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Peter Pieters SABIC Europe Koolwaterstofstraat 1 NL-6160 AL Geleen The Netherlands

Peter Pieters SABIC Europe Koolwaterstofstraat 1 NL-6160 AL Geleen The Netherlands
Peter Pieters SABIC Europe Koolwaterstofstraat 1 NL-6160 AL Geleen The Netherlands
Peter Pieters SABIC Europe Koolwaterstofstraat 1 NL-6160 AL Geleen The Netherlands
Peter Pieters SABIC Europe Koolwaterstofstraat 1 NL-6160 AL Geleen The Netherlands

Jari Riikonen

ABB Drives

Hiomotie 13

FI-00381 Helsinki


Abstract - VSD's are often judged as much less reliable compared to DOL operation of motors. This paper discusses that most failures that contribute to the (bad) image of VSD's are related to specification and engineering, rather than to the drive itself. As a matter of fact, the usage rate of drives in chemical industry is far below the usage rate of drives in other industries (3% vs. >8%). Because failures with high voltage frequency controlled drives also contribute to the image of low voltage drives, an overview is given on all types of failures and their possible prevention for low voltage as well as high voltage. The rate of possible improvement is given, based on a split in failures caused by design vs. the drive itself and expressed in MTBF values.

Index Terms VFD, reliability, engineering.



Chemical Oil and Gas


Direct Current


Direct On Line


Electro Magnetic Compatibility




Gate Turn Off


High Voltage


Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor


Low Voltage


Motor Control Centre


Main Switch Board


Mean Time Between Failure


Printed Circuit Board


Programmable Logic Controller


revolutions per minute


Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition


Uninterruptible Power Supply


Variable Frequency Drive = frequency converter


Variable Speed Drive = frequency converter


Variable Speed Drive System = system including evt. Transformer, frequency converter, cabling, filters and motor.



The major concern for Chemical Oil and Gas industries is to have reliable functioning installations. A failure to a component can cause in most cases a loss of production exceeding the repair costs by a factor of more than a thousand. This explains, why the usage rate of VFD’s in COG industries is not very high. Upcoming directives on energy policies however will stimulate us to find solutions for reduction of energy consumption. Dipl.-Phys. Jürgen

Reichert of the Fraunhofer institute wrote: “The large scale application of VSDs (Variable Speed Drives) is expected to save about 37 TWh by 2010 in the industrial sector” (http://www.isi.fraunhofer.de/e/projekte/035s.htm). And in theory it can be done. A well known example of course is the use of a frequency controlled pump instead of a fixed speed pump with a controlled valve, or even worse with an overflow or backflow. In this paper the reader will be taken along several failures on VSD’s and tries to demonstrate, that these failures can be avoided by proper engineering.

A. HV Drives



VFDS can be divided into two groups. One group consists of special engineered drives for certain applications. The drives in this group meet the specifications for the driven equipment and the supply of electricity. In most cases these drives will have a primary connection to a High Voltage supply system via a three- or even five winding transformer. Because of the special attention to these systems and often the lack of an alternative way to drive the equipment this group can be qualified as meeting the reliability for the application. However, failures on drive systems in this group contribute to the image of drives in general. For this reason the failure causes and remedies of this group will be used in the next paragraphs to demonstrate the way reliability can be improved.

B. LV Drives

Low Voltage drives have developed from engineered products about 2 decades ago, like HV drives currently are, to standardized products. A rapid change in techniques also caused a learning curve at an interval of approximately 5 years. One can think of the first types using thyristors, followed by transistors and GTO’s, right up to the present day and the use of IGBT’s. As well as this, programming techniques have developed from analog potentiometer setting on PCB’s with operational amplifiers and analog control, via binary control to modern microprocessor based solutions with built in techniques for torque vector control. From the history in our minds, we all know typical failures associated with all of these drive types. This knowledge can still contribute to the image of the whole product family.

The conclusions of this paper might be used to decide on the use of Low Voltage frequency converters in applications where the COG industry is still reluctant to do so.

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In this paragraph an overview is given on failures that have happened, or could happen. Failures can be found,

not matching the reader’s expectations for his situation. The other way around, the reader might expect some failures not listed here. That’s why some paragraphs are


open. The list isn’t a complete overview, nor does the


give an indication of the number of failures or the

chance on occurrence. Sometimes only one occurrence carries the image of the product for tens of years. The failures and inconveniences are listed in groups.

A. Design & Commissioning:

1) Dimensioning: After 10 years of use, very small

improvements in a production line cause a VSDS to trip

on overload. It appears that the drive was designed for

1200 rpm of the motor at a certain power. The

improvements resulted in a motor running at 1320 rpm continuously. Due to the equipment characteristics the load increased by more than 20 %. 2) limit values: There is a difference between DOL operation and converter operation, with respect to the response on thermal overload. In fact the overload of converter operated equipment is limited to the maximum current a converter can supply. A drive can be programmed to decelerate, to keep the torque equal to the maximum current that can be provided, but most of

the time it will trip on overloads.

3) cabling (length + type): If single core cables are used, the high frequency currents through the cable will create an electromagnetic field in the earth shield

proportional to ƒ 2 . A fault in the outer cable insulation will cause a current to flow to earth in an uncontrolled way. This will cause a thermal damage to the cable at the fault and in the ultimately failure of the primary insulation. 4) redundancy requirement: Because of insufficient reliability (seals) a spare pump is often installed with an associated VSD. A voltage drop will cause a VSDS to generate a “not running” signal. As a result the spare drive will start-up at the same moment. Because the frequency converter is programmed to restart automatically on voltage dips, the first VSDS will start again after, let’s say 3 seconds. This causes both pumps

to run at the same time, which could lead to process

failures like high flow or high pressure trips. Problem results from the interlocking of pumps being based on pulsed signals. 5) software & hardware based limits and functions:

There is a difference between DOL operation and converter operation, with respect to the response on thermal overload. In fact the overload of converter

operated equipment is limited to the maximum current a

converter can supply. A motor can be overloaded close to its maximum torque. From analysis as reported in chapter

VI can be seen that a VSDS application is more sensitive

to thermal overloads, than a DOL application. The fact

that a lot of DOL motors have a self resetting thermal relay, whereas a converter more often needs a manual reset, has a contributing effect to this conclusion. 6) training: The software in a frequency converter

will only give the performance that is programmed into it.

In most cases a certain profile can be chosen. This makes it very easy to commission the drive. Only a very few motor parameters have to be set and the drive is ready to run. But sometimes the application requires more than

only a standard commissioning. In the past converters had to be trimmed for running with full torque at very low speed. The torque vector control that is used today was not applicable at that time. At first installation the drive functioned well, often tested at uncoupled or unloaded equipment. When the power at low speeds increased during the lifetime, starting the drive became difficult. 7) Project cooperation: Owner, Contractor and Sub-contractor shift their responsibilities as far as possible to the equipment vendor, which causes a sub-optimal working system. Each equipment vendor uses his own preferred vendor for frequency converters. Thus leaving the owner with a wide variety of products and the problem of training maintenance personnel to understand all the different types of complex operating systems and programming tools. Failures in such units can be a nightmare due to the relative long repair times. On the other hand, if VSDS’s as part of a system need to be installed in a substation (i.e. for ATEX reasons), while the rest of the unit is outside in the plant, the equipment vendor will try to avoid using VSDS’s, to keep control over his supply and to stick to the warranty he gives on the product.

B. Power:

1) Black / brown outs: Typically a voltage dip occurs when a failure occurs in the electrical supply system. The functionality of the operation of a steadiness system for preventing the consequences of a voltage drop is described in appendix 1. Tripping of VSDS on voltage dips was related to the way the VSDS was responding to

voltage dips. The status signal of a DOL motor comes from a contact of an auxiliary relay, still energized during the voltage dip. Engineering the status signal of the motor, it made sense to derive this signal from the drive software that indicates a controlled inverter. Once the inverter pulses are blocked (which it does at the moment the supply voltage fails) the motor signal is indicating a motor that is not running and this information goes to the DCS/PLC system. While all other motors still indicate “running”, according to the information from the drawer auxiliary system, the VSDS fails. If this is a critical application, this initiates a trip of the whole plant. 2) voltage spikes: Before the mid nineties of last century, reinforced insulation on motors was not common and that the insulation of motors fed by old type VSDS can fail, while frequency converters were not equipped with output sinusoïdal filters.


earth faults: non identified


VSD by-pass by DOL: A solution to cope with

the reputation of less reliability from VSDS an engineering solution to create a direct on line by-pass is chosen. This gives operations the time to recontrol the chemical process or to be able to shut down the plant at restarting conditions. At the moment a by-pass switches on opposite phase of residual voltage of the motor, the torques to handle by the coupling are very high. After only one or a few by-pass switches the coupling can break. 5) EMC: A frequency converter is a kind of high frequency wave transmitter. The disturbance can transmit either through the air, or via the supply cabling back to the network. Some incidents occurred on the control of a smart MCC with built in frequency converters. Some of the PCB’s for the communication of the DCS with the drawers in the MCC were affected. They could not be addressed anymore from the MCC’s SCADA system.

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6) bearing currents: The high frequency voltage in


stator induces a voltage in the motor shaft. If the voltage


high enough, the oil film in the bearings will break and a

high current discharge will occur. The process is cyclic. All the discharges result in a damaged bearing.

C. Control:

1) Corrupted signals: New generation of speed feedback equipment use double trains of pulses like 1024 per revolution of the shaft, shifted by 90 degrees. They enable a precise control of the motor, allowing high dynamic processes like steel mills to be controlled precisely. In the chemical industry however the dynamics are generally very low. Once a process runs at its optimum the changes in motor speeds are very small and the used ramps are very gradual. Frequency converters are developed for both high dynamic and slow processes. This means that for slow processes a purchaser gets the high dynamics for free. But the high dynamic signal requires the pulses to rapidly calculate firing angles for the electronics, where as the low dynamic processes only require a firing angle calculated from a slowly changing analogue value. Any failure in the pulses or the phase shift between them, causes the converter to shut down. 2) alarm & fault indications: One annoyance each engineer feels is that despite all the self tests, diagnostics etc. a fault cannot be found. A transient phenomenon with its root cause in the motor, the cabling or the speed feedback control loop causes the drive to trip and after resetting is ready to start again. The information in the VSD display is not sufficient to locate the fault. Once

discovered however, the fault can look very obvious and is often related to installation failures or bad quality components somewhere outside the converter cabinet. 3) conditions for start / stop: In some cases the use of maintenance safety switches close to the motor are mandatory. As the name says, these switches are installed for safety reasons. The maintenance safety switch disconnects the power from the MCC or VSDS to the motor. The distance between the contacts in the switch and the guaranteed position of the lever with a one way lockable construction allow mechanics to proof their own safety by adding a personal lock to a multi lock. For normal direct on line motors these switches can also be used to stop a motor. It is as simple as remote stopping, or stopping through the process safety system. It has no further consequences for the system. With a VSDS it is different. The pulsed voltage to the motor will be interrupted, which causes the converter to trip on “loss of field”. The trip of the converter often will be first noticed when operations want to start the motor again, which fails of course. A manual reset of the converter is necessary. 4) limits: Sometimes in the control design the requirements for process control and electrical control are the same. Because there is no coordination between electrical and process control, both implement the control philosophy in their equipment. Thus the time constants in the DCS system can be different from the time constants the commissioning engineer for the drive uses.

D. Mechanical:


Under / over torque: See also Item III B. 4).

2) vibrations: The first generation of frequency converters needed a motor tacho for speed feed-back. Either the accuracy or the control at very low speeds could not be handled by the analogue electronics of these

types of converters. These tachos most often were direct current generators with a linear speed to voltage characteristic. The construction to the motor was kind of artificial. Vibrations from the environment, the driven equipment or the motor itself could easily affect the tacho causing the voltage output of the tacho to generate a ripple. This ripple results in continues torque pulses of the converter to the motor. Depending on the application these pulses could bring damage to coupling or gearbox. 3) Max//min values: From the age of direct current variable speed motors a lot of protections have been inherited. To protect the motor for a broken coupling i.e. a maximum speed limit device is used. Since protections are evaluated in a safety integrity procedure, it is hard to abandon these devices, which give the VSDS the image of being expensive. The same is with necessary PTC relays for motors in hazardous zones and minimum power relays for protection against dry running of a pump.

E. Maintenance:


Frequency: non identified.


critical components: Some parts of a converter

have to be exchanged during their life time. In particular fans and capacitors. As happened, one discovers a fan has to be exchanged, but it is only accessible from behind. Since the cabinet is standing against a wall, between other cabinets, the whole cabinet has to be dismounted to disconnect the fan and replace it.


Settings of the values: non identified.


Components to be checked: One of the risky

maintenance activities is to measure actual values in a converter cabinet. In one experience, during these measuring activities a short circuit occurred between a 24 Volt connection and a microprocessor bus signal. 5 PCB’s had to be replaced and once in a while the drive tripped for unclear reasons during 8 months after the incident happened. It appeared that also a supply PCB, generating 5 Volt DC, had been affected, but in such a way that the output voltage was 3,5 Volts, just above the threshold for failure mode. The failures that during the 8 months occurred were registered as “bus failure”, but no indication that it could be the supply voltage. 5) Training: After an overhaul of a motor supplied by a VSD, the service life time reduced to less than the turnaround interval. The bearings were damaged by pit corrosion. This occurs only if currents flow through a bearing. During the repair it appeared that the mounted bearings were not insulated, while the original bearings had an oxidized insulation layer. The people in the repair shop didn’t notice insulated bearings had to be used.


For a project study in 2005 the question rose to use either VSDS’s for compressors or to use steam turbines. The MTBF for both types of equipment was critical in the decision. An investigation was made on failures on existing drives of the same kind (High Voltage). This resulted in

Number of running hours:

ca. 337,250

Number of trips:


Mean time between failure:

16,863 hrs = ca.2 years

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For this case study, the failure data on existing 107 LV VSDS’s applications in operation in a petrochemical facility have been investigated.

Number of running hours:

Number of high priority notifications: 67

Mean time between failure:


28,500 hrs

= ca. 3,2 years

The same investigation has been made on 2801 DOL motors in the same facility

Number of running hours:

Number of high priority notifications: 157

Mean time between failure:


320,000 hrs

= ca. 36 years

This difference between VSDS and DOL motors confirms

the image VSDS have.


In this paragraph an overview is given on preventive actions on each of the reported failures.

requirements of the equipment and learns about the drive, while the commissioning engineer gives information on parametering the drive and will learn from the operation of it. It is recommended to test the commissioned drive on load.

7) Project cooperation: The costs related to

warranty are often minor compared to production losses.

From an owner’s point of view, shifting the responsibility downwards can be explained as “penny wise – pound foolish”. The owner’s specifications should incorporate requirements for standardization and control of motors. Some examples are listed below:

- Motors should be supplied from a dedicated drawer in

a MCC or a fixed panel in a MSB made available by the contractor.

- Frequency converter modules should not be

integrated in a process control panel or cabinet

- The manufacturer should make available all required

control loop calculations for speed control either by 4-20 mA signal or by automation bus protocol.

B. Power:


1) Dimensioning: When investing in a VSDS the electrical installation should not be designed for the mechanical base case, but it should be designed for the limits of operation of a VSDS. These limits should however not take into account changes in the mechanical design. On a load curve of a pump, using a certain impeller, the drive should be engineered for the required power at synchronous motor speed. If a drive is to run at over synchronous speed, the converter power should correspond to the maximum allowed speed for the motor, following the load curve of the pump. 2) limit values: The response of a VSDS on overloads should be investigated during the engineering. This might result in a higher rated converter. 3) cabling (length + type): With VSDS, always use three core cables. If the capacity of the cable is not

Design & Commissioning:

1) Black / brown outs: There are two ways to avoid plant tripping on short voltage dips. One possibility uses the functionality of the drive to automatically restart after a voltage dip. In this case the “motor run” signal shall be delayed for the same time as a power dip is allowed. This shall depend on the status of an under voltage detection signal. This signal is available in the MCC as a combination of energized K21 relay and not energized K1 relay (see Fig. 4). If this situation occurs it shall be interlocked with the “motor run” signal. The other possibility uses a minimum voltage detection for each part of a power supply independently susceptible to voltage dips. A well developed software program in the DCS can take care of restarting the facility. 2) voltage spikes: In new applications motors above 500 Volt should have special designed insulation systems for voltage source inverters. It is recommended

sufficient, two or more three core cables should be


some cases to have a sinusoïdal filter as an option.

mounted in parallel.



earth faults: non identified.

4) redundancy requirement: Best method would be


VSD by-pass by DOL: One must be aware of

to have no installed spares and to make the reliability of the drive acceptable. To avoid a situation as described, the interlocking should be based on steady signals, rather than pulsed signals. As also described in item V B. 1) the

this risk. In most cases 3 to 5 seconds after, the residual voltage has dimmed. It has to be investigated that a switch over time of at least 3 seconds does not harm the continuity of the process. If the switch over time needs to

better method is to keep the “motor-run” signal live during

be shorter, the motor foundation and shaft should be

a short time power outage. No change over will then take place during a power dip and the automatic restart of the drive will prevent a shut down of the system.

reinforced and an elastic type of coupling fitted to avoid hazardous over-torques on the equipment shaft. 5) EMC: After experiencing some difficulties, there

5) software & hardware based limits and functions:


only one solution. Don’t mix up control electronics with

The possibility of an auto reset on the thermal motor protection of a VSD should be investigated. In some applications the required torque for eliminating process congestions should be evaluated and the drive should be engineered correspondingly. 6) training: Firstly for commissioning a VSDS the expertise of the commissioning engineer is vital and can only be sustained if the activity is practiced regularly. It is recommended to obtain this service from the manufacturer or his authorized representative. Secondly, knowledge on the operational aspects of the equipment connected to the drive helps the tuning of the drive to its application. The commissioning engineer should be supported by a local technician. During commissioning the local technician gives information on the operational

VSDS in the same metal enclosure. If a smart MCC is being used, the VSDS connected to this MCC should be outside the MCC. Special attention should be paid to cabling of the drive. All high frequency carrying power cables should be shielded and all shields mounted according to the installation requirements of the manufacturer. If electronics (especially communication electronics) are mounted near frequency converters, these electronics should be metal enclosed. 6) bearing currents: Typically bearing problems start if the shaft voltage is higher than about 250 mV. It is recommended to have isolated bearings on drive side of a frequency converter fed motor.

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1) Corrupted signals: Since new generation of LV frequency converters use torque vector control, speed feed-back devices are not necessary anymore. In new drives the problem could only occur at very low speeds (les than 5 % of control range). 2) alarm & fault indications: Based on experience, most of failures indicated by the drive have their origin in cabling and motor. If unexplained faults occur, this is the first place to look. A lot of measuring techniques are available nowadays, to identify whether a problem is in motor and cabling or in the converter itself. If the failure appears not to be in motor or cabling, the modular design of frequency converters nowadays make it easy to replace certain components or even a complete drive. Parameter setting in a new drive often is done by entering the original hand-held display and synchronize the data with the drive data. 3) conditions for start / stop: If safety maintenance switches are necessary, it is possible to use a switch with a pre opening contact, before the main contacts are opened. See Fig. 1.

contact, before the main contacts are opened. See Fig. 1. figure 1 4) limits: Before starting

figure 1

4) limits: Before starting a project in which VSDS form a part, a design philosophy for the control should be drafted and general application rules should be established.

D. Mechanical:


Under / over torque: See also Item V B. 4).


vibrations: See also Item V C.1).


max /min values: An effort can be expected from

the drive manufacturers. In the design of new drives there will be facilities for safety related protections meeting the EN 61508 and EN 61511 standards.

E. Maintenance:


Frequency: non identified


critical components: If possible, select frequency

converters without any moving parts. If fans are necessary, the (dis)mounting should be easy without affecting other parts in the drive. When engineering a

drive system, attention should be paid to the position of the cabinet in relation to the required maintenance. To avoid shut downs, fans shall be exchanged routinely.


settings of the values: non identified

4) components to be checked: For 99% a frequency converter is maintenance free. Don’t try to measure on PCB’s, because it will not give you any information on the condition of a drive, nor does it help to avoid trips. It makes sense however to check ‘old fashioned components’ in a drive like switches, door interlocks, water leakage detectors, etc. (transition resistances). 5) training: Personnel in a motor repair shop should be trained to maintain frequency controlled motors. Special attention shall be taken to the typical motor data

in combination with a VSD. These are, in essence, the reinforced insulation, isolated bearings, PTC element, shielding in cable box and sometimes special precautions to avoid high temperatures at low speed.


When considering failure cases, the MTBF will go up noticeably, but still the total reliability of a VSDS would not yet reach the reliability of a DOL motor. Reliability of frequency converters has risen considerably when comparing reliability of present products to previous generation products. The bar chart shows an improvement of better than 500% in the last 20 years.

an improvement of better than 500% in the last 20 years. Learning from the historical failures

Learning from the historical failures and not repeating the same failures again in the new products is a matter-of- course action. However, this alone may not be sufficient, when reliability has a very high priority in the whole system. From the failure modes given in paragraph III, the failures in the project study in 2005, which could be avoided by proper engineering and improved converter design were subtracted. The results were promising:

Number of trips:

Mean time between failure: 67,450hrs = ca.7.5 years


The failure data for existing 107 VSDS applications and 2801 DOL applications in a petrochemical facility have been analyzed into detail (Table 1). It appeared that not each high priority notification had a root cause in the VSDS. In fact, only 5 notifications really concerned a drive failure and 62 other failures had their cause outside the VSDS. The same exercise has been made for LV DOL motors. From the 157 reported notifications, only 18 appeared to concern a motor failure.

reported failures during last 4,1 year


high priority

MTBF (years) average service factor = 0,5

total # installed (SAP)

total high priority notifications


per year

LV-motors DOL





LV-motors freq. controlled










freq. converter related











Bear in mind that a great number of the used drives have been built before the year 1995! Further study pointed out that most of the high priority notifications for both motors and drives originated from reset actions of the thermal overload trip. The figures confirm the observations in § III A 2). Eliminating these “failures” would have the highest contribution to the image of VSDS in chemical industry, resulting in a MTBF for drives of 44 years. This figure is close to the implicit accepted MTBF of DOL motors (37 years).

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The reliability of VSDS have improved very much. The resulting MTBF from realistic estimation (which is 44 years) show a MTBF for standard Low Voltage Drives, which will be acceptable for most applications in the chemical industry where programs like “Improve Equipment Reliability”, “Equipment Justification and Minimization” and “Risk Based Engineering” are common. The highest effect in improving the MTBF lays in optimizing the engineering and failure response with respect to thermal overload trips. Still one remark to make on reliability. The problem with frequency converters in situations were production losses and repair costs are very high, like fans for a furnace, is the inability to monitor the electronics and shut down the plant preventively before trip occurs. Mechanical equipment, like a gearbox with all available vibration monitoring techniques should still have an advantage in these cases.



The authors would like to acknowledge Chris Lee of SABIC UK for his valuable challenge of bringing thoughts in Dutch to a legible paper in English. The authors would like to acknowledge Klaus Kangas of ABB Drives Finland for his contribution to the data on drives development.



Peter Pieters graduated from the HTS Heerlen, The Netherlands with a bachelor degree (ing.) in Electrical Engineering in 1986. He worked for DSM as an electrical engineer for a low density Polyethylenes plant (six production lines). From 1999 Peter Pieters managed a team for standardizing electrical energy conversion equipment within DSM. In 2002 he joined SABIC Europe as electrical lead discipline engineer. He’s now responsible for new electrical standards and implementing, maintaining and improving the electrical standards of the company.

Jari Riikonen, BSc (el. Eng), Graduated from Technical College of Vaasa 1987. At the moment employed by ABB Oy, low voltage drives factory in Helsinki. Factory export sales team 1992. Training, support sales units by finding solutions for customer needs and act as technical back up. Geographical experiences from Europe to North and South America to Asia. Holding key accounts for customers since 2000. Finding technical and commercial agreements. Setting up sales and technical back up teams. Market Manager Chemical and Oil & Gas (COG) business area since 2004.

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Typically a voltage dip occurs when a failure occurs in the electrical supply system. The impedance of the circuit between power generation and fault spot will result in a momentary supply voltage dip to a distribution where frequency converters are in operation. Fig. 2 shows a simplified drawing for such a situation.

10 kV board 10 kV board i.e. 600V 2000 V 1000 m Transformer protection working
10 kV board
10 kV board
i.e. 600V
2000 V
1000 m
Transformer protection
working within 0.2 seconds
Cable connection
0 V
690V board
140 V
400V board
80 V during 0.2 seconds
Figure 2

The voltage will not stay at that lower level. Once the protection device has shut down the affected connection, the voltage will return to the original level. Since in most high voltage systems protection relays are used, the duration of the voltage dip will last the time necessary for the relay to switch off. For direct protection relays this

duration will be about 0.2 seconds. If a failure occurs in a system with higher voltages, like regional or national grid, which could be 30kV, 50kV 110kV etc., The protection relay also acts as a selective back-up for a non functioning protection relay in a lower system. The selectivity causes time delays up to 0.4 seconds before switching off the fault spot. At the moment the voltage returns, most asynchronous motors will have dropped down their speed. Applying voltage to a motor that is running with a speed below the maximum torque causes the motor current to increase to a value necessary for accelerating, which is a starting current of more than 4 times the nominal current. Because a lot of motors will be reaccelerating, the voltage will not return to the original level, but to a level that could be less than 70%. Accelerating at lower voltages causes the acceleration time to increase. A typical diagram for response to voltage drops used within a petrochemical facility is shown in Fig.


used within a petrochemical facility is shown in Fig. 3. Figure 3 There is a limit

Figure 3

There is a limit to the number of motors that can be allowed to reaccelerate after a voltage dip. The resulting voltage dip, caused by reaccelerating all motors at the same time results in some motors not reaccelerating at all. This situation creates an unwanted impact on operation. Motors should have a protection that prevents reaccelerating them, when successful starting cannot be guaranteed. Typically in the mentioned facility, motors with a power above 55 kW will trip after 1.5 seconds and all smaller motors will trip after 3 seconds. Following the voltage dip, provided the voltage recovers to 70% within the mentioned delay times of 1.5 and 3 seconds the motors will be restarted. The automatic restart is based on an UPS supplied auxiliary circuit for motor control centers as is given in Fig. 4. It will keep auxiliary relays (K21), controlling contactors (K11), energized during a voltage dip. A minimum voltage protection relay in the auxiliary supply to all the drawers of the MCC (set at 70%), switches of the auxiliary supply at elapsed time delay. The status of the auxiliary relay (K21) is used to give information to the plant control system about the status of the connected motor (running or standing).

the status of the connected motor (running or standing). figure 4 Authorized licensed use limited to:

figure 4

of the connected motor (running or standing). figure 4 Authorized licensed use limited to: Nanyang Technological

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