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Understanding Line Distance (Impedance) Protection

1. We can calculate the impedance of a line with reasonable accuracy, using its physical properties.
2. Line distance relays constantly measure the line voltage and current, constantly performing Ohm’s Law
calculations to measure the load impedance flowing through the relay at any moment in time.
3. If the measured impedance is less than the line impedance, there must be a fault on the line and the
relay should trip with no intentional time delay.
4. However, if the impedance setting is 100% of the line; the relay can incorrectly trip during a fault that is
not on the line because of calculation errors, system conditions, and CT/PT accuracy errors. This can
cause unnecessary outages and possible grid de-stabilization.
5. Impedance zones are created to increase system reliability. Commonly applied zones include:
a. Zone 1 = 70-90% of the line with no intentional time delay to protect the line from both ends.
b. Zone 2 = 100% of the protected line and 20-50% of the adjacent system with a 15-45 cycle time
delay to give the relays that are supposed to trip a chance to do their job. This will provide 100%
protection of the protected line and backup protection for nearby zones.
c. Zone 3 or 4 = Some percentage of the system behind the relay in the reverse direction to provide
backup protection for other parts of the system, or provide directional information to the other relay
in communication assisted trip schemes. Backup protection schemes have a large time delays (60-90
cycles) to give the relays that are supposed to trip a chance to operate. Directional schemes use
pickup values with no intentional time delay because they do not directly trip breakers.
d. Zone 3 or 4 = 100% of the protected line and 100-200% of the adjacent system with a 60-90 cycle
time delay to provide backup protection to give other relays a chance to their job.
6. You should dynamically test impedance relays by drawing the characteristic for all zones and applying
faults on either side of the zone boundaries at the desired tolerances.

7. Impedance protection is typically applied

using MHO circle characteristics. If the
measured impedance in the relay is plotted
inside the circle, the relay will trip with no
intentional delay in Zone 1, and with the set
time delay for other zones.

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Understanding Impedance (MHO) Protection
1. The last figure is misleading because faults do not occur at zero degrees. All fault currents will lag the
fault voltages by an angle that is called the Maximum Torque Angle (MTA) in E-M relays. A perfect fault
is defined by a setting (SEL relays use Z1Ang, GE relays use RCA, etc.). Some manufacturers will only
guarantee operation in their specifications if the impedance element is at the MTA angle because your
test probably isn’t sophisticated enough to properly model the power system, which is required for
correct operation throughout the entire range. Therefore, all tests should be performed at the MTA.
2. The impedance formula for a three-phase fault is Z = VFAULT / IFAULT. If we want to calculate a test
impedance for a 10Ω line with an 8Ω Zone 1 impedance setting, we can use the following calculations:
a. Most test-sets require you to fix a voltage or current before starting a test, and then vary the
other. Fixing the voltage is always preferred so we’ll arbitrarily set the voltage at 40V. We
typically use the AØ voltage as the fault voltage in three phase faults.
 
b. We can calculate the fault current at 8Ω, using Z  VFAULT / I FAULT , I = 40V /8Ω = 5A.
c. The fault current is usually defined as the AØ current in a three-phase fault, and the fault
current lags the fault voltage by the MTA. You can get the MTA from the system model,
settings, or you can make an educated guess around 75° if you don’t know.
d. A perfect relay will pick up with the following test configuration after an appropriate Prefault
voltage has been applied for a few seconds:

Test Settings Phasor Diagram Impedance Diagram

VAN = 40V@0° IA = 5A@-75°
VBN = 40V@-120° IB = 5A@165°
VCN = 40V@120° IC = 5A@45°

Z   FAULT  MAG @(VANG  I ANG )

40V@0 40V
Z  @(0  -75)
5A@-75 5A
Z  8 @75

 
3. Phase-to-Phase impedance is calculated, using the same formula Z  VFAULT / I FAULT , but VFAULT is the
   
phase-phase voltage ( VAN-VBN ) for an A-B fault and IFAULT is the phase-phase current ( IA - IB or 2  IPN ), This
 
  
  
 
can be broken down to ( Z   VAN-VBN  /  IA - IB  ) or ( Z   VAN-VBN  / 2  IPN  ). The impedance element will
     

only operate correctly if the voltage and currents properly mimic a Phase-to-Phase fault!
4. Phase-to-ground faults are more complex because relay manufacturers typically calculate the ground
impedance for the setting engineers. This means that you must know what the zero sequence
compensation settings are before you start testing, if they are on. If the phase and ground impedance
pickup settings are the same for each zone, automatic ground impedances should be turned on inside
the relay. The phase-to-ground impedance calculation can be different in every new relay model.
SEL Relays  
Ge Relays 
   V V VAN
V Z   FAULT   AN  
 
V VAN I FAULT  k I A  k     Z0/Z1MAG@Z0/Z1ANG   1 
Z   FAULT   AN    

I FAULT  k I A  k I A  1  k0m@k0a  I A  1 


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5005 S Kipling Pkwy Suite A7 PMB 395, Littleton CO 80127-1375 2 303-250-8257