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2019 Fault Current Withstand Capability | INMR

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Arresters   Article Archive  

Fault Current Withstand Capability


 December 14, 2019  4 min read

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Two types of fault currents can appear on power systems: ground and phase-
to-phase. More important with regard to arresters is the former, which is
basically the current that ows through the circuit when there is a short to
ground. Maximum available fault current during such an event will vary along
the length of the circuit, with more current available when the short occurs
closer to the source. As far as arresters are concerned, the fault current of real
consequence is that which ows through a shorted or failed arrester. Ground
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fault current that ows past the terminals of a functioning arrester to a short
somewhere down the line will have no e ect on that arrester.

When ground fault current is triggered by a failing or failed arrester, available What to Do When Molded
fault current will ow initially through and around its internal components. But Insulators Become a Home for

if that current ow is not diverted to the outside in less than a full cycle, Mold

probability of an explosive event increases signi cantly. Rapidly providing an


external path for the fault current around the arrester is the basic scheme
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used by manufacturers to achieve good short circuit withstand capability.
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Rapid arc transfer for those arrester designs that contain substantial internal Systems
air volume, such as porcelain-housed or polymeric tube type, is achieved using
well-developed vents on the ends of the unit. Under a perfect arc transfer
scenario, these vents open rapidly and expel the evolving hot ionized gas,

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forming a lower impedance path. For solid core arrester designs, such as the
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wrap type, gases generated from the event burst through the sides of the
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polymeric housing and form an external pathway. Both systems have been in
use for many years.

In North America, for example, 65 kA of available fault current at a substation is


presently not uncommon. However 80 kA is now becoming more common and Your Email
90 kA is ‘around the corner’. Not all arresters suppliers can o er 80 kA
withstand capability and, only a few years ago, none o ered 90 kA. For an PLEASE SIGN ME UP

arrester design to be certi ed at such higher short circuit withstand


capabilities, it must pass a series of short circuit tests, as speci ed in IEC 60099-
4 as well as IEEE C62.11. (Fortunately, these test speci cations are identical
through co-operation between the working groups that created them and
which were uni ed between 2006 and 2009).

The short circuit test


series is the most
onerous of all tests to
be performed.
Basically, each
arrester design must
be tested at two or
three current levels
and the fault current
must ow through
the arrester from 0.2
to several seconds.
At the end, no parts
are permitted to fall
Testing four 70 kV MCOV polymer-housed arresters outside a circle
side by side at 40 kA. Arc rapidly exited and found whose radius is the
home elsewhere in laboratory circuit. height of the
CLICK TO ENLARGE arrester. Moreover,
no re can be
sustained for more
than a few minutes. Three aspects of this test make it challenging: rst, the test
currents are either hard to attain or hard to maintain; secondly, set-up is
laborious; and thirdly, simulating an overloaded arrester is as much ‘art’ as
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science. Only the largest high power laboratories are able to perform this test 
and, when the test is applied to higher voltage rated samples, that number
becomes more limited still.  
What to Do When Molded
When the short circuit tests were uni ed, there were two major improvements. Insulators Become a Home for
One was that a third current level was added in the case of the test for Mold
porcelain-housed arresters. It was hoped that testing at this intermediate
current level would reduce the number of reported violent failures of certi ed
porcelain-housed arrester designs. The other improvement was that the rst Report Outlined Expected
half-cycle fault-current asymmetry was no longer required in the case of Growth in T&D Equipment &
Systems
polymeric housings with no appreciable internal gas volume. This
improvement was predicated on results of tests reported in 2004 by then INMR
columnist Dr. René Smeets of KEMA Laboratories. It was found at that time 
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that the rate of energy input into the arc, still internal to the arrester just after
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short-circuit initiation, was much faster with symmetrical current than with
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asymmetric current. Testing with symmetrical current and higher rate of


energy input was therefore felt to impose more severe duty on polymeric
arresters with the solid core design than using asymmetric current.
Fortunately, this test is easier to run than the standard asymmetric test still
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required for porcelain arresters.

Because fault current tests can only be run at voltages well below the rating of PLEASE SIGN ME UP

most arresters, special failure schemes had to be devised. The arrester failure
sequence and the short circuit event are completed one after the other,
sometimes in separate laboratories. While there are upper and lower limits on
test parameters, these are quite broad and the nal pass/fail results of the test
can be modi ed signi cantly if the transition from one sequence to the other is
not performed consistently or correctly. When these parameters are more
constrained and the sequence more standardized, the result will be more
consistent testing from laboratory to laboratory and from one design to
another.

Jonathan Woodworth
Co-Convenor of IEC TC37 MT4 responsible for IEC 60099-4

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