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Testing Directional Overcurrent Relays

In the previous post about Directional Overcurrent relay (67) testing (Finding the Direction in
Directional Overcurrent Relays), we reviewed Directional Overcurrent protection from a system
perspective to enhance the descriptions in The Relay Testing Handbook: Principles and Practice
or The Relay Testing Handbook #1: Electrical Fundamentals for Relay Testing. Well be looking
at Directional Overcurrent relays from a testing perspective in this post.

Successful Directional Overcurrent tests have three parts:

1. Your current must be above the pickup setting.


2. Your current must be in the correct direction.
3. You must have a polarizing signal.

A traditional relay tester, or automated testing software, will often apply a test scenario like the
following:

Channel Magnitude Angle Instruction


Ia > Pickup setting 0 (default) Raise until pickup

This test plan may work depending on the sophistication of the relay, but theres a pretty good
chance that the pickup tests will work, and the timing test will fail. In this scenario, you might
get frustrated and start disabling the directional function, or start looking for the non-directional
relay definitions so you can map them to a test output. Lets take a closer look at your test plan
before you, or your test software, head down that path.
Based on the drawing of your test plan, it looks like youve met the first two criteria for a
successful Directional Overcurrent test:

1. The current is greater than the pickup setting.


2. The current is in the tripping direction. (Not in the shaded area)

But do you have a polarizing signal?

Testing Directional Overcurrent Relays That Use Phase-to-


Phase References
Imagine that I asked you for directions to your favorite restaurant after dark. You could give me
directions like, If you head north for ten blocks and then east for three blocks, youll find the
best BBQ in the county. Your directions are perfect, but Ill be hungry until I find a compass or
someone to give me a reference like, North is that way. However, if you said, Turn right for
ten blocks and then turn right for three more blocks, Ill be eating the best BBQ in no time.

Directional relays need a reference to work correctly, and that reference is called the polarizing
signal. The Directional Overcurrent element needs a polarizing signal to operate reliably;
otherwise anything could happen depending of the sophistication of the relay.

Most electro-mechanical relays, and GE relays like the one from The Relay Testing Handbook
example, use the phase-phase voltage from the two un-faulted phases as a polarizing signal. You
could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how to apply the test and phasor diagrams from
older relay manuals to modern test-sets.

Or you can test all relays that use the un-faulted voltages as a polarizing signal by simply
applying three-phase balanced voltages as shown in this phasor diagram from the previous post.
We added the B-C phase-phase voltage to the drawing, which is the polarizing voltage this style
of relay uses.

If we rotate the standard phasor diagram by 90 and add the same labeling used by the relay
bulletin drawings, we can see that simply adding voltage will allow us to successfully test every
relay of this type.

Channel Magnitude Angle Instruction


Ia > Pickup setting 0 (default) Raise until pickup
Va Nominal V 0
Vb Nominal V -120
Vc Nominal V 120

Testing Directional Overcurrent Relays That Use Negative


Sequence References
Unfortunately, not every relay uses phase-phase voltages as a polarizing signal. Some relays use
the negative sequence voltage as the polarizing signal. Negative sequence voltage can be
simplified to mean unbalanced voltage (You can get more information in the Sequence
Components section of The Relay Testing Handbook: Principles and Practice or The Relay
Testing Handbook #1: Electrical Fundamentals for Relay Testing). Are the voltages
unbalanced in the previous test plan?

You can tell by graphically adding the three voltages together, or with the negative sequence
formula.

The negative sequence, or unbalance voltage, is zero in a balanced system. Therefore, our
previous test plan will not have a polarizing signal on relays that use negative sequence
polarizing.

We can fix this problem by thinking about what happens during a phase-to-ground fault.

What happens to the faulted voltage? The faulted voltage will drop; how much it drops
depends on the severity of the fault. The worst possible fault would drop the fault voltage
to near zero, but most faults wont be that severe. We can cut the faulted voltage in half
to simulate a phase-to-ground fault.
What happens to the faulted current? The faulted currents will jump to a higher value,
and we know from the relay settings how much current we need for the relay to detect a
fault. Set the fault current at least 110% of the relays pickup setting.
What happens to the other voltages and currents that arent faulted? They would
change slightly during a real fault, but you would need some modelling software to figure
out how much. We can assume that they dont move, like textbooks do, for testing
purposes.

If we alter our test plan to better simulate a fault, it would look like the revised plan below.

Channel Magnitude Angle Instruction


Ia > Pickup setting 0 (default) Raise until pickup
Va One-half V 0
Vb Nominal V -120
Vc Nominal V 120

A plan to Test any Directional Overcurrent Relay


Now our Directional Overcurrent (67) test plan looks like the following drawing where we start
with the raw currents and voltages, calculate the non-faulted phase-to-phase voltage, and plot the
operating current and polarizing signal, which in this case is VBC. This test plan has a good
chance of being successful because we have an operating signal and a polarizing signal.

These drawings look at the same test plan for a Directional Overcurrent (67) element that uses
negative sequence voltage. We start with the raw currents and voltages, then calculate the
negative sequence voltage, and then plot the operating current and polarizing signal (V2). This
test plan has a good chance of being successful because we have an operating signal and a
polarizing signal.
We appear to be in good shape for most Directional Overcurrent (67) applications. However,
there will be times when this test plan will not work. What are the odds that a phase-to-
ground fault will be 100% resistive? The answer is never. Actually, there are almost no purely
resistive systems as we discussed in the previous article, so our test current at zero degrees can
cause problems, especially near generation systems like wind farms that can have crazy
characteristics or very high voltage (>115kV) applications. Some relays have an operating
characteristic like the following picture:

Notice that our test current is right on the edge of the reverse direction. This means that it is a
coin toss whether the relay will operate or not. We can ensure the relay always operates by
setting the faulted current to a fault angle that would happen in the system. You can choose a
good fault angle using one of these methods:

Most modern relays have a positive sequence angle setting that defines the expected fault
angle. Set the fault angle to that setting.
If you have a good understanding of fault characteristics, you could guess the fault
angles.
o A very high voltage system (>115kV) will have a characteristic near 90 degrees,
so you could safely choose a fault angle of 87.
o A high voltage system (>69kV) will have a fault angle closer to 75.
o A distribution system (>34kv) will have a fault angle closer to 60.
o A medium voltage system will have a fault angle closer to 45.
You can never go wrong with a fault angle of 60 or 75. This is what electro-mechanical
relays used because their options were limited and they needed a good average.

Our test will work for all common characteristic angles if we modify it to include the phase angle
during a fault.

Channel Magnitude Angle Instruction


Ia > Pickup setting 75 (or fault angle) Raise until pickup
Va One-half V 0
Vb Nominal V -120
Vc Nominal V 120
Directional Overcurrent Relay Test Plan Summary
Testing Directional Overcurrent (67) elements is almost as simple as testing standard
Overcurrent (50/51) elements as long as you properly simulate a fault. I used to occasionally run
into problems when testing Directional Overcurrent (67) elements using traditional testing
techniques. I would spend a lot of unnecessary time trying to figure what went wrong as I said to
myself, I know Im doing it right, why wont this relay work right!!! Now I always follow
these steps before running any test:
Connect all currents and voltages
Choose the fault type to apply
Apply nominal balanced three-phase voltages
Cut the fault voltage in half
Raise the fault current more than 110% of the pickup setting
Make sure the fault current lags the fault voltage by the fault angle or 75

Modern testing equipment makes this easy, which means you can spend more time
understanding the application so you can become a true relay testing craftsman.

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