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In-Service Testing and Diagnosis of

Gapless Metal Oxide Surge Arresters

According to IEC60099-5
Overview of presentation

Motivation for condition monitoring of metal

oxide surge arresters (MOSA)
The Surge arrester life
Service experience
Examples of arrester failures
Characteristic properties of MOSA (ZnO)-
Aging and causes of failure
Consequences of failure transformer
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Overview of presentation contd.

Surge arrester condition assessment

IEC 60099-5 about Diagnostic indicators of
metal oxide surge arresters in service
Monitoring equipment and field application for
third harmonic analysis with compensation
Testing strategy and risk assessment
Case studies

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Background and Motivation

The Metal Oxide Surge Arrester (MOSA) is a

cheap and passive component, but protecting
crucial apparatus.
Overlooked despite severe consequences if it
MOSAs can age and fail due for a number of
different reasons.
May offer inadequate overvoltage protection,
especially if the rated voltage is selected too low.
Diagnostic indicator: Resistive leakage current
increases with time increasing risk for failure.
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Power System Overview
Typical Location of Surge Arresters

Typical location of
surge arresters:

In substations
At the end of
transmission lines
At cable ends
At transformers,
generators, capacitors

Location depending on
voltage level,
equipment and local

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The Surge Arrester Life
The normal destiny of the surge arrester is to be:
specified, purchased, installed
- and forgotten
Most common maintenance practice:
No testing of surge arresters
Only replacement after breakdown.
surge arresters are inexpensive
no big deal to replace!!!

Is this really an acceptable practice?

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The Surge Arrester Life

Why care about surge arresters?

1. The arrester is your bodyguard for
protecting important apparatus against
the overvoltage terrorists
2. You cannot see if an arrester is bad,
but you can measure it.
The big question is:
Are the arresters fit for fight?

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Surge Arrester
Service Experiences

Failure rate depending on arrester quality,

dimensioning and local conditions
Typical failure effects on arresters:
Explosion and external damages
visual detection
Puncturing and causing earth fault -
indicated by earth fault relay, can be
difficulty to locate
Aged arrester with reduced protection
level cannot be found without
checking the arrester
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Failure of 400kV Surge Arrester

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Failed Arrester
hanging with Bus Pipe

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Shattered Pieces of
Surge Arrester Stacks

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Damaged Surge Monitor and shattered Pieces of
Arrester stack

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Another failed Surge Arrester

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MoreFailure of Surge Arrester

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Surge Arrester Properties

Main objectives:
Protect important apparatus against
dangerous overvoltages
Low resistance during surges so that
overvoltages are limited
High resistance during normal operation, to
avoid negative effects on the power system
Sufficient energy absorption capability for
stable operation

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Equivalent Circuit Diagrams

SiC Arrester MO Arrester

spark gap
and RC
control MO

SiC discharge

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Voltage Current Characteristics
MOSA (ZnO) and SiC Arresters

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Thermal Instability

Thermal instability and arrester failure can occur at

operating voltage in case the temperature of the blocks
is too high.

MOSA must be correctly selected with respect to:

o continuous operating voltage
o different kinds of overvoltages
o ambient temperature
o pollution
o ageing

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Total Power Dissipation Accumulated of
Sequence of Incidents in the Network

1. A lightning strike causes a discharge in a

2. The lightning causes an earth fault in the
3. Single line to earth fault causes voltage
increases on the two healthy phases
4. The earth is disconnected by a circuit
5. Disconnection of the fault can cause
increased TOV due to load dropping
6. Circuit breaker reclosing cause additional
arrester energy due to switching
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Critical factors to avoid failure

Rated voltage must be chosen high enough based on:

- Normal operation conditions

- Ambient temperature
- Continuous voltage
- Surface contamination
- Ageing
- Accumulated energy from previous discharges

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The choice of MOSA is always a compromise

Increased nominal/rated voltage:

Possibility that the MOSA will withstand the
stress increases
Reduced protection margin

Arresters with higher energy class:

reduced risk for arrester failure
Price increases

The choice of MOSA is a compromise between protection
level, voltage withstand and energy absorption

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Design of Porchelain-MOSA
eks. Cooper Power Systems

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Design of Polymeric-MOSA (ABB)

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Ageing of MOSA
Normal operating voltage causes ageing
Pollution and overvoltage surges can cause ageing
from overloading of all or some of the blocks
Moisture entry through sealing gaskets, may lead to
shorting of ZnO discs and overstressing of healthy
ZnO blocks.
Degree of ageing depends on the nature/ quality of
the granular layer.
Increase in resistive leakage current may bring the
arrester to thermal instability and complete
arrester breakdown.
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Metal Oxide Surge Arresters
- Causes for Failure
Incorrect arrester specification corresponding to
actual system voltage and overvoltage stress
Overloading due to:
Temporary overvoltages (cracking, puncturing).
Switching overvoltages (cracking, puncturing,
Lightning overvoltages (change of
characteristic/ageing, flashover, puncturing).
External pollution or moisture penetration .
Consequence of aging: Increase in the continuous resistive
leakage current .

This is a good indicator of the arrester condition.

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Consequences of Arrester Failures

Reduced overvoltage protection

- Increased risk of equipment failure and
outages for instance breakdown in
transformer, bushings, switchgear

Possible break-down of porcelain housings:

- Risk of personal injury
- Risk of damage to other equipment

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Reasons for Transformer Failures

The US insurance company HSB

reports, as reasons for transformer
Electrical disturbances: 29%
Lightning: 16%

Has the arrester done its job?

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YES -Transformers Do Fail

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YES -Transformers Do Fail

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Possibilities for Surge Arrester
Condition Assessment

SiC - Arresters with spark gaps:

No reliable in-service method available off-line tests:
Spark-over test and grading current measurement
Dielectric loss (the Doble test)

Metal oxide surge arresters without gaps:

In service tests are possible
On line tests:
Continuous leakage current during normal service.
Available in-service methods discussed in Amendment
1 to IEC 60099-5: Diagnostic indicators for metal
oxide surge arresters in service.

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Why Condition Assessment of
Surge Arresters?

Condition check performed on regular basis will:

Increase the safety for the operational and maintenance


Give early warning signals utilize life time and take

aged arresters out of service before they fail.

Prevent costly arrester failures and service interruptions.

Prevent damages to other equipment,

e.g. transformer bushings.

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IEC 60099-5 Part 5:
Selection and Application Recommendation

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Methods for Monitoring of degradation of MOSA
Visual inspection
Locating external abnormalities on the arrester and gives
practically no information about the internal of the arrester
Surge counters
Frequently installed on MOSA, but has no practical use for
diagnosis of condition of the arresters
Temperature measurements Thermo Vision
Frequently used method. Detects the increased block
temperature on the housing surface of the arrester.
Leakage current measurements
Most used diagnostic method. For in-service testing, the
method with indirect determination of the resistive leakage
current with compensation for harmonics in the voltage
(THRC) is providing the best available information quality
with respect to diagnostic efficiency.
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Conventional Surge Counters

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Modern Surge Counter

Mod. Mod.
1 2
- Number
- Time stamp
- Current amplitude classif.
- Total leakage current
- Resistive leakage current
(Method B2 - IEC 60099-5)

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Monitoring Spark Gaps, from TriDelta

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements


Ic: Ir:
0.2-3 mA 10-600A

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements

Measurement of the total leakage current



Ic: Ir:
0.2-3 10-600A
mA U
Ic = 100 Ic = 100

It = 100,5 It = 104,5

Ir = 10 Ir = 30

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements

Measurement of the total leakage current


The total leakage current

increases with only 4%
when the resistive part is
Ic = 100 Ic = 100

It = 100,5 It = 104,5 This small change in It is

difficult to read on the
mA meter.
Ir = 10 Ir = 30

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurement

IEC 60099-5, clause

At given values of voltage and temperature, the
resistive component of the leakage current is a
sensitive indicator of changes in the voltage-
current characteristic of non-linear metal-oxide
The resistive current can, therefore, be used as
a tool for diagnostic indication of changes in the
condition of metal-oxide arresters in service.
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Equivalent Circuit of MOSA

Ic in the same size as It.

Ir is nonlinear and depends on

It voltage level and
Ic: Ir: U sinusoidal (fundamental
0.2-3 10-600A
mA U component only): I1c, I1r, I3r
Harmonics in the operating
voltage U: I1c, I1r, I3r, I3c
I3r (and Ir) is generated by the
arrester itself and can be
used as a diagnostic

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Typical Voltage - Current

The resistive current

is typically 5-20% of the
total leakage current under
normal operating conditions.
is a sensitive indicator of
changes in the voltage-
current characteristic.
depends on the voltage and

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements
Method B1: 3rd harmonic analysis of leakage current:
IEC 60099-5 says: Error range for third harmonic leakage
current without compensation for different phase angles of
system voltage third harmonics:
Includes various
characteristics of no
linear metal-oxide
1% third harmonic in
voltage may give
100% measurement
(Norway: 0,1 0,9%

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements
Method B2: Harmonic analysis of leakage current
using third harmonic with compensation:
3rd harmonic analysis chosen is used as a basis to obtain
feasibility/reliability measurements in three-phase applications on-
Presences of harmonics in the operating voltage generate harmonic
capacitive leakage currents that is indirectly measured and
compensated for.
The key for compensation is application of field probe for indirect
measurement of the 3rd harmonic capacitive leakage current
generated by the operating voltage.
The total and true resistive leakage current Ir is calculated from I3r
and arrester data (incl. correction for temperature and voltage).

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IEC 60099-5:
Leakage Current Measurements

Weakness with Method B1: The presence of harmonics

in the system voltage have been a great problem since
these harmonics may interfere with the harmonics
generated by the nonlinear resistance of the arrester.

Favorable effect by Method B2: It introduces a field

probe that allows a compensation for the harmonic
currents generated by the harmonics in the voltage. This
implies that the method shows low sensitivity to
harmonics in the voltage.

Method B2: Measurement of resistive leakage current

using 3rd harmonic analysis with compensation for
harmonics in the system voltage.
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IEC 60099-5: Summary
Properties of on-site leakage current measurements:

A HV-DC test is
effective but off
line and complex

Method B2 is
ranked to be the
best field method
for evaluation of
ageing and
deterioration of

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IEC 60099-5:
Summary of Performance
Available diagnostic methods:
Measurement of total leakage current.
Poor sensitivity. Insufficient method.
Direct measurement of resistive leakage current.
Attractive, but not usable on site.
Method B1: 3rd harmonic analysis of the leakage
High sensitivity to harmonics in the voltage.

Method B2: 3rd order harmonic analysis of the leakage

current with compensation.
Ranked by IEC 60099-5 as most reliable on site.

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Deployment of LCM 500 accessories

1. Gapless MOSA
2. Insulated base
3. Grounding wire
The Field Probe should
NEVER exceed this limit 4. Clip-on CT500 it(t)
5. Counter
3 6. Field probe ip(t)
4 7. Arrester pedestal
5 8 9
6 8. Telescopic rod
9. LCM 500 unit

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Performance of testing

First of all connect

the instrument to

CCT should be
placed above any

FP should be placed
as close as possible
to the base of the
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Leakage Current Measurements
Requirements: Separate earth lead & insulated base for each arrester.

Short circuit of
insulated base
Electromagnetic will lead to
field can circulating
introduce current currents in the
in this loop. fundament and
the earth lead.

CCT = Clip-on Current Transformer

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Risk Assessment
Based on the level and development of resistive leakage
current Ir over time:
1. Trend analysis over time
In general look for increasing trend
Baseline reading when the arrester is new. If Ir
increases by 300-400%, this confirms severe ageing
2. Compare to maximum recommended values from
arrester manufacturers
3. Compare Ir for arresters of the same make and type:
The three phases in a line or bay
All arresters in the grid
4. Combination of step 1-3

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Risk Assessment
Steps in the final evaluation:
1. It and Ir are unrealistically high: Circulating
currents? Check the insulated base and arrester
2. Ir higher than expected: Temporary heating?
Consider to re-test in approx. 1 day to confirm
measured value.
3. Confirmed high reading of Ir: Monitor
continuously or proceed with step 4.
4. Contact arrester manufacturer and consider

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Testing Strategy
1. Classify all your MOSAs (name of substation, bay/line and
phase, nameplate data (manufacturer, type designation,
year/date of commissioning etc.), historical data/failure
rates, importance etc.).
2. Establish threshold levels/maximum recommended levels
for the resistive leakage current for each arrester type.
3. Define action limits (good condition, satisfactory, re-
test/monitor continuously, replace).
4. Define measurement regularity (normal, frequent,
monitor continuously, after special fault situations).
5. Define verification actions after replacement (laboratory
test, dissection/inspection).
6. Evaluate measurements, action limits, regularity of
measurements and verification tests to possibly improve the
testing strategy.

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Case studies

1. Measurements at a 420kV GIS

2. Measurements at a Petro-Chemical factory
3. Measurements at an Oil Refinery
4. Power Utility
5. 110kV Transmission line
6. City substation
7. 420kV Substation
8. Coastal site
9. 110kV substation

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Measurements at 420 kV GIS Substation (1/3)

Case 1: 24 arresters, type A, B and C - 420 kV

The utility wanted to assess the arrester conditions

because of surge arrester failures in the past.

Max. recommended leakage current values:

Type A = 167A (167 A = 100%)
Type B = 100A (100 A = 100%)
Type C = 675 A (675 A = 100%)

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Measurements at 420 kV GIS Substation (2/3)
420 kV MOSA at transmission utility
Type A: 100% ~ 165 A Type B: 100% ~ 165 uA
Resistive leakage current in percent


percent of max. recommended

of max. recommended (100%)

Resistive leakage current in

100 100

80 Bay 1 80
Bay 2 Bay 7
60 60
Bay 3 Bay 8
40 Bay 4 40

20 20

0 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6
Arrester number
C: 100% ~ 675 uA Arrester number
Resistive leakage current (uA)


Bay 5
Bay 6


1 2 3 4 5 6
Arrester number

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Measurements at 420 kV GIS Substation (3/3)

Measurements showed:
1 arrester of type C with app. 375% of max. recommended value
1 arrester of type A with app. 90% of max. Recommended value

The rest of the arresters had values from 70% and lower.

Conclusion: The two arresters showing the highest values

were replaced to reduce the risk of outages.
New measurement is recommended in one

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Measurement at a Petro-Chemical factory (1/1)

Case 2: 6 arresters, 145kV, installed 1984

Factory owner anxious due to:
very high production loss if outages
old arresters, condition unknown
Measurements showed:
2 units with app. 130%(Ir max rec.= 130A=100%)
3 units with app. 95%
1 unit with app. 70%

Conclusion: All 6 arresters were replaced to reduce

outage risk

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Measurement at a Oil Refinery (1/1)

Case 3: 6 arresters, 300kV, installed 1984

Refinery owner anxious due to:
old arresters, condition unknown
very high production loss if outages
Measurements gave:
2 units with app. 60% (Ir max rec.= 130A=100%)
2 units with app. 50%
2 units with app. 35%
Conclusion: All arresters OK
New measurements recommended in one year

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Utility performing routine tests annually (1/2)
Case 4: Annually routine testing with LCM for all
arresters in the grid
Condition monitoring to avoid:
Sudden failures
blasting of arresters
Use a simple test to detect bad arresters in service- no outage
Have set max resistive leakage current to 500A
Verification of LCM measurements in laboratory (capacitance, tan,
IR and dissection)
Cooperate with arrester manufacturer to improve arrester design
based on measurement experience

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Utility performing routine tests annually (2/2)

70 surge arresters have been removed from service, based

on resistive leakage current measurements with LCM
Utility statement: Using LCM with third harmonic resistive
current measurement technique is very effective in detecting
defective/ aged surge arresters
Removed arresters showed:
90% damaged due to moisture ingress
10 % severely aged
The problem increased during the rainy season
The sealing gaskets were improved and replaced by o-
rings in cooperation with the arrester manufacturer

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Measurements at 110 kV Transm.line (1/2)

Case 5: Leakage current measurements as part of the

condition based maintenance for 110 kV system
Utility is using LCM II for the following purposes:
Identify and remove bad arresters
Replacing standard leakage current meters which are both ineffective
and easily damaged by extreme weather and pollution
Measuring philosophy:
As a preventive approach, arresters are measured before monsoon with
the LCM II
Removed arresters are tested in laboratory for verification of high
leakage currents (IR testing, waveform analysis etc.)

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Measurements at 110 kV Transm.line (2/2)

3 arresters have been removed based on leakage current
measurements so far
All three showed high leakage currents of respectively 293A, 570A
and 7070 A!!!
Remaining arresters of same make showed low and normal values
Standard analog meters in the field were not showing readings in the
alarm region

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Measurements at a City Substation (1/1)
Case 6: 18 arresters, 300 kV, majority installed in 1980
The utility was concerned due to arrester failures
(arrester explosions) in the past
Measurements showed:
3 units with close to 300% (Ir max rec.=130A=100%)
4 units in the area app. 70-100%
The rest showed low/normal values <50%
Conclusion/our recommendations:
Replace 3 arresters
Monitor 4 arresters closely
Measure the rest again in app. 1-2 years

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Measurements at 420 kV System (1/1)

Case 7: 6 arresters, 420 kV, commissioned in 1988

Max recommended resistive leakage current for all 6

arresters are Ir = 165A (= 100%)

Measurements showed:
All arresters had Ir values between 37-55%

Conclusion: All arresters are considered to be in good

condition. New measurements are
recommended in one year

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Measurements at Coastal Site (1/1)

Case 8: 6 arresters, 145 kV, commissioned in 2002

Max recommended leakage current for all 6 arresters are

Ir = 130A (= 100%)

Measurements gave:
All arresters had Ir values between 35-46%

Conclusion: All arresters are considered to be in good

condition. New measurements are
recommended in two years

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Measurements at 110 kV Substation (1/2)

Case 9: 18 arresters, 110 kV measured in 2007

Max recommended leakage current not known baseline

established by averaging measurements for all 18arresters

Measurements gave:
Two arresters had significantly higher readings (230% and 400%

Conclusion: The two arresters were taken out of service

for laboratory testing. The test showed ingress of moisture
that caused internal heating and increase of resistive
leakage currents

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Measurements at 110 kV Substation (2/2)

Test of 110kV MOSAs, early 2007

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Surge arresters protect valuable assets from overvoltages
generated by lightning strikes or switching operations.

MOSA will deteriorate over time due to electrical and thermal


Leakage Current Measurement

Method B2 using third harmonic with compensation
according to IEC 60099-5 has been used successfully world
wide for surge arrester monitoring.

This method is easy and efficient for field application for any
make of metal oxide surge arresters.

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