Numerical Busbar Protection Scheme


Photo Credit: EMS Industrial

The application of numerical relay technology to busbar protection has lagged behind that of other protection functions. Static technology is still usual for such schemes, but numerical technology is now readily available. The very latest developments in the technology are included, such as extensive use of a data bus to link the various units involved, and fault tolerance against loss of a particular link by providing multiple communications paths. The development process has been very rigorous, because the requirements for busbar protection in respect of immunity to maloperation are very high.

Related Article: Busbar Protection

Feeders each have their own processing unit, which collects together information on the state of the feeder (currents, voltages, CB and isolator status, etc.) and communicates it over high-speed fibre-optic data links to a central unit. For large substations, more than one central unit may be used, while in the case of small installations, all of the units can be co-located, leading to the appearance of a traditional centralised architecture.

For simple feeders, interface units at a bay may be used with the data transmitted to a single centrally located peripheral unit. The central unit performs the calculations required for the protection functions. Available protection functions are:

  • protection 
  • backup overcurrent protection 
  • breaker failure
  • dead zone protection

Architecture for numerical protection scheme

In addition, monitoring functions such as CB and isolator monitoring, disturbance recording and transformer supervision are provided. 

Because of the distributed topology used, synchronisation of the measurements taken by the peripheral units is of vital importance. A high stability numerically-controlled oscillator is fitted in each of the central and peripheral units, with time synchronisation between them. In the event of loss of the synchronisation signal, the high stability of the oscillator in the affected feeder unit(s) enables processing of the incoming data to continue without significant errors until synchronisation can be restored. 

The peripheral units have responsibility for collecting the required data, such as voltages and currents, and processing it into digital form for onwards transmission to the central unit. Modelling of the CT response is included, to eliminate errors caused by effects such as CT saturation. Disturbance recording for the monitored feeder is implemented, for later download as required. Because each peripheral unit is concerned only with an individual feeder, the protection algorithms must reside in the central unit.

Related Article: Fundamentals of Generator Protection

The differential protection algorithm can be much more sophisticated than with earlier technology, due to improvements in processing power. In addition to calculating the sum of the measured currents, the algorithm can also evaluate differences between successive current samples, since a large change above a threshold may indicate a fault – the threshold being chosen such that normal load changes, apart from inrush conditions do not exceed the threshold. 

Busbar protection relay using the latest numerical technology (MiCOM P740 range)

One advantage gained from the use of numerical technology is the ability to easily re-configure the protection to cater for changes in configuration of the substation. For example, addition of an extra feeder involves the addition of an extra peripheral unit, the fibre-optic connection to the central unit and entry via the MMI of the new configuration into the central unit. 


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