, provided that the type test criteria
are fulfilled during the routine testing. ABB has chosen to do this for testing of internal partial
discharge, seal leak rate and current distribution (multi-column arresters), as applicable for
specific designs.
Regarding polymer-housed arresters, the test procedures in IEC 60099-4 differ somewhat from
previous tests on porcelain designs. The above tests by topic are also generally applicable to
polymer designs, with the main exception being that there is no artificial pollution test yet
specified for polymer arresters. Instead, a Weather Ageing test for the polymer material has
been devised. Further, the sealing test requirements are more well defined in the form of a
Moisture Ingress test, as are the criteria for mechanical loading and short circuit safety.

8.1.1 Test sections (prorated test sections)

In order to verify guaranteed arrester data, tests are made on both complete arresters as well as
on units of arresters and on components. It is both customary and accepted that some of the tests
are made on scaled-down models of the arresters, thus making it possible to also scale-down the
requirements on the test equipment. These scaled-down arresters units are called section of an
arrester or prorated section. According to the definition in the IEC Standard, the arrester section
intended for a particular test must correctly represent the performance of the complete arrester
during a specific test.
An arrester section may therefore look different depending on the intended tests. In some tests it
is sufficient, for example, to perform the test on series connected ZnO blocks while other tests
require that the ZnO blocks are encapsulated in a thermally correct model of the complete
arrester. The requirements set on the tests sections, according to IEC 60099-4, are listed in
Table 8.

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Type of prorated test section

Valid for tests

Non-encapsulated ZnO blocks *)

Residual voltage tests

Tests with long duration current impulses

Encapsulated ZnO blocks **)

Accelerated ageing test procedure

ZnO blocks in a thermal

model of an arrester

Operating duty tests where thermal stability

must be verified


Residual voltage and long duration current impulse tests are performed on three new
samples, which may be either resistor elements, arrester sections or complete arresters.


For porcelain housed arresters the blocks must be in the same atmosphere as found in
the actual arrester. For polymer-housed arresters the blocks must be surrounded by the
same material as used in the actual arrester.

Table 8

Requirements on prorated test sections at different tests according to IEC 60099-4

For all tests with energy injections, it is important that the test section fulfils the following
The block volume shall not be greater than the minimum block volume specified for the
complete arrester, scaled down with respect to the rated voltage of the prorated test section
The energy injected into the test section must correspond to what a test section comprising
ZnO blocks with a minimum voltage-current characteristic would have been subjected to
It is equally important during tests with temporary overvoltages that the test voltage is scaled
down with respect to the reference voltage of the test section and the minimum reference voltage
assigned to the complete arrester.
Test sections comprising non-encapsulated ZnO blocks are well defined, but verification tests are
necessary to design a thermally correct test section. A thermal section shall, in principal, be a
cross section of the complete arrester. However, the heat transfer in the middle of a long arrester
unit takes place mainly in the radial direction, and hence a conservative model of the arrester
must be thermally insulated at both ends to avoid heat transfer axially. The principal design of a
thermal section for polymeric arresters is shown in the following Figure 29.

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Sheets of compressed
Sheets of

Glass bolt



compressed wool
Sheets of compressed






Fig. 29

Principal design of a thermally pro-rated section for polymer-housed arresters.

It is, however, not sufficient to specify only the design of a section; it must also be verified through
tests. The verification of the thermal section is made by heating a complete arrester unit and a
thermal section to around +120 C by the application of voltage. Thereafter, the ZnO block
temperatures in the unit and the section are measured during the cooling time. A correctly
designed thermal section shall not cool faster than the arrester unit. The below Figure 30 shows
cooling curves from a test on a thermal section and a complete arrester. The Figure additionally
shows the cooling for a section designed according to requirements given in IEEE C62.11, which
also requires that verification tests be carried out.
Relative temperature above ambient temperature

according to
to IEC
according to








Time (minutes)

Fig. 30

Verification of thermal section and comparison of specifications between IEEE and IEC

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8.1.2 Residual voltage tests (Discharge-Voltage Tests according to IEEE)

The purpose of these tests is to verify the protection level of the surge arrester. All residual
voltage tests are made by subjecting the arrester or a section of the arrester (usually some ZnO
blocks) to current impulses with different amplitudes and waveforms, and measuring the residual
voltage across the test object. The measured voltage represents the protection level of the
arrester for the actual current and waveshape.
The Standards make a distinction between different current impulses, based on different events in
the network:

Currents caused by lightning (lightning impulse current)

The testing is made with a current impulse having a front time of 8 s and a halfvalue time of 20 s. The impulse is normally designated as an 8/20 s impulse.

Currents caused by switching overvoltages (switching impulse current)

The testing is made with a current impulse having a front time of 30 100 s and a
half-value time on the tail of roughly twice the virtual front time. The impulse is
normally designated as an 30/60 s impulse.

Currents having a steep front (steep current impulse)

The testing is made with an impulse with a front time of 1 s while the half-value
time may be any value. However, normally a test circuit generating a half-value time
of approximately 2 s to 20 s is used, i.e. a 1/(2-20) s impulse.

It is of course possible that switching events or a fault can result in steeper current pulses than
30 s, or that the current at lightning overvoltages may show both shorter or longer front times
than 8 s. For switching surges with longer front times, the deviation in the residual voltage from
the 30/60 s wave for the same current amplitude is very small; within a few percent. For
lightning surges having a shorter front time, the residual voltage shows an increase of less than
10% with a reduction in front time from 8 to 1 s.
voltage for
for 1/2
voltage for
for 8/20

Voltage (kV)

Fig. 31
Comparison between residual
voltage levels for current
pulses 8/20s and 1/2s.



The upper curves show the

voltages and the lower the




Current (kA)






Time (microseconds)

Note that the curves have

been misaligned for clarity.
The lower time scale is valid
for the 1/2s impulse, while
the upper scale is valid for
the 8/20s impulse

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By testing with different current amplitudes for each of the current-shapes, a complete protection
characteristic is obtained for each waveform. For current impulses with the same amplitude, the
residual voltage level increases slightly for shorter front-times. This frequency dependence is
illustrated below (Fig. 31), showing results from a test with 10 kA for waveforms 8/20 s and
1/2s. The steeper front, 1 s, may be the result of a lightning stroke very close to a substation
protected by surge arresters. Further, inductance effects can become significant with steep
current impulses, and IEC specifies that the steep current impulse residual voltage tests may
need to be corrected to account for the possible inductive voltage drop between the arrester
In order to generate the specified current pulses an impulse generator is needed with the
capability to create currents up to 40 kA. To be able to create such currents through a complete
arrester at high voltages would require very large impulse generators, since the test equipment
must principally be able to simulate full-scale lightning. Tests on complete arresters are however
not necessary, nor desirable for reasons of accuracy. IEC therefore recommends that the residual
voltage tests are made on scaled-down models of the arrester and specifies also how the
measured values shall be re-calculated to be valid for a complete arrester.
According to IEC, the objective of the residual voltage type tests is to verify the claimed protection
levels by checking the relationship of protection levels at different current waveforms and
amplitudes to a level which is checked in routine tests on all arresters. Normally the residual
voltage at 10 kA with waveform 8/20 s is used as a reference. This means that the 10 kA level
with this waveform must be verified in a routine test and given for all manufactured arresters. The
requirement for a routine test can be fulfilled by measuring the residual voltage for each individual
block within the arrester and summing up the result. This procedure will be correct, since all
blocks in a single column arrester will be subjected to the same current.
8.1.3 Long Duration Current Impulse Withstand Test
A surge arrester limits incoming overvoltages by diverting the surge current. The energy the
arrester absorbs is given by the equation:

W = (u * i ) dt

u = voltage across the arrester

i = current through the arrester

The arresters must withstand this energy without thermal instability or damage to the blocks in any
way. It is equally important that the characteristics of the arrester are not changed due to repeated
energy stresses. This could not only jeopardize the protection function of the arrester, but also the
current sharing between parallel block columns in an arrester, or between several parallel
arresters, that have been matched with respect to current sharing to cope with large energy
Requirements for very high energy capabilities are solved by utilizing many parallel block
columns. For such designs, it is required that changes in the protective characteristic of the blocks
is low. From a protection point of view, it is acceptable that the residual voltage decreases with
repeated current impulses, but if blocks are connected in parallel, the acceptable changes are
much lower than what is allowed by the Standard.
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Aside from discharge of capacitor banks, the highest arrester energies for high voltage AC
arresters are obtained from switching of long transmission lines. Simplified, the arrester will be
subjected to a current impulse of rectangular shape, with the duration of the impulse being
determined by the length of the line. The current amplitude through the arrester is given by the
prospective overvoltage (without a surge arrester), the surge impedance of the line and the
characteristic of the arrester. By tradition, the energy capability of an arrester has been defined
with respect to the withstand capability for rectangular current impulses.
The test with long duration current impulses is made on arrester sections. For arresters having a
nominal current class 10 kA and 20 kA, the tests are defined as line discharge tests where the test
circuits wave impedance, charging voltage and duration of the current impulse are defined in the
Standards. The resulting energy is dependent on the protection level of the arrester, which is why
the energy must be defined and be given in the test report.
According to IEC 60099-4, the test energy must be higher than or equal to a value determined
by a formula based on the specified test parameters and the protection level of the test
sections. The required protection level is according to the lowest value of the switching impulse
residual voltage measured for the lower current value specified in IEC 60099-4 for the
respective Line Discharge Class. The actual current applied in the long duration test is
thereafter determined by the choice of circuit parameters in order to obtain the required energy.
As a result, the value of this applied current is of lesser consequence - what is the determining
factor is the amount of energy applied and absorbed by the test sample in order to fulfil a given
Line Discharge Class. In fact, the value for "withstand current" is not an IEC 60099-4 term. It is
however common to be listed by manufacturers, since it serves as an indirect measure of the
arrester's single-impulse energy absorption capability - also undefined in IEC - when applied in
multiples (18 discharge operations, divided into 6 groups of 3 operations). Hence, to keep in
line with IEC, a direct analysis can best be made by considering the amount of energy
absorbed, rather than the unspecified current applied.
A desired energy capability for the arrester can then be given indirectly by defining line
parameters, or directly in kJ/kV rated voltage. However, it must be emphasized that any value
given as kJ/kV rated voltage without specifying test procedures is undefined and thus of little
Arresters having a nominal current class of 2.5 kA and 5 kA are not tested with line discharges,
and instead tests with rectangular current impulses are specified with given amplitudes and
8.1.4 Operating duty test
The purpose of this test is to verify that the arrester withstands all the kinds of electrical stresses
which are likely to occur during its lifetime. This is schematically shown in the following Figure 32.
The standardized operating duty test therefore includes different stresses and sequences of
current pulses and voltage amplitudes representing possible events in a power system.
Originally, the operating duty test was used to verify an arresters ability to handle lightning
currents while being simultaneously subjected to maximum allowable operating voltage. For
gapped arresters this meant that, apart from the lightning current stress, they were subjected to a
power frequency follow current before the gaps were able to extinguish the arc at voltage zero.
If the arc was not extinguished at the first voltage zero, the arrester normally failed.

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ZnO arresters do not contain any gaps, but an operating duty test is nevertheless still useful to
check that the arrester is thermally stable after having absorbed large amounts of energy under
severe ambient conditions with respect to temperature and voltage. These energy inputs could
come from energy discharges as well as from Temporary Overvoltages (TOV) on the system.
How the operating duty test shall be carried out for different Line Discharge Classes is illustrated
in the following Figures 33 and 34.

ZnO surge arrester

Uf = power frequency voltage

across arrester

Type of fault



Normal service

Uf = Um / 3





Earth fault

Uf < Um / 3

0.1 - 10 s *)

Breaker operation

Uf 0

0.3 - 1 s




Earth fault on other phase

Uf = ke*Um /3

0.1 - 10 s

Breaker operation

Uf Um /3

0.3 - 1 s




Normal service

Uf = Um / 3


Voltage profile

Possible faults:


In some Countries even longer earth-fault times are allowed.

Fig. 32

Examples of stress sequences on surge arresters during different fault conditions.

The system is directly earthed having an earth-fault factor ke 1.4.

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Residual voltage measurement at In , 8/20 s

Time interval not specified
Conditioning test. Four groups of five impulses at
In , 8/20 s, superimposed on the continuous
operating voltage + 20%
Time interval not specified, +20 C 15 C
High current impulse, 4/10 s
Pre-heating to +60 C 3 C
Time as short as possible, not exceeding 100 ms

Elevated rated voltage, Ur*, 10 seconds

Elevated continuous operating voltage, Uc*,
30 minutes
Cooling to ambient temperature, +20 C 15 C
Residual voltage measurement at In , 8/20 s

Visual check of the test objects

Elevated rated voltage Ur* and continuous operating voltage Uc* only if the accelerated ageing
test procedure gives increased power losses. Otherwise, Ur and Uc are applied.
In = Nominal discharge current
Explanation of the numbers:

Preparatory measurements

Fig. 33


Operating duty test with high current impulses

Measurements and checking

Operating duty test on 10 kA surge arresters with line discharge class 1 and arresters of class 1.5 kA,
2.5 kA or 5kA.

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Residual voltage measurement at In , 8/20 s

Time interval not specified
Conditioning test. Four groups of five impulses at
In , 8/20 s, superimposed on the continuous
operating voltage + 20%
Time interval not specified, +20 C 15 C
Conditioning with high current impulse on a
pro-rated test section, 4/10 s
Cooling to ambient temperature
Conditioning with high current impulse on a
pro-rated test section, 4/10 s
Kept for future testing
Pre-heating to +60 C 3 C
Line discharge impulse
Time interval 50 - 60 seconds
Line discharge impulse
Time as short as possible, not exceeding 100ms
Elevated rated voltage, Ur*, 10 seconds
Elevated continuous operating voltage, Uc*,
30 minutes
Cooling to ambient temperature +20 C 15 C
Measurement of residual voltage at In, 8/20 s
Visual check of the test objects

Elevated rated voltage Ur* and continuous operating voltage Uc* only if the accelerated ageing
test procedure gives increased power losses. Otherwise, Ur and Uc are applied.
In = Nominal discharge current
Explanation of the numbers:

Preparatory measurements

Operating duty test with

long duration current impulses


Measurements and checking

Fig. 34

Operating duty test on 10 kA surge arresters with line discharge class 2 or class 3
and 20 kA arresters with line discharge class 4 or 5

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The test sequence starts with a conditioning phase, where the test objects are subjected to a
large number of current pulses to take into consideration possible changes of the block
characteristic during actual service conditions due to repeated stresses. After this sequence, the
part of the test commences which shall verify the arresters thermal stability and designated rated
This part of the test shall therefore be made fulfilling the following requirements:

The prorated test section must be thermally equivalent to a complete surge arrester

The test objects must be heated before the test to a temperature being representative of
the worst possible service conditions

The test must be made on previously non-tested blocks. Consideration must be taken of
possible ageing of the blocks by applying correction factors (giving Ur* and Uc*) according
to the guidelines in IEC 60099-4.

Finally, it is required that the arrester withstands the operating duty test without change to its
electrical properties beyond acceptable limits. The residual voltage level at nominal discharge
current is therefore checked before and after the test sequence.
The operating duty test is normally performed on arrester sections. To fulfil the requirement for
thermal equivalency, the section is principally a cross-section of the complete arrester.
IEC 60099-4 requires preheating of the thermal pro-rated section to +60 C before the energy
injections. This temperature is thought to represent an ambient temperature of +40 C together
with solar radiation, self-heating of the blocks due to power losses and some influence from
pollution. For ZnO blocks with low power losses at normal service voltage, +60 C is a
conservative value, and the operating duty test consequently gives a safety margin with respect
to thermal stability limits.

8.1.5 Accelerated ageing test procedure

One of the key basis for the dimensioning of an arrester is the result from the accelerated ageing
test procedure, where an acceleration of possible ageing effects is obtained by performing the test
at an elevated temperature. Surge arresters limit overvoltages by conducting current, but during
most of the arresters lifetime it shall act as an insulator. The entire continuous operating voltage
is across the ZnO blocks and these must keep their insulating properties during their lifetime.
IEC 60099-4 specifies an accelerated ageing test during 1000 hours at an elevated temperature
of 115 C as a type test. For arresters filled with air, the ZnO blocks need not be encapsulated
during the test. If the surrounding atmosphere is something else (e.g. nitrogen or other gas) the
test must be performed with the blocks in that particular atmosphere. For polymer-housed
arresters, where the blocks are in direct contact with other materials, the ageing test must be
made including all materials which are in direct contact with the blocks to show that the blocks are
not negatively affected (i.e. aged) due to influence from the other materials.
The accelerating ageing test is based on the Arrhenius law, which provides good confidence on
life expectancy of ZnO blocks. When tested according to the IEC requirements, the equivalent
minimum demonstrated lifetime is predicted to be 110 years at the conservative average ambient
temperature of 40 C.

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An important parameter during the ageing test is the selection of the voltage stress on the
blocks. The test voltage must reflect the highest possible local voltage stress in the arrester
when it is energized at the highest possible continuous operating voltage, Uc, assigned to the
arrester. A thorough electrical field calculation therefore must be made for each arrester type
and rated voltage which, in turn, is the basis for determining the relevant voltage stress during
the accelerated ageing test procedure. Influence from all phases in a three-phase configuration
must also be taken into account when performing the calculations.
A ccelera ted a g ein g test o n Z n O v a risto rs ty p e P E X L IM Q
at 1 1 5 C w ith a v o ltag e stress o f 0 .9 7 * referen ce v o ltag e, U ref
P o ly m eric in su lato r m o ld ed d irectly o n th e Z n O b lo ck
T est tim e: 1 1 2 2 h o u rs

R ela tiv e p o w e r lo sse s P /P o (P o = lo sses a fter 1 .5 h o u r)

1 .2
0 .8
0 .6
0 .4
0 .2













T im e (h o u r s)

Fig. 35

Example of power losses during an accelerated ageing test procedure for ABBs ZnO blocks.

ZnO blocks are normally manufactured in batches of some thousands of blocks, and variations
(even minor ones) may have a negative influence on the block characteristics. From a quality
point of view, it is thus necessary to perform ageing tests as sample tests on blocks from each
manufactured batch.
Separate from the type test, ABB further verifies the stability of every production batch of ZnO
blocks by routinely performing an accelerated ageing test on some blocks picked out randomly
from the whole batch. Power losses after 1000 hours, extrapolated from a test with shorter
duration, at an elevated temperature of 115 C at 1.05 x Uc shall not exceed the losses at the start
of the test and not more than 10% above the lowest losses occurring during the test period.
Batches in which unapproved blocks appear are rejected.
It is however not sufficient to check only the characteristics of the blocks, but rather the entire
arrester must be seen as a unity. The ability of the arrester housing to dissipate heat must also be
adjusted to the power losses of the blocks during different service conditions with respect to
voltage, temperature and even frequency. This is necessary to ensure that the average block
temperature will not considerably exceed the ambient temperature, and thereby remain thermally
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8.1.6 External insulation withstand tests

The external insulation of arresters need not fulfil a certain standardized insulation class since the
arrester effectively protects its own insulation against overvoltages, both external as well as
This is also reflected in the Standards, where the insulation requirements for arresters are based
on the arresters protection levels with a reasonable safety margin added. The ZnO blocks can
naturally not be assembled in the arrester during such a test on the housing, since no laboratory
equipment exists which is capable of generating the very high currents that would be needed.
The tests are therefore performed on empty unit housings. For multi-unit arresters, grading
capacitors can be used in place of the ZnO blocks.
The following minimum values for the external insulation must be kept according to IEC 60099-4:
Arresters with rated voltage < 200 kV
For short impulse, 1.2/50 s
The arrester housing shall withstand 1.3 times the residual voltage value at nominal
discharge current (10 kA or 20 kA) with waveform 8/20 s, i.e. the lightning
impulse protection level
For power frequency voltage, 50 Hz or 60 Hz
The housings for 10 kA and 20 kA arresters shall withstand a voltage (peak value) of
1.06 times the residual voltage level at classifying current for switching overvoltage
(0.125 kA up to 2 kA) with wave form 30/60 s. Arresters with nominal current of
1.5 kA, 2.5 kA and 5 kA shall withstand a voltage (peak value) of 0.88 times the
lightning impulse protection level.
Arresters with rated voltage 200 kV
For short impulse, 1.2/50 s
The arrester housing shall withstand 1.3 times the residual voltage value at nominal
discharge current (10 kA or 20 kA) with waveform 8/20 s, i.e. the lightning impulse
protection level.
For long impulse, 250/2500 s
The arrester housing shall withstand 1.25 times the residual voltage value at
classifying current for switching surges (0.125 kA up to 2 kA) with wave form 30/60 s.
Note: IEEE does not use the same correction factors as IEC, and therefore IEEE requires
other withstand levels; due partly to the difference in maximum required design altitude (1800 m
for IEEE compared with 1000 m for IEC). Refer Table 9.
IEC 60071-1, for insulation co-ordination principles and rules, states that when it has been
demonstrated that one condition (dry or wet) or one polarity or a combination of these produces
the lowest withstand voltage, then it is sufficient to verify the withstand voltage for this particular
condition. Hence, insulation withstand tests shall be wet tests for outdoor arresters where wet
conditions are expected to lower the withstand voltages. Experience shows that this is the case
for power frequency tests and switching impulse tests, but not for lightning impulse tests. If the
arresters are intended for indoor use, dry tests are considered sufficient in all cases.

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IEC (installation < 1000 m)

Power frequency
50 Hz, 1 minute
60 Hz, 10 second


Table 9

Ur < 200 kV
1.06 /2 x Ups
for arresters with
In = 10 or 20 kA
0.88 /2 x Upl
for arresters with
In = 1.5, 2.5 and 5 kA

Ur > 200 kV
Not applicable

Not applicable
1.25 x SIPL
1.3 x Upl for all arresters

IEEE (installation < 1800 m)

0.82 x Ups

Not defined
1.42 x Upl at 20 kA
for all arresters

Comparison of IEC and IEEE requirements for insulation withstand voltages

All distances between the arresters own parts, e.g. grading ring to flanges, must be checked with
respect to voltage stress and withstand, either by calculation or test. If actual tests are required
on complete multi-unit arresters, the blocks must be replaced with something giving the same
internal voltage grading as the blocks would give. Normally capacitors are used to replace the
ZnO blocks during such tests to model actual service conditions as closely as possible.

8.1.7 Short circuit (pressure relief) tests

As the primary requirement for an arrester is to protect under all circumstances, this leads to the
higher possibility for a failure (overload) compared to other high voltage equipment. This is also
generally accepted, and should not be considered as a failure in the design.
As a result, special requirements are set on arresters to ensure that a possible arrester failure will
not cause consequential damage to other equipment or injury to personnel. The Standards
therefore require tests where a deliberate internal short-circuit has been made to check the shortcircuit / pressure relief capability.
Previously, tests were made as specified in the old IEC 60099-1 Standard for gapped SiC
arresters. In these test requirements, it was taken for granted that an arrester fulfilling a certain
current class with respect to pressure relief capability automatically also fulfilled all lower current
classes. It was subsequently realized that this was not always the case (particularly for porcelainhousings), and a design may include grey zones if it is only tested against the highest possible
current amplitude. In order to avoid this uncertainty, IEC 60099-4 requires that arresters must not
only be tested with the highest short-circuit current (100%), but also at approximately 25 % and
50 % of the highest current. In addition, similar to the old standard, a low current test shall be
performed at 600 + 200 A.
For the high current tests, the test samples should be the longest mechanical section with the
highest rated voltage of each different design of arrester. It is accepted that approved high
current tests made on the longest housing also covers all shorter insulators of the same design.
For the low current test, however, the test sample may be a mechanical section of any length
with the highest rated voltage used for each different design and chosen length of test sample.

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High current
Arrester class = nominal
discharge current
20 000 or 10 000
20 000 or 10 000
20 000 or 10 000
20 000 or 10 000
20 000 or 10 000
20 000 , 10 000 or 5 000
10 000 or 5 000
10 000, 5 000,
2 500 or 1 500
10 000, 5 000,
2 500 or 1 500
Table 10

Rated shortcircuit Current

80 000
63 000
50 000
40 000
31 500
20 000
16 000
10 000
5 000

Low current

Reduced short-circuit
Currents (+ 10 %)

Short-circuit current,
with a duration of 1 s

50 000
25 000
25 000
25 000
12 000
12 000
6 000
6 000

25 000
12 000
12 000
12 000
6 000
6 000
3 000
3 000

600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200
600 + 200

3 000

1 500

600 + 200

Short circuit (pressure relief) test currents (Source: IEC 60099-4) Classification of arrester designs

Two basic designs, designated Design A and Design B, have been defined in IEC 60099-4.
They differ in the relative volume of an enclosed gas channel that runs along the length of the
Arresters with "Design A" have a gas channel running along the entire length of the arrester unit
and fills >50% of the internal volume not occupied by the internal active elements. For this
design, the probability of a failure initiated in the gas volume is much higher than in the solid
material. This type of design makes use of the internal overpressure which is built up due to the
internal arc resulting from the short-circuit of the active elements. The overpressure is created
by heating the enclosed volume of gas, which expands, leading to bursting or flipping of a
pressure relief device (including pre-fabricated weak spots in the housing). In this case the tests
are sometimes called pressure relief tests. The arrester housing is dimensioned to not violently
break before the overpressure is relieved. Typically, these arresters are porcelain-housed or
polymer-housed with a composite hollow insulator incorporating an annular gap, i.e. tubular
Arresters with "Design B" are of a solid design with no enclosed volume of gas or having an
internal gas volume filling <50% of the internal volume not occupied by the internal active
elements. For this design, there is a higher probability of failure initiated in the solid material.
The short-circuit performance of this design depends on the arc directly burning through or
tearing the housing without explosively expelling the internal components. Typically, these are
void-free polymer-housed arresters without any separate pressure relief device, i.e. open, cage,
closed or wrap design.
In Design A, a breakdown or flashover in the gas channel will develop an arc very quickly over
the entire length of the arrester. This may generate an intensive shock wave in the gas channel,
stressing the housing over its entire length and imposing high requirements on pressure relief
devices to open quickly. For Design B, in case of a breakdown in the solid material, the arc
will develop more slowly.

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ABB Test procedure Failure mode

There has been a lot of discussion over the years whether the short-circuit current should be
initiated by a fuse wire along the ZnO block surface, a fuse wire through a drilled hole in the
centre of the ZnO blocks or by pre-failing (electrical overloading). A short-circuit test has to
consider worst-case scenarios, but at the same time the test should represents the most
relevant failure scenario without placing too harsh/simple requirements on the design.
For "Design A" arresters, it is generally agreed that the fuse wire in the gas volume along the
surface of the ZnO block column represents the most relevant failure scenario, since this design
has mainly to prove its ability to handle the shock wave caused by the internal arc.
For "Design B" polymer-housed arresters,
a fuse wire along the ZnO block surface
can generally not be accepted since this
does not represent the worse case
scenario for this design (too simple) and
may result in unsafe arresters being
considered reliable from a short-circuit
point of view. On the other hand, a fuse
wire through holes drilled in the blocks is
conversely a too harsh scenario for this
kind of arrester, as it extremely unlikely
that all ZnO blocks of a failing polymer
arrester with this design will be punctured.

Fig. 36

Comparison of modes for short-circuit initiation

It is therefore justified to specify the pre-failing method for Design B polymer-housed arresters,
which among the alternatives gives a reasonable compromise with regard to test severeness
and realism, and it automatically covers possible influences of material homogeneity.
Conversely, the pre-failing method may be less severe for a porcelain-housed Design B
arrester in the case where the arc develops elsewhere than in the solid material. To cover for
the worst-case scenario, Design B porcelain-housed should have a fuse wire drawn along the
surface of the ZnO block column as far away as possible from the gas channel.
Design A


Design B


Table 11

Initiation of short circuit current

Fuse wire along surface of ZnO blocks; within, or as close
as possible to, the gas channel
Fuse wire along surface of ZnO blocks; within, or as close
as possible to, the gas channel
Fuse wire along surface of ZnO blocks; located as far
away as possible from the gas channel
Pre-failing by constant voltage or constant current source.
See Note 1)

Summary of short circuit test pre-failure modes

Note 1) The overvoltage shall be a voltage exceeding 1.15 times Uc leading to an

electrical failure of the arrester within 2 8 minutes; after which the arrester is
subjected to the short-circuit current test within 15 minutes.

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ABB Test procedure Circuit arrangement

The required arrangement for connection of the test circuit is also specified in IEC 60099-4. Either
the so-called C-connection or Z-connection should be used in such a manner that would
represent the worst-case scenario for a particular design. Refer Figure 37.

Porcelain-housed arresters
Fig. 37

Polymer-housed arresters

Circuit layout for short circuit testing (source IEC 60099-4)

For porcelain-housed arresters, the C-connection provides the most unfavourable conditions
during the initial phase of the test before venting occurs. Once the arc is externalized, it may
then be kept in close proximity to the arrester housing, resulting in a thermal shock effect
causing excessive chipping and shattering of porcelain sheds. During the remaining arcing time,
this routing forces the arc to move away from the arrester, and thus reduces the risk of the
arrester catching fire.
For polymer-housed arresters, the conductors should be routed as per the Z-connection. In this
way, the arc will stay close to the arrester during the entire duration of the short-circuit current,
thus creating the most unfavourable conditions with regards to fire hazard.
A specific exception is Design A arresters with polymeric sheds which are not made of
porcelain or other hollow insulator, but which are as brittle as ceramics. These shall be
considered and tested as porcelain-housed arresters.
It had been observed in many cases that after non-violent thermal breaking of the porcelain
housing the active part, completely intact, fell down such that its top end collided with the
enclosure (which previously had a radius equal to the arrester height) and some parts of its top
end fell just outside the enclosure. Though in these cases the short-circuit performance was
good, the arrester did not pass the test. In order to avoid this conflict the radius of the enclosure
has now been chosen to be 20% larger than the arrester height; dimensioned according to the
below formula or, in any case, at least D = 1.8m.

D = 1.2 * (2*H + Darr)



diameter of the enclosure (or side in the case of a square)

height of the test arrester
diameter of the test arrester

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ABB Test duration and Asymmetry factor

The test duration for the high current and reduced current tests shall be 0.2 seconds, reflecting
the time it takes for a circuit breaker to disconnect a fault. To avoid an explosion of the housing,
especially for a Design A arrester, it is generally considered necessary that the internal arc is
transferred (commuted) to the outside of the housing within the first half-cycle of the short-circuit
As it usually takes more time than up to the first current peak until the arc has fully commutated
to the outside of the housing on Design A arresters, a certain amplitude for the first peak of the
current is defined in the test procedure for the rated short-circuit current - which in the case of
IEC 60099-4 has to be at least 2.5 times the r.m.s value of the symmetrical component of the
prospective short-circuit current.
Many difficulties have arisen in trying to achieving a value of 2.5 for the asymmetry factor on
certain polymer arrester designs. These difficulties lead to a limitation of laboratories that could
perform the tests or a modification in the testing procedures (too severe/simple); neither of
which is truly desirable. Specifically for Design B arresters, it has been proposed that a
symmetrical current transfers more energy during the first 2 3 ms, which is the typical time of
the housing to open for this design. Regardless, skipping the asymmetry factor on these
designs permits the arresters to be tested in full length, and this is considered to be more
significant to verifying short circuit behaviour than any marginal energy differences because of a
first peak factor. Thus, for Design B arresters, the prospective peak value of the first half cycle
of the actual test current shall be at least 2 times the r.m.s value, but otherwise there is no
specific requirement for asymmetry factor with this design.
Similarly, for the reduced short-circuit currents and regardless of design, the prospective peak
value of the first half cycle of the actual test current need only be at least 2 times the r.m.s
value, In the case of the low current test, the actual first half cycle peak of the test current must
be at least 2 times the r.m.s value. The low current shall flow through the arrester for
1 second or, for Design A porcelain-housed arresters, until venting occurs. Test evaluation
The basic pass criteria are that no violent shattering occurs and open flames shall be selfextinguished within 2 minutes. However, for practical reasons, it is considered unrealistically
hard to have such requirements as remain completely intact or no piece shall be ejected as
the pass criteria for surge arresters undergoing short-circuit tests. These would judge the
arrester as having failed the short-circuit test, though the arrester basically performed well. Very
often fragments of hard material such as porcelain or ZnO blocks just "jump" over the enclosure
of the test circle, without any dangerous kinetic energy. Similarly, soft parts of polymeric
material can do little or no damage should they be cast off.
IEC 62271-200 for metal-enclosed substations and IEC 61330 for medium-voltage/low voltage
prefabricated substations explicitly deal with internal arc testing with respect to the safety of
personnel and public in case of failures within such stations. Two levels of accessibility have
been adopted, where the accessibility B refers to stations that are directly accessible to the
public. Although these standards deal with the safety of persons and are therefore very
restrictive concerning possibly arising danger, they permit projection of parts out of the station
up to a weight of 60 g. Since it is advantageous if all standards dealing with similar parts of a
power system specify similar requirements, it was decided that the same criteria be also
adopted for the short-circuit testing of surge arresters. Hence, fragments of ceramic material
(ZnO block or porcelain) of up to 60 g are allowed to be found outside the enclosure, as are
pressure relief vent covers and diaphragms and soft parts of polymeric materials.

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8.1.8 Artificial pollution test

Artificial pollution tests are intended to provide information on the behaviour of external
insulation under conditions representative of pollution in service, although they do not
necessarily simulate any particular service conditions.
A number of different methods have been trialled for artificial pollution tests on surge arresters,
with those specifically intended for porcelain-housed arresters having the intention of
risk for external flashover
effect of partial discharges inside the surge arrester due to radial fields between the
external surface and the internal active elements
adverse temperature rise of the internal active elements due to a non-linear and
transient voltage grading caused by the pollution layer on the surface of the housing
Different methods are intended to test for one or more phenomena. Further, artificial pollution
tests aimed at determining localised temperature rise are only considered applicable to multiunit arresters, since single-unit arresters do not have a direct electrical connection between
inside to outside along their length. However, the risk of puncture exists for very long units.
The conclusion is, of course, that it is necessary to have an arrester design (both internal and
external) which minimizes such stresses and/or their effect under all anticipated conditions.
A problem with many of the pollution test methods is that their relevance to real conditions
during arrester life is questionable. Such methods test the arresters behaviour in more-or-less
irrelevant respects, and thus help neither users nor manufacturers to judge between arrester
designs with respect to pollution performance. A meaningful test program for surge arresters
must therefore start with an investigation of the pollution conditions which arresters can see in
real life and what effect these conditions will actually have on arrester designs. Consequently,
field-tests of arresters in areas with severe natural pollution have been performed to sort out the
relevant mechanisms for arrester performance under polluted conditions.
Since 1982, ABB has ZnO surge arresters installed at different sites with known severe pollution
conditions (marine, desert, tropical, industrial, etc). The testing has been carried out in
collaboration with recognized leading power utilities around the world. The field tests included
conductivity measurement of natural-polluted layer, recording of external and internal currents
with counting of current pulses and temperature recordings. The results and experience gained
from these field-tests has contributed greatly in the designing of ABB type EXLIM porcelain
arresters to ensure their optimum pollution performance, even under the most severe
conditions. For example, the results show that the temperature rise during real pollution
episodes has not been seen to be sufficient to increase the block temperature to such an extent
as to create a risk for thermal runaway in the EXLIM design.
The value of this experience is recognized also in the IEC Standard, with the possibility for
agreement between user and manufacturer to omit performing an artificial pollution test, based
(for example) on service experience in specified environments.
IEC 60099-4 further acknowledges that artificial pollution tests, as prescribed for porcelainhoused arresters, are not strictly applicable to polymer-housed arresters. Instead, for the time
being, only a weather ageing test for the polymer material is specified.

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8.1.9 Weather ageing test

In contrast to porcelain which, as a material, can reasonably be expected to remain unchanged
over its lifetime, there exists concerns (real or perceived) about the longevity of polymer
insulators in extreme weather conditions.
The weather ageing test in IEC 60099-4 is thus applicable only to polymer housed arresters.
The test is intended as a continuous test with a duration of 1000 hours under salt fog conditions
at constant power frequency voltage equal to Uc. It shall be performed on the longest electrical
unit with the minimum specific creepage distance and the highest rated voltage recommended
for the arrester type.
This test is primarily intended to age the polymer material so as to cause tracking, erosion or
puncture; although other failure mechanisms may occur. Interruptions due to flashover are
therefore permitted. If they do occur, the arrester shall be washed with clean tap water and the
test restarted with a lower salt content for the fog.
As an alternative, in case of severe environmental conditions - intense solar radiation, frequent
temperature inversion with condensation, heavy or very heavy pollution (as defined in
IEC 60815) - a 5000 hour continuous multi-stress test may be performed after agreement
between the manufacturer and the user.
This test consists of constantly energizing the arrester with constant power frequency voltage
equal to Uc and then applying various stresses in a cyclic manner:
solar radiation simulation
artificial rain
dry heat
damp heat (near saturation)
high dampness at room temperature (saturation has to be obtained)
salt fog at low concentration
Furthermore, temperature variations may cause some degree of mechanical stress, possibly
leading to sealing failure, and also give rise to condensation phenomena. As this test is
intended to accelerate ageing from weather conditions seen in service, flashovers should not
If the 5000 hour test is performed on the longest electrical unit with the minimum specific
creepage distance, then the 1000 hour test may not be considered necessary to perform.
Both tests are considered passed if no tracking occurs, erosion does not occur through the
entire thickness of the external housing to the next material layer, the sheds and housing are
not punctured, and the electrical performance of the arrester is substantially unchanged from
before to after the test.

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8.1.10 Partial discharge and RIV tests

A low corona level both internal and external is essential for all surge arresters to achieve
during normal operating conditions. As a consequence, manufacturers may put more
significance on checking for corona as a routine test on all produced units rather than as a
single type test.
The IEC partial discharge test is intended to detect internal corona which could lead to problems
in the long term. The arrester unit must be first pre-stressed at significantly higher than its
normal operating voltage in order to create the potential for initiation of discharges. Thereafter
the voltage is reduced to a value somewhat higher than the arrester units continuous operating
voltage, at which the internal partial discharge level is recorded (measured as apparent charge
in pico-coulomb, pC).
Radio interference voltage (RIV) testing, as the name suggests, is aimed primarily at detecting
external corona which can cause interference with communication equipment. In contrast to
internal partial discharge tests, which are performed on individual arrester units, an RIV test
needs to be performed on a complete arrester, fully assembled with all fittings (since the aim is
to detect discharges from sharp edges, bolts, pins etc). After voltage pre-stress, the value of
RIV is measured at different applied voltage levels. RIV instruments measure the voltage drop
(recorded in microvolts) caused by a partial discharge just within a narrow frequency band,
transforming it by a weighting circuit according to the sensitivity of the human ear.
IEC 60099-4 permits that RIV testing may be omitted if the same arrester has passed a partial
discharge test; provided both internal and external discharges are recorded.
8.1.11 Environmental tests
The environmental tests are intended to demonstrate by accelerated test procedures that the
sealing mechanism on porcelain-housed arresters and the exposed metal components, e.g.
flanges and terminals, are not impaired by environmental conditions. For polymer-housed
arresters, it is considered that the weather ageing test imposes sufficient environmental stress,
and hence no additional tests are needed on these types of arresters.
The test requirements consist briefly of the following, with the criteria described in more detail in
the relevant IEC 60068-2 documents:

Temperature cycling test (IEC 60068-2-14)

The specimen is exposed to changes of temperature in air by exposure in a chamber to
prescribed temperatures varied at a controlled rate.

Salt mist test (IEC 60068-2-11)

This test is applied to compare the resistance to deterioration from salt mist of
specimens of similar construction. It can be useful for evaluating the quality and the
uniformity of protective coatings.

The arresters shall be considered satisfactory provided no degradation in the sealing has

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8.1.12 Sealing and Moisture ingress test

Sealing breakdown has historically been a major cause of arrester failure, particularly for
distribution arresters.
Sealing tests on arresters with enclosed gas volume and a separate sealing system should be
made using a sensitive method that can detect very low leakage rates (for example,
max 1W = 1 x 10-6 Pa. m3/s = 1 x 10-5 mbar.litre/s according to IEC 60099-4). Example of test
methods which are commonly used include:
Helium-mass spectrometer
Vacuum over water
Pressure or vacuum decay
Halogen detection
Provided the method and criteria used during routine testing of seal tightness on individual units
also fulfils the type test criteria, many manufacturers prefer to waive performing a separate type
test on porcelain-housed arresters, as it will not give any additional information.
A moisture ingress test is included in IEC 60099-4 which applies to polymer arresters only, and
demonstrates the ability of the arrester to resist ingress of moisture after being subjected to
specified mechanical stresses.
The test includes subjecting the arrester to both thermal as well as mechanical cycling, as
depicted in Figure 38. After the cycling, the arrester is placed in boiling salt water for 42 hours,
and thereafter moisture is given time to possibility penetrate the arrester (Fig. 39). Electrical
measurements are made both before and after the test sequences to verify that the specimen has
not absorbed any moisture. If the electrical characteristic of the arrester has changed during the
tests, the most likely conclusion is that moisture has penetrated inside the housing, which would
imply that the arrester no longer fulfils the original requirements.
+60 C
+45 C

24 h


72 h

96 h

-25 C

-40 C
Load direction:

Load direction:

Load direction:

Load direction:

Fig. 38 Thermo-mechanical preconditioning

(Source IEC60099-4)

Fig. 39 Water immersion test

(Source IEC60099-4)

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8.1.13 Mechanical tests

Surge arresters are normally self-supported, and consequently will be subjected to a bending
moment when mechanical forces are applied. These forces can originate from various sources,
line connectors
wind, ice and snow
seismic accelerations (earthquake)
arresters own weight
These forces will cause a bending moment, which typically has its maximum at the base of the
arrester. The arrester must withstand this moment. In the case of multi-unit arresters, individual
units must also withstand the moment at their length resulting from the applied forces. Bending
moment tests are performed by fixing the housing to the floor and subjecting it to a horizontal
force at the top. The force is then slowly increased until the housing breaks, or in the case of
verification, that the declared value is reached. The test may be performed on complete
arresters or arrester units.
According to IEC 60099-4,
several sample tests should
be performed on porcelainunit housings to determine
the mean value of breaking
load (MBL). It is then
possible to assign the
specified short-term load
(SSL), i.e. the 100% value
in Figure 40, which can be
considered its maximum
withstand moment against
dynamic loads such as
short circuit forces, gust
Fig. 40 Definition of mechanical loads according to IEC60099-4
winds, earthquake, etc.
confused with the breaking limit proven during testing, which is an average of 20% above this
value. The specified long-term load (SLL), which is the maximum static (continuous) moment,
should be limited to 40% of the SSL. Considerations for polymer arrester designs
Polymer arresters have historically lacked common rules for the definition of dynamic and static
service loads, which strongly depend on the arrester design. For example, IEC 61462
Composite Insulators gives alternative definitions and criteria for specified mechanical load
(SML) and maximum mechanical load (MML). While this standard may be applicable to the
housing of polymer arresters with enclosed gas volume (i.e. tubular design), it is not appropriate to
use for all polymer arrester designs, and especially those for which the internal components have
an influence in determining the mechanical performance of the complete arrester.
If potential effects of mechanical ageing during continuous loading are not considered, load
levels may be chosen at very high levels compared to what the arrester design can actually
handle. In other words, the short-term load level could be set just a little below the breaking
load. However, it is in doubt whether the arrester would handle these high mechanical loads at
the given load levels (continuous and short-term) under actual conditions during its service
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There are a number of potential problems that can arise by exposing an arrester to a continuous
load that is too near to the breaking load. These include:
Damage to the housing of the arrester, which could cause the arrester structure to
completely collapse and break
Damage to internal parts of the arrester, for example damage to the ZnO blocks causing
electrical malfunction
Cracks in the polymer housing or sealing, which could lead to moisture ingress and
electrical failure
Of specific interest is the performance of polymer arresters under continuous loading of a cyclic
nature. Due to their construction, polymer arresters of all designs may flex under mechanical
load and, when this is repeated cyclically (as would occur over their service lifetime), may be the
primary factor which determines the true limit of permissible mechanical loading. A specified
short-term load verified on new arresters not previously subjected to any tests may thus give a
too optimistic value.
Subjecting the arrester, in a cyclic way, to continuous
load may result in significant deflection which in turn may
affect the likelihood of moisture ingress and/or jeopardise
the mechanical integrity of the metal oxide blocks.
Additionally, insulation withstand clearances to other
equipment may be compromised if the deflection is
extreme. Furthermore, the maximum short-term load that
can be applied without breaking may be significantly
reduced after the arrester has been subjected to a
continuous load in a cyclic manner. Hence, a test is
required to verify that an arrester, even after many years
in service and having potentially been mechanically
fatigued, can both remain sealed and still be capable of
withstanding a serious mechanical incident that occurs;
for example a short circuit or earthquake.
IEC 60099-4 specifies a mechanical test to be performed
on three complete arrester units with the highest rated
voltage of the unit, whereby each is subjected to a
cyclical bending moment at the specified long-term load
(SLL) for 1000 cycles. Thereafter, two of the arrester
units are subjected to a bending moment test at the short
term load (SSL), while the third undergoes thermomechanical preconditioning as discussed in section
8.1.12. All three units are then subjected to a water
immersion test (see also 8.1.12).

Fig. 41 Consideration of deflection

during cyclical loading

If the arrester passes 1000 cycles at the SLL and subsequent water immersion and evaluation
tests, it is considered likely that the arrester can continuously be subjected to the SLL
Furthermore, the test validates that the SSL is a load which the arrester could be subjected to
even after many years in service. For short polymer arresters, i.e. arresters for system voltages
not exceeding 52 kV, a cyclic load test has not been considered necessary; neither for
porcelain-housed arresters, considering the long experience of this type of arrester.

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8.1.14 TOV versus time characteristic

There is no requirement within IEC 60099-4 to perform a specific type test to determine the
arresters capability to withstand power frequency overvoltages (TOVs) of different durations.
That said, the application of rated voltage for 10 seconds after absorption of two line discharges
during the Operating Duty test could be seen as one point on a TOV characteristic.
A characteristic curve shall nevertheless be established by test or calculation to show the
allowable duration of TOV which may be applied to the arrester after it has first been heated to
60 oC and thereafter had rated energy applied, without leading to damage or thermal runaway.
The time range should cover the period 0.1 to 100000 seconds to account for the majority of inservice situations.
Since there are various definitions of rated energy, it is important that the impulse energy
consumption prior to application of the power-frequency overvoltage is clearly stated. Often, for
completeness and comparison purposes, a separate curve is also provided which is without
prior energy duty.
8.1.15 Other tests
Several other type tests are specified by IEC 60099-4 which have not yet been covered.
However, since these do not directly relate to HV surge arresters used for transformer
protection they are considered outside of the scope of this Guide. For completeness, they are
briefly listed below.

Arrester disconnector / fault indicator tests

For arresters fitted with such devices typically for use on distribution systems and
transmission lines these tests demonstrate the correct operation of the device. The
device should withstand, without operating, the respective long duration current impulse
test, operating duty test and lightning impulse discharge capability test. An operating
characteristic should also be established to show the time delay to achieve effective and
permanent disconnection with different power-frequency short-circuit currents.

Lightning impulse discharge capability

Line surge arresters (LSA) are potentially subjected to high energy and current stresses
from lightning strikes to the transmission line. Further, the current waveforms
with duration of several 10s of microseconds for shielded lines to 100s of
microseconds for unshielded lines are considerably different to the waveforms used in
other tests with line discharges. Arresters intended for use as a LSA on system voltages
exceeding 52kV need to verify their ability to withstand a test sequence incorporating
impulses with duration of 200 s (considered as a compromise to cover both typical
applications as well as the effect of multiple strokes). Thereafter the arrester shall be
given a rated lightning impulse discharge capability; corresponding to the lowest current,
energy and charge applied during the test.

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Routine Tests
The ambition with the routine tests is to ensure that the produced arresters meet the design
specification. All test results have to be within preset limits to qualify the arresters for delivery.
The routine tests are consequently an integrated part of the quality control during manufacture.
As a minimum requirement for routine tests, IEC 60099-4 specifies the following to be
performed on each arrester or arrester unit:

Reference voltage measurement


Lightning impulse residual voltage test


This test serves to prove that the arrester will be free from internal corona at normal
service voltage. IEC permits a maximum level of 10 pC at a test voltage of 1.05 x Uc, but
manufacturers may set their own tougher criteria.

Leakage check of the sealed housing (for arresters with a sealed housing)

This proves that the guaranteed protection level of the arrester is not exceeded. If not
measured directly on the complete arrester, residual voltage can be measured on the
individual ZnO blocks or arrester units at a suitable lightning impulse current and then
summed together to give the value for the complete arrester.

Internal partial discharge check


The measured value of the reference voltage Uref must lie within the range allowed by the
manufacturer. The lower limit of the Uref guarantees the thermal stability of the arrester.
The higher the value of Uref, the smaller the power losses at Uc and therefore better
stability during network operation. The practical upper limit is determined by the operating
characteristic in order to pass the residual voltage test.

This test proves that the housing hermetically seals the active parts of the arrester.
Common test arrangements are helium-mass spectrometer, vacuum over water,
pressure or vacuum decay and halogen detection. This test is not applicable to certain
polymer arrester designs, when the active parts are directly sealed in the housing

Current distribution test on multi-column arresters


Where an arrester consists of multiple-columns, adequate current and energy sharing

between each column is to be verified by application of a suitable impulse current across
groups of parallel ZnO blocks. The highest current through any one column is not to
exceed the upper limit set by the manufacturer.

IEEE similarly specifies minimum requirements for routine tests:

Power-frequency test
Discharge-voltage test
Ionization voltage test
Seal test
Current sharing test
Manufacturers may choose to perform additional quality checks. For example, all ABB type
EXLIM and PEXLIM arresters are subjected to the above tests (as applicable), plus a
measurement of power losses and grading current at Uc (MCOV).
In addition, ABB also routinely undertakes energy withstand tests on all produced ZnO blocks
(with those having insufficient capability being automatically rejected), together with accelerated
life and impulse current tests as well as a check of low current characteristics, protection
characteristics and capacitance on samples from every produced batch of ZnO blocks.
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Acceptance Tests
An acceptance test, as per IEC vocabulary, means a complete surge arrester should be tested,
i.e. preferably with all individual units connected in series as a fully operational arrester. The
number of arresters to be tested is the nearest lower whole number to the cube root of the
number of arresters in the delivery lot.
Acceptance tests according to IEC 60099-4 incorporate:
Measurement of power frequency voltage of the complete arrester at reference current
Lightning impulse residual voltage test on the complete arrester or arrester units
Internal partial discharge measurement on the complete arrester
Additionally, a Special thermal stability test is given as an option, which has to be specially
agreed upon. This is, in principle, a shortened version of the Operating Duty test, performed on
blocks from the same batch (or similar) as those used in the arresters from the delivery lot.
IEEE calls these conformance tests, and specifies the following:
Discharge voltage test, on the complete arrester or individual units
Internal ionization voltage (IIV) and Radio-influence voltage (RIV) on the complete arrester
8.3.1 Value of acceptance tests
There exists a degree of confusion as to the meaning, and thereby the value, of acceptance
tests on surge arresters. Unlike some other high voltage apparatus, acceptance tests on surge
arresters are not the same as repeated routine tests, particularly in the case of multi-unit
arresters. That said, the routine tests made after assembly of a single-unit arrester could
perhaps be regarded as an acceptance test, since the routine tests are then performed on a
complete arrester. However, to fulfil the requirements of the Standard, an additional lightning
residual impulse voltage test on the unit may be required if this is not performed as routine. It is
permitted, for example, as a routine test to measure residual voltages on individual ZnO blocks
for a specific applied current and then sum up the values to give the total residual voltage for the
unit. Because of the lower voltage required at the block level, this permits testing with high
lightning impulse currents (e.g. 10kA) and good measuring accuracy. Conversely, testing a
complete unit (or complete multi-unit arrester) at higher voltages can present problems
regarding circuit capacity to achieve high lightning impulse currents, as well as potential loss of
accuracy in the measured values compared with performing the test on individual blocks.
For a multi-unit arrester, consisting of several individual units, the units may be regarded as
impedances connected in series, where each individual unit has a specific voltage drop (or
residual voltage) for a specific applied current. Thus, measured values on units when summed
up can be regarded as valid for the complete arrester. Specifically in the case of reference
voltage measurement at reference current, provided that the current is high enough to not be
affected by stray capacitances during the measurement, then the summed values on individual
units can also be regarded as valid for the complete arrester. Similarly, for the internal partial
discharge test, provided the pro-rata voltage used during the routine test on individual units is
equal to or higher than the required test voltage during the acceptance test, then assembling
the units together will not influence the result with respect to internal PD measurement.
Consequently, acceptance tests need not be considered necessary provided already performed
routine, batch and sample tests are sufficient to ensure that the acceptance test criteria are
fulfilled. If this is the case, acceptance tests will then not give any additional information about
the surge arrester characteristics than obtained during the other tests, nor add value or security
to the arresters from a delivery lot.

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This section contains only a brief guidance for selection of the most important parameters of HV
surge arresters used for standard applications such as transformer protection For a more
comprehensive guide, reference is made to IEC 60099-5 and ABB Application Guides. For
specialized applications, a more detailed system analysis or insulation co-ordination study may
be necessary to permit selection.
It is vital that the correct arrester is selected which will provide the desired protection, as well as
withstand normal and specified abnormal service conditions. The basic selection is carried out
in two major steps:

Match the electrical characteristics of the arrester to the systems electrical demands

Match the mechanical characteristics of the arrester to the systems mechanical and
environmental requirements

Matching the electrical characteristics
In selecting arresters in a 3-phase network, it is first of importance to know if they are to be
connected between phase-ground, neutral-ground or phase-phase. The most common practice
is to connect arresters phase-ground.
The simplified process for selection of the electrical characteristics is depicted in the following
flowchart (Fig. 42).
Uc > Um/3


Fig. 42 Flowchart for simplified electrical selection of surge arresters

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Selection of continuous operating voltage and rated voltage

a) Obtain System Parameters

The maximum highest system voltage (Um) should be known. But if not, it may be estimated as
5 to 10% higher than the nominal system voltage.
The most commonly occurring TOV is that at a single line earth fault. The amplitude is given by
multiplying Um/3 by the earth-fault factor ke, which in turn is determined from the earthing
conditions. The below Figure 43 gives the value for ke based on the system sequence
reactances and resistances for the most unfavourable fault resistance. Should these system
parameters be unknown, ke is often assumed to be 1.4 for directly earthed systems and 1.73 for
resonant earthed or isolated neutral systems.
Fig. 43
Curves showing relationship between
R0/X1 and X0/X1 for constant earth fault
factor ke and zero fault resistance
(Source: IEC 60071-2)

R0 = zero sequence resistance

X0 = zero sequence reactance
X1 = positive sequence reactance

The duration of the applied TOV during earthfault depends on the fault-clearance time. If this is
not known, it may usually be estimated to be in the range of 1 to 3 seconds for directly earthed
HV systems and 3 to 10 seconds for directly earthed distribution systems. For isolated neutral
or resonant earthed systems, the duration is important to determine more specifically, as it may
vary from a few seconds to some hours or even days; depending on whether fault-clearing is
used or not. For an anticipated fault duration over 2 hours, the TOV should generally be
considered (in most cases) as continuous, and the arrester rating chosen accordingly.
For the most common 3-phase systems, specific TOV and durations are proposed in Table 12.
The assumptions made for directly earthed neutral systems include some combined effects of
earth faults and load rejection; considering if an earth fault occurs during a load rejection, the
TOV on the healthy phases tends to rise further than it would if the events occurred separately.
TOV in p.u. of Um/3

Fault duration

Um < 123 kV



Um > 123 kV




10 s or 2 h

Directly earthed neutral systems

Resonant earthed & isolated neutral systems

Table 12

Common choice for earth fault factor and fault duration

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Generally, only the TOV during earth-faults and at load rejection are of interest. Certain network
configurations can however give resonance overvoltages. These may also arise during nonsimultaneous operation of breaker poles. Nevertheless, resonance overvoltages should be
avoided by proper system design (especially for normal AC transmission and distribution
systems) and usually should not need to be the basis for selection of the arrester TOV
In some cases, efforts are made to reduce the earth-fault current by selectively earthing the
neutrals of only a few transformers, yet maintaining an effectively-earthed system overall. In
such cases, there is a possibility that some parts of the system may become non-effectively
earthed (i.e. increase in value of ke) for certain periods of time when one or more of the earthedneutral transformers are out of service. An earth fault during this time may lead to higher TOV
and subsequent arrester failure if this contingency is not taken into account. Since such
occurrences are rare, it may be justified to accept a risk of arrester failure instead of selecting
an arrester with higher TOV capability and thus a higher protective level.
b) Select the Continuous Operating Voltage
In a 3-phase system with arresters connected phase-ground, the actual continuous operating
voltage, Uca, is not higher than Um/3. If the system does not have any abnormal service
conditions, Uc should therefore be equal to or higher than Um/3.
Special consideration applies to an arrester on the delta tertiary winding of a transformer where
one corner of the delta is permanently connected to ground. In such applications, the
continuous operating voltage applied to the arrester will be the full phase-phase voltage even
though the arresters are connected phase-ground.
Should a considerable amount of harmonics (> 10%) be present in the system, a safety factor of
1.05 (i.e. 5%) is recommended (IEC 60099-5) to account for the increase in peak value of Uca.
However, in systems with short automatic fault-clearance times, a safety factor of 1.0 is often
sufficient nevertheless since the limited duration is normally covered by the TOV characteristic
of the arrester.
It should be noted that any arresters with Uc > Uca are generally equally suitable, with regards
solely to continuous operating voltage.
The manufacturer should be consulted if abnormal service conditions exist which are outside of
those specified by the Standards: such as ambient temperature below 40 C or above +40 C,
frequencies under 48Hz or above 62Hz, presence of heat sources (e.g. furnaces) near the
arrester, etc. Such abnormal service conditions may lead to the need for selection of higher Uc
and/or rated voltage (Ur), unless the arrester has been designed and verified to withstand the
specified service conditions. All ABB arresters, for example, can withstand wider ranges of
temperature (50 C to +45 C) and frequency (15 Hz to 62 Hz), without the need for special
c) Select a sufficiently high Rated Voltage to meet TOV demands
In general, surge arresters are not used to protect equipment against TOV as this would require
an enormous number of parallel columns of blocks. Such applications may be considered only
in cases of limitation or elimination of resonance TOV, and carefully detailed studies are then
required to select arresters with suitable energy capability.

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Factors affecting the TOV capability of an arrester are pre-energy absorbed (i.e. the initial
temperature of the blocks) prior to the application of TOV and the applied voltage following the
For a given arrester type, the rated voltage (Ur), defined as per IEC, is a measure of its
overvoltage capability. Hence, the additional TOV capability of the arrester can be specified as
a multiple of Ur. A different philosophy adopted by some manufacturers is to give the TOV
capability in multiples of Uc.
The following procedure is suggested to select an arrester with sufficient TOV capability:

Select a preliminary rated voltage (Ur0) based on Uc, with Ur0 = Uc/0.8
where 0.8 is the design factor for ZnO arresters

Determine the TOV amplitude and duration at earth fault as

TOVe = ke * Um/3
ke < 1.4 normally for directly earthed systems (effectively earthed)
ke = 1.73 normally for resonant earthed and isolated systems (non-effectively earthed)
For specific cases, determine the actual ke factor.

Determine other temporary overvoltages TOV1, TOV2, TOVn with amplitude and
duration as calculated or estimated, e.g. using the common choice guide in Table 12.

Consider the possible energy absorption W (in kJ) prior to the TOV and calculate W/Ur0.
For each TOV, determine the minimum required rated voltages Ure, Ur1, Ur2, Urn by
dividing the determined TOV amplitude by the temporary overvoltage strength factor Tr
for a selected type of arrester for the actual duration of the TOV and the calculated
energy absorption W/Ur0. If the calculated specific energy absorption W/Ur0 is higher
than the value given for the first choice of arrester type, then increase Ur0 or select an
arrester type with a higher energy capability.
Thus Ure = TOVe/Tre, Ur1 = TOV1/Tr1, Ur2 = TOV2/Tr2, etc

Select a final rated voltage, Ur, which is the highest of the values Uro, Ure, Ur1, Ur2, etc.
If this is a non-standard rating, choose the next higher rating.

9.1.2 Selection of nominal discharge current

It is often difficult to calculate the arrester current, especially those caused by lightning.
Therefore, rough estimations are mostly used. The relatively small variations in discharge
voltage with current waveshape and amplitude makes this estimation less critical with ZnO
Important parameters affecting the selection of the nominal discharge current are:
the importance of the protected object
number of lines connected to the station
the line insulation
ground flash density in the area
line performance with respect to backflashes and shielding failures some spans out from
the station

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As a general guidance, nominal discharge currents with an 8/20s waveshape as given in the
following Table 13 are proposed.
Maximum system voltage (kV)

Nominal current (kA)

245 < Um < 420
36 < Um < 245
< 36

20 (or 15 as per IEEE)
10 or 20
5 or 10

Table 13

Common choice selection of nominal currents

9.1.3 Selection of Energy Capability

The case generally considered to be decisive for energy capability is fast reclosing against a
trapped charge on a transmission line with the arrester installed at the open far end.

Transmission line with:

Surge impedance Z
Travel time T
Initial voltage -1 p.u

1 p.u

Fig. 44


Simple single-phase model of energy decisive case

If the surge travel time of the line is short compared with one cycle of power frequency and Z1
presents a low impedance, the current through the arrester will have a rectangular shape with a
duration equal to twice the travel time T of the wave on the line. The current through the
arrester and its residual voltage at this current are given by the intersection of the relevant
switching surge characteristics and the load line, and can be determined by plotting a load
diagram, as depicted in Figure 45.

Fig. 45
Load Diagram



Prospective overvoltage
Line surge impedance
Surge arrester current
Surge arrester switching surge
protection level (residual voltage)

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In reality, the arrester current does not have a purely rectangular waveform. The source
impedance, Z1, will affect the voltage imposed on the line at breaker closing, the voltage wave
will be distorted during its travel on the line, return waves will cause reflections at the sending
end and, for multi-phase systems, the phases will interact.
However, this simple single-phase model is useful in many cases. To avoid expensive
computer studies, the simplified method can be applied as a first attempt to estimate the
arrester stresses caused by switching. If these calculations reveal higher energies and the
need for more qualified studies than had been considered initially, a more accurate study would
be justified.
Different types and makes of arresters could also be easily compared when high absolute
accuracy in calculated stresses is not required.
In order to use the simplified method, the parameters in the above figure must be determined in
some way. Typical values for different system voltages are given in the following Table 14.
System voltage (kV)

Surge Impedance, Z (ohm)

Prospective overvoltage
without arresters, UL (p.u)

Under 145
145 to 345
362 to 550
765 (800)



Table 14
Proposed system parameters
The base for the per-unit values is the peak value of the highest system voltage phase-to-earth

The prospective overvoltage (UL) depends on a number of parameters such as location of

arresters, type of switching operation, presence or absence of pre-insertion resistors, the
feeding network and the parallel compensation.
The wave propagation time (T) depends on the line length and the velocity of wave propagation.
For aerial lines and GIS bus ducts the propagation velocity (v) is approximately equal to the
velocity of light (0.3 km/s). For cables, the velocity is much lower (around 0.15 km/s).
The energy (W), given in J, absorbed by the arrester is given by the equation:

W = [(UL Ups)/Z] * Ups * 2T * n


prospective overvoltage or line-charging voltage (kV)

switching surge protection level (residual voltage) of the arrester (kV)
surge impedance (ohm)
wave propagation time (s) = l/v, where
l = length of line (km)
v = velocity of propagation (km/s)
number of consecutive discharges

It can be seen that the energy absorbed also depends on the protection level. Thus, a higher
protection level reduces the demands in kJ/kV.
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The energy absorption capability of ZnO arresters has to be proven in the so called line
discharge tests. The energy absorbed by an arrester in a line discharge test is a function of
both the line discharge class and the switching impulse protection level of the arrester.
For a given arrester, an estimate of the energy absorbed in the relevant line discharge test
could be obtained by using the arresters switching surge protective level from the catalogues
and checking for absorbed energy from the Line Discharge Class characteristic curves (e.g. as
per IEC; Fig. 46 below). This value is then compared with the required discharge energy (W)
calculated from the above equation.

Usually, the design case has a very low

probability of occurrence, and it may
therefore be sufficient to design for one
single operation and not for two
consecutive discharges.


The IEC and IEEE line discharge tests

comprise repeated discharges and the
thermal stability of the arrester has to be
verified for two consecutive discharges
with 50 to 60 seconds between them.
For single operations, many arrester
types could be stressed with a higher
energy, equal to the single impulse
energy capability.



1 .0

1 .4

1 .8

2 .2

2 .6

3 .0

a /U r

Fig. 46 IEC Line Discharge Class

characteristic curves

If the chosen energy capability is not sufficient, the most economical solution is to increase the
arrester rated voltage. If this leads to an unacceptable protection level, then select another type
with a higher energy capability. For very high demands, parallel ZnO columns and/or arresters
may be needed to meet the energy requirements. In these cases, proper and careful matching
must be undertaken to ensure sufficiently equal current sharing, as full current sharing is not
necessarily assured with standard arresters.
At lower system voltages (below 245 kV), the energy due to switching will generally be low. At
the same time, less attention is often paid to effective grounding and shielding of such systems.
Hence the design capability will be determined by lightning stresses. A conservative estimate
for the arrester energy capability for lightning surges is obtained in the high current test using a
4/10s impulse with standardized peak amplitudes of 100kA or 65kA (IEC/IEEE). This wave
subjects the arrester to high energy during a very short time and hence to a thermal shock as well.
It is worth noting that discharges of the amplitudes stipulated in the tests rarely occur in reality,
and the real impulse durations seen in service may be longer than the stipulated test impulse
An arrester with blocks of larger diameter will withstand the lightning stresses better for two
the current density will be lower
the residual voltage will be lower and consequently also the energy discharged
Hence, it is advantageous to choose an arrester with larger diameter blocks (and consequently
higher discharge capability) for
areas with high lightning activity
important installations and apparatus
lines and stations where grounding or shielding conditions are inadequate
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9.1.4 Check of protection levels (Upl and Ups)

For insulation co-ordination purposes, consider the lightning impulse protection level (Upl) at the
selected nominal discharge current (5, 10, 15 or 20kA according to Table 13). Similarly, the
switching impulse protection level (Ups) for co-ordination purposes is taken with a 30/60s
waveshape having a current amplitude ranging from 0.5kA to 2kA, depending on the system
voltage. Refer Table 15.
Maximum system voltage (kV)

Maximum current (kA)

420 800
145 362
< 145


Table 15

Common choice switching surge co-ordinating currents

On occasion (notably according to IEEE), special consideration may need to be given to

protection levels for a time to voltage crest of 0.5s; referred to as equivalent front-of-wave
discharge voltage. For this type of very steep voltage wave, the effect of connection leads as
well as the distance between the arrester and the protected object must be considered in order to
accurately determine the voltage stress on the equipment. Withstand curves can then be plotted
to check that a sufficient safety margin exist.
9.1.5 Protection margins
Protection margins (in %) calculated at co-coordinating impulse currents, are defined as follows:
Margin for lightning impulses = ((LIWL/Upl) -1) *100
Margin for switching impulses = ((SIWL/Ups) -1) *100
Margins are normally excellent for ABB arresters due to the low Upl and Ups, and also the fact
that most equipment at present has a high LIWL and SIWL. However, depending on the
electrical distance between the arrester and the protected equipment, the margin for lightning
impulses can become reduced, and thus arresters fail to protect equipment that is not in close
vicinity (i.e. within their protection zone). The
flexible erection alternatives for polymer arresters
may be of benefit in reducing the distance effect.
Additional line-entrance arresters may also help.
It is recommended that the protection margins
(after taking into account the distance effect)
should be in the order of 15 - 20% or more to
account for uncertainties and possible reduction
in the withstand values of the protected
equipment with age. Should the selected arrester
type not give the desired protection margins, the
selection should be changed to an arrester of a
higher line discharge class, which automatically
leads to a lower protection level.
Note! It is not recommended to use a lower than
selected rated voltage (Ur) to improve the
margins, as this may lead to an unacceptably low
TOV capability.


Fig. 47
Insulation withstand with time for paper and oil
insulated power transformers. Ageing reduces
insulation withstand of equipment and thus the
protection margin.

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9.1.6 Consideration of distance effect

One may well wonder why it should be necessary to have a protection margin at all, when it
would seem sufficient that the protection level of the arrester was equal to the insulation
withstand of the equipment (after consideration of possible ageing effects on the insulation).
The reason is that the calculated protection levels and margins are only valid across the arrester
itself, i.e. if the arrester is mounted directly on the protected object. When there are connection
leads and a distance between arrester and object, then the protected object will be subjected to
a higher overvoltage. This is illustrated in Figure 48.
Fast-fronted overvoltages spread out along a line in the form of travelling waves. When a
travelling wave reaches a point where the surge impedance changes, reflections and refractions
take place. If the surge impedance is considered infinite for example a transformer winding or
an open circuit breaker then a total reflection will occur. The positive instantaneous sum of
the resultant oscillations cause the voltage at the remote end to increase step-wise to as much
as double the value of the initial incoming voltage.
When surge arresters are connected in front of the protected object, complex interactions and
oscillations will take place between the two with their different surge impedances. Via the
travelling wave process, the value of the voltage seen by the protected object can be
considerably higher than at the arrester itself. How much higher depends to a large extent on
the electrical distance between the arrester and the protected object and the front-steepness of
the incoming wave.



Surge arrester


Fig. 48

Voltage increase due to distance effect (simplified method)

The generally used formula to estimate the voltage increase due to distance effect is:

U = Upl + (2 * S * L) / v

voltage at the protected object (kV)

lightning impulse protection level of the arrester (kV)
steepness of the incoming voltage wave (kV/s)
electrical distance between arrester and protected object
including connection leads (a + b) and arrester height (h)
velocity of wave propagation (m/s); approximately equal to the velocity
of light 300 m/s, except for cables for which 150 m/s may be used

Note! The distance effect reduction does not apply to the Ups margin since the front-time
of a switching surge impulse is longer.
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The protection margin will therefore dramatically reduce with increased separation distances, as
well as with increased steepness of the incoming wave. The latter is a function of how close to
the substation the lightning strikes the transmission line and risk for backflash or shielding
penetration. Steepnesses of 1200 kV/s and 2000 kV/s have been well established in
Standards and practical insulation co-ordination studies for HV sub-stations, and are often used
as reference surge steepnesses. Nevertheless, the determined strike rate leads to the choice of
actual steepness for a given application.
This simplified method must be used with caution as it is only an approximation. It does not
take into account any capacitance of the protected object, nor inductance effects nor the initial
voltage at the instant of surge. This simple method may not be sufficient in the case of small
margins between the arrester protection level and the objects LIWL; whereby more complex
computer modeling may then be necessary.
In all cases, the importance of short distances and connection lead lengths cannot be overemphasized.
9.1.7 Neutral-ground arresters
In those cases where efforts are made to reduce the local earth-fault currents by not earthing
the neutral of the transformer, each such neutral brought out through a bushing should be
protected against lightning and switching overvoltages by an arrester.
For neutral-ground arresters protecting fully insulated transformer neutrals, the recommended
rated voltage is approximately the maximum system voltage (Um) divided by 3, assuming a
relatively long fault duration. Short or very long fault durations may warrant selection of a
different rated voltage, after taking into account the specific TOV requirements. In addition,
special considerations must be taken for resonant-earthed systems with long radial lines, as a
higher rated voltage may be necessary. Alternative selection criteria may also apply in cases
with unusually low BIL or for neutrals of transformers with non-uniform insulation.
The neutral-ground arresters should preferably be of the same Line Discharge Class as the
phase-ground arresters on the same transformer. The electrical characteristics are then usually
identical to standard catalogue arresters with the corresponding rated voltage. However, for
arresters connected neutral-ground, Uc is usually zero, as they are not subjected to any
continuous voltage stress during normal service conditions. Consequently, demands for
creepage distance and voltage grading do not normally apply to these arresters.
For neutral-ground arresters specifically, it is a further advantage that the insulation withstand of
the arrester is approximately equal (or even below) that of the transformer neutral so that, in the
unlikely event of a flashover, it should occur in preference at the arrester. Consequently, these
arresters would typically be assembled in the shortest housing possible.
9.1.8 Special cases
In special applications e.g. transformers in arc furnace installations switching overvoltages
can occur which are not sufficiently limited by arresters between phase-ground. For these
cases, three arresters connected phase-phase are used in addition to three arresters phaseground. For the arresters connected phase-phase, Uc > Um.
Protection of special electrical equipment such as motors, generators, capacitor banks, etc,
typically require more detailed evaluation than afforded by the simplified approach, and are
therefore beyond the scope of this Guide.

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Matching the mechanical and environmental characteristics
he simplified process for selection of the mechanical characteristics is depicted in the following
flowchart (Fig. 49).


Fig. 49 Flowchart for simplified mechanical selection of surge arresters

9.2.1 Selection of external creepage distance

IEC 60815 defines four levels of pollution (from light to very heavy) and stipulates the required
minimum creepage for porcelain housings as indicated in the following Table 16.
Pollution level

Specific creepage ( mm/kV Um )

Light (L)
Medium (M)
Heavy (H)
Very Heavy (V)


Table 16

Pollution levels according to IEC 60815 (1986)

For porcelain-housed arresters, select the housing to give the desired creepage - generally the
same as for the other equipment in the same location. If the creepage demand exceeds
31 mm/kV, a special design may be required.
Silicone-housed arresters, being highly hydrophobic, are better suited for extremely polluted
areas than porcelain- or EPDM-housed arresters. Based on the experience from long-term
testing of silicone apparatus insulators, it is considered possible to reduce the creepage
requirements for silicone housings by at least one step lower specific creepage, i.e. 20 - 30%
less than for porcelain/EPDM.

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The background to this conclusion is presented in the Cigr document A3-104 Optimized use
of HV composite apparatus insulators: field experience from coastal and inland test stations [17].
IEC 60815-3 furthermore accepts that reduction of creepage distance is possible and
permissible from a pollution withstand or flashover point of view on specific polymeric insulators
based on field trials, test stations or historic data with the same design, materials and electric
stress. Hence, for example, if a specific creepage distance of 31mm/kV (Um) is deemed
necessary at a site based on porcelain-criteria, then 25mm/kV is considered adequate with the
silicone used in conjunction with the ABBs PEXLIM design. With such reasoning, 31mm/kV
would only be necessary on PEXLIM arresters in the case that the site conditions dictate higher
than 31mm/kV for porcelain.
Note that IEC 60815-3 introduces the new term unified specific creepage distance (USCD)
defined as the creepage distance of an insulator divided by the r.m.s. value of the highest
operating voltage across the insulator. This definition differs from that of specific creepage
distance where the line-to-line value of the highest voltage for the equipment is used (for a.c.
systems usually Um/3). For line-to-earth insulation, this definition will result in a value that is 3
times that given by the definition of specific creepage distance in IEC/TR 60815 (1986).
Regardless, the same reasoning for acceptance of reduced creepage distance by one pollution
level nonetheless applies.

9.2.2 Selection of mechanical strength

The cantilever strength (bending moment) of the arrester must be sufficient to withstand
specified mechanical loads. These loads will cause a bending moment, which typically has its
maximum at the base of the arrester - except perhaps in the case of a multi-unit arrester utilizing
different strength housings for individual units; in which case the bending moment at the bottom
of each unit should be considered separately.
Mechanical loads on surge arresters can be divided into either static or dynamic loads. Static
loads are those which are applied continuously (e.g. weight of line conductors, normal wind,
etc), whereas dynamic loads are often higher in magnitude, but need only be withstood for short
periods (e.g. short-circuit current forces, gust winds, earthquake, etc). Consideration should
also be given to the fact that some loads may act alone or in combination.
Since a surge arrester is an active protective device, permanent mechanical loads should
always be minimized. Static loads are therefore kept relatively low. Dynamic loads by definition
are only short term, and should therefore not be treated as permanent loads for the sake of
dimensioning the mechanical strength of the arrester. Further, a higher degree of risk may be
accepted if the chances are low that all loads could occur at the same time and orientation.
Recognition of the difference in load types should always be accounted for in the selection of
required mechanical strength for surge arresters.
The maximum permissible horizontal load for individual forces is calculated as the maximum
moment which the arrester can withstand, divided by the distance between the base of the
arrester and point of the applied force. Loads at the line terminal connections can be
considered to act at the centre of the terminal, whilst wind loads are assumed to act generally
about the arresters centre of gravity. For areas with high seismic risk, different specifications
and verification methods exist, and the manufacturer should be consulted to verify the arresters
withstand capability. Notably, mechanical strength requirements are different for seismic loads
and it may be permissible to exceed SSL.

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In the case of multiple loads acting in combination, the horizontal loads from individual forces
should be used to calculate the vector sum of the bending moments acting about the base, to
determine if the arrester housing can withstand them when applied simultaneously. Importantly,
this calculation should consider realistic combinations of loads (as would be applied in service)
against appropriate safety margins to the arresters static and dynamic mechanical strength,
and not simply as a sum of the maximum cantilever load applied at the top terminal.
This is illustrated in Figure 50, which shows that the arrester in question can withstand the
specified loads (safety factor > 1.0) when like loads are correctly considered to act about
different moment arms and not simply summed together and located solely at the line terminal.
Loads resulting from tensile and compression forces are not usually of concern, as these are
normally limited for standard applications and arrester housings are also typically strong in
these directions. Torsional loading on the arrester is also considered an abnormal service
condition, but may need closer consideration should it exist.
For connecting arresters to the line, a common solution is to use the same conductor as for
current-carrying equipment connected to the same line. However, this is often unnecessarily
large and over-dimensioned for the purpose - the continuous total current through an arrester is
of the order of only a few milli-Amps. The result is undue mechanical loading on the arrester.
Connecting the arresters to the line instead by light, vertical and slack tee-offs, can considerably
reduce the demand for mechanical strength, without requiring significant deviation from
common practice. See Figure 52.
Due to their flexible construction, there may be a visible deflection at the line-end of polymer
arresters under mechanical load. This may ultimately determine the limit of loading which is able
to be applied. However, since polymer arresters are light compared to equivalent porcelainhoused arresters, they permit innovative erection alternatives which could reduce the loading;
for example suspended or under-hung erection or special bracing.

Fig. 50 Example of
Estimated Loading Table
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9.2.3 Selection of short circuit capability

The arresters short-circuit (pressure relief) capability is chosen on the basis of the prospective
symmetrical short circuit in the system at the arrester location or calculated from the formula:

I = Sk / (3 * Um )

prospective symmetrical shortcircuit current (kA)

3-phase short-circuit power in MVA
at the point where the arrester is to be installed
maximum system voltage (kV)

If Sk is not known, the breaking capacity of the associated circuit breaker can be used as a
guide for the short-circuit current.
9.2.4 Specification of high ambient temperature
Customer specifications occasionally state tough requirements for maximum ambient
temperature under which surge arresters are to operate. Whilst at the same time it is generally
understood that the average temperature over a 24 hour period will be less.
The influence from the sun radiation is sometimes thought to be significant, as one might
assume that sun radiation can result in considerably high surface temperatures. However, it is
the average surface temperature of the complete arrester that counts, and sun radiation falls on
less than half of the insulator surface at any point in time. In fact, the closer to the equator an
arrester is situated, the smaller the fraction of the insulator surface that is subjected to direct
radiation due to the sheds.
Temperature extremes are tracked and measured daily from multiple locations on earth. Highest
average annual mean temperature ever recorded was 34.4 C in Dallol, Ethiopia during the
period October 1960 December 1966. The following list shows the highest temperature ever
reported on a continent. Keep in mind that the data in older dates may be skewed because
standard temperature measurement techniques and equipment may have changed. Also note
that "Oceania" indicates any small location such as an island in the vast oceans of the world.
North America
South America

El Azizia, Libya
Death Valley, California
Tirat Tsvi, Israel
Cloncurry, Queensland
Seville, Spain
Rivadavia, Argentina
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Temperature extreme
57.8 oC
56.7 oC
53.9 oC
53.3 oC
50.0 oC
48.9 oC
42.2 oC

September 13, 1922
July 10th, 1913
June 22nd, 1942
January 16th, 1889
August 4th, 1881
December 11th, 1905
April 29th, 1912

Noteworthy is that none of the temperature extremes have occurred since the introduction of
modern gapless arresters in the 1970s and hence specified requirements for other locations
are normally overstated.
ABB surge arresters have low power losses and hence self-heating is negligible. The effects of
direct sun radiation are accounted for in the IEC Operating Duty test of arrester sections, whereby
energy and thermal capacity are verified at a starting temperature of 60 C. This is actual ZnO
block temperature, which adds additional safety margin by ignoring that the average block
temperature will actually be well below the localized surface temperature possible from direct
sun radiation.
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9.2.5 Altitude correction

It is well known that the dielectric withstand of insulation in air decreases with altitude. The
design altitude according to IEC 60099-4 is 1000m above sea level. Arresters which are also
designed according to IEEE criteria are then likely suitable for use up to an altitude of 1800m
above sea level.
However, since the arresters own insulation (internal and external) is well protected by its
inherent protective characteristic, many standard designs of ZnO arresters are suitable for use
at much higher altitudes without requiring an additionally extended flashover distance.
Naturally, every case must be considered separately to ensure satisfactory performance.
Noteworthy is that some equipment standards define altitude correction in terms of increased
creepage distance. For surge arresters and specifically silicone-housed designs this is not
as critical and instead the required physical clearance in air across the arrester with
consideration to its protective performance is deemed the defining criteria (see also 12.1).
Guide to Selection of ABB Surge Arresters
The ABB factory in Ludvika, Sweden has a long history as a pioneer in overvoltage protection,
dating back to 1938. ZnO technology was first introduced in 1979. ABBs current family of
porcelain-housed gapless ZnO HV surge arresters is called EXLIM (EXcellent voltage LIMiters)
while the family of silicone-housed arresters is correspondingly called PEXLIM. Within each
family, different housing designs and mounting arrangements are available to meet various
mechanical, physical and environmental demands.
Each family utilizes ABBs own ZnO blocks that fulfil or exceed the demands of the respective IEC
Line Discharge Classes (LDC) from 2 through to 5. These are in turn given a letter designation
based on block type which forms part of the arrester type designation, e.g. PEXLIM R = LDC 2.

Block type



ABB type
Porcelain housing
Silicone housing

Table 17

Overview of ABB
surge arrester types

For ABB surge arresters, the type designation furthermore gives detailed information of the
rating and its application, as indicated below.
Suffix letters:
Non-standard electrical data
Non-standard mechanical data
Parallel columns
Underhung mounting
Line arrester

As a guide, the following diagrams give an overview of the typical applications by system
voltage for which the respective arresters would normally be applied. EXLIM porcelain-housed
(51a) and PEXLIM polymer-housed (51b).
Specific applications may dictate the need for a certain type outside of the common choice.
The respective arresters are nevertheless normally able to be tailored to cater for virtually any
rating or application.

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Fig. 51a) EXLIM common choice guide

Fig. 51b) PEXLIM common choice guide

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With reference to the considerations discussed in Chapter 9, the following rated voltages
(Ur) are recommended for the most common 3-phase systems with maximum system
voltage (Um) 52 550kV.
Fault clearance time
Mechanical load
ABB type
Um (kVrms)

2 or 3

Um (kVrms)

4 or 5


Resonant earthed or isolated neutral

Max 10 seconds

2 or 3

2, 3 or 4
3, 4 or 5
Rated voltage, Ur (kVrms)


Fault clearance time
Mechanical load
ABB type

2, 3 or 4
3, 4 or 5
Rated voltage, Ur (kVrms)


Fault clearance time
Mechanical load
ABB type

Um (kVrms)

Directly earthed
Max 1 second

4 or 5


Resonant earthed or isolated neutral

Max 2 hours

2 or 3

Table 18 a), b), c)

2, 3 or 4
3, 4 or 5
Rated voltage, Ur (kVrms)

4 or 5

Common choice guide to surge arrester rated voltage

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Upon arrival to site, the contents of all packages should be checked against the respective
packing lists and any shortages identified. During unpacking, a visual inspection should be
made for any obvious signs of transport damage.
Reference shall be made to the assembly and special instructions provided for details of correct
installation and these shall always be followed and take precedence.
Since ABB undertakes such extensive routine, batch and sample tests on the
ZnO blocks, surge arresters and counters/monitors (in excess of the requirements of the
applicable standards), additional testing or commissioning checks are not considered
warranted or necessary at installation or before taking EXLIM or PEXLIM arresters into service.
10.1 Conductor dimensioning
Under normal operating voltages the arrester represents a high impedance and hence only
milliamps of current are typically flowing constantly through the connecting conductors. Even
under surge conditions, although the current can be significant (10's of thousands of Amps) it is
only present for a very short time (microseconds). Such currents will have a negligible heating
effect on the conductor. Consequently, the question of conductor size and cross-sectional area
is perhaps not as important for surge arresters as it is for other high voltage apparatus.
The true criteria comes when the arrester has
overloaded and the system short-circuit current is
thereafter flowing through the arrester and its
If the cross-section is thermally
insufficient for this condition, the connection may be
destroyed, i.e. melt before the protection has
operated to clear the fault. However, this may be
able to be accepted, since the arrester has to be
replaced anyway. If this is not acceptable, the crosssectional area for the conductors must be based on
the system short-circuit current and duration.
For the line conductors, the simple practical solution
is often to use the same conductor as for highcurrent carrying equipment connected to the same
line, e.g. dropper to current transformer. However,
as noted above, this is typically unnecessarily large
and may result in undue mechanical loading on the
arrester. Lighter droppers, connected as slack
vertical tee-offs, may be preferable, and even
recommended, for this reason.
Surge arresters shall be connected to the same
common earth grid as for the other HV apparatus in
the substation. The earth conductor cross section
shall be overridingly chosen in accordance with local
regulations and earth fault current requirements.

Fig. 52
Example of mounting and connection arrangement

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Connections to surge arresters in distribution systems are sometimes made via 600/1000 V
PVC insulated copper cables. The temperature rating for this type of cable is generally V75,
i.e. 75 oC. Two important factors should be considered before using this type of cable;
especially in HV applications:

Above 200 oC, copper anneals and loses about 70 percent of its strength, thus
compromising its ability to withstand short circuit forces. This increases the risk of
breakage from whipping.

Above 90 oC, standard PVC softens. With an ambient temperature of 40 oC, this permits
only 50 oC temperature rise. PVC begins to melt at 80 oC temperature rise, at which
point the risk of catching fire is very high.

a) Connection between arrester earth terminal and surge counter

When a surge counter is mounted on an earthed pedestal structure, it is necessary to insulate
the cable/busbar connecting the arrester to the counter, both to avoid parallel current paths and
the risk for flashover during surges. Otherwise the counter will not register as it should.
The required insulation level for this connector is based on foreseen lightning levels. The
voltage drop due to the internal resistance and inductance in the cable itself will be negligible in
the case of lighting impulses and what dominates is the circuit inductance. In the general case,
the lightning surge current generates a magnetic flux in the circuit comprising the insulated
base, the support pedestal and the insulated conductor. The voltage induced is proportional to
the magnetic flux in the closed loop and is little affected by the size of the conductor. For this
reason the same insulation level is usually required for all earth connectors, regardless of their
cross sectional area.
The following general guidelines are recommended:

The earth conductor between the arrester and counter should be insulated for at least
5 x L kV (LIWL), where L is the conductor length in metres between the arrester earth
terminal and the surge counter terminal. Note that the maximum permissible length L of
the earth conductor between arrester and surge counter is determined by the LIWL of
the insulated base which the arrester is mounted on as well as the counter itself

The LIWL of the insulating base and the counter must also withstand this induced
voltage; otherwise it will flashover and the impulse will be earthed through the structure
without passing through the counter.

Even if the LIWL of the insulated cable is sufficient, this lead must in any case be kept as
short as practicable since its inductance-drop adds to the protection level of the arrester.

b) Connection between surge counter and earth

The conductor between the counter and earth should be the same as for other earthing
conductors in the station and connected to the common HV earth grid. The selection of crosssectional area is generally based on the system short-circuit current and duration or as per local
regulations. This conductor should also be kept as short as possible, however whether or not it
is insulated has no relevance with regards to the registration of surges by the counter.

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10.2 Mounting angle

The vast majority of standard installations for surge arresters require vertical mounting on a
ground-mounted pedestal support (see Fig 52). However, on occasion, angled mounting may
be advantageous or even necessary. In these cases, mounting angles anywhere between
vertical (0o) to upside-down (180o) are to be considered.
Single-unit porcelain arresters have been mounted horizontally for some years (commonly as
cable terminations) without any obvious distress having been reported. Issues may arise during
actual installation - mainly relating to the logistics of placing a heavy porcelain on a pole - but as
long as care is taken, it seems to have been able to be done successfully. Nevertheless, it is
not generally recommended to mount arresters utilizing hollow insulators (porcelain or
composite) horizontally, since the internal stack of ZnO blocks is typically held under springcompression and there is then the risk that they may become displaced if not kept vertical.
Also, inclining the arrester makes its own weight work against the inherent mechanical strength,
since the cantilever loading capability is reduced by an amount equivalent to the arrester mass
times gravity applied about the centre of gravity. This can significantly reduce the permissible
load when heavy and long porcelain housings are involved.
Further, full horizontal mounting may affect the performance under short circuit conditions as the
external arc may not meet as quickly as when the arrester is vertical; making for a longer fault
clearing time. As a consequence of the arrester's placement, if the porcelain is weakened during
such an event, there is a greater risk for it to fall down. There is also the issue of the uneven
washing of the sheds, as the protected creepage distance becomes 50% of the total when hung
horizontally. In addition, there is then zero protected creepage on the top side, which runs the
risk for flashover under heavy pollution, rain, fog, etc.
The less the angle, the less the effect of all of the above
concerns. But nevertheless there is still a degree of risk.
Angling at 45 degrees is considered a compromise and
limits the risk of the adverse effects (cantilever loading,
displacement of blocks, uneven washing of the sheds,
etc). Multi-unit hollow-insulator arresters will just
compound the issues and so angled-mounting is not to
be recommended for these longer arresters.
In contrast, direct-moulded silicone-housed arresters
(eg PEXLIM) by design are not affected in the same way
Fig. 53
Example of angle-mounted PEXLIM
as for hollow-insulator arresters. Therefore, these
designs of arresters may be mounted at any angle,
regardless of length and number of units. Normal consideration of mechanical loading
nevertheless continues to apply. In particular, since the "self-weight" of the arrester will apply a
permanent moment this needs to be deducted from the permissible loading (both SLL and
Furthermore, with significant self-weight", a polymer arrester may also have
considerable deflection. Even if loads are kept within acceptable limits, it can look bananashaped which will likely cause concern for the user; a factor which may restrict its practical use.
Hanging lightweight polymer arresters from the line is another option, which then removes
concerns regarding cantilever loading.
When the arrester is to be installed completely upside down (inverted mounting) on an
overhead structure, this is possible provided the design is arranged during production to ensure,
amongst other matters, that the sheds are "right way up" in order to assist with water run off. It
is therefore not usually possible to mount a standard arrester upside down. As a rule, standard
arresters may be used for mounting angles from 0 90o. For angles between >90 180o,
arresters specially designed for inverted mounting are to be used.
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A surge arrester does not contain any moving parts or items that can break. Consequently there
is nothing to maintain, adjust, correct or repair, which is why there is normally no need to perform
any form of periodical checking or monitoring. In general, a correctly chosen and installed
arrester is regarded as maintenance free during its entire lifetime. A correctly chosen arrester in
this context means that its electrical and mechanical characteristics are matched to actual service
11.1 Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time To Repair (MTTR)
The question of MTBF and MTTR is often asked for substation equipment. However, such an
analysis has no meaning or direct relevance for surge arresters. The design-life of a modern
gapless ZnO arrester can reasonably be expected to be at least as long as the equipment it is
protecting (nominally accepted to be 30+ years). However, this does not mean that it will
necessarily last as long as the primary plant. It must be remembered that a surge arrester is, in
principle, a sacrificial protective device, designed to operate to protect other electrical
equipment. During the normal course of events, it may need to sacrifice itself at any time to
protect the primary plant. It is therefore often very difficult to distinguish between a failure and
a correct operation as, depending on the nature of the electrical surge, an arrester could "fail"
internally during correct operation. But this should not be considered as a "failure" if it occurs
for genuine reasons; rather it is the function of a surge arrester.
Finally, an arrester which has failed must be taken out of service and disposed of according to
local regulations. It cannot be repaired or reworked.
11.2 Cleaning
Periodical cleaning of porcelain-housed arresters is usually only necessary after periods of
heavy marine or industrial pollution. Surge arresters may be washed under voltage (livewashing), following the same safety regulations as for any other high voltage equipment, plus
with the following additional precautions:
surge arresters normally employ shorter flashover distance compared to other insulators,
leading to an increased risk for external flashover during the washing
surge arresters with series connected units must have all units washed simultaneously to
avoid overheating of any unit
Arresters with silicone housing should, in general, not need to be washed at all. Nevertheless, it
is acknowledged that silicone insulators exposed to heavy pollution for long periods may
become discoloured and appear dirty over time. This is as a result of low molecular-weight
silicone oils diffusing to the surface, ultimately encapsulating the pollution layer and making the
housing appear dirty and difficult to clean. This function permits the housing to ultimately
recover its hydrophobicity, even after a temporary loss; a unique feature amongst insulators. Of
importance is that, unlike other types of insulators, this discolouration does not necessarily
mean that a silicone insulator's in-service pollution performance is affected. In fact, cleaning of
a silicone insulator can actually have the disadvantage of washing away the silicone oils
deposited on the surface, thereby reducing its hydrophobicity for a period.

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Should washing be undertaken on a silicone-insulator in any case to remove large amounts of

solid layer deposits, for example - then only plain water at low to moderate pressure should be
used to prevent damage to the soft housing. If a cleaner housing than can be achieved by livewashing is desired, then hand-washing with plain water and a soft cloth may be necessary. No
form of detergents, cleaning agents, abrasive cloth or hard brush should be used, unless
approved by the arrester manufacturer. WARNING! The arrester must be de-energized and
out of service before any work requiring handling is undertaken.
Regardless of how dirty the insulator appears, what is of interest is whether or not the surface of
the housing is hydrophobic or not. A class scale exists for measuring the degree of
hydrophobicity, and tests can be undertaken for determining the extent to which the surface of
the arrester has become hydrophilic. Seven wettability (hydrophobicity) classes (WC) have
been defined with a value between 1 and 7. WC 1 corresponds to a completely hydrophobic
(water-repellent) surface and WC 7 is a completely hydrophilic (totally wetted filmed) surface.
By definition, a composite insulator can be considered hydrophobic in the range WC 1 - 4.
Silicone-housings typically exhibit WC 1 2 when new. In contrast, a porcelain insulator
exhibits WC > 5 when clean and new and WC 7 after a time in service, i.e. completely
hydrophilic, without the ability to recover. If desired, this class scale provides a coarse value of
the wetting status and is particularly suitable for a fast and easy check of insulators in the field.
Refer IEC TS 62073 for further details.
In areas with extreme pollution, a silicone insulators
hydrophobicity may become temporarily reduced
from its original level. However, even under such
extreme pollution conditions, the hydrophobicity
transfer mechanism of the silicone results in the
silicone housing performing better than porcelainhousings with equivalent creepage distance and
shed profile. Unlike a porcelain insulator, a siliconehoused insulator is not necessarily at risk for
flashover just because the surface is covered with
pollution. Of importance is the extent to which the
hydrophobicity recovers via transfer of low molecular
weight silicone oils through the pollution layer to the
surface. This is denoted as Hydrophobicity Transfer
(HT) and is the relationship between the ESDD
(equivalent salt deposit density, being the total
amount of salts on the surface) and ASDD (apparent
salt deposit density; being the portion of the pollution
not covered by the low molecular weight silicone
oils). The difference between the values of ESDD
and ASDD represents the part of the pollution layer
that does not conduct any current.
Note! This is not a simple test to perform in the field.
However, it can be undertaken on an individual
insulator removed from service as a means to
evaluate the pollution performance of silicone
insulators under specific site conditions.

Fig. 54

Wettability class
(source IEC TS 62073)

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11.3 Condition monitoring

Despite being maintenance free, external factors can place stress on surge arresters (as with
all HV apparatus), leading to a risk for their deterioration over time and potential failure. As
businesses strive to remain competitive, unplanned outages are increasingly unacceptable, and
it can therefore be of advantage to regularly check and/or monitor the condition of HV surge
arresters connected to the network, so that they can be taken out of service before the situation
becomes acute.
Periodical external visual inspection can be undertaken to detect obvious evidence of
deterioration which could affect the arresters in-service performance, e.g. physical damage,
connections, flashover, tracking, erosion, puncture, etc. However, since arresters are delivered
as sealed units from the factory, they cannot be disassembled for any internal inspection or
tests, as doing so would be the same as destroying the arrester.
For system voltages above approximately 100 kV, surge counters are often installed in series with
the arresters. The main reason for the use of surge counters is to check if a particular
transmission line or phase suffers from an exceptionally high number of overvoltages leading to
arrester operation - lightning faults on a line, for example. If this is the case, some preventative
counter-measures may be necessary to limit the number of surges.
A sudden increase in the counting rate may also indicate an internal arrester fault. Conversely,
a steady high counting rate from the beginning may indicate an unsuitable choice of arrester
rating. In either case, the arrester should be investigated further.
If a surge counter is used, the surge arrester must be equipped with an insulating base; thus
ensuring that the discharge current is passing exclusively through the surge counter and not
discharged directly to earth.
However, surge counters tell only part of the story, as they simply register the number of surges
according to their operating characteristic. The user therefore has no way of telling the
magnitude of the surge and if it was significant, nor when it occurred and if it was coincident with
a system event.
A complete check of an arrester can only be made by
measurements under laboratory conditions. There is no
simple way to check an arrester during service, and normally
there is no such need either. If, however, it is decided to
perform a check on an arrester, it is desirable that the
measurements can be made without disturbing the normal
service, i.e. without disconnecting the arrester from the phase
Many measuring methods have been employed over the
years for gapless ZnO arresters, with the simplest method
utilised being the connection of a standard mA-meter in series
with the arrester to measure leakage current.
The AC leakage current through the arrester can be divided
into a capacitive and a resistive part. At continuous
operating voltage (Uc), a ZnO surge arrester acts as a
capacitor, leading to a predominantly capacitive component
of current and a significantly smaller resistive part.




Fig. 55
Principle diagram for a gapless
ZnO arrester, where U is the
voltage across the arrester, It is
total leakage current and Ic and Ir
are the capacitive and resistive
components, respectively, of the
leakage current

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The specific capacitance of a ZnO varistor results in typical values of the capacitive current
ranging from 0.5 to 3mApeak, depending on the varistor diameter. For a complete surge arrester,
the capacitive current is further dependent on stray capacitances, pollution currents on the
insulator surface, number of varistor columns in parallel and the actual operating voltage.
Meanwhile, the resistive component of the leakage current of a varistor is at the same time in
the range 50 to 250Apeak, and is temperature and voltage dependant.
Since the capacitive component of the current dominates so greatly, the total leakage current
measured on a simple mA-meter will be very sensitive to the installation; making interpretation
of the readings difficult. Further, there is no evidence that the capacitive current would change
significantly due to deterioration of the voltage-current characteristic of the surge arrester.
Consequently, measurement of capacitive current cannot reliably indicate the condition of ZnO
arresters. Although increasing values may be of some use in indicating that cleaning of the
insulators is necessary.
Instead, it is generally recognised (IEC 60099-5) that the only reliable indicator for the condition
of a gapless arrester which can be assessed during normal service is to measure the resistive
component of the leakage current (or estimate it from the 3rd harmonic), and compare it with the
maximum allowable resistive current, as given by the manufacturer, under prevailing service
conditions i.e. temperature and applied voltage. Ageing of the ZnO varistors will generally cause
a gradual increase of the resistive leakage current with time.
Because of the order of magnitude difference (A vs. mA), a significant change in the resistive
current would be required before it could be noticed on a milliamp meter. Therefore, special
measuring apparatus are necessary to separate out the two components, and give a reliable
detection method for the analysis of the leakage current through gapless ZnO surge arresters.
Two such devices are ABB Surge Arrester Monitor EXCOUNT-II and TransiNor Leakage
Current Monitor LCM-II.

Fig. 56 EXCOUNT-II surge arrester monitor

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11.4 Replacement of gapped surge arresters

Since the statistical chance of a malfunction is greater for very old arresters, these should be
identified and removed from service as soon as possible as the first step in any replacement
program. In general, aged insulation has a lower withstand level from its original capability. This
means that the margin of protection is reduced and the possibility of equipment failure increases
with age. Hence, a replacement program should also identify older equipment, and replace the
arresters protecting the most valuable equipment first.
Further, when systems expand, there may be a need to upgrade the arresters connected to
them; a fact that is often overlooked. The result is heavier than designed operating duty and
increased failure risk. Arresters manufactured even as late as 1960 to 1970 may not be
provided with any suitable pressure-relief mechanism for safe operation during internal short
circuit. Even where such mechanism exists, it may not function satisfactorily if the short-circuit
capacity of the line has been increased after the original installation and is now higher than the
arrester capability. Such arresters almost certainly would not fulfil todays tough requirements
for short circuit safety and would fail violently in the event of their malfunction; causing damage
to equipment nearby as well as posing a serious risk of injury to any personnel in the vicinity.
As there are still many gapped silicon-carbide (SiC) surge arresters in service worldwide, it is
worthwhile mentioning what can be done to assess their condition, since aged gapped arresters
can malfunction due to a number of reasons, including:
sealing failures
arc erosion
grading component failures
Monitoring may be undertaken on-line as a first step by scanning the arrester with an infrared
camera to reveal any unusual hot spots.
After the arrester is disconnected from the supply source, additional information can be gained
off-line by the following tests:
Physically examine the arrester units externally to see if the gaskets have deteriorated or
there is any sign of moisture ingress.
Megger each unit separately to detect any shorted units. However, when grading
components are present, the readings should not tend to infinity, otherwise a
discontinuity may be suspected in the unit.
If the grading current of an arrester is known at the time of its manufacture or installation,
this figure can be used to compare with the value after it has been in service for some
time. Considerable deviations from the original recording should motivate further
investigation or replacement of the arrester.
Perform a spark-over test at power frequency (50 or 60 Hz) and compare the results with
the values obtained during routine tests. If the results are more than +10% from that
given in the data sheet, the unit should be replaced. The sparkover voltage for an
arrester must be measured in a high voltage laboratory to obtain the necessary
sensitivity and control, and thus this test cannot be performed on site.
With consideration to the age and residual life of most gapped arresters, versus the time and
cost to remove them from site, install replacements, perform tests in a HV lab, interpret the
results and then possibly reinstate them in service, many users decide it is better to simply
undertake a replacement program of all installed gapped arresters of a certain age without
further analysis.

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With increased focus on system reliability, together with ongoing developments occurring in the
field of overvoltage protection, new and innovative applications are continuing to be found for
the use of surge arresters.
Many of these are, however, quite specialised and require more in depth discussion than is
considered possible within the scope of this Guide. Nevertheless, this section briefly discusses
a number of these topics, and refers the reader to other ABB technical information for further
reading should they be of interest. See References.
12.1 Reduced clearance distances
In order to reduce the risk of insulation failure to an economically and operationally acceptable
level, the insulation withstand of substation equipment is selected with regard to expected
overvoltages, taking into account the protective characteristics of the surge arresters.
The insulation withstand of the surge arrester itself has to be co-ordinated with its own
protective characteristics. The arrester has to be positioned with respect to grounded objects
and surge arresters in adjacent phases, without increasing the total risk for insulation failure.
The insulation withstand properties of surge arresters in a substation can be divided into:
insulation withstand of the surge arrester itself, including the insulation between flanges
and grading rings, etc.
insulation withstand between the surge arrester and grounded objects
insulation withstand between the surge arrester and other equipment connected to the
same phase, e.g. bushings
insulation withstand between surge arresters in adjacent phases
The insulation withstand should be the only constraint when selecting suitable clearances for
properly dimensioned surge arresters. Any effects which various phase-to-ground and phase-tophase clearances may have on the voltage distribution along the ZnO block column should have
already been accounted for in a well-made design.
The insulation withstand of the surge arrester itself should also have been thoroughly
considered at the design stage. Spacing between metal flanges, as well as spacing between
flanges and grading rings, should be designed to be sufficiently large to withstand overvoltages
appearing during current discharges; at least up to the design altitude (and perhaps more).
a) Phase-to-ground clearance
The phase-to-ground clearance in substations is usually based on the selected standard rated
lightning and switching impulse withstand voltages. International Standard IEC 60071-2, for
example, recommends minimum clearances.
In general, the clearance between a grounded object and a surge arrester should be the same
as the phase-to-ground clearance selected for other high voltage equipment in a substation. If it
is not possible to use the normal phase-to-ground clearance in special applications, a smaller
clearance may be chosen, considering the protective characteristics of the arrester, and after
correction for altitude. However, this is generally only possible if there is a fairly big margin
between the standard rated withstand voltage for a substation and the protective level of the

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b) Other equipment in the same phase

The clearance between a surge arrester and other high-voltage equipment connected to the
same phase, e.g. bushings or post insulators, is usually not of importance during normal
operating conditions. In polluted conditions, however, the transient voltage distribution on the
insulator surfaces may become extremely uneven. This creates high voltage stresses between
the surge arrester housing and any high-voltage insulator positioned nearby. It is recommended
therefore to choose half the phase-to-ground clearance as the minimum metal-to-metal
clearance between the upper (energized) end of the surge arrester and the top (energized) end
of other high-voltage equipment. Furthermore it is recommended to use the phase-to-ground
clearance also for the spacing between the lower (grounded) end of the surge arrester and the
bottom (grounded) end of other high-voltage equipment.
c) Phase-to-phase clearance
The phase-to-phase clearance for high-voltage equipment in a substation is normally based on
the selected standard rated lightning and switching impulse phase-to-phase withstand voltages.
International Standard IEC 60071-2, for example, recommends minimum phase-to-phase
clearances. Note that the normal selection of surge arrester protective levels does not directly
protect the phase-to-phase insulation.
In general, the clearance between surge arresters in adjacent phases should be the same as
the phase-to-phase clearance selected for other high-voltage equipment in the substation. If it is
not possible to use the normal phase-to-phase clearance in a special application of surge
arresters, the minimum clearance with regard to lightning overvoltages can be derived, and
should include altitude correction.
Similarly, the minimum phase-to-phase clearance for arresters with respect to switching
overvoltages should also, if possible, always be based on the selected standard rated switching
impulse phase-to-phase withstand voltage for the substation. If a special application requires a
minimized phase spacing, a favourable electrode configuration established by the grading rings
may permit a reduction of the phase-to-phase clearance in certain cases.
More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
Technical Information document Insulation withstand and clearances with EXLIM and
PEXLIM surge arresters.

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12.2 Station protection

When lightning surges enter a station, reflections occur and oscillations are set up due to the
capacitance of the station apparatus and inductance of busbars and connection leads. For
steep incoming surges, the difference in voltage shape and amplitude at different locations in
the station will be significant. A station should be designed for a low probability of failure, and
thus the protection against lightning surges is not only a question of which arrester to choose,
but even more important, is to determine the number and location of arresters needed in order
to obtain an adequate protection.
Two examples of this application include:
a) Line entrance arrester
If, due to any reason, it is impossible to install an arrester in a sub-station as close to important
equipment as ideally necessary, the protective distance of the station arrester may be improved
by installing an additional arrester at the entrance into the station of the incoming line. This
arrester also fulfils a second function as protection for an open line breaker.
b) Protection of open breaker
In over half the ground flash cases, the first lightning stroke will statistically be followed by one
or more successive strokes. The first stroke may lead to a single-phase or multi-phase ground
fault on a line, causing the relay protection to operate and to open the line breakers. If a rapidly
following successive stroke hits the line, the lightning surge may reach the breaker in open
position before the breaker has fully recovered its dielectric strength across the contacts.
A restrike and possible breaker damage may occur.
The normal arresters in the station cannot protect the breaker against this event, and instead a
separate set of arresters on the line side of the breaker are required. Such additional breaker
arresters give the additional benefit of improving the overall overvoltage protection of the station.

Surge Arresters
marked with blue

For a full treatment of the problem of station

protection, many parameters must be considered
currents, station layout, power frequency voltage,
grounding, shield wires, protection levels and
connection leads of surge arrester, insulation levels,
etc. In view of the complexity of the problem,
practical engineering has long been based mainly on
rules of thumb or on simplified formulas, which
often disregard many of the important parameters.
The final choice is always left to the system engineer
to decide upon an acceptable level of risk; taking into
account additional parameters such as the
importance of the station and the cost of a failure
compared with the cost of improved protection.

Fig. 57 Arrester placement

More information on the selection of surge arresters

for this application is available in the ABB Technical
Information document Application guidelines for
station protection.

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12.3 Lightning protection of transmission lines

Transmission lines in the lower system voltage range, 72 kV - 245 kV, are often sensitive to
lightning overvoltages for the simple reason that one or more of the following situations exist:
the insulation withstand is relatively low
the transmission line often lacks shielding wires
the footing impedance of the towers is high
the transmission line lacks a continuous counterpoise (shield earth wire)
Despite this, meshed networks with rapid re-connection of faulted lines for the most part give
satisfactory operational continuity. Short-time disturbances (around 0.5 seconds) must be
tolerated in radial networks, as well as the voltage drop during the fault time (around 0.1
second) occurring in the meshed networks.
There are, however, some types of loads where even brief disturbances can have a severe
impact for the on-going process - e.g. steel mills, paper mills, refineries, etc. The cost for such
an interruption, both in terms of value of lost production and the costs to re-start the production,
are unacceptable. In todays deregulated energy market, such costs will be more visible to the
network operator than before, since the buyer can set high demands on delivery security.
The traditional methods to reduce the number of faults caused by
lightning have been:
installation of shield wires
improvement of the earthing impedance of the towers
increasing the insulation level
Unfortunately, implementing these methods gives only marginal
improvements of the delivery security, especially if the earthing
conditions are difficult due to a high earth resistivity.
A better alternative to reduce the number of line faults caused by
lightning is to install ZnO arresters with polymeric insulators in
parallel with the line insulators. These line surge arresters (LSA)
normally consist of standard polymer-housed arresters together with
a disconnecting device and fastening equipment for installation on
the line itself or on the tower.

Fig. 58

transmission line

LSAs give complete protection against lightning flashovers for the actual line insulator.
Insulators in adjacent phases and in other towers, however, are not protected; which is why
LSAs are mainly installed on all phases on the towers that are intended to be protected. In
reality, LSAs are seldom installed throughout an entire line length, but instead only in areas
where lightning gives most problems due to exposed position, bad earthing conditions etc.
Modern localisation systems for lightning-storms in combination with traditional fault statistics
are excellent tools to identify towers where LSAs should be installed to be of most effective use.
The dimensioning of a LSA generally follows the same criteria as for an arrester in a substation.
However, it is of particular importance that the LSA is designed correctly with respect to energy
and TOV capability, since the stresses on the arrester at lightning are highly dependent on the
earthing conditions, presence of shield wires, etc. Similarly, the complete solution must be
physically and mechanically robust, since it is fully exposed to the elements and typically
inaccessible for close inspection or maintenance.

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Line Surge Arresters (LSA) of a gapless design offer a robust, efficient and cost-effective
alternative to those with series gap; External Gap Lightning Arrester (EGLA).
EGLA have the following inherent disadvantages in their functional operation:
Needs tailor-made design for each situation; making installation difficult and prone to error
Insulation co-ordination is difficult; since the gap characteristic is prone to change
Unpredictable energy sharing; increasing the risk for arrester failure
No switching impulsive overvoltage control; meaning outage rate remains high
Pollution effects unpredictable; increasing the risk for arrester failure
Signalling device needed to indicate failed arrester; but is rarely provided
Failed SA is weak point for repeated short-circuits
The final point is perhaps one of the most commonly overlooked. It is promoted that the series
gap will hold against power frequency voltage in the event of an arrester overload; which may
be true. However, the gap cannot be dimensioned to withstand lightning impulses. Hence, a
subsequent lightning strike to the line nearby the failed arrester will cause the gap to fire and a
permanent earthfault will occur, with consequential line outage. Without some kind of signalling
device (rarely provided) this failed arrester will be practically impossible to locate and repeated
flashovers and line trips will occur. The problem will be multiplied in the case that several
arresters along the line have failed.
In comparison. LSA have the following unique advantages:
Easy insulation co-ordination for both lightning and switching overvoltages
Flexibility in application; may be mounted in a way that best suits the tower configuration
User-friendly installation; simply connected without individual adjustment
Predictable energy sharing; predictable estimate of risk for overload
Self-disconnection means no permanent fault / weak-point
No signalling device needed
In contrast to EGLA, an LSA can be suspended from the line or mounted on the tower in a way
that best suits the overall configuration. By so doing, the arrangement can be made to ensure
that, in the event of an arrester overload, adequate clearance is assured to withstand not only
PFWL but also LIWL and SIWL. This is achieved through the clever use and placement of the
self-disconnecting device.
Manufacturers of EGLAs sometimes promote the disconnecting device on LSAs as a weak
point; prone to damage and premature disconnection. On some designs this may be the case.
However, ABBs LSA design is different since it uses common line hardware as well as specially
designed fittings to ensure the robustness of the solution as a whole. Furthermore, in contrast
to some solutions, ABB uses station class PEXLIM arresters for its LSA, meaning that the same
high quality and secure performance expected in substations is also achieved out on the
transmission lines. This is exemplified in the high values achieved during the lightning Impulse
discharge capability test according to Annex N of IEC 60099-4 (since Ed 2.1, 2006-07).
More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
brochure PEXLINK: Transmission-line protection for disturbance-free system operation.

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12.4 Switching surge control in EHV systems

In any complex electromagnetic system, a sudden change in state gives rise to transient
oscillations which, in turn, can cause high overvoltages unless suitably damped. For EHV
systems it has been common practice for many years to equip circuit breakers with closing
resistors, as a means of controlling such system transient interactions during closing or
re-closing operations. The closing resistors are inserted in series with the load circuit being
switched for a short period of time before closing the main contacts of the breaker thereby
damping the transient overvoltages. Without any form of control, switching overvoltages during
reclosing of a fault-cleared line could, under certain circumstances, rise as high as 3 4 p.u of
the phase-ground peak voltage. Pre-insertion resistors typically function to limit this overvoltage
to in the order of 1.5 2.0 p.u.
Optimum overvoltage control requires correct choice of the resistor value in relation to the
source impedance level, the line length and the line parameters. Although a well-proven
technology, pre-insertion resistors can lead to a number of problems in mechanical design and
operation; with adverse impact on overall system reliability. As robust and efficient alternatives,
used either alone or in combination, the microprocessor-based ABB relay type Switchsync and
PEXLINK Line Arresters could be substituted instead.
The "intelligent" Switchsync relay makes it
possible to connect the load to the network
at a predetermined instant, which gives
optimum transient suppression.

Fig. 59
Switchsync and CAT
relays in conjunction

PEXLIM silicone-housed surge arresters

(forming part of the PEXLINK concept),
located at line ends and along the line at
selected points, function to limit switching
surge overvoltages and thus line insulation
requirements. To locate arresters along the
line has previously not been a practical
solution due to the fact that only porcelainhoused arresters with high discharge
energy capability have been available. Now
with lightweight polymer-housed arresters
available for use even on EHV systems, a
very efficient overvoltage control along long
transmission lines is possible.
Different line and switching configurations
lend themselves to one or more stand alone
solution, or a combination. Switchsync
and/or PEXLINK will, in most cases, provide
a cost effective, more reliable and efficient
transients than pre-insertion resistors.
More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
Technical Information document Application guidelines for transmission line switching
overvoltage control and ABB brochure PEXLINK: Transmission-line protection for
disturbance-free system operation.

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12.5 Shunt capacitor banks

Shunt capacitor banks are used to an increasing extent at all voltage levels. Three-phase
capacitor bank sizes vary from a few tenths of MVAr to several hundreds of MVAr, with both
ungrounded wye and grounded wye banks in use.
It is common practice today to use restrike-free breakers. However, since many banks are
switched on a daily basis, the probability of obtaining high transients associated with capacitor
switching increases. Furthermore, the standardized procedure to verify that the breaker is
restrike-free includes only a limited number of tests. The use of arresters in this application not
only gives protection if a restrike does occur, but also decreases the probability of multiple
restrikes since the trapped charge on the capacitors is reduced.
Generally speaking, capacitor protection by surge arresters has been a difficult task before ZnO
arresters became available. The high discharge currents and possible energies associated with
an arrester operation at a capacitor bank heavily stressed the spark gaps in a SiC gapped
arrester. The possible high energies could also result in overstressed SiC blocks. Once a
sparkover occurred, the arrester which sparked-over had to discharge the whole energy stored
in the capacitor bank and also carry a power-frequency follow current before a resealing at the
next voltage zero was possible.
With the introduction of ZnO surge arresters, it is possible to meet any energy demand by
simply paralleling the necessary number of blocks, even if the procedure to ensure current
sharing is quite sophisticated.
Many capacitor banks are operated without surge arresters. However, there are a variety of
beneficial reasons to install arresters:

To prevent capacitor failures at a breaker restrike or failure

To limit the risk of repeated breaker restrikes
To prolong the service life of the capacitors by limiting high overvoltages
To serve as an insurance against unforeseen resonance conditions which otherwise
would lead to capacitor failures
For overall limitation of transients related to capacitor bank switching which can be
transferred further in the system and cause disturbances in sensitive equipment
For upgrading of capacitors by preventing high overvoltages and/or for increasing the
service voltage
To serve as protection against lightning for capacitor banks and filters connected to lines

More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
Technical Information document Guidelines for selection of surge arresters for shunt
capacitor banks.

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12.6 Series Compensation (SC) and Static Var Compensation (SVC)

Series capacitors have been applied for more than 50 years on EHV transmission lines in order
to increase the possible power transfer and improve the transient and steady state stability of
the power transmission system. The ever-growing need for electrical power, high costs and
difficulties to obtain right-of-way for new lines, together with the availability of ZnO varistors as
highly effective overvoltage protection, have resulted in a boom for series compensation in the
last decade.
In addition to the old, but still valid, arguments for series compensation, the possibilities to use
adjustable capacitors for load-flow control and balanced loading between parallel lines make
series compensation even more interesting for the future.
An extremely vital component for the series compensation scheme is its overvoltage protection.
Historically, it comprised a single spark gap (for moderate demands on capacitor reinsertion
speed) or a dual spark gap protective scheme (for faster reinsertion or other tougher
requirements). With the availability of ZnO varistors, the protective schemes have been further
improved by using the varistors in parallel with the spark gaps, and ultimately even without the
spark gaps. This has led to simple and robust protection with ultra-fast re-insertion speeds, low
re-insertion transients and low protection levels.
Modern all-film capacitors have low losses, but their overvoltage withstand capability is less
than that for the old type of paper-film capacitors. This leads to requirements of low protection
levels to obtain an economical capacitor design. Low protection levels, however, may be difficult
to achieve with spark gaps alone, since reinsertion transients can give unwanted gap
operations. With ZnO varistors, this problem is easily solved and, in addition, the reinsertion of
the capacitor will be instantaneous as soon as the voltage across the capacitor decreases
below the conduction knee-point of the ZnO varistor. The spark gap is used as overload
protection for the varistor and is also usually used to quickly by-pass the capacitor/varistor for
internal faults in order to limit the necessary design energy capability for the varistor. For higher
protection levels, it may be necessary to use two gaps in series. With further improvements in
varistor energy capability and faster by-pass breakers, it is possible in most cases to dispense
completely with the spark gaps.
More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
Technical Information document Overvoltage protection of series capacitors.
Static Var Compensation (SVC) schemes often require arresters with energy capability
exceeding that provided by a single ZnO column. However, they are much smaller than those
for SC schemes. Standard surge arresters (EXLIM and PEXLIM) are normally easily adapted to
cope with these requirements after due consideration to ensure adequate current and energy

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12.7 HVDC arresters

Surge arresters are applied in many different locations within a HVDC
scheme, where the normal service voltage waveforms differ widely - from
pure power frequency and DC voltages to mixed wave-shapes with
commutation overshoots.
The introduction of ZnO-technology had a great impact on the insulation
coordination for HVDC-converter stations. With gapless ZnO arresters, it has
been possible to reduce drastically the protective levels, especially as the
coordinating cases originate from internal faults and/or switching events.
These result in rather low discharge currents (some kA) compared to the
usually considered lightning currents (tens of kA) for general AC applications.
ABB pioneered the worlds first gapless ZnO DC arrester, with a DC-line
arrester installed in the Skagerrak HVDC transmission between Norway and
Denmark, and has subsequently built on this success to gain extensive
unique experience in this extremely specialized field.
More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is
available in the ABB Technical Information document Overvoltage
protection of HVDC-Converter stations.

Fig. 60
UHVDC arrester

12.8 Current sharing considerations

To meet very high energy requirements, parallel columns of ZnO blocks have to be used in
surge arresters, and/or several arresters in parallel, so as to share the current and thus the
energy. Typical high energy applications are protection of series capacitors and arresters used
in HVDC schemes, with as many as 400 parallel columns of high energy varistors having been
commissioned. However, even more traditional applications sometimes warrant the use of
parallel columns, where the energy demands are beyond the capability of a single column
With ZnO arresters, the energy capability can be increased to meet
any possible energy requirements by simply adding sufficiently
many parallel columns; provided that no series or parallel spark
gaps are used. To make full use of this benefit of ZnO arresters,
however, it is necessary to ensure a good current, and thereby
energy, sharing between the parallel columns. The columns can be
mounted all in the same housing or in separate housings,
depending on the necessary number of block columns. For special
cases it can also be necessary to ensure that several different
arresters share the energy in order to avoid overloading of the
arresters. Such matched arresters have to be specially requested,
since standard arresters may not necessarily achieve full current
sharing. Whenever multi-columns are supplied, additional routine
testing is required to verify adequate current and energy sharing
between each column.

Fig. 61
Multi-column, high
energy application

More information on the selection of surge arresters for this application is available in the ABB
Technical Information document Current sharing considerations.

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International Standards and Guides
IEC 60060-1
IEC 60068-2-11
IEC 60068-2-14
IEC 60068-2-42
IEC 60071-1
IEC 60071-2
IEC 60099-1
IEC 60099-4
IEC 60099-5
IEC 60507
IEC 60815 -1,2,3
IEC 61166
IEC 61462
IEC TS 62073


American National Standards

IEEE C62.11
IEEE C62.22
IEEE 693


High-voltage test techniques. Part 1: General definitions and test requirements

Environmental testing - Part 2: Tests. Test Ka: Salt mist
Environmental testing - Part 2: Tests. Test N: Change of temperature
Environmental testing - Part 2: Tests. Test Kc: Sulphur dioxide test for contacts
and connections
Insulation co-ordination - Part 1: Definitions, principles and rules
Insulation co-ordination - Part 2: Application guide
Surge arresters - Part 1: Non-linear resistor type gapped surge arresters for a.c. systems
Surge arresters - Part 4: Metal-oxide surge arresters without gaps for a.c. systems
Surge arresters - Part 5: Selection and application recommendations
Artificial pollution tests on high-voltage insulators to be used on a.c. systems
Selection & dimensioning of high-voltage insulators intended for use in polluted conditions
High-voltage alternating current circuit-breakers - Guide for seismic qualification
of high-voltage alternating current circuit-breakers
Composite insulators - Hollow insulators for use in outdoor and indoor electrical
equipment - Definitions, test methods, acceptance criteria and design recommendations
Guidance on the measurement of wettability of insulator surfaces

IEEE Standard for Metal-Oxide Surge Arresters for AC Power Circuits (>1 kV)
IEEE Guide for the Application of Metal-Oxide Surge Arresters for
Alternating-Current Systems
Recommended Practices for Seismic Design of Substations

Cigr Technical Brochures and Guides

Cigr Technical Brochure 57, The paper oil insulated measurement transformer, 1990
Cigr Technical Brochure No. 60, Metal Oxide Surge Arresters in AC Systems, 1991
Cigr Technical Brochure No. 63, Guide to Procedures for Estimating the Lightning Performance of
Transmission Lines, 1991
Cigr WG33.11 Task Force 6, Application Procedures for Station and Overhead Line Insulation Coordination,
Flashovers of open circuit breakers caused by lightning strokes, 1997


ABB Technical Information and brochures

1HSA 954312-10en

High Voltage Surge Arresters Buyers Guide

Selection Guide for ABB HV Surge Arresters
Application guidelines for station protection
Application Guidelines for Transmission Line Switching Overvoltage Control
Guidelines for selection of surge arresters for shunt capacitor banks
Physical properties of zinc oxide varistors
Voltage grading of EXLIM and PEXLIM surge arresters
Insulation withstand and clearances with EXLIM and PEXLIM surge arresters
Current sharing considerations
Overvoltage protection of HVDC-Converter stations
Overvoltage protection of series capacitors
Silicone rubber in outdoor insulators
PEXLINK: Transmission-line protection for disturbance-free system operation

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STRI AB, Guide 1, 92/1, Hydrophobicity Classification Guide


A.R. Hileman, Insulation Coordination for Power Systems, Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1999


M. Mobedjina, L. Stenstrm, Improved Transmission Line Performance using Polymer-housed Surge

Arresters, presented at CEPSI Seminar, Manila, October 23-27, 2000


M. Mobedjina, L. Stenstrm, Limitation of Switching Overvoltages by use of Transmission Line Surge

Arresters, Cigr SC-33 International Conference, Zagreb, 1998, Technical Paper P.30


L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist, Selection, Dimensioning and Testing of Line Surge Arresters, presented at the
Cigr International Workshop on Line Surge Arresters and Lightning, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 24 -26, 1996


L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist, Energy Stress on Transmission Line Arresters Considering the Total Lightning
Charge Distribution, presented at the IEEE/PES Transmission and Distribution Conference and Exposition,
Los Angeles, September 15-20, 1996


M. Mobedjina, B. Johnnerfelt, L. Stenstrm, Design and Testing of Polymer-housed Surge Arresters,

presented at GCC Cigr 9th Symposium Abu Dhabi, October 28-29, 1998


L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist. New Polymer-housed ZnO Arrester for High Energy Applications. Cigr 1994
Session August 28 to September 3, Technical Paper 33-202


S. Vitet, L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist. Thermal Stress on ZnO Surge Arresters in Polluted Conditions Part I:
Laboratory test methods, presented IEEE, PES 1991 T&D Conference and Exposition, Dallas, Texas
September 22-27, 1991


S. Vitet, A. Schei, L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist. Thermal Behaviour of ZnO Surge Arresters in Polluted
Conditions Part II: Field test results. presented IEEE, PES 1991 T&D Conference and Exposition, Dallas,
Texas September 22-27, 1991


S. Vitet, M. Louis, A. Schei, L. Stenstrm, J. Lundquist. Thermal Behaviour of ZnO Surge Arresters in
Polluted Conditions. Cigr 1994 Session August 30 to September 5, Technical Paper 33-208


J. Lundquist, L. Stenstrm, A. Schei, B. Hansen, New method for measurement of the resistive leakage
currents of metal-oxide surge arresters in service, presented at IEEE SM, Long Beach, California, July 9-14,


L. Gutman, L. Stenstrm, D. Gustavsson, D. Windmar, W.L. Vosloo. Optimized use of HV composite

apparatus insulators: field experience from coastal and inland test stations. Cigr 2004 Session, Technical
Paper A3-104


R.P.P. Smeets, H. Barts, W.A.Van Der Linden, L.Stenstrm. Modern ZnO surge arresters under short-circuit
current stresses: Test experiences and critical review of the IEC Standard. Cigr 2004 Session, Technical
Paper A3-105


C. Neumann, V. Aschendorff, G. Balzer, H. Gartmair, E. Kynast, V. Rees, Performance of the switched gap of
SF6-HV circuit-breakers stressed by lightning overvoltages, Cigr 1996 Session, Technical Paper 13-102.


S. Narita, A. Sawada, H. Watanabe, B. Johnnerfelt, L. Strenstrm, Design and testing of polymer-housed

surge arresters with special emphasis on seismic stresses and selection of specific creepage in coastal
areas, Cigr Tokyo, 2005, Technical Paper A3-108.


J. Taylor, ABB Power Products, Ludvika, Sweden, Short circuit behaviour Surge arresters and counters,
presented at INMR world congress and exhibition, Brazil, May 13 -16, 2007.


L. Stenstrm, J. Taylor, F. Persson, N.T. Osiptsov, Installation of LSA on a 400kV double-circuit line in
Russia, presented at Cigr colloquium Application of Line Surge Arresters in Power Distribution and
Transmission Systems, Cavtat 2008


ABB AB, High Voltage Products, Ludvika, Sweden, Mechanical testing and demands on HV surge arresters,
June 2008

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Product Guide 2009 edition

HV Components
Surge Arresters
SE-771 80 LUDVIKA, Sweden
Tel. +46 (0)240 78 20 00
Fax. +46 (0)240 179 83

Publication SWG/AK 97-50en


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