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Power Circuit Breaker Operation and

Control Scheme

Power Circuit Breakers (PCB) break an electrical circuit to isolate faults. They
also re-close to make a circuit after the fault is removed. To enable this open and
close operation, it is operated by either a remote relay or a local switch. A
remote relay is located at a remote location such as a control room while the
switch is located inside the circuit breaker junction box.
Understanding the breaker scheme is important if you plan on designing a
substation. Quite often, it is overwhelming to make sense of the entire scheme at
a glance. Therefore, the figure below depicting a circuit breaker scheme will be
used to simplify and explain various elements of the PCBs design and its

Forms of Contact
Before explaining what each device in the scheme does, understanding the
different forms of contact is necessary. A form a contact represents a Normally
Open (N.O.) contact while a form b is a Normally Closed (N.C.) contact. Thus
when a breaker is de-energized, its 52a and 52b contact position stay true to the
statement above and as shown in Figure 1. However, when PCB is energized,
these contacts switch their state i.e. 52a contact will be closed while 52b is open.
Contact positions of all relays, switches, auxiliary relays and switches remote
or local stay unchanged.

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Figure 1: Close and Trip Circuit of a Breaker

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Circuit Breaker Trip Coil
Figure 1 depicts a trip coil of the breaker. For brevity, I will cover the trip coil
no.1 with trip coil no.2 identical.
From the diagram, the breaker is fitted with a 43 switch that toggles between
local trip and remote trip. Positioning it in local allows the persons at the
breaker junction box to trip the circuit by closing the Control Switch (CS).
Switching it to remote position permits the relays in the control house to close
their contact and trip the breaker.
Modern PCBs employing Sulfur Hexa-Flouride (SF6) gas to extinguish an arc
are fitted with ANSI 63 relay. To prevent breaker damage due to flash-overs
during low gas conditions, tripping of breaker is cut-out by this relays contact.
Notice in Figure 1 how the contacts from this relay are strategically placed in the
close and trip circuit to cut out any signal from the relays or switches.
At this point, the reader should realize the importance of contact development.
All contacts operate only when the trip coil of their respective relay is energized.
For instance, consider the 63 relay and its contacts shown in in figure 1. This
relay is energized by the same DC source as the one supplying the breaker.
However its trip coil is actuated by a transducer that can sense a fall in SF6 gas
pressure. When this occurs, it switches its contacts located in different circuits
to prevent any breaker operation. Similarly, the 27 under-voltage relay trip coil
is connected across the DC source. When this supply is interrupted, the relay
switches its contact position. This change can be relayed to an alarm or initiate
some other action.
To trip the breaker from a remote location, all contacts from relays at the remote
location shall be hard-wired. Yes, this means laying a lot of copper from the
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breaker cabinet to the relays. Further, all tripping contacts are wired in parallel.
When either relays contact close and thus complete the circuit, the breaker
Target Devices
Now, you may notice the red target lamp is connected in a way that will
essentially short out the remote relays and trip the breaker. Not surprisingly,
this is not the case. The target lamps shown in the scheme have enough
resistance in them (~200 ohms), limiting the current that can energize the coil.
Target lamps are used in circuits to convey certain conditions. With the breaker
closed and energized, the red lamp illuminates to indicate a live circuit. When
the breaker opens (due to a fault) the green lamp illuminates the circuit
complete with 52b contact switching from open to close.
Most modern circuit breakers are specified with two trip coils. Energizing either
one leads to breakers trip. Since a good amount of redundancy is built into the
protection and control of a power system, it is not too uncommon to see all
primary relaying in the system tripping trip coil 1 and the back-up tripping trip
coil 2.
Circuit Breaker Close Coil
This coil when energized actuates a lever that engages the closing mechanism
(like a spring). A close circuit is optionally fitted with both 43 local/remote
switch and a local trip switch. Remote relays are wired in as shown in Figure 1.
Unlike the trip circuit, the relay contacts in the close circuit are always
connected in series and present in normally closed position. Thus, when a relay
trips, it also blocks closing of the breaker. Until the relay is reset, either
manually or remotely, the breaker will not be operational.
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Anti-Pump Relays
To prevent inadvertent multiple closing operation, breakers are fitted with anti-
pump relay. Assume a scenario where a fault persists on a line and a person is
looking to close a breaker on it. Although the person presses the close button for
a second or two, for the breaker which operates in cycles, this duration is an
eternity. With the close button pressed, the breaker attempts to close but
because of the fault in the system it trips again, then closes, then trips. This
trip/close operation repeats for the second or two the button is pressed. Since
the motor in the breaker is not rated for continuous duty, serious damage can
occur to it.
Modern breaker control relays are programmed to check for synchronism and
also to reclose a breaker. A single contact from this relay is all that is needed to
initiate one-shot, two-shot, or three-shot scheme. In old breaker schemes, 25
relay contacts and reclosing relay (79) contacts from auxiliary relays are
typically wired into the breaker close scheme.
On a final note, keep in mind that not all relays can handle the momentary
trip/close coil currents. Auxiliary switches like those manufactured by electro-
switch inc. are typically installed to handle these currents.
Breaker scheme is a web of interlocked relays and switches.
Breaker operation is controlled by relays and switches.
The switches can be operated remotely or locally.