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2012 Paris Session

A3 - 205

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Condition Assessment of EHV class Circuit Breakers using

Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement Technique
N.S.Sodha, Sanjeev Singh, S.Victor, R.K.Tyagi
Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, India
Email id:



Circuit Breakers (CBs) are the most critical switching elements in Power System. They are the only
means of interrupting fault currents in EHV Transmission system. Fast and Secure fault
interruption is critical not only to the protection of Transmission System Equipments but also to
overall operational stability of power system. CBs are required to interrupt rated current under
loaded conditions and up to rated symmetrical/ asymmetrical fault currents under fault conditions.
Interrupting large fault currents at high voltages involves high thermal and dielectric withstand
stresses being placed on a circuit breaker. In POWERGRID network, about 2700 Nos. of 800kV,
400kV, 220kV & 132kV Circuit Breakers are in service at various substations. Age of these
breakers is upto 27 years depending on date of commissioning of various Substations. There have
been failures of about 75 nos. EHV Class CBs due to various reasons and largely due to
mechanical failures of various components. However, about 11 nos. circuit breakers have failed
due to high dielectric stresses during inductive & capacitive switching duties. The failures of
components of CBs like bell crank lever, loosening of coupling bolt, loosening of various nuts &
bolts in the moving contact assembly have led to contact misalignment and subsequently contact
erosion. The misalignment and contact erosion led to burning of contact fingers and ultimate
failure of CBs. Some of the CB failures were on account of mal-operation of operating mechanism.
Generally manufacturers recommend overhauling inspection of circuit breakers after about 10
years of service or at specific number of operations. As EHV network breaker operations are not
very frequent, it is expected that no special care is required for the interrupting chambers of the
Circuit Breakers in normal circumstances for a minimum of 10 years. However, in POWERGRID,
there have been failures of breakers due to damages in components in the interrupting chambers
much before 10 years i.e. before carrying out the first major overhaul. An exercise was carried out
in POWERGRID to open few breakers before completion of 10 years service life and defects were
noticed in the components. In contrast, few circuit breakers were opened for internal inspection
after about 17-20 years of service and no abnormality was noticed in the components indicating the
health of the Circuit Breakers. In view of the above, it was considered prudent to develop
condition monitoring technique which can assess healthiness of contact assembly including arcing
contact and other components of circuit breakers. Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement
(DCRM) was considered to be the appropriate method for condition assessment of circuit breaker
components in addition to other condition assessment tests.

In DCRM test, contact resistance of main and arcing contacts is measured during closing and
opening (CO) operation. The travel of the Circuit Breaker is also measured using a separate travel
transducer to get additional information such as main and arcing contact insertion, contact speed,
contact travel etc. This method was introduced in POWERGRID in 1998-99 for 400kV & 220kV
Circuit Breakers. This has so far proved very useful tool for condition assessment of circuit
breakers. About 80 nos. defective circuit breakers have been identified and rectified at initial stage
of deterioration so far using DCRM technique which otherwise would have failed. Now with the
development of multi-channel DCRM kit, the technique is adopted for 765kV breakers also. The
defects observed were loose coupling bolts, nuts, loose arcing contact, misalignment, breakage of
levers etc. Apart from this, the decision regarding internal inspection and overhauling of circuit
breaker is taken based on DCRM signature evaluation and not as per number of operations or any
fixed time. In POWERGRID, there are about 1000 nos. of circuit breakers out of total about
2700nos EHV class Circuit Breakers which have completed 10 years of service. As per
manufacturers guidelines, all these CBs require major overhaul. Since DCRM test has been
extensively used for condition assessment of these CBs, the decision regarding overhaul or internal
inspection is taken only on the basis of evaluation of DCRM signatures. In this paper, technical
details of Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement (DCRM), experience of POWERGRID in
implementation of DCRM and benefits derived are brought out with few case studies.
Interruption, Switching, Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement, Travel transducer, Signature,


Interrupters of EHV class Circuit Breakers normally have Arcing and Main current carrying
contacts. During close condition, both main and arcing contacts are in close position and
system current flows through main contacts. When CB undergoes Close-Open operation, arcing
contacts close first then main contacts are closed during closing operation while during opening of
the CB, main contacts open first followed by arcing contacts. Hence, heating and ablation of
contacts due to pre-arcing or post arcing takes place in which Arcing Contacts undergo erosion.
The contact resistance of main contacts is very low around 30-40 whereas arcing contacts
have about 5001000 . Conventional contact resistance measurement indicates condition of main contacts and
erosion and wear of arcing contacts are not reflected.
Hence manufacturers recommend opening of the CB interrupter for major inspection either after a
fixed interval or based on number of CB operations. As most of the EHV breakers do not operate
very frequently, they need to be opened after a fixed interval, say 10 years. Based on such
recommendation, few CB interrupters were opened for trial internal inspection. It was found that
main contacts were found without any erosion (Exhibit- 1&2).

Moving Contact after 17 years of operation

Fixed Contact after 17 years of operation

In contrast, there were few CB failures due to erosion of main

contacts even before the prescribed inspection periods (Exhibit-3).
Some CBs interrupters were opened after about 7 years and found
that the contacts were eroded due to arcing. Normal CB operating
time measurements and static contact resistance measurement
could not detect these defects. Efforts were made to develop
Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement (DCRM) kit, which
was then trial tested in field and gradually implemented as a
routine condition-monitoring test for EHV circuit breakers.

Erosion of Fixed Contact after 7

In DCRM test, 100Amp DC current is injected across the break of the CB and Close-Open
operation is carried out. As soon as CB closes and contact resistance in dynamic condition of the
CB is recorded by measurement of milli-volt drop across CB contacts. Contact resistance of arcing
and main contacts is plotted along with the current injected. The variations in the measured
resistance versus time signature will be seen as a finger print for the breaker contacts and can be
used as benchmark for comparing with future measurements on the same breaker. This provides
information on the condition of the breaker contacts and associated mechanism. Each break of the
CB may have different DCRM signature and therefore data bank of test results is must from precommissioning stage but normally signature of a particular make of CBs are comparable. A typical
DCRM schematic is given in Figure-I.

Figure-1 Measurement Schematic

Measurements are recorded with a resolution of 100 s to record resistance values with precision
as well to record transfer of current from arcing to main contacts and vice versa. This requirement
is vital for computing arcing contact insertion. The time interval between Close and Trip operation
is kept 300ms to have a reasonably good signature. A separate travel transducer is also inserted in
the moving operating mechanism of the breaker to capture the movement of the Circuit Breaker.
The travel graph superimposed over the resistance and injected current graphs help in determining
the length of the arcing and main contact insertion, total contact travel, healthiness of damping
mechanism and speed at which the breaker closed/ opened. The Analyzer has six analog channels,
which may be used for recording contact resistance, trip/ close coil currents, injected current and
contact travel etc.
A typical DCRM signature/ plot is given in Figure-2. As indicated in Figure-2, contact resistance is
high when CB is in open condition and after closing of the CB, resistance drops down to a very low
value. Initially, contact resistance of arcing contacts is recorded and after 5-8 ms, resistance of
main contact is recorded which is almost equal to static contact resistance value. Similarly during
trip operation, before opening of the CB contacts, resistance values of arcing contact is recorded
after opening of the main contact. From the graph, length of arcing contact is also computed which
may be helpful in assessing erosion of arcing contacts.
Test kit uses typical analyzer (with sampling frequency of 10kHz), 100 Amperes DC current
injection source and PC with two serial and one parallel ports. For Analysis of DCRM signatures, a
window based software was developed which can record DCRM signatures. Recorded data/ files
are communicated to remote Control Centers/ offices through Internet/ Intranet.

Figure-2 Typical DCRM Signature


DCRM Signature Analysis

DCRM is a signature analysis and it comes with an analysis software where facilities are available
to do all necessary measurements from the graph, zoom a portion of the graph for ease of
measurement using cursors and superimpose earlier signature to find deviations. It is our
experience that any minor defect in Circuit Breaker gets amplified in the signature and that makes
the analysis simple even earlier signatures are not available. Apart from the crucial information on
contact condition, following defects in CBs can be detected by analysis of the DCRM signatures:


Contact misalignments
Contact wipe of main and arcing contact
Erosion of Arcing Contact
Erosion of main contact
Healthiness of linkage mechanism
Main & arcing contact resistance
Healthiness of damping system
Contact travel & speed
Misalignment of moving contact assembly
Misalignment of piston of the driving mechanism & operating rod
Mechanical integrity of various components.

A typical analysis and the measurements that can be carried out on the DCRM graph are presented
below. Normally the closing and tripping signatures are very important for the analysis:

Figure-3 Measurements on DCRM Signature

DCRM signatures are unique for a particular make of Circuit Breaker. The shape of DCRM
signature depends on the contact configuration, contact wipe, type of operating mechanism and
other parameters like contact speed etc. Analysis of DCRM signatures requires a little knowledge
of circuit breaker design, operating mechanism, interrupter assembly etc. to conclude the cause.

Figure-4 Analysis of DCRM Signature

The complete cycle of close-trip operation of circuit breaker can be co-related with the DCRM
signatures as given in Figure-4. In the DCRM signature, operating drive travel, injected current,
contact resistance variations are shown. After the gap of about 300ms, trip operation is initiated

and arcing & main contact separation is indicated. Various points are marked on the travel graph
for ease of explanation.
Point A to B:
Closing command is given to the circuit breaker at point A. The plunger of closing coil operates
various valves so that hydraulic/pneumatic/ spring pressure is applied to the operating piston of the
operating mechanism and operating rod starts moving upward. The graph between A to B indicates
time taken for actuation of closing coil, control valve etc. till movement of operating rod takes
place. The time taken between A to B will indicate proper functioning of various components of
Point B to C:
At point B operating rod starts moving upward which in-turn moves arcing and main contacts in
interrupter housing. Initially arcing contact closes at point C where current injected. The time taken
between B to C will indicate healthiness of operating mechanism.
Point C to D:
At point C, insertion of arcing contact takes place. Dynamic contact resistance plotted along with
travel and injected current indicates condition of arcing contacts. In-case of healthy arcing contacts,
there will not be abnormal bounces in the resistance values of arcing contacts. At point D, main
contacts will close and resistance will reduce.
Point D to E:
At point D, main contact closes as the contact resistance reduces further. However, there may be
some bounces at the time of contact touch. Main contact insertion will continue till point E where
circuit breaker will be in fully closed position.
Point E to F:
From point E to point F, the circuit breaker remains in closed condition for almost 300ms as per the
set time delay. During this period the resistance value should remain almost constant with no
bounces. This period is required for damping of vibrations.
Point F to G:
At point F, trip command is extended to the circuit breaker trip coil. Trip coil plunger will actuate
various levers/valves to move the piston of the driving mechanism. The time taken from F to G
indicates proper functioning of various components of tripping assembly.
Point G to H:
At point G, operating rod starts moving downwards, till opening of main contacts at point H. From
point G to H, moving contacts start gliding by the pull of operating rod.
Point H to I:
At point H, main contact opens and only arcing contacts remain in closed position. The signature
between H to I indicates, healthiness of arcing contacts. Any abnormal bounces during this period
indicate erosion or misalignment of arcing contacts.
Point I to J:
At point I, arcing contact opens and resistance value becomes high. Operating rod continues
moving downwards pulling along moving contact assembly till full opening of circuit breaker
contacts. The time taken between I to J indicates healthiness of operating mechanism.

Thus by carrying out the analysis a complete picture of the Circuit Breaker is known. As closing of
circuit breaker is slower than tripping, more information is recorded during closing operation. We
shall present few typical case studies below to understand how the DCRM signature has helped in
identification of breaker trouble.

Case Studies

DCRM technique is being used in POWERGRID for Circuit Breaker Condition Assessment for
over 12 years and several breakers have been opened based on DCRM Signature analysis and
defects have been identified. Few typical examples are presented here.

Case Study-1

When DCRM test on Circuit Breaker was carried out in May 2007 abnormality in signature was
observed in one end of a Circuit Breaker as shown below:

Defective Y Pole Line

Figure-5 Healthy Y Pole Bus end

Figure-6 Defective Y Pole Line End

As only one end of the interrupter has shown abnormal signature, that interrupter was taken for
investigation. The interrupter was opened and all the components were inspected carefully. The
coupling bolt assembly which connect the link to the moving contact was found loose and came out
of the threaded grew and loose screw and scratch marks on the bus end interrupter were also
noticed in the internal inspection as shown in the picture below:

Exhibit-4 Loose Coupling Bolt

Exhibit-5 Loose screw

All the defects were attended in that interrupter and assembled and put back into service. The
DCRM signature taken after rectification has shown a clear signature indicating the healthiness of
the interrupter assembly. The defects were not detected by any of the other normal condition
assessment tests but have not missed the DCRM signature test. Before introduction of the DCRM
test, few CBs have blasted due the loosening of coupling bolts in our system.


Case Study-2

A strange DCRM signature was obtained when tested a Circuit Breaker on B phase CT side. The
Isolator end signature was normal. Both the signatures are presented below:

Abnormal Signature

Figure-7 Isolator end DCRM

Figure-8 CT end DCRM

The close up zoomed graph on the closing of the Circuit breaker is inserted for better clarity. It is
noted here that the current channel gives an abnormality indicating that when the contact touches
each other, there developed a very high resistance that the full 100A current could not be injected
through the arcing contact. When the main contact touched each other, then normal current was
injected. From the analysis it indicated that there is problem with the arcing contact which requires
opening of the interrupting chamber for rectification. The breaker was taken up for immediate
On opening it was noticed that there was not much erosion on the arcing moving contact but
erosion of the arcing contact fingers was noticed as it was found loose as shown in the pictures

Exhibit-6 Erosion of arcing contact fingers

Exhibit-7 Loose contacts leading to arcing

The loose finger contact was not in a position to pass the full current. If this problem is left in the
breaker, the breaker may not behave properly during fault clearing as the fault current will produce
enormous heating on the arcing contact due to the high resistance and leads to failure of circuit
breaker. The rectification was carried out by replacing the arcing contact and the DCRM signature
after the rectification has become normal.


Case Study-3

The 400kV SF6 make Circuit Breaker was commissioned in the year 2003 in one of the Substation
of POWERGRID. DCRM signature was taken during commissioning and found to be normal. In
one of the measurement after about five years in operation, the R&B phase signatures were found
normal but the Y phase signature was found distorted on both the line side and the bus side which
are produced below:

Figure-9 Y Phase Bus end

Figure-10 Y Phase Line end

As the signatures of both the line and bus end indicated problem the search was made on the
common parts for the pole. On the measurement of the contact wipe by slow manual closing of the
circuit breaker the total contact wipe was found to be 21mm as against 27-28mm. This means that
the main contact was not actually closing fully to make proper contact. If this is left in use the
contact may develop heating and leading to failure. The adjustment was carried out at site and the
total wipe was made 28mm. DCRM was carried out after the adjustment and the signatures were
found normal.
Similar incident was also reported in one of the Circuit Breaker after the site overhauling was
carried out in another location. There was much reluctance from the manufacturer in accepting that
there is problem as the overhauling was carried out by them. The total wipe of the contact was
found 16.8 mm as against 28mm. The wipe was adjusted and the signature became same that of
other poles.

Detection of defective assembly at Manufacturers works

DCRM test has also been implemented at circuit breaker manufacturers works. This test is
routinely carried out for all circuit breakers purchased by POWERGRID to have initial signature.
As reported, DCRM test has proved very effective in detection of the following defects at
manufacturer works:


Assembly mistake like fitting of 31.5kA arcing contact in place of 40kA arcing contact
Loose contact assembly due to improper torque
Misalignment of contact assembly
Fitting of 220kV arcing contact assembly in place of 400kV arcing contact assembly

In Exhibit-8, a 31.5kA arcing contact has been fitted in place of 40kA arcing contact. This was
detected by DCRM test at manufacturer works.

Exhibit-8 Wrong assembly of arcing contact

Use of DCRM technique at manufacturers works has helped in detection of defects before
dispatch of the circuit breakers to site. DCRM technique has also helped manufacturers in
improving manufacturing quality like proper assembly of various components, applying adequate
torque while fixing nuts and bolts, etc.


Dynamic Contact Resistance Measurement for Circuit Breakers is one of the fine tools for
Condition Assessment of Circuit Breakers. If adopted along with other tests on Circuit Breakers
shall help in identifying defects which otherwise are not detected unless an internal inspection is
carried out on the Circuit Breaker. Besides bringing down the failure rate of Circuit Breakers
considerably, there is also a huge financial savings to POWERGRID as overhauling of Circuit
Breakers are not carried out periodically but based on condition.
The authors are thankful to POWERGRID for granting permission for publishing this paper, however the
views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the company.




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