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Presented at the 5th EPRI Turbine Generator Technology Transfer Workshop and TGUG Meeting August 11, 2008 Concord, NC by James E Timperley Doble Engineering Columbus, Ohio

EMI (electromagnetic interference) Diagnostics is an on-line test that has successfully detected a wide variety of defects in the electric generator, exciter, isolated phase bus and associated electrical systems with a first evaluation. Trending data is not necessary to develop maintenance recommendations. This paper provides examples of generators with problems as well as those in good condition. The results of system maintenance are also presented.

Many electric generators are near or have exceeded the original equipment design 30 year service life. Even with an excellent operating history, condition assessment for continued service is important for life extension. EMI Diagnostics is an on-line test that has been used since 1980 to provide information on the condition of motors, generators, isolated phase bus, power cables and transformers without interruption to service. No design change is required to implement the test. There is no risk to operation. There is no direct connection to any energized circuit required for data gathering. EMI data is processed by computer and the analysis expert based. Trending of data from multiple tests is not required. The first evaluation can offer maintenance recommendations by comparison to an existing data base of several thousand tests. EMI stands for Electromagnetic Interference and is a term used by communications engineers to describe unwanted radio frequency signals generated by electrical devices. EMI Diagnostic of rotating machines and associated electrical power systems is an extension of the methods and test standards applied since the 1920s to measure and identify various radio frequencies generated by defects in power equipment. The application of EMI Diagnostic techniques for the in-service evaluation of large generators began in 1980; in 1985 13 kV and 4 kV motors were routinely evaluated. There have been over 7,000 tests conducted on some 500-machine designs.


Partial Discharge Analysis (PDA) is a time domain technique that relies on accurate measurement of each discharge event. Amplitude, polarity, power frequency phase relationship, apparent charge transfer and event count rate are important characteristics for accurate analysis. When a PD occurs there is also an electromagnetic (EM) wave produced that travels away from the discharge location. This is what EMI Diagnostics measures. PDA requires a design change to install permanent high voltage couplers or slot couplers in a generator. Only machine stator defects are monitored. There have been a few cases where bus and generator bushing defects have also been detected. In general other PD sources are usually treated as noise and discarded.

FIGURE 1 Either 3 or 6 bus couplers are needed to collect PDA information.

FIGURE 2 Several methods to display PDA information have been developed.

EMI Diagnostics is a frequency domain analysis of those damped high frequency oscillations that result from each PD impulse or arcing event. Every EMI signature is unique for each type of defect. EMI can be either radiated or conducted from the defect location. That part of the energy that is conducted can be measured with a radio frequency current transformer (RFCT). Data are presented on a logarithmic scale

to better represent both low and high values on one chart. Amplitudes from 0.1 microvolts to 10 millivolts with frequencies ranging from 50 kHz to 100 MHz on one spectrum plot are not unusual. PDA by definition does not measure arcing where current flow exists. This fact limits PDA techniques to classifying only insulation defects and excludes conductor defects such as loose connections. Many mechanical defects such as shaft seal rubs result in arcing and generate EMI that PDA can not detect or identify. A common EMI source with generators is arcing of the shaft grounding brush. Since only a single location is needed for EMI data collection with an RFCT, it can be located at the generator stator neutral, machine safety ground or other low voltage location, thus improving safety and avoiding a shutdown to install the numerous high voltage connections required for PDA data collection.

The precision instrument used to measure EMI is NIST traceable and is in full compliance with CISPR and ANSI standards. The QP (quasi peak) detector is used with specified time constants and intermediate frequency bandwidths. The instrument is capable of displaying activity from 50 kHz to 100 MHz with a dynamic range of 100 dB.

FIGURE 3 The EMI analyzer is a compact precision instrument Data is collected from the temporary placement of a split core RFCT around the generator neutral lead or the generator frame safety ground. The process is completely passive. No signal is generated by the test equipment. No direct connection to any energized system is necessary. There is no system or equipment design change required to collect data. It is basic that the act of measuring does not change the quantity being monitored. Successful diagnostic techniques are preferably non-intrusive as is the case with EMI Diagnostics, which is essentially the capture and classification of all signals present at a given measurement location. EMI patterns are evaluated in the frequency domain both visually (what does the discharge look like) and audibly (what does the discharge sound like). A typical survey will require 30 minutes to one hour to complete at each location.

FIGURE 4 Temporary placement of RFCT to collect generator EMI data

EMI data is usually collected annually or every 18 months as a part of a condition based maintenance program. Perhaps 80% of the generators tested need no maintenance. Only 5% require attention at the next outage. Identifying this 80% not requiring resources is as important as locating those components that need attention. The technique is sufficiently sensitive to detect many problems in the early developmental stages.

Two Load Test 450 MVA 24 kV 3600 rpm STG Without Stator Loose Bars
1000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak)
Exciter noise PD's & Light corona



01-03-03---435 MW 01-01-03---385 MW

0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100

FIGURE 5 A generator test at two different loadings is used to detect loose stator windings

Tightening a generator stator winding can be expected to be required during the normal service life. Figure 5 shows a generator with a tight winding. There is no change in the EMI signature as the load changes. Figure 6 is an example of a generator power down test. When a stator winding is tight changes in the load will not change the EMI signature. If a stator winding is loose then EMI amplitude follows the load. The generator below has a reduction of EMI mean levels as the load is reduced. This indicates the stator winding is loose and should be tightened. However the question posed to the analyst was: Could rewedging be postponed for two cycles while major turbine work was performed? The answer was yes, rewedging could be postponed with minimum risk. The activity at full load did not indicate severe looseness was present. Rewedging was postponed for three years and completed in 2007.
1200 MW 1800 r/min Generator Power Down Test
100 Quasi-Peak (microvolts)


1171 MW Mean = 18.2 uV

710 MW Mean = 11.9 uV

558 MW Mean = 9.14 uV


1 Frequency (MHz)


FIGURE 6 This large machine has loose stator bars This generator does need to be rewedged but work was safely postponed with minimum risk.
22 kV 1447 MVA 1800 r/min Generator
1000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak)
Exciter SCR noise

AM stations


* *

Random noise


11-05-01 12-03-03

* Developing wet stator bar

0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100

FIGURE 7 A generator with one wet stator bar near the neutral

One particular series of generators is prone to developing water leaks and wet stator bar insulation. Figure 7 shows the subtle increases in the EMI signature due to one wet bar near the neutral. Wet insulation develops the same random noise pattern as surface contamination. With this design of generator the characteristic frequencies of wet insulation are near 1 and 10 MHz. During the next outage water was removed for the winding and one phase had a low insulation reading to ground. A bottom stator bar near the neutral was found to be wet and was replaced. To date stator water leaks resulting in wet stator bar insulation has been detected in three generators. The system in Figure 8 had a history of breaking bus support insulators due to high floor vibration levels. A comparison of the EMI signatures before and after insulator replacement shows the elimination of isolated phase bus partial discharge activity at the higher frequencies above 10 MHz. From this data it was also determined no generator maintenance was needed. Modifications were made to reduce floor vibration to prevent future insulator breakage. Figure 9 shows one of the six broken insulators that were found and replaced between the 2001 test and 2005 retest.
800MW, 22kV, 3600 r/min Generator Before and After Broken Bus Insulators Replaced 2001-2005 Comparison

Microvolts (Quasi-Peak)


Isolated Phase Bus Partial discharges

Generator 2005
Exciter noise


Generator 2001

0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100

FIGURE 8 Verifying the isolated phase bus was repaired Isolated phase bus problems are detected at frequencies above 10 MHz.

FIGURE 9 One of six defective isolated phase bus insulators that were replaced

743 MVA 22 kV 3600 rpm Generator with Failing Brushless Exciter

10000 Quasi-Peak (microvolts) 1000 100 10 1 0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100
Exciter pattern with Random Arcing ISO Phase Bus Discharges 650MW - 2004

Normal Exciter 654 MW - 2001

FIGURE 10 Indications of a failing brushless exciter The generator shown in Figure 10 has a large brushless exciter. A few of these designs are prone to mechanical failures due to high centrifugal component stresses. Arcing was detected along with the normal pattern. Loose connections within the exciter were present. The exciter rotor was replaced.


Quasi-Peak (microvolts)

250 MW 3600 r/min STG

If there had been a real field ground this portion of the signature would have increased.



With Field Ground Alarm No Field Ground Alarm





Frequency (MHz)

FIGURE 11 Verifying no field ground was present The generator in Figure 11 developed a field ground alarm every time field current exceeded a certain value. This was repeatable. We knew from other machines that the exciter pattern does not change but the amplitude found at frequencies below 100 kHz increased by a factor of ten when a field ground develops. With this generator there was no change in amplitude at these lower frequencies. However the exciter pattern did change indicating the problem was with the exciter diodes not the generator field. The exciter was repaired and the grounds no longer occurred.
1,200 MW Generator with severe arcing of shaft grounding braids
Power Line Carriers

10000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak) 1000 100 10

With Arcing Shaft Grounding Braid

W/O Arcing

1 0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100

FIGURE 12 A generator with a sparking shaft grounding system The generator in Figure 12 had a new shaft grounding system installed. The arcing was severe after a few weeks operation. Equipment misoperation resulted from the extremely high levels of EMI that were generated. A proven shaft grounding assembly was recommended.

Emergency Diesel Generator Div 2 vs Div 1

10000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak) 1000 100
Exciter noise Random noise

Noise spike

10 1 0.1 0.01

Div 2 Diesel Gen. 11-10-04 Div 1 Diesel Gen. 09-08-04


1 Frequency (MHz)


FIGURE 13 EMI signatures of diesel generators Figure 13 shows the comparison of two emergency diesel generators. Data was collected from the generator frame ground during a routine load test. No problems were expected and none were detected. Most of the spectrum is dominated by the exciter power electronics since the shaft is not grounded. If winding problems were present they would be seen at frequencies above 1 MHz.

10000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak) 1000 100 10

450 MVA, 22 kV 3,600 rpm Generator EMI 2000-2003 Comparison

Sept. 8, 2000

1 0.1 0.01 0.1

April 23, 2003

1 Frequency (MHz)



FIGURE 14 EMI signature trending of a generator with no problems Figure 14 shows an EMI Signature curve for a generator that has no serious problems. A comparison of data collected in 2000 and 2003 indicates conditions are stable and no maintenance can be recommended.

10000 Microvolts (Quasi-Peak) 1000

Air-cooled 150 MVA Generator EMI Increase before failure

Gen #1 10-25-04

New high random noise peak

100 10
Gen #1 01-13-04
Isolated Phase Bus Discharges

1 0.1 0.01 0.1 1 Frequency (MHz) 10 100

FIGURE 15 A generator on the way to failure This series of air cooled combustion turbine generators are known to fail after a few years service. A sister unit at this site had failed a few months before Unit #1 was tested. A second EMI Diagnostic nine months later noted a large increase just around 1 MHZ. The failure mode is deterioration of the stator bar conductive coating in the slots, high PD levels resulted. Some designs of recent air cooled generators develop vibration sparking due to unfortunate design features. This condition results in arcing between the stator bars and the stator core. Since EMI Diagnostics will detect arcing as well as PD it can determine if vibration sparking is present and how advanced the condition may be.

EMI Diagnostics is an expert based technology that can be an important part of a generator condition based maintenance program. A lack of problems can be measured as well as the success of repairs. The generator and associated power electrical systems are monitored under actual load conditions without interruption to normal operations.



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Loose stator bars, endwindings, connection rings Stator slot discharges and between phase groups Winding contamination, oil, dirt, water Foreign metal objects in machine or bus Field ground in generator or exciter Arcing slip rings generator or exciter Loose exciter diode connections Exciter or voltage regulator stability problems Shaft oil and hydrogen seal rub Loose flux shield grounding bolt Sparking shaft grounding system Cracked shunts or loose bus hardware Broken or contaminated bus insulators Loose transformer connections (HV and LV) Open PT fuse Loose breaker components