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CIGRE 2006


SUMMARY Series capacitor banks are used for compensation of long overhead lines. In case of a fault, very rapid protection of the capacitor bank is needed. The primary part of this protection is usually provided by a combination of equipment, especially designed to cope with the extreme inrush current that is associated with by-passing the capacitor bank. The function, design and verification of this equipment's capability to cope with very high fault current (in excess of 100 kApeak) of high frequency (1 kHz) is the scope of this publication. New developments in the various standards describing these special requirements will be highlighted. In case of fault, the first operating element is a fast acting spark gap by-passing the capacitor bank. Testing of this element is decribed, as well as a brief summary of requirements as laid down in IEC 60143-2. Next in line is the by-pass switch, which has to limit the stresses on the first switching element (spark gap, surge arrester or thyristor valve). An overview is given of the special requirements of this switch, and the way these are met technologically. A new standard (IEC 62271-109) for by-pass switches is under development. Based on full-power tests and experiences with various designs, the new standard is commented. Tests are described, along with test circuits. It turns out that the main problems for testing is in the extreme values of flux generated by the inrush current (and the associated measurement problems), as well as in the stresses on the various circuit parts. Finally, high-current tests of current limiting (damping) reactors, which - possibly in combination with MOV and resistor - are intended to reduce the inrush current associated with the switching operations, are reported. Relevant standards (IEEE C57.16-1996 and IEC 60143-2) are commented. KEYWORDS Capacitor bank, protection, switching, testing, by-pass switch, switching transients, inrush current, standardisation, spark gap, reactor.

1. INTRODUCTION For long transmission lines series capacitors are used to increase the transmission capability of the line and the system stability by reducing the voltage drop and the transmission angle. To protect the series capacitors against overvoltages or fault currents additional devices like by-pass switches, spark gaps,

KEMA T&D Testing, Utrechtseweg 310, 6812 AR Arnhem, the Netherlands (

surge arresters or thyristors are used. Examples of different configurations of series compensators are given in IEC 60143-1. Figure 1 shows a fully protected series compensator with a nonlinear resistor, a spark gap and a by-pass switch. The non-linear resistor (surge arrester) limits the voltage across the capacitor bank in case of high line currents. This surge arrester is protected against Fig.1: Outline of primary protective equipment of a series capacitor bank excessive energy load by a spark gap or/and a by-pass switch. Instead of this surge arrester also a thyristor bank can be used. Also arrangements without a non-linear resistor or spark gap are possible. In these cases (rarely to be found in EHV systems) only the by-pass switch has to protect the capacitor bank. 2. BY-PASS SWITCH To protect the capacitor bank in cases of line faults, but also to adjust the level of compensation, a fast switching device, the by-pass switch, is needed (see figure 2). The closed by-pass switch ensures a metallic short-circuit of the capacitor bank and the faster protection devices in parallel, if any. In order to reach a reduction of the effective insertion time of these protective devices, a short making time of the by-pass switch is required. Therefore, by-pass switches are normally equipped with faster operating mechanisms than for example circuit breakers. The by-pass switch is also used to re-insert the capacitor into the transmission line after clearing of the fault or for changing the level of compensation. a. Dielectric duties The design of a by-pass switch is normally characterized by unequal air clearances to earth and across the by-pass units, because of the different insulation levels for these components (by-pass unit and pole column). The insulation level to ground depends on the rated voltage of the transmission line, which is typically above 300 kV. For the by-pass units the insulation level results from the rating of the capacitor bank and the other protective devices. The rated voltage for the by-pass unit, recalculated from the protective level of the capacitor bank (a single phase value) Fig. 2: Photograph (Siemens) of by-pass switch in service to a three phase value and rounded up to the next rated voltage according to IEC 60694, is typically below 300 kV. So normally a single unit or smaller double unit design for higher stresses is used. In accordance with IEC 62271-109 the dielectric test is split into two test series corresponding with the specified rated voltage for these insulations.

b. By-pass making duty By-pass switches have to switch in (make) very high values of inrush current, associated with the series capacitor bank discharge. Although the discharge current is limited by a series current limiting reactor (see chapter 4) peak inrush current in excess of 100 kA is frequently observed. Moreover, the combination of the inrush current frequency with the high peak value causes a considerable arcing stress during the pre-arc period (arcing between closing contacts), since the inrush peak current is reached already during the pre-arc period. This very severe arcing during pre-arc is not encountered in general purpose circuit breaker applications. The most severe making operation Fig. 3: Making currents (upper) and pre-strike I2t values for general purpose circuit breakers is the for symmetrical 63 kA 60 Hz, asymmetrical 63 kA 60 Hz, energisation of shunt capacitor banks in a backshunt back-to-back capacitor bank (IEC values) and series to-back configuration (one capacitor bank is cap bank by-pass switching (vertical scale is logarithmic) energised while other nearby bank(s) are in service), for which a standardised value of 20 kApeak at 4.25 kHz (IEC 62271-100) is normally used in testing. An understanding to scale of the various making duties can be obtained when the current and I2t values of the arc during the pre-arc period is evaluated for 4 cases. This is demonstrated in figure 3 where the currents are plotted for symmetrical and asymmetrical terminal fault (63 kA, 60 Hz), shunt capacitor bank energisation (back-to-back situation with IEC values) and by-passing of a series capacitor bank. In the lower part, the resultant I2t values are plotted during the pre-strike period. It can be concluded that the by-pass making operation is by far the most severe making operation: I2t values of 2.6 106 kA2s (bypass), 2.4 105 kA2s (symmetrical terminal fault), 6.7 104 kA2s (back-to-back shunt capacitor bank), 2.7 103 kA2s (asymmetrical fault current) after a typical pre-strike duration of 1.1 ms. Taking into consideration the frequency of switching, shunt capacitor bank energisation is performed on an operational basis far more often than the other protective duties, that only rarely are called upon. An appropriate design of contact system and mechanism should prevent unacceptable contact welding and wear (see section 2.d). The contact system must cope with the presence of forces originating from high magnetic fields, pressure (shock-waves) from arcing and frictional forces of (eroded) contacts [1]. Depending on the presence of a fault on the transmission line the switching duty during bypassing of the capacitor bank differs in the actual making current and the voltage applied to the bypass unit. During closing at normal service condition only the capacitor bank discharge current stresses the by-pass switch. The parameters of this current depend on the design of the by-pass platform equipment (capacitance and damping device). Typical values are a peak value up to 100 kA and frequencies up to 1.000 Hz. In case of a fault on the transmission line these currents are superimposed with the fault current from the line (see figure 4).
100 80 60

Current [kA]

40 20 0 -20 -40 -60 -80 -5 0 5 10 15 20 25 30

Time [ms]

Fig.4: Superposition of fault and capacitor bank discharge current

For testing, this superimposed current is substituted by the by-pass making current, which has the frequency of the capacitor bank discharge current and a peak value of the sum of the peak value of the capacitor bank discharge current and the fault current (see figure 5, from real tests).

Fig.5: Test current for by-pass making test duty

c. Insertion duty A by-pass switch has to (re-)insert a series capacitor bank under full load conditions by interrupting the by-pass circuit, so that the load current is transferred from the by-pass branch back into the series capacitor. This is basically a load switching operation, with a specific recovery voltage (RV) that has a capacitive (1-cos) nature due to the presence of the capacitor. It differs from the standard capacitive switching duty as defined in IEC 62271-100, as the frequency of the RV is determined by a combination of power frequency voltage and transients having (higher) frequencies arising from the interaction of the line (inductance) with the series capacitance. This results in a time-to-peak of recovery voltage that can be shorter than the usual value of 8.3 ms (in 60 Hz circuits) in case of a standard capacitive RV. To cover most 50 Hz and 60 Hz applications with one single test-duty, the (transient) recovery voltage is standardised to have a time-to-peak of 5.6 ms and to follow a "1-cos" curve [2]. The risk of restrike (breakdown after 2.8 ms) must be kept to an absolute minimum, in order to avoid restrike currents that can theoretically be even larger than the by-pass making current. d. Technology Caused by the high current during the closing operation and its high frequency, the energy of the prearc during the making operation means an extreme stress for the contact material of the by-pass switch. This stress is increased by physical effects, e.g. skin effect, leading to a high current density in the surface area of the contacts. To reduce the wear of the contacts in general three different measures can be used: Reducing the pre-arc period, optimization of the current distribution and improving the wear resistance of the contacts. The pre-arcing time can be reduced by improving the dielectric field to reach smaller gap distances at the moment of the first discharge through the gap or/and by increasing the closing speed of the by-pass unit. To implement this, an insulating nozzle by-pass unit with a double motion arcing contact system can be used (see figure 6).
Movable contact pin Fixed main contact

Isolating nozzle Contact tulip Movable main contact

Open position

Start of pin movement


Contact of arcing contacts

Closed position

Fig. 6: Double motion isolating nozzle by-pass unit

By an additional motion of the contact pin, toward the closing movement of the contact tulip, the relative closing speed of the arcing contacts is distinctly increased, compared to the speed of the main contacts (see figure 7). The first discharge occurs between the contact pin and the contact tulip. The incipient pre-arc burns until the closing of this contact gap. Due to the small dimensions of the arcing contacts the current density in the contact surface area increase highly, making an immediate closing of the main contacts necessary.
Fig. 7: Absolute velocity of both contacts

Another way to overcome this problem is to enlarge the surface of the arcing contacts, as realized in by-pass units with a double nozzle design, where arcing and main contact have the same diameter. To reduce the wear of the arcing contacts furthermore hard-wearing graphite is used as contact material. From the instant of the discharge through the gap, up to the metallic closing of the main contacts, the pre-arc burns between the graphite arcing ring of the movable contact and the opposite graphite nozzle (see figure 8).

Contact tube

Graphite nozzle Graphite nozzle Graphite arcing ring Contact finger Blast cylinder Guide


Guide tube

Open position

Fig. 8: Double nozzle by-pass unit

Closed position

e. Test experience Recently, KEMA tested various designs of by-pass switches all designed for 550 kV rated insulation level to earth, having a range of 145 245 kV rated insulation level across the switch, with rated bypass insertion current 4000 8000 A and rated by-pass making current up to 110 kApeak.

Two of these tested by-pass switches are: 1. 3AQ2EI-550/245 kV - 125 kA, based on the high capability Siemens circuit breaker family 3AQ with double nozzle interrupter unit and electro hydraulic operating mechanism. The by-pass switch with two by-pass units covers also the upper segment of the market requirements. 2. 3AP1FI-550/170 kV - 110 kA, based on the Siemens circuit breaker family 3AP with insulating nozzle interrupter unit and spring operating mechanism. The by-pass switch with one by-pass unit is an economical solution for the lower segment of the market requirements. Test requirements for by-pass switches are described in IEC-PAS 62271-109, which is under revision presently [3]. Regarding switching performance, by-pass switches are subjected to the following special type tests (apart from the normal ones, listed in IEC 60694: Dielectric tests, radio interference voltage tests, measurement of the resistance of the main circuit, temperature-rise tests, short-time withstand current and peak withstand current tests, tightness tests, EMC tests, mechanical operation test at ambient air temperature): e1. By-pass making current tests. The rated by-pass making current is the current the switch can make under line fault conditions with the capacitor discharge current (with the capacitor pre-charged to the limiting peak voltage of the overvoltage protector) superimposed. The future standard [2] is proposing that this duty has to be demonstrated 4 times with superimposed fault current and discharge current, plus 20 times with capacitor bank discharge current only. Further, it is proposed as an alternative to limit testing to 20 times closing at by-pass making current. The document IEC/PAS 62271-109 [3] allows coverage of performance when the product of the required peak by-pass making current times the required frequency of the by-pass current is equal to or lower than the product of those values used in the relevant test. This relaxation, however, will be dropped in the future standard [2]: lower peak values than tested are covered only when test current frequency is not higher than 1.6 times the discharge current frequency in the test. An example of a test oscillogram is shown in figure 5. In the test lab, a capacitor bank of 60 F, charged to 260 kV in series with an inductance of 355 H produced an oscillating current of 110 kApeak at 1080 Hz (damping ratio 0.9). The main problem in the testing and measurement are the extremely high values of current rate of rise (di/dt = 750 A/s), associated flux and ground potential rise. These cause tremendous eddy currents in any adjacent conductor, including overheating, and set the highest requirements to measurement transducers and data acquisition system. Moreover, extreme discipline is required in the lay-out of the circuit, strategy of grounding and the choice of components, in order not to cause excessive damage due to the extreme magnetic fluxes and currents present. For the inductance, a distributed lay-out was chosen in order to reduce the flux density. Capacitor banks should be selected with as much as possible capacitors in parallel, but are still at considerable risk. e2. Insertion current tests For this test a synthetic capacitive circuit (shown in figure 9) has been used successfully.




Rh1 Ch1



TO Ch0


Fig. 9: Test circuit for by-pass switch insertion current testing. G: Generator; MB: master breaker: MS: making switch; PT: power transformer; SA: arrester; TO: test-object; GP: triggered spark gap; U. I: voltage, current measurements; R, L, C: resistor, inductor, capacitor

The insertion current (in this case 8 kA) is provided by a generator. This current is interrupted by two switches in series (auxiliary breaker and the by-pass switch under test). A synthetic voltage injection circuit is presented by the right part of the circuit. Capacitors Ch0 and Ch1 are pre-charged. At insertion current zero, the main capacitor Ch0 is discharged across reactor Lh3 by firing the spark-gap. Capacitor Ch1, remaining on DC charge, provides the necessary DC bias voltage, so that the recovery voltage across the by-pass switch has the representative waveshape (see figure 10). This test has to be repeated 48 times, including 24 tests at minimum arcing time (to demonstrate restrike-free interruption at the most onerous condition of minimum arcing time). Should one restrike occur, then another 48 tests should be performed without restrikes. In synthetic tests with voltage-injected TRV, the minimum arcing time may be shorter than the minimum arcing time in service, due to initial TRVs originating from stray inductance of the busbars. Therefore, in case of doubt, the inservice minimum arcing time is determined using a full 60 Hz cycle of a discharge current from a capacitor bank charged to the appropriate voltage, as a simulation of a direct test circuit. This current cycle must be equivalent to the generator current in the synthetic test, but must have TRV, including initial TRV, as in service in order to ensure the correct minimum arcing time. The minimum arcing time, found in this 'pseudo direct' test circuit, is then used as a starting point for the synthetic tests, in order to avoid too severe testing regarding the restrike probability. Both by-pass switches passed the tests succesfully. 3. PROTECTIVE SPARK GAP. The function of the protective spark gap (see fig. 11) is to protect the capacitor bank against overvoltages in the event of a line fault and/or to by-pass the metal oxide varistor (MOV) before its energy absoption limit has been reached. The by-pass function is activated by triggering of the main gap, leading to discharge of the capacitor bank. In some applications, thyristor valves can be applied to take over the function of the spark gap and MOV. The advantage is the faster cooling time of the power electronics, allowing faster re-insertion of the series capacitor and reduction of the auto-reclosure time of the line breaker. Distinction is made between spark gaps having repetitive arcing (overvoltage protection and current interruption in the spark gap by magnetic or pressurized air blow) - type L in the IEC standard [4] - and sustained arcing (current interruption after closing of the by-pass circuit breaker) - type K. The speciality of this device is its ability to withstand sustained fault current arcing. Advanced electrode
Fig. 11: 50 kA protective spark gap (Nokian Capacitors) at KEMA

Fig. 10: Example of insertion current test duty

systems are in use to cope with this very severe duty. The initiation of arcing can be self-triggering (natural spark-over) or forced triggering (initiation by an auxiliary discharge). Various control schemes have been adopted, and examples are known where optical current and voltage sensors have been used successfully [5]. a. Testing Test requirements of protective spark gaps are described in IEC 60143-2 (1994) [4]. Routine tests have to be performed: inspection (dimensional, spark gap components, bushings, supports, grading components), spark over tests (including the effect of environment) and tests of the (forced) trigger circuit. Power type-tests, in line with the duties in service, consists of 3 parts: 1. Fault current testing. This test is to verify the capability to withstand fault current of specified magnitude and duration, based on specific fault scenario and fault clearing time of the back-up breaker. One single test is required, where after no excessive erosion or significant change in sparkover voltage shall occur. Such a test is shown in figure 12; in this case the arc was initiated by an exploding wire. In many cases the required arc duration is even longer than shown in figure 12. 2. Discharge current testing. This test has to prove that the spark gap can withstand discharge current

Fig.12: Spark gap fault current withstand test

Fig.13: Spark gap recovery voltage test

of the capacitor bank, superimposed on the power-frequency fault current. Such a test can be simulated by one loop of 90% of power frequeny current, repeated 10 times. 3. Recovery voltage testing. This test shall demonstrate that the gap can be re-inserted without flashover after succesful line auto reclosure. Basically, the level of spark-over voltage is measured, before and after high-current stresses. An example of such a test is shown in fig. 13, where a capacitor bank in the test station was switched onto the spark gap. The spark-gap passed all tests succesfully. 4. REACTORS Reactors serve in two ways to protect series capacitor banks: a. The current limiting reactor has to limit the discharge current of the capacitor bank at closing of the by-pass circuit breaker. b. A damping reactor (with a resistor in parallel to it) serves to limit the discharge current to values acceptable for the by-pass switch. The reactors, being in series with the line when the capacitor bank is by-passed, have to withstand thermal and electrodynamical stresses not only at discharge but also at shortcircuit current.

Fig. 14: Reactor (Trench Group) under test at KEMA

Requirements for testing are laid down in the following publications: IEC 60143-2 (1995), "Protective Equipment for Series Capacitor Banks"; IEEE C57.16 (1996), "IEEE Standard Requirements, Terminology, and Test Code for DryType Air-Core Series-Connected Reactors"; IEC 60289 (1988), "Reactors"; this standard, however, does not deal explicitely with reactors for series capacitor banks Power test were carried out on a current limiting reactor (see figure 14). Oscillograms Fig.15: High-current tests of current limiting reactor of fault current withstand capability tests based on the latter standard are shown in figure 15. The short duration (0.2 s) asymmetrical current (upper trace) of high peak value (140 kA) must prove that the reactor can withstand the electrodynamical stresses, whereas the longer duration (1 s) of symmetrical current (50 kA) tests the thermal withstand capability of high I2t (lower trace). The reactor passed all tests succesfully. 5. CONCLUSIONS Technology, standardisation and testing of protective equipment for series capacitor banks was evaluated. By-pass switches have a special duty in the by-passing and re-insertion of the main capacitor bank, leading to extraordinary arcing stresses during the pre-arcing phase in the making operation. Special designs of such switches are discussed, as well as the testing of these devices. For spark gaps, the most severe stress is the capability to withstand high-current arcing during a prolonged arcing period, whereas for equipment in series with the main current path - here the inrush current limiting reactor has been taken as an example - both the asymmetrical peak current as well as the duration of current should be thoroughly considered by the designer. 6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The authors like to thank Nokian Capacitors, Finland and Trench group, Canada for permission to use high-power test data. 7. REFERENCES [1] Smeets R.P.P., van der Linden W.A., "Verification of the Short-Circuit Current Making Capability of High-Voltage Switching Devices", IEEE Trans. Pow. Del. , vol. 16 no. 4, pp.611 - 618, 2001 [2] IEC document 17A/724/CDV (Committee draft for vote): "IEC 62271-109, Ed. 1: Alternatingcurrent series capacitor by-pass switches, 2005. [3] IEC/PAS 62271-109, "Alternating-current series capacitor by-pass switches", 2002-07. [4] IEC 60143-2, "Protective Equipment for Series Capacitor Banks", 1994-7 [5] Rahmatian F., Peelo D., Polovick G., Sunga B., Lehtimaki J., "Optical Current and Voltage Sensors in EHV Series Capacitor Application", CIGRE A3/B3 Colloquium, 2005, Japan, paper 127