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in Power Transformers using FDTD Modelling

A. M. Ishak

University of Strathclyde

asnor.ishak@eee.strath.ac.uk

M. D. Judd

University of Strathclyde

m.judd@eee.strath.ac.uk

(PD) sources in power transformers has become increasingly

important in recent research. In order to strengthen our

understanding of what is required to locate PD by this method,

it is important to study the propagation of electromagnetic

waves from PD in transformers. This paper is concerned with

ultra-high frequency (UHF) PD signal propagation in power

transformers in the presence of conducting obstacles, which may

represent the core, winding or other internal structures. The

approach is to use the FDTD (Finite-Difference Time-Domain)

method which can model the propagation of electromagnetic

waves and their interactions with the structure of materials.

FDTD is a technique widely used in microwave and radio

frequency applications. Being a time domain method, it is

particularly suitable for modelling the time-of-flight PD location

problem. A 3D geometry has been created to represent a simple

oil-filled tank containing a PD source, UHF sensor and an

obstacle to line-of-sight UHF signal propagation. The effect of

obstacles in delaying the arrival time and attenuating the leading

edge of the signal is assessed. Implications of the results for

accurate PD location by the UHF method are discussed and

further improvements to the modelling study are proposed.

Index Terms-FDTD, Partial Discharge, transformer, UHF

signal.

I.

INTRODUCTION

important aspect for the reliable and safe operation of

electrical power networks. Partial discharge (PD) within

power transformers often indicates weaknesses in the

insulation [1]. It can be valuable to locate PD sources in

power transformers in order to determine what remedial

action is necessary. PD pulses usually involve rise times of

less than 1 ns, which will excite a signal in the UHF range

(300-3000 MHz) [2]. The PD location can be estimated by

timing the arrival of UHF signals at several sensors on a

transformer tank, as shown in Figure 1. The algorithm to

locate PD sources in power transformers by using three or

more sensors has been outlined in [3]. It can estimate the

shortest propagation path of UHF signals using a numerical

procedure to account for obstacles. If the signals are noisy,

they could first be denoised, as elaborated in [4] [5] [6].

This paper reports a study of the propagation of UHF PD

signals in power transformers using the FDTD method.

Example applications of FDTD can be found in the literature

[7] [8] [9]. This paper deals with the propagation of a

wavefront from a PD source to a sensor with an obstacle at

the centre of the tank. The effect on PD location is studied by

W. H. Siew

University of Strathclyde

w.siew@eee.strath.ac.uk

without an obstacle.

following the technique outlined in [1]. S1 - S4 are UHF sensors and the

lines to them approximate the propagation path of signals from the PD source

to each sensor.

Two kinds of obstacles (conducting cylinder and cuboid)

have been positioned in turn at the centre of a tank. The grid

system has been defined on an FDTD cell size of 0.01 m for

all axes.

The dimensions of the tank are 4 m 2 m 3 m, which

represents a small oil-filled power transformer. The thickness

of the tank wall is 0.02 m and it is defined as a perfect electric

conductor (PEC). One obstacle is a cylinder of size 3 m 1 m

(height diameter), as shown in Figure 2. The second

obstacle tested was a cuboid of dimensions 1 m 1 m 3 m.

Table I summarises the material parameters used in the

simulation. The coordinates of the electric field point sensor

are {0.5 m, 1.0 m, 1.5 m} and a Gaussian PD current source

of 0.28 ns pulse width has been applied. This pulse width is

the default value selected by the software for this particular

mesh spacing, which ensures a broadband response and is

also in the appropriate range for a PD pulse. Three orthogonal

directions of PD current have been simulated in turn, which

1.50 m} to the points {3.51 m, 1.00 m, 1.50 m}, {3.50 m,

1.01 m, 1.50 m} and {3.50 m, 1.00 m, 1.51 m} respectively.

These directions represent the positive x-direction, y-direction

and z-direction of PD current sources.

y

(a)

For each obstacle, six simulations were carried out using

the XFdtd 7.0 software, comprising each of the three

orthogonal PD current directions with and without the

obstacle. The simulation period of was 96.27 ns,

corresponding to 5000 time steps of 19.254 ps each. The

simulation time was typically 78 minutes on a powerful PC

workstation. Without the obstacle, the simulation took a few

seconds longer to complete because the volume within which

fields have to be computed is slightly larger.

A key parameter of interest in the output data is the

estimated differential time delay of PD signal that is

introduced by the addition of the obstacle.

The absolute distances between the sensor and PD source

were calculated based on simple geometry. The geometrical

minimum distances which the PD signals would have to

propagate with the two conducting obstacles are calculated as

illustrated in Figure 3. The differences in geometrical

minimum distances with and without obstacles will be used

as reference values to assess the differential time delays

resulting from the FDTD simulations. The theoretical values

for the differential time delay were calculated using the speed

of light in oil transformer, which equals 2 108 m/s [10].

Table II lists the expected differential time delays.

z

(b)

(a)

viewed (a) in the x-y plane, and (b) in the x-z plane.

TABLE I

THE MATERIALS OF THE MODEL TANK AND INTERNAL OBSTACLES

Parameter

Relative

Permeability

Relative

Permittivity

Conductivity

(S/m)

Mineral Oil

2.2

Conducting

Cylinder/Cuboid

5.8 107

Geometry

(b)

Fig. 3. The calculation of geometrical minimum distances for (a)

cylindrical obstacle, and (b) cuboid obstacle

TABLE II

PROPAGATION TIME DELAY BASED ON GEOMETRIC CALCULATION

Obstacle

Cylinder

Cuboid

Obstacle

Configuration

Geometric

Distance

(m)

Without

With

Without

With

3.000

3.162

3.000

3.236

Absolute

Propagation

Time

(ns)

15.00

15.81

15.00

16.18

Expected

Differential

Time Delay

(ns)

0.81

1.18

delivers the absolute magnitude of electric field as a function

of time. The total electric field results from the vector sum of

the Cartesian components, which can also be exported

separately. By way of example, Figure 4 shows the variation

of total electric field magnitude E with time and that of the x,

y and z components of E (with and without obstacles) for an

x-directed PD current source. Note that the dominant electric

field component of the radiated PD signal is in the direction

of PD current flow.

As is evident from Figure 4, only the initial part of the

UHF signal response to PD is available from the simulation.

Much more time would be needed to simulate the whole UHF

resonance. The signals will still be reflecting and refracting

inside the oil-filled tank long after 100 ns of propagation

time, but in this study we are only interested in the initial

response.

Enlarged views of the PD signals from Figure 4 are shown

in Figure 5. Their amplitude is very small at the leading edges

but it is noticeable from Figure 5 that the signals without the

cylindrical obstacle arrive about 0.8 ns before the signals with

the cylinder present, which is in line with expectation.

Examination of the orthogonal components of the electric

field indicates that the x-component is the dominant

contributor to the overall electric field magnitude at the

sensor. In this regard, it is interesting to observe that the

initial peak of the electric field is actually larger in amplitude

when the cylinder is present (despite the delayed arrival).

This touches on some of the issues of the complexity of

propagation around conducting obstacles, which provide

much scope for future detailed investigation. For example, if

we consider the radiation pattern of the x-directed PD source

to be similar to that of a small dipole then the PD sensor

would lie on a projection of the line over which the current

flows. The radiation pattern suggests that the field component

parallel to the current flow will be large but that on the axis of

current flow will be negligible. Since the boundary conditions

on a conducting cylinder require that the electric field is

perpendicular to its surface, it is likely that the presence of the

cylinder assists with steering a surface wave around its

surface. By considering the shortest path shown in Figure

3(a), it is apparent that the angle of the radiated field leaving

the PD source along this path will one for which the xcomponent ought to be larger.

electric field magnitude according to the following procedure:

The electric field data is squared and then a threshold is

defined as a certain percentage of the peak value of this

squared data. The first time at which the squared E-field data

crosses the threshold is taken as the absolute value of arrival

time. The absolute arrival time is of little value in itself, but

subtracting pairs of arrival times between data sets allows the

necessary differential arrival times to be obtained. Figure 6

shows the differential time delays for the obstacles, including

the effects of the three different PD current source directions

and the different threshold levels used to calculate signal

arrival times. The differential time delay for the simulated

electric field has been compared with the expected

differential time delay from Table II, revealing the potential

for several ns of timing error.

and without cylinder (Positive x-directions of PD current source)

relatively noise-free signals, a threshold of about 1% is about

the minimum that can give repeatable results with UHF

signals from power transformers. In these simulations, we

have been able to apply thresholds several orders of

magnitude smaller, since the output data is noise-free. Even

so, the levels of differential timing error evident in Figure 6

are still greater than might have been expected for such

impractically low thresholds. Further studies are needed to

see if this may be a consequence of the very simple model

perhaps the structure is too simple and symmetrical to allow

for the conversion between orthogonal field components that

varying angles to the radiated electric field.

Note also that the effect of the response of UHF sensors (as

reported in [11]) has not been taken into account in this work,

and will be a further contributory factor to the timing

accuracy.

(a)

Threshold

Level

(%)

(b)

Threshold

Level

(%)

cylindrical obstacle, theoretical delay = 0.81 ns, and (b) cuboid obstacle,

theoretical delay = 1.18 ns.

Fig. 5. Expanded views of the total E-field and its components with and

without cylinder for PD current source in the positive x-directions. Labels

show the magnitude of the first peak in the signal received at the sensor.

Accurate onset time determination for UHF signals is

important for locating PD sources in power transformers. A

study of the propagation of UHF signals excited by PD in a

simple power transformer model has been carried out using

FDTD simulation software.

Since there is no noise present in the output of this

simulation, the threshold method for computing the

propagation time can be set to very small values (e.g.,

0.00001%). When comparing differences in signal arrival

times for obstacles that block line-of-sight propagation of

electromagnetic waves, it was found that several nanoseconds of timing error may occur in the differential time

delay compared with expected changes that were only about 1

ns. This raises issues concerning the accuracy of PD location

by the method of assuming the minimal delay signal path,

which require further investigation though the evaluation of

results from more detailed and realistic models.

that can affect the observed differential time delay by 1 or 2

ns when all other parameters are kept constant. The total

electric field at the sensor seems to be predominantly

composed of the component corresponding to the direction of

PD current flow.

In a real transformer, with a much more complicated

structure and arrangement of conductors, the situation may be

different in that the electric fields radiated by the PD source

may not be able to retain such ideal polarisation. This may in

fact lead to more accurate observation of the expected

differential arrival times, and is a topic that will be

investigated in future work.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A. M. Ishak would like to acknowledge the support of

colleagues in the High Voltage Technologies Group. He also

wishes to thank Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia and

National Defence University of Malaysia for their funding.

REFERENCES

[1]

for Power Transformers Using UHF Sensors Part 1: Sensors and Signal

Interpretation, IEEE Elect. Insul. Mag., vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 5-14,

March/April 2005.

[2] M. D. Judd, O. Farish and B. F. Hampton, The Excitation of UHF

Signals by Partial Discharges in GIS, IEEE Transactions on

Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 213-228, April

1996.

[3] L. Yang and M. D. Judd, Propagation characteristics of UHF signals in

transformers for locating partial discharge sources, Proc. 13th

International Symposium of High Voltage Engineering, Netherlands,

August 2003.

[4] Shim I, Soraghan JJ and SIEW WH, Digital Signal Processing applied

to the Detection of Partial Discharge: An overview, IEEE Electrical

Insulation Magazine, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 6-12, May/June 2000.

[5] Shim I, Soraghan JJ and SIEW WH, Application of Digital Signal

Processing to the Detection of Partial Discharge Part 2: Optimized A/D

Conversion, IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine, vol. 16, no. 4, pp.

11-15, July/Aug 2000.

[6] Shim I, Soraghan JJ and SIEW WH, Detection of PD Utilising Digital

Signal Processing Methods Part 3: Open-Loop Noise Reduction, IEEE

Electrical Insulation Magazine, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 6 13, Jan/Feb 2001.

[7] D. Pommerenke, R. Jobava and R. Heinrich, Numerical simulation of

partial discharge propagation in cable joints using the finite difference

time domain method, IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine, vol. 18,

no. 6, November/December 2002.

[8] L. Yang, M. D. Judd and G. Costa, Simulating Propagation of UHF

Signals for PD Monitoring in Transformers Using the Finite Difference

Time Domain Technique, Annual Report Conf. on Electrical

Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, Millennium Harvest House

Hotel, Boulder, Colorado, USA, pp. 410-413, 17-20 October 2004.

[9] M. D. Judd, L. Yang and I. J. Craddock, Locating Partial Discharges

using UHF Measurements: A Study of Signal Propagation using the

Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method, 14th International

Symposium on High Voltage Engineering, Tsinghua University,

Beijing, China, 25-29 August 2005.

[10] A. Convery and M. D. Judd, Measurement of propagation

characteristics for UHF signals in transformer insulation materials,

Proc. 13th Int. Symp. on High Voltage Engineering, Delft, August

2003.

[11] P. J. G. Orr, A. J. Reid and M. D. Judd, Sensor Response

Characteristics for UHF Location of PD Sources, International

Conference on Condition Monitoring and Diagnosis, Beijing, China,

21-24 April 2008.

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