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On-line Partial Discharge Detection in EHV apparatus in the field; a complementary test to assess the health of the apparatus

Jiten Jesing, Utility PowerTest, Vadodara


R. K. Aash, DGM- EMD, NTPC Ltd, Kawas Gas Power Project S. K. Waryani, Sr. Supt.- EMD, NTPC Ltd, Kawas Gas Power Project

Introduction
In-service substation equipments like Power Transformers, Instrument Transformers and Bushings etc. are exposed to a combination of stress originating both from the network and the local environment. These stresses can be due to electrical, mechanical and thermal reasons as well as environmental conditions. All of these stresses can act individually or in combination to accelerate the insulation degradation or deterioration and compromises the integrity of electrical insulation in high voltage equipment. This may lead to eventual failure of insulation and catastrophic damage to the equipments. Keeping EHV equipments in a substation healthy, reliable and regular monitoring of their insulation quality is critical to overall network availability. It is also a top priority for maintenance engineers as well as managers responsible for substations. Use of various on line techniques for detection and measurement of partial discharge phenomena, which are a symptom of insulation deterioration, can provide early warning of insulation failure and location of possible sites of electrical degradation whilst the HV equipment is in service. Amongst the methods available for detecting partial discharges online, e.g. dissolved gas analysis (DGA) of oil, AE measurement and radio frequency interference (RFI) scanning, this paper covers the use of RFI method as a primary detection tool on few apparatus and has corroborated the findings with alternate means to gather some experience in detecting the problem areas. Use of radio frequency interference scanning (RFI) measurements, which is gaining increasing acceptance as a front line non-invasive technique to detect partial discharge in electrical insulation. The same has been used in large substation of 220KV and 400KV voltage class and successfully gather evidence of problem in in-service equipments.

RFI Emission and Detection of Partial Discharges:


Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) signals from discharge phenomena are considered to be broadband and impulsive in nature with low repetition rates. They vary considerably and, often erratically, in amplitude and time. It is quite challenging to use RFI spectrum analyzer and scanners for measuring low repetition rate broadband signals to have reliable and repeatable detection and measurement. A test instrument, PDS100, dedicated to characterize PD activity by detecting RFI signals with low repetition rate broadband signals has been used to carry out the work mentioned ahead in the paper. The measurement process involved specific understanding of signal and instrument characteristics in order to ensure that RFI signals are accurately represented.

Previous experiments and measurements carried out, elsewhere in the world, on PD activity within oil insulated HV equipment exhibited that the discharges produce current pulses with rise times less than a nanosecond and therefore capable of exciting broadband signals in the VHF (30 to 300MHz) and UHF (300MHz to 3GHz) bands. Other investigations in open-air insulation substations show that signals from PD and flashover occupy a frequency range up to 300MHz. RFI emissions from PD phenomena involve the measurement of complex waveforms and derived frequency spectrum exhibits a number of distinctive broadband features and activity that extends up to 1GHz.

PD Detection in live substations.


A hand held portable tool, PDS100, was used to detect and measure RF energy radiated from the EHV apparatus in the vicinity. The test instrument is dedicated to characterize PD activity by detecting RFI signals in energized substations . It was possible to identify defects in EHV insulation with specific understanding of signal and instrument characteristics and is captured in following case studies.

Case study 1 :-

400 KV transmission transformer

An auto transformer of 220KV / 400KV voltage class, commissioned couple of years back, was suspected to be having some undesirable activity within transformer. It was initially producing small quantity of H2, CH4, and C2H4 and subsequently very high level of H2 gas. Key gases were consistently present and trending upwards over a period of time. Amount of Hydrogen and Methane as percentage of TDCG found in the oil were indicative of low energy discharges in the transformer.

Figure 1: Graph showing hydrogen and methane trending upwards

Since DGA test data were indicative of some undesirable discharge activity being present in the transformer, it was subjected to PD detection survey as it would exhibit RFI emissions also. A comprehensive partial discharge survey was carried out on the transformer and RF energy being radiated by bushings from high and low side windings as well as tertiary windings was captured. A wide band RFI signal, being generated by a possible partial discharge within transformer, in a radio frequency range of upto 1GHz, were recorded in the form of RFI traces.

Picture 1 : RFI emissions from 220KV side terminations of the Transformer over a baseline.

Picture 2: Time domain mode at 462MHz

Picture: 1 shown above represents the RFI trace taken from 220KV side of the transformer. The trace was captured by MAX HOLD feature with total number of sweep count at 5 and a dwelling time of 80 ms at each frequency step in order to see the peak of the signal amplitude. This would also ensure that receiver has more than adequate chances to measure and record the signals when they are present. RFI traces captured while pointing the RF antenna of test instrument at 220KV side of the transformer were showing wideband RFI Signal from partial discharge source within the transformer. Measured RFI trace shown an increment of amplitude of upto 20 dB over the baseline. Such a lift in amplitude in signal was seen extending upto 1GHz range, characterizing the discharges in oil. Detection of partial discharge activity in frequency domain mode was also correlated to supply system by using time resolved mode to confirm its dependence to power frequency of i.e. 50Hz. See Picture 2. On detection of RFI emissions characterizing considerable PD within the transformer, more detailed survey was conducted from each sides of the transformer and their peak amplitude was recorded. See Picture 3.

Picture 3: Comparison of Freq domain trace recorded from each side of the transformer

Comparison of peak RFI traces captured from all termination side of the transformer i.e. HV, LV tertiary windings, revealed a relatively higher strength of signal near Y phase bushings on 220KV side winding.

Above findings were subsequently corroborated with AE test performed on the transformer and pin pointed problem area between Y and B phase windings . Based on the information gathered from various tests described so far as well as transformer layout, it appeared that Y phase tap changer located in the vicinity may be a possible source of problem. The subject transformer was scheduled for internal inspection to look for some more observations or evidence. On closely inspecting the Y phase selector switch and associated components, it was noticed that insulated lead connected between selector contacts and a diverter was not provided with sufficient clearance in oil space. This was causing undue voltage stress and causing partial discharges in the oil.

Case 2 : 132KV Current Transformer.

A 132 kV switch yard of a process plant was subject to PD detection survey where one CT was picked out as having PD activity. Equipments in the switchyard, including Current Transformers, were not being tested often because of lack of outage opportunity. It was then decided to survey all the equipments in switchyard including CTs at the location with on-line detection tool and make observations.

Picture 4: Frequency Domain Trace of 132KV CT

Picture 5 : Time Domain trace at 785MHz

Picture 4 shows the comparison of baseline trace captured before entering the switchyard and RFI signal recorded from the vicinity of suspect CT. The high signal strength around 100 - 250 MHz indicates a surface discharge and the strong signal from about 300 MHz up to about 500 MHz support that there is some PD source nearby. In this measurement the increase in amplitude at around 750 -900 MHz is the most interesting. This is clearly an indication of internal PD activity. To verify the findings of RFI measurement, it was decided to sample the oil for DGA as well as perform offline test on the concerned CT. DGA test data were indicative of discharges in the CT and at the same time offline C & TD test measured tan delta value of 3 %, conforming the degradation of CTs insulation.

DGA Gases TCG H2 O2 CH4 C2 H4 C2 H6 C2 H6 +C3 H8 CO2 CO Fault indication according to IEC 60599

ppm 17200 4585 10013 1356 8 518 259 455 30 D1

Table 1 : DGA results of 132KV Current Transformer

Above CT was experiencing partial discharge and insulation degradation would reduce operational reliability going forward. On-line surveillance tool, as used in the present case, greatly helps identify the emerging insulation defects in a very cost effective manner. Based on the findings from the PD detection survey, the problematic CT is being replaced by new one before it results into a catastrophic failure.

Case 3 : 6.6KV Station Aux Transformer

A 6.6KV station auxiliary transformer in a generating station was picked out, during the routine survey, which recorded some abnormal PD activity. Out of 8 sister transformers surveyed, one showed strong wide band RFI emissions indicative of undesirable discharges in the suspect transformer. A comparison of RF emissions captured from suspect transformer with baseline measurement showed uplift in measured signal to the tune of 10-15 dB. (See picture No 8). The observations made with the help of online PD detection tool are being followed up by alternate investigative tests.

Picture 6: Freq. Domain trace of healthy looking sister unit # 1

Picture 7 : Freq. Domain trace of healthy looking sister unit # 2

Picture 8: Freq. Domain trace of suspect 6.6KV UAT transformer

Picture 9 : Time Domain trace at 586MHz

Case 4 : 245KV Generator Step up transformers

During a routine survey of the 220KV switchyard equipments in a generating station, 6 nos of Generator Step Up transformers were also surveyed. Transformers surveyed are in operation for last 18 years with good operational history. Transformers have a good track record for offline insulation tests as well as oil tests in last few years. Details Of Transformer Voltage Rating MVA Mfg Year ID Sr NO : : : : : 229KV 115 1991 GT 2A AG69036T3

A detailed PD detection survey was carried out on each of the transformer in order to assess their insulation condition. RFI measurements were perfumed in peak and average mode with default gating time, except a specific situations call for longer dwell time.

Picture 10: Freq. Domain trace of GT1A transformer

Picture 11: Freq. Domain trace of GT1B transformer

Picture 12: Freq. Domain trace of GT2A transformer

Picture 11: Freq. Domain trace of GT2A transformer

Transformer S/N AG69036T3 was observed to show uplift in RFI amplitude over a baseline by about 10 dB, indicating lower level of partial discharge activity within the transformer. A comparison of RFI measurement of sister units and transformer S/N AG69036T3 clearly showed the differences in the status of the transformer insulation. DGA information collected subsequent to the RFI survey also confirmed small rise in Hydrogen, Methane and Ethane gases. Currently, the transformer is being closely monitored.

Conclusion
Experience gathered from case studies shown above as well as few others highlights the effectiveness of RFI detection tool to identify and pin-point equipments with deteriorating insulation conditions in EHV substations . Findings of this non-invasive, on line detection tool used, as mentioned above, have been confirmed by other diagnostic methods like DGA in insulating oil, offline electrical tests etc. The method used have been found very cost effective, almost spontaneous and will act as a complimentary test to assess heath of EHV apparatus. Use of handheld RFI instrument optimized for measurement in the substation environment, is an excellent tool for detecting problem conditions in equipments like instruments transformers where frequent oil sampling in hermetically sealed equipment are either not possible or involve great deal of efforts.
Reference:

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A. Nesbitt, B.G. Stewart, S.G. McMeekin, S. Conner and J.C. Gamio, K. Liebech-Lien, H.O. Kristiansen and S. Krkenes A Novel Approach to High Voltage Substation Surveillance using Radio Frequency Interference Measurement K Liebech-Lien, H O Kristiansen and S Krakenes, J Jesing, A Nesbitt, B G Stewart, S G. McMeekin, S Connor and C Gamio: Online evaluation of Partial Discharge in HV current transformers through RFI measurement, 2009. A Nesbitt and K Govender: RFI Emissions Survey Report, 2009.

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