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12/EE/414 Page 1


1.1 Faults: Its Problems and its solutions

We have already seen that phase and earth faults give rise to high fault currents. Phase faults and earth
faults are only limited by inherent impedance of power supply and inherent zero sequence impedance of
power system respectively. This gives rise to high magnitude of currents which is responsible for
equipment damage, insulation damage, high transient over voltage, high stress (both thermal and electric),
fire hazards, high touch potentials which are dangerous for human life. The above consequences can be
avoided by means of effective grounding.

1.2 Grounding: An introduction

Grounding is implemented to ensure rapid clearing of faults and to prevent hazardous voltage, which in
turn reduce the risks of fires and personnel injuries.
When grounding is provided it is ensures the safety of the personnel against electric shocks and avoids
accidents. The equipment is also protected against lightning and voltage surges. The voltage stress on
lines is reduced along with that on the equipments with respect to earth under abnormal conditions.
The earthing or grounding is connection of neutral point of the supply system to the general mass of earth
in such a way the immediate discharge of electricity can take place without danger.
In power system, earthing or grounding means connecting frame of electrical equipment (non-current
carrying part) or some electrical part of the system (e.g. neutral point in a star-connected system, one
conductor of the secondary of a transformer etc.) to earth i.e. soil. This connection to earth may be
through a conductor or some other circuit element (e.g. a resistor, a circuit breaker etc.) depending upon
the situation.
The primary goal of the grounding system throughout any facility is SAFETY. Secondary are effective
lightning protection, diminishing electromagnetic coupling (EMC), and the protection against
electromagnetic pulses (EMP).

1.3 Advantages of Neutral Grounding

The process of connecting neutral point of 3-phase system to earth (i.e. soil) either directly or through
some circuit element (e.g. resistance, reactance etc.) is called neutral grounding. The neutral points of
transformers, generators and rotating machinery to the earth ground network provides a reference point of
zero volts.
There are many principle advantages a grounded system over an ungrounded system. These are:
1. Reduced magnitude of transient over voltages
2. Simplified ground fault location
3. Improved system and equipment fault protection
4. Reduced maintenance time and expense
5. Greater safety for personnel
6. Improved lightning protection
7. Reduction in frequency of faults.

1.4 Different methods of Neutral Grounding

There are 6 methods of Neutral Grounding. These are:
1. Unearthed Neutral System
2. Solid Neutral Earthed System
3. Resistance Neutral Earthing System

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1. Low Resistance Earthing
2. High Resistance Earthing
4. Reactance Earthing System
5. Resonant Neutral Earthing System
6. Earthing Transformer Earthing

1.4.1 Unearthed Neutral System

In ungrounded system there is no internal connection between the conductors and earth. However, as
system, a capacitive coupling exists between the system conductors and the adjacent grounded surfaces.
In a perfectly transposed line, each phase conductor will have the same capacitance to ground. With
balanced three phase supply applied to the line, the current through and voltage across each branch of
equivalent capacitance should be of equal magnitude and

from one another. Therefore there will be

no potential difference between the neutral point of supply transformer bank and that of the capacitance.
Consequently, the ungrounded system is, in reality, a capacitive grounded system by virtue of the
distributed capacitance.
Under normal operating conditions, this distributed capacitance causes no problems. But problems can
rise in ground fault conditions. A ground fault on one line results in full line-to-line voltage appearing
throughout the system. The capacitive current in the healthy phases increases to times the normal

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1. After the first ground fault, assuming it remains as a single fault, the circuit may continue in
operation, permitting continued production until a convenient shut down for maintenance can
be scheduled.
2. Radio interference is minimized due to absence of zero sequence currents.
1. The interaction between the faulted system and its distributed capacitance may cause
transient over-voltages to appear from line to ground during normal switching of a circuit
having a line-to ground fault (short). These over voltages may cause insulation failures at
points other than the original fault.
2. A second fault on another phase may occur before the first fault can be cleared. This can
result in very high line-to-line fault currents, equipment damage and disruption of both
3. The cost of equipment damage.
4. Complicate for locating fault(s), involving a tedious process of trial and error: first isolating
the correct feeder, then the branch, and finally, the equipment at fault. The result is
unnecessarily lengthy and expensive down downtime.
Due to these disadvantages, very rarely, if ever, distribution transformers are operated as

1.4.2 Solid Neutral Earthed System

Solidly grounded systems are usually used in low voltage applications at 600 volts or less. The solidly
grounded system is one that has the neutral connected to ground without intentional impedance. Its
purpose is to maintain very low impedance to ground faults so that a relatively high fault current will
flow thus ensuring that circuit breakers or fuses will clear the fault quickly and therefore minimize
damage. Under fault conditions, the voltage of any conductor to earth will not exceed the normal phase
voltage of the system.
In contrast to the ungrounded system the solidly grounded system will result in a large magnitude of
current to flow (Aids in coordination), but has no increase in voltage on healthy phases.

1. Neutral held effectively at earth potential.

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2. Phase-to-ground faults of same magnitude as phase-to-phase faults; so no need for special sensitive
3. Cost of current limiting device is eliminated.
4. Grading insulation towards neutral point N reduces size and cost of transformers.
1. As most system faults are phase-to-ground, severe shocks are more considerable than with resistance
2. Third harmonics tend to circulate between neutrals.
3. The danger for personnel is high during the fault since the touch voltages created are high.
Very low impedances results in very high current almost equal to or in some cases higher that the
systems three phase short circuit currents. This can increase the rupturing duty ratings of the equipments
used. Such high currents may not have serious consequences if the failure happens in the distribution
conductors but when a fault happens in a device like a motor or a generator, such current will result in
excessive damage to active magnetic parts through which they flow to reach the ground.
For this reasons, use of solid grounding of neutral is restricted to systems of lower voltage
(380V/480V) and used normally in consumer premises. In all other cases, some form of grounding
impedance is always used for reducing damage to critical equipment components.

1.4.3 Resistance Neutral Earthing System

Resistance grounding resolves many of the problems associated with solidly grounded and ungrounded
systems. Resistance Grounding Systems limits the phase-to-ground fault currents. The value of R should
neither be very low nor very high. If the value of earthing resistance R is very low, the earth fault current
will be large and the system becomes similar to the solid grounding system. On the other hand, if the
earthing resistance R is very high, the system conditions become similar to ungrounded neutral system.
Grounding Resistors generally limit maximum fault current as per Ohms Law to a value which will not
damage the equipment and allow sufficient flow of fault current to detect and operate Earth protective
relays to clear the fault. Although it is possible to limit fault currents with high resistance Neutral
grounding Resistors, earth short circuit currents can be extremely reduced.
As a result of this fact, protection devices may not sense the fault.
Therefore, it is the most common application to limit single phase fault currents with low resistance
Neutral Grounding Resistors to approximately rated current of transformer and / or generator.
In addition, limiting fault currents to predetermined maximum values permits the designer to selectively
coordinate the operation of protective devices, which minimizes system disruption and allows for quick
location of the fault.

There are two categories of resistance grounding:
1. Low resistance Grounding.
2. High resistance Grounding.

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A resistor is connected from the system neutral point to ground and generally sized to permit only 200A
to 1200 amps of ground fault current to flow. Enough current must flow such that protective devices can
detect the faulted circuit and trip it off-line but not so much current as to create major damage at the fault
Since the grounding impedance is in the form of resistance, any transient over voltages are quickly
damped out and the whole transient overvoltage phenomena is no longer applicable. Although
theoretically possible to be applied in low voltage systems (e.g. 480V),significant amount of the system
voltage dropped across the grounding resistor, there is not enough voltage across the arc forcing current to
flow, for the fault to be reliably detected.
For this reason low resistance grounding is not used for low voltage systems.
1. Limits phase-to-ground currents to 200-400A.
2. Reduces arcing current and, to some extent, limits arc-flash hazards associated with phase-to-ground
arcing current conditions only.
3. May limit the mechanical damage and thermal damage to shorted transformer and rotating machinery
4. Limits transient overvoltage during ground faults.
1. Does not prevent operation of over current devices.
2. Does not require a ground fault detection system.
3. May be utilized on medium or high voltage systems.
4. Conductor insulation and surge arrestors must be rated based on the line to-line voltage. Phase-to-
neutral loads must be served through an isolation transformer.
Low resistance grounding has applications in special situations such as mine power system, where a lot of
portable electrical equipment is used. It finds its application medium voltage systems on up to 400 amps
for 10 sec. It is used on a system operating at voltages between 2.2 kV and 33 kV with power source
capacity more than 5000 kVA. High Resistance Grounded
High resistance grounding is almost identical to low resistance grounding except that the ground fault
current magnitude is typically limited to 10 amperes or less. High resistance grounding accomplishes two
The first is that the ground fault current magnitude is sufficiently low enough such that no appreciable
damage is done at the fault point. This means that the faulted circuit need not be tripped off-line when the
fault first occurs. Means that once a fault does occur, we do not know where the fault is located.
The second point is it can control the transient overvoltage phenomenon present on ungrounded systems.
In the event that a ground fault condition exists, the HRG typically limits the current to 5-10A.
HRGs are continuous current rated, so the description of a particular unit does not include a time rating.
1. Enables high impedance fault detection in systems with weak capacitive connection to earth
2. Some phase-to-earth faults are self-cleared.
3. The neutral point resistance can be chosen to limit the possible over voltage transients to 2.5 times the
fundamental frequency maximum voltage.
4. Limits phase-to-ground currents to 5-10A.
5. Reduces arcing current and essentially eliminates arc-flash hazards associated with phase-to-ground
arcing current conditions only.
6. Will eliminate the mechanical damage and may limit thermal damage to shorted transformer and
rotating machinery windings.
7. Prevents operation of over current devices until the fault can be located (when only one phase faults
to ground).

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8. Conductor insulation and surge arrestors must be rated based on the line to-line voltage. Phase-to-
neutral loads must be served through an isolation transformer.
1. Generates extensive earth fault currents when combined with strong or moderate capacitive
connection to earth Cost involved.
2. Requires a ground fault detection system to notify the facility engineer that a ground fault condition
has occurred.

1.4.4 Reactance Earthing System

In this type of grounding, instead of resistance, a reactance is connected between neutral and earth with
the ratio of reactance to resistance more than 3. In case of earth fault, the fault current is dependent on the
reactance. The purpose of reactance is to limit the earth fault current. By changing the value of reactance,
the value of fault current can be varied.

This method is not used these days because of the following disadvantages:
1. In this system, the fault current required to operate the protective device is higher than that of
resistance grounding for the same fault conditions.
2. With the increase in reactance, high transient voltages appear under fault conditions.
3. To achieve the same values of resistance, design of the reactor is small thus cheaper.

1.4.5 Resonant Earthing System

Adding inductive reactance from the system neutral point to ground is an easy method of limiting the
available ground fault from something near the maximum 3 phase short circuit capacity (thousands of
amperes) to a relatively low value (200 to 800 amperes).
To limit the reactive part of the earth fault current in a power system a neutral point reactor can be
connected between the transformer neutral and the station earthing system.
A system in which at least one of the neutrals is connected to earth through a Petersen coil / Arc
Suppression Coil / Earth Fault Neutralizer whose function is to make arcing faults self extinguishing and
in case of a sustained fault to reduce the earth current to low value so that the system can supply power
with one line earthed.
This system works on the principle that when inductance and capacitance are connected in parallel,
resonance takes place between them and because of characteristic resonance, the fault current is reduced
or can be neutralized. The current generated by the reactance during an earth fault approximately
compensates the capacitive component of the single phase earth fault current.
A system in which the inductive current is slightly larger than the capacitive earth fault current is over
compensated. A system in which the induced earth fault current is slightly smaller than the capacitive
earth fault current is under compensated.

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However, experience indicated that this inductive reactance to ground resonates with the system shunt
capacitance to ground under arcing ground fault conditions and creates very high transient over voltages
on the system. To control the transient over voltages, the design must permit at least 60% of the 3 phase
short circuit current to flow underground fault conditions.
Petersen Coils
A Petersen Coil is connected between the neutral point of the system and earth, and is rated so that the
capacitive current in the earth fault is compensated by an inductive current passed by the Petersen Coil. A
small residual current will remain, but this is so small that any arc between the faulted phase and earth
will not be maintained and the fault will extinguish. Transient faults would not result in supply

Although the standard Peterson coil does not compensate the entire earth fault current in a network due
to the presence of resistive losses in the lines and coil, it is now possible to apply residual current
compensation by injecting an additional 180 out of phase current into the neutral via the Peterson coil.
The fault current is thereby reduced to practically zero. Such systems are known as Resonant earthing
with residual compensation, and can be considered as a special case of reactive earthing.
An arc suppression coil is an iron cored reactor connected between neutral of the system and the earth.
This coil is provided with number of tappings so that it can be tuned with the capacitance which may vary
due to varying operational conditions.

1. Small reactive earth fault current independent of the phase to earth capacitance of the system.
2. Enables high impedance fault detection.

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1. Risk of extensive active earth fault losses.
2. High costs associated.
3. Due to varying operational conditions, the capacitance of the network changes from time to time.
Therefore, inductance L of Peterson coil requires readjustment.

1.4.6 Earthing Transformer

For cases where there is no neutral point available for Neutral Earthing (e.g. for a delta winding), an
earthing transformer may be used to provide a return path for single phase fault currents.
The requirements of an earthing transformer are that it should present a low impedance to the flow of
zero-sequence currents but a high impedance to a flow of positive( as well as negative) sequence of
currents. A special zigzag transformer is sometimes used for earthing delta windings to provide a low
zero-sequence impedance and high positive and negative sequence impedance to fault currents. This
transformer is a three-phase two-winding transformer with winding 1 and winding 2 connected in zigzag.
Because of the zigzag connection and the opposite winding polarities of upper and lower windings, the
grounding transformer offers low impedance in zero-sequence while keeping very high impedance to
positive-sequence. In other words, only a zero-sequence current can flow through the three windings. By
definition, a zero-sequence current is a set of three-phase currents having same magnitude and phase.
Therefore, the neutral current I shares into three equal currents I/3. Because the three currents flowing in
the grounding transformer are equal, the neutral point stays fixed and the line-to-neutral voltages remain

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Grounding of Power System Neutrals
Ungrounded Effectively
Resonant Grounded
I nsulation
Fully Insulated Lowest Partially
Partially Graded
Fault to Ground

Usually Low Maximum
value rarely
higher than 3-
phase short
circuit current.

satisfactorily be
reduced below
one-half or
one-third of
values for solid


Negligible except
when Petersen coil
IS short circuited for
relay purposes when
it may compare with
Safety from
voltage gradient

Usually good, but
not fully dependable
because of
possibility of
simultaneous fault
on another phase.
Gives greatest
gradients, but
not usually a
problem where
ground wires
are used.
Slightly better
than effective

Better than
effective or

Least gradient
normally, but may
approach effective
grounding values
when necessary to
shunt ground fault
neutralizer to isolate
faulty circuit by

Stability Usually unimportant

Lower than
with other
methods but
can be made
satisfactory by
use of high
speed relays
and circuit

Improved over
solid grounding
particularly if
used at
receiving end
of system.
Improved over
particularly if
used at sending
end of system.

Is eliminated from
consideration during
single line-to-ground
faults unless
neutralizer is short
circuited to isolate
fault by relays.

Relaying Difficult Satisfactory Satisfactory Satisfactory Requires special
provisions but can
be made satisfactory
Arcing Grounds Likely Unlikely Possible if
reactance is

Unlikely Unlikely

Effect of fault
transmitted as
excess voltage of
sound phases to all
parts of
connected network.
Effect of faults
localized to
system or part
of system
where they

Effect of faults
localized to
system or part
of system
where they
occur unless
reactance is
quite high.

Effect of faults
transmitted as
excess voltage
on sound
phases to all
parts of
Effect of faults
transmitted as
excess voltage on
sound phases to all
parts of
connected network.

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Ungrounded Effectively
Resonant Grounded
Double faults Likely Unlikely Unlikely unless
reactance is
quite high and

Unlikely unless
resistance is
quite high and
Seem to be more
likely but conclusive
information may not
be available.

Ungrounded neutral
service arresters
must be applied at
sacrifice in cost and
efficiency and
lowest cost.
If reactance is
very high
arresters for
neutral service
must be applied
at sacrifice in
cost and

Arresters for
neutral service
must be applied
at sacrifice in
cost and
Ungrounded neutral
service arresters
must be applied at
sacrifice in cost and
I nductive

Will usually be low
except in cases of
double faults or
induction with
neutral displaced but
duration may be
Will be greatest
in magnitude
due to higher
fault currents
but can be
quickly cleared
with high speed

Will be
reduced from
solidly ground
Will be
reduced from
solidly ground
Will be in low
magnitude except in
cases of double
faults or series
resonance at
frequencies but
duration may be
Radio I nfluence

May be quite high
during faults or
when neutral is
Minimum Greater than
for solidly
when faults

Greater than
for solidly
when faults

May be high during


Will inherently clear
them if total length
of interconnected
line is low and
require isolation
from system in
percentages as
length becomes

Must be
isolated for
each fault.

Must be
isolated for
each fault.

Must be
isolated for
each fault.

Need not be
but will inherently
clear itself in about
60 to 80 percent of

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Ungrounded Effectively
Resonant Grounded

Adaptability to
I nterconnection

Cannot be
system is
ungrounded or
transformers are

with reactance-

with solidly

with solidly or
systems with
proper attention
to relaying

Cannot be
unless inter
connected system is
resonant grounded
or isolating
transformers are
used. Requires co-
ordination between
systems in

Interrupting capacity
determined by three
phase fault
capacity as
required for
three phase
short circuit
will practically
always be
determined by
three phase
determined by
three phase
Interrupting capacity
determined by three
phase fault

Ordinarily simple
possibility of double
faults introduces
complication in
times of trouble




Taps on neutralizers
must be changed
when major system
switching is
performed and
difficulty may arise
in interconnected
systems. Difficult to
tell where faults are
Total Cost

High, unless
conditions are such
that arc tends to
extinguish itself,
when duplicate
circuits may be
eliminated, reducing
total cost.

Lowest Intermediate


Highest unless the
arc suppressing
characteristic is
relied on to
eliminate duplicate
circuits when it may
be lowest for the
particular type of