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

Online Partial Discharge Detection and Location Techniques for Condition Monitoring of Power Transformers: A Review

A. Santosh Kumar 1* , Dr. R.P. Gupta 1 , Dr. K. Udayakumar, 2 A.Venkatasami 1

1 CG Global R&D Centre, Crompton Greaves Ltd, Kanjur Marg, Mumbai – 400 042 2 Anna University, Chennai – 600 025 *E-mail : santosh.annadurai@cgl.co.in

Abstract--Partial discharge (PD) is an important indicator of insulation condition in a power transformer. The PD phenomenon is exhibited in various observable forms such as electrical, mechanical, optical and electromagnetic energy. Many modern systems use a combination of these techniques, because electrical detection is a proven technology, combining it with modern techniques gives the conformity and the advantage of modern digital signal processing. This paper discusses the evolution of various techniques in partial discharge measurement as a condition monitoring tool available for online measurement of field transformers. This paper also discusses the recent techniques used for partial discharge analysis with its advantages and suitability over conventional method for proper condition monitoring of large power transformers.

Index Terms--online, offline, onsite Partial discharge detection, location techniques, acoustic emission technique, UHF technique.


M ajority of transformers used in power supply systems are in service for several decades without any knowledge

how long they will operate satisfactorily, because of the uncertainty of their insulation condition. Therefore a partial discharge measurement and localization is useful for an insulation diagnosis with the aim to optimize both maintenance and life risk management. PD measurement techniques on oil filled power transformers can be subdivided in offline and online tests, which are based on electrical measurements or conventional method (IEC 60270) and chemical, acoustical and electrical measurements respectively. Offline Narrowband electrical PD measurements needs an enormous effort concerning the required equipment is unavoidable. Besides the measurement

apparatus an external generator generally with a higher voltage frequency than the normally used one is necessary, if test voltages at higher than the nominal voltage are required. Due to the fact that this measurement is performed offline both the electrical and thermal condition of the insulation differs from the site conditions, thus the results have to be scrutinized. Chemical methods are based on the analysis of dissolved gas generated inside the transformer due to PD activity. The integral characteristic of these regularly performed analyses

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allow indications on the long term behavior of the PD activity and therefore on the insulation condition. For information on the actual PD occurrence acoustic and electric PD measurements are preferable. The focus of acoustic or ultrasonic measurements is bases on a PD location, whereas the electric measurements are orientated to a precise determination of the apparent charge, although investigations have shown, that sometimes a PD location is possible but complicated. A combination of both techniques with the aim to make an exact determination of the PD origins and the apparent charge are available. Preliminary investigations have shown that online wideband electrical decoupled PD signals can in general be efficiently evaluated by various pattern recognition methods in order to determine the PD origin and its apparent charge. The functional principle of these methods is based on the evaluation of the characteristic distortion of a PD signal caused by its transmission from the origin through the winding to the decoupling point. Advanced post processing techniques are used to classify the signal in terms of type of deformation and origin using PD pattern. Furthermore a new method for the evaluation of electric measured partial discharges has been developed. This method uses the transfer functions of a transformer for a PD location and enables additional possibilities.


Most common sources of partial discharge in transformers are voids produced when thinner pressboard sheets are glued together to form thick barriers, Voids produced in glue and in connections with enameled conductor covering, further more due to insufficient impregnation in bushings, bubbles evolution from discharges and evaporation of droplets, fixed metallic particles left from the production process, moisture due to ageing, bad connection of electric shield contributing to large discharges since capacitance of the defect is large, Static electrification and surface tracking along barrier surfaces and along supports. Partial discharges in a system can be classified as internal discharges, surface discharges, corona discharges and Discharges due to trees (internal discharges). Partial discharge analysis mainly involves the steps detection, measurement,

location and evaluation.


Partial discharge detection and location methods in transformers are broadly classified as conventional methods (electrical) and nonconventional methods (electrical, electromagnetic, acoustic, optical and chemical). Further these methods are classified as offline and online methods. Functional steps in condition monitoring of any power apparatus involves acquisition of raw sensor data, interpretation of the data, differentiation between sensor failure and plant failure, initiation of remedial action, scalable architecture. Conventional method of PD measurement:

Typical circuit for electrical PD measurements [21] is as given in fig 1.

for electrical PD measurements [21] is as given in fig 1. Fig. 1. Electrical PD measurement

Fig. 1. Electrical PD measurement circuit

Partial discharges measured by this method are generally quantified and analyzed in terms of charge transfer, Apparent charge transfer in sample, discharge energy, dielectric losses due to discharges, total charge transfer in a sample/time, energy dissipations/time in +ve and -ve pulses and power dissipated. NonConventional detection of PD:

Optical detection: Optical detection is not widely used in current systems and is difficult to implement in transformer due to the opaque nature of transformer oil. Advances in optical fiber technology and interferencefree feature have attracted many researchers to examine the optical technique carefully in order to find out its potential in specific apparatus. DGA (Dissolved Gas Analysis): DGA identifies gas levels in the oil produced by the breakdown of the oil into different gases, which dissolve back into oil. The test is administered by taking an oil sample from the tank and determining the levels of different dissolved gases, which include acetylene, methane, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and ethylene. This test indicated the presence of PD / Heating as well as provides additional diagnostic information because different levels of each of the gases can be correlated to a specific type of fault using extensively developed tables. Although this test is widely used, there is some debate as to whether or not the

levels of dissolved gas really correlated to a specific type of fault. There is also a school of thought which argues that the rate of increase of these gases is more important than the absolute measure of their concentration. Electrical Detection: Electrical detection focuses on capturing the electrical pulse created by the current streamer in the void. Electrical methods are grouped into two categories namely direct probing which requires capacitive couplers to be connected the phase terminals of the transformer and other is RF emission sensing which is conducted by using Antennas in the area of transformer. Both the methods require a time domainreporting device, such as digital storage oscilloscope, to capture the PD signal. The PD is then identified using several processing methods. These processing methods make online electrical PD detection very attractive because it makes real time monitoring of the HV system possible. Acoustic Emission technique: in detecting partial discharges is based on the detection of the mechanical signal emitted from the discharge. The discharge appears as a small explosion, which excites a mechanical wave that propagates throughout the insulation. The wave can be detected by a suitable sensor, the output of which can be analyzed using a conventional data acquisition system. The shape of the detected signal depends on the source, the detection apparatus and the sensor [22].

A. Electrical method for partial discharge detection

The electrical detection methods [2] with different circuits are broadly classified into three groups:

Straight Detection: Current impulses in the leads of the sample are transformed into voltage impulses, which are amplified and observed. Balanced Detection: As above but special measures are taken in order to reject disturbances caused by discharges in the high voltage source, the leads, bushings, terminal etc. Loss Detection: The power which is dissipated by the current impulses is measured. The detection sensors are of the range of narrow band 3- 10KHz, wide band 150400 KHz and ultra high band up to 1GHz. The measured electrical signals are represented as discharge magnitude (height of the calibrating pulse in pC as compared to size of discharges), impulse crest voltmeter (maximum amplitude of the pulse output in XY recorder) and impulse counter (discharge magnitude Vs number of discharges). These data are analyzed in the following methods


1. PRPDA (Phase resolved PD analysis) reveals sources of low discharge rates easily compatible with any system on- line. (Does not give stochastic patters of Pd therefore may resort to TRPDA).

2. FRPDA (frequency resolved PD analysis) with voltage difference plot reveals space charge effect due to disch- arges.

3. TRPDA (Time resolved PD analysis) will offer possibilities to all patterns mentioned above.

Analysis parameters:

All these methods are analyze the data and gives and indication of the probable source and type of partial discharge in the specimen such as phaseresolvedamplitudedistribution of discharges gives variation in the amplitude and repetition rate in +ve and –ve half cycles. Also it is seen that pulse repetition rate in oil is lesser than other solid parts and further it is lesser for sharp points than large voids and floating objects.

for sharp points than large voids and floating objects. Fig. 2. PRPD and TRPD analysis of

Fig. 2. PRPD and TRPD analysis of PD signals.

Discharge levels are high (up to 1000 pC) for large bubbles and surface discharges and low (up to 100 pC) for small voids, can be compared for locating the PD source. sharp edges. Bursts and instability in the signals are attributed to presence of moisture (Improper drying or ageing), enclosed type discharges, gap (or) void type, sharp protrusion and surface type discharges.

void type, sharp protrusion and surface type discharges. Fig. 3. Pulse magnitude analysis PMA These signals

Fig. 3. Pulse magnitude analysis PMA









Frequency of discharges in a half cycle and the phase mean of the pattern captured.

B. Electrical/Magnetic method for partial discharge Location Matched filtering approach [5] determines the PD site location based on analysis of responses at multiple measuring

points (Bushing and neutral ends). Digital filtering techniques to isolate the capacitive component of the transferred pulse are used to locate the PD source. The traveling wave method [16] of PD location as shown in fig.4 works on the principle that an insulation fault in the transformer winding results in a PD current impulse injected into the winding at the position of the fault. This electrical signal then propagates along the winding before it reaches the two main terminals, i.e. the line and neutral ends. The electrical method for PD detection/location involves the use of appropriate sensors at the two winding ends to pick up ht electrical signals. At the neutral end, a clipon HF current transformer can be used. At the line end, another HF current transformer clamped around the HV bushing tap or a capacitive coupler can be used. By comparing the signals picked up at the two winding ends, it is then possible to locate the PD source. The PD signals vary considerably with the nature of the fault. Typically, they cover a wide frequency range from DC up to hundreds of MHz [12]. The different frequency components will propagate through the winding in different modes before reaching the terminals [14]. Thus the resultant signals as measured at the terminals would be severely distorted from its original waveshape. However, by choosing the appropriate frequency range via filtering, the two filtered terminal signals can be compared for locating the PD source.

terminal signals can be compared for locating the PD source. Fig. 4. Electrical method for PD

Fig. 4. Electrical method for PD detection and location

The transformer winding behavior varies with the frequency which in turn is influenced by the winding design. By measuring the electrical signals from the two winding terminal and using the appropriate method, the location of the PD source can be determined. The traveling wave method relies on the relative time delay and is applicable in the low frequency range. The capacitive ratio method is based on the signal magnitude ratio and is applicable in the high frequency components before applying the location method. This can be carried out with digital filtering.

C. UHF Method









measurements in GIS applications.

measurements in GIS applications. Fig.5a. External UHF sensor 5b. Internal UHF sensor These sensors can be

Fig.5a. External UHF sensor

5b. Internal UHF sensor

These sensors can be placed at several places of transformer. These sensors are designed using broadband technique. The sensitivity of both external and internal sensors (Fig. 5a and 5b respectively) is measured using coupler calibrator testing unit. The signals are offered to an optimal multiplexer which can be used to select between several connected couplers. A spectrum analyzer is used for data acquisition. The display shows both spectra and pointonwave (POW). UHF PD signal data is analyzed in two ways:

Frequency spectra is analyzed in terms of average of spectra, subtraction of two spectra, ratio between two spectra, hold max no of spectra, statistical values of spectra.

hold max no of spectra, sta tistical values of spectra. Fig.6.Typical analysis method of UHF data

Fig.6.Typical analysis method of UHF data

POW is analyzed by selecting a frequency well above the noise level for a narrow band VHF/UHF PD measurement. Further spectrum analyzer is used for analysis in few MHz range-centre frequency is set to selected frequency and measured span is set to zero. Phase resolved pattern is obtained related to 50Hz by selecting appropriate sweep frequency. High frequency components of the partial discharges are attenuated more rapidly than the low frequency components. This behavior is used to locate PD source. Sensors mounted on the surface detect this pulse of energy. These sensors, which are typically a resonant frequency, may be in the range of 20-500 kHz. On fiber composite materials

60kHz transducers are commonly used on pressure vessels150 kHz are commonly used and on AST’s 30 kHz resonant frequency transducers are commonly used. These are acoustically


Probe sensitivity


kHz to 200 MHz

Spectrum Analyzer


Hz to 1500 MHz

Amplitude Range


dBm to 30 dBm

Frequency Span


Hz to 1500 MHz with zero span

Resolution Bandwidth


Hz to 3 MHz

Sweep time

20ms to 1500s

D. Acoustic Emission technique

The acoustic method using piezoelectric sensors fig. 7b is widely used in practice because it can be easily carried out on- line and it is less susceptible to electrical interference. However, the location accuracy is often poor due to the complex nature of the acoustic signals. These signals travel from the PD source to the sensor via many paths with different propagation velocities as shown in fig.7a. Further complications can arise due to the effects of signal attenuations, reflections, refractions, mechanical noise or reverberations, and the presence of solid barriers inside the transformer (core, windings, and structural supports).

the transformer (core, windings, and structural supports). Fig.7a. AE signal schematic 7b. AE Instrument Fig. 8.

Fig.7a. AE signal schematic

7b. AE Instrument

supports). Fig.7a. AE signal schematic 7b. AE Instrument Fig. 8. Typical analysis method of AE signals

Fig. 8. Typical analysis method of AE signals

coupled to the surface, using a couplant material, to improve transmission of AE to the sensor. To investigate the location of partial discharge in power transformers, the acoustic sensors are mounted at high and low positions on each side of winding as linear pairs. The time difference between the acoustic signals obtained by each

sensor is used to calculate the propagation path length and hence a 3D location of an acoustic emission source in a power transformer.


In all the methods moisture / degradation in the oil can not be detected. Ideally the combination of all three PD detection methods is most powerful diagnostic tool. Rough detection of the problems is possible using an electromagnetic sensor, identification of insulation condition with electric methods and location of the PD source by an acoustic device. Electrical method is the only effective tool in detecting PD activity below 1000 pC and acoustic emission technique for above 10000pC and above. DGA analysis can be used as an alarm tool. Latest trends in location of PD sources

1. Location of internal faults using digital XRay technology.

2. Online location of PD sources using wavelet transform to the impulse response of electrical equipments.

3. Online PD source location using artificial intelligence in pattern recognition.



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