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2008 International Conference on Condition Monitoring and Diagnosis, Beijing, China, April 21-24, 2008

Experimental investigation of positional

accuracy for UHF partial discharge location
Peter Kakeeto1*, Martin Judd1, John Pearson2 and David Templeton2
Institute for Energy and Environment, University of Strathclyde, Royal College, Glasgow, Scotland, G1 1XW, UK
Diagnostic Monitoring Systems Ltd, 39 St Vincent Place, Glasgow, Scotland, G1 2QQ, UK

located. Central to PD location in power transformers is the

AbstractUHF methods for locating partial discharges (PD) in
power transformers are under development and are increasingly ability to measure the arrival time of UHF signals to within an
being applied in the field. Due to the complexity and variation of acceptable tolerance. Because the accuracy with which arrival
internal structures in power transformers, a useful starting point times of UHF signals can be determined affects the accuracy
is to assess the accuracy of PD location in a simple environment. of PD location, the ability to accurately determine it is
Therefore, tests have been carried out in a metal tank to assess the important for PD location. This paper describes an initial
difference between calculated and actual positions of a PD source assessment of two methods that could be used to determine the
when the source is located at various positions within the tank. arrival time of UHF signals.
The tank was fitted with three UHF sensors. A contact discharge
test cell was used to generate PDtype current pulses that excite
UHF signals. Signals from each sensor were captured and their
recorded differences in arrival time at the sensors were compared Fig. 1 shows the experimental equipment and Fig. 2 shows
with expected time differences based on the known coordinates of the contact discharge test cell [5] (PD source) inside the tank.
the PD source and sensors. Two methods for estimating the onset
point of the UHF signal at each sensor were evaluated, using
experimental data as a basis for determining which technique
might be most useful for locating PD. S2 Tank
Index TermsPower Transformers, partial discharge
location, UHF, sensors. PD Cell


F ailure of power transformers could result in regulatory

fines for utility companies, damage to neighbouring
equipment, disruption of economic activity and possibly
Coaxial cables x

customer dissatisfaction. Detecting and locating partial Test cell supply

discharges during their early stages of development may help and controller
to avoid more serious consequences later on. Because of the
large capital value of power transformers, their critical role in Fig. 1. Configuration of the experiment. S1, S2 and S3 are the UHF sensors.
the electricity network and the long lead times for manufacture,
there is an increasing requirement for non-intrusive diagnostic
and monitoring tools capable of assessing their internal
condition [1]. UHF methods for locating partial discharges in
power transformers are under development [2] and are
increasingly being applied in industry, during on-site tests or
as a diagnostic tool during the factory acceptance testing of
new transformers.
PD occurs within a transformer where the electric field
exceeds the local dielectric strength of the insulation.
Insulation damage caused by over-voltages, lightning strikes or
incipient weakness due to manufacturing defects are some of
the possible causes of PD in power transformers [3]. The
ability to determine whether power transformers are suffering
from internal arcing or partial discharge (for example, using
dissolved gas analysis [4]) will only solve part of the problem
if the actual PD source within the transformer cannot be Fig. 2. PD test cell on its stand inside the tank. Two cables connect it to the
external control unit.
This work was supported by KTP award No. 6231.

978-1-4244-1622-6/08/$25.00 2007 IEEE

The tank used was an aluminium box of dimensions 1.2 amplitude (100 mV/div)
2.4 1.2 m, fitted with three UHF sensors connected to a
digitising oscilloscope with 1 GHz bandwidth using 5 m long S1
coaxial cables of equal electrical length (delay time). The
coordinates of the sensors on the tank walls with respect to the
axes defined in Fig. 1 are given in Table I. The sensors are S2
monopole antennas, inserted through small holes in the tank
wall. They respond to the component of UHF electric field that
is perpendicular to the inner surface of the tank. S3
The tank was divided up into a three dimensional grid of
points 20 cm apart. Points on each horizontal layer of the grid
were numbered from 0 to 90. The tank was further divided up
into 5 levels, each 30 cm apart in the vertical (z) direction. At 200 100 0 100 200 300
each position of the PD cell, a reference name was assigned time (ns)
with the letter L representing the level and P the position Fig. 3. Time-domain signals from the UHF sensors S1 - S3 when the test cell
on the horizontal grid. For example, L1P22 means the is at the central position in the tank, L2P45.
discharge cell was placed at level 1 (30 cm above the floor of
the tank) and at position 22. In this paper, we have only III. ARRIVAL TIME ESTIMATION
analysed results for a subset of these points (14 positions), as In this experiment, two methods were analysed with the aim
defined in Table II which lists their coordinates. The contact of comparing their performance for estimating the arrival time
discharge test cell was used to excite UHF signals in the tank, of a UHF signal. Cables of equal length were used so that any
which were captured and saved for analysis at 5 G sample/s difference in arrival time between two signals could only be
using a 1 GHz bandwidth digital oscilloscope. At each caused by different path lengths inside the tank.
position, the cell was energised and a set of three UHF signals
of 10,000 points sampled. Fig. 3 shows an example set of A. Cumulative Energy Method
captured UHF signals. The voltage waveform for each sensor was converted into a
cumulative energy form as shown in Fig. 4 using the equation
t N 1 2
TABLE I U= Vi (1)
R i =0
where t is the time (200 ps) between the samples of coupler
Sensor positions output voltage Vi, R is the input impedance of the measurement
Sensor x (m) y (m) z (m) system (50 ), and N is the number of samples in the data
S1 1.50 0.00 0.83 (10,000).
S2 0.57 0.97 1.26 The knee that is circled on each trace in Fig. 4 indicates
S3 2.31 1.26 0.2 the point where the noise gives way to signal [2]. These points
are judged by eye to be the arrival times of each signal,
which are then used to calculate the time differences between
TABLE II two sensors. A full plot of this graph would show that as the
TEST CELL POSITIONS WITHIN THE TANK signal amplitude decays, the curve approaches a constant
energy value.
Test cell positions
Position x (m) y (m) z (m) Cumulative energy (pJ)
L1P22 0.60 0.20 0.30 6 S1-S2= 0.8ns
L1P26 0.60 1.00 0.30 5 S2-S3=-1.8ns
L1P45 1.20 0.60 0.30
L1P72 2.00 0.40 0.30
L2P17 0.40 0.60 0.63 3
L2P31 0.80 0.60 0.63 S3
L2P43 1.20 0.20 0.63
L2P45 1.20 0.60 0.63 1
L2P47 1.20 1.00 0.63 0
L2P59 1.60 0.60 0.63 -20 -10 0 10
time (ns)
L2P73 2.00 0.60 0.63 Fig. 4. Cumulative energy plot for UHF signals shown in Fig. 3.
L3P26 0.60 1.00 0.90
L3P45 1.20 0.60 0.90
B. Threshold method
L3P68 1.80 1.00 0.90 This method was applied by squaring the amplitude of the
signal, which makes the signal unipolar. It can also be helpful
in visual interpretation of the signal, as it tends to expand the TABLE III
dynamic range of the data. Fig. 5 shows how the arrival times
Expected time differences
of the signals were determined by setting a threshold against
V2 the time when V2 exceeds that threshold was taken to be
Position S1 - S2 S1 - S2 -
the arrival time of the UHF PD signal. The threshold used for
L1P22 -0.56 -3.17 -2.61
the data in this paper was 2 percent of the maximum value of
L1P26 1.62 -0.96 -2.57
V2. L1P45 -1.17 -1.47 -0.30
L1P72 -3.28 -0.29 2.98
Volts2(x10-3) L2P17 1.73 -2.66 -4.39
0.6 Threshold L2P31 0.59 -2.53 -3.12
0.5 S1 L2P43 -2.55 -3.94 -1.39
0.4 L2P45 -0.88 -2.20 -1.32
L2P47 0.57 -0.52 -1.09
L2P59 -2.08 -1.40 0.67
0.2 L2P73 -2.67 -0.13 2.53
0.1 S2 L3P26 3.28 -1.73 -5.01
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 2 4 6 8 10
L3P45 -0.47 -2.65 -2.18
L3P68 -0.79 0.47 1.26
Based on cumulative energy Based on threshold
(ns) (ns)
0 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 2 4 6 8 10 Position S1 - S2 S1 - S3 S2 - S3 S1 - S2 S1 - S3 S2 - S3
time (ns)
Fig. 5. Plot of V2 against time for the UHF signals of Fig. 3. L1P22 2.00 -1.80 -3.80 1.80 -2.00 -3.80
L1P26 2.80 -0.40 -3.20 2.80 -0.40 -3.20
IV. ANALYSIS L1P45 -1.00 -1.52 -0.52 -1.00 -1.60 -0.60
L1P72 -3.60 -1.60 2.00 -4.80 -1.40 3.40
A comparison of the two methods for estimating arrival time
L2P17 2.60 -0.80 -3.40 2.40 -2.00 -4.40
of a signal was made on the basis of the errors produced by
L2P31 3.20 -1.00 -4.20 -2.40 -0.80 1.60
each method. By comparing the time differences estimated
L2P43 -0.20 -2.60 -1.40 -3.00 -1.60
using each method with the calculated geometrical time L2P45 0.80 -1.00 -1.80 1.00 -0.80 -1.80
differences, the accuracy of each method was determined. L2P47 2.20 0.20 -2.00 2.00 -0.40 -1.60
Since the tank was empty, the velocity of the signal used in all L2P59 -1.20 -0.60 0.60 -1.20 -0.60 0.60
calculations was 0.3 m/ns, equivalent to the speed of light c. L2P73 -2.00 0.40 2.40 -2.60 -0.20 2.40
Table III shows the expected time differences between signals L3P26 5.18 0.04 -5.14 7.64 1.06 -6.58
arriving at each sensor pair when the test cell is placed at L3P45 2.24 -2.16 -4.40 2.58 -1.28 -3.86
different positions in the tank. Table IV shows the time L3P68 2.22 3.36 1.14 2.40 3.32 0.92
differences as estimated using both methods and Table V
compares the expected time differences with the estimated TABLE V
The data in Table V shows that the time difference S2-S3 THOSE ESTIMATED
estimated using either method produces the lowest mean error. Cumulative Energy Threshold
However, the errors produced may be as a result of a number (ns) (ns)
of factors which are not very obvious. For example, according Position S1 - S2 S1 - S3 S2 - S3 S1 - S2 S1 - S3 S2 - S3
L1P22 -2.56 -1.37 1.19 -2.36 -1.17 1.19
to the expected time differences when the test cell is at L2P45
L1P26 -1.18 -0.56 0.63 -1.18 -0.56 0.63
the signal on sensor S1 should have arrived first, but Figs. 4 L1P45 -0.17 0.05 0.22 -0.17 0.13 0.30
and 5 seem to indicate otherwise. This suggests that the initial L1P72 0.32 1.31 0.98 1.52 1.11 -0.42
wave-front of the transient electric field radiated by the PD L2P17 -0.87 -1.86 -0.99 -0.67 -0.66 0.01
cell may not be oriented in the correct direction for coupling L2P31 -2.61 -1.53 1.08 2.99 -1.73 -4.72
with the monopole UHF sensor. The signal that appears a short L2P43 -2.35 -1.34 1.01 -1.15 -0.94 0.21
time later will have travelled by a longer path and experienced L2P45 -1.68 -1.20 0.48 -1.88 -1.40 0.48
L2P47 -1.63 -0.72 0.91 -1.43 -0.12 0.51
some reflection, which has introduced a component of electric
L2P59 -0.88 -0.80 0.07 -0.88 -0.80 0.07
field parallel to the axis of the monopole sensor. The mean L2P73 -0.67 -0.53 0.13 -0.07 0.07 0.13
error produced by using either method to estimate the arrival L3P26 -1.90 -1.77 0.13 -4.36 -2.79 1.57
time of a UHF signal was approximately 1.2 ns. This is L3P45 -2.71 -0.49 2.22 -3.05 -1.37 1.68
equivalent to a propagation distance of 0.36 m in air (or 0.24 L3P68 -3.01 -2.89 0.12 -3.19 -2.85 0.34
m in oil, taking the velocity of the signal to be 0.2 m/ns [6]). Mean error (+/-) 1.61 1.17 0.73 1.78 1.12 0.88
Two methods of estimating the onset time of the UHF signal The practical assistance of Mr Jack Barrasford with the
have been presented and described in this paper. The analysis experimental measurements is gratefully acknowledged.
showed that both methods can be effective for estimating the
onset time of the UHF signal, producing similar values that VII. REFERENCES
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geometry. The only explanation for this is poor coupling of the
initial wave front as a result of using monopole-type UHF
sensors that respond to the component of the field normal to
the inner surface of the tank. By making the experimental
layout as simple as possible (using an empty box tank and
monopole sensors), it could be that the task of measuring the
expected arrival times has become more difficult, since there is
no internal metalwork to diversify the orientation of the
electric field.
Future work will involve a more in-depth study of the full
sets of data recorded in this experiment, taking into account
the direction of the PD current pulse (which defines its
radiated electric field vector) and tests with different types of
UHF sensor. Different percentages of threshold level will be
investigated to see what value maximises the level of
agreement with geometrical calculations. More advanced
methods for applying the cumulative energy method will be
investigated, using curve-fitting techniques.