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The High Voltage Current


The High Voltage Current Transformer

State of the Art for conventional and non
conventional Technologies


Instrument Transformer
The instrument transformer is just
one small and often forgotten link
in the operational chain of
Transmission and Distribution
power networks. And yet its function
as a sensor and an interface,
between the HV high power side
and the LV low energy side, is
essential to the safe and efficient
operation of any network.
Like any other electrical equipment
connected to the HV side of the
network, it has to withstand all the
stresses and all the disturbances that
might occur on the network.
As a link in the metering and
relaying chain, it has to provide an
accurate response, not only during
the normal state of operation but
also when facing transient
phenomena and large amplitude

ALSTOM is the world leader in the

production of HV instrument
transformers, with seven specialized
manufacturing Units throughout the
world. These Units design and
produce all types of conventional
instrument transformers, including
current transformers (CT), magnetic
voltage transformers (MVT),
capacitive voltage transformers
(CVT) and combined metering units
(CMU). They are also developing a
range of non conventional current
and voltage sensors.
In the following article, we shall
focus on the technologies of HV CTs,
as this equipment is the most
common (an average 3 CTs for 1
MVT or CVT) and present the greatest
number of technical difficulties
due to the size of their dynamic
response (from 0.1 to 20 times the








Fig. 1:






Circuit diagram
of a CT.

Fig. 2:

Equivalent diagram
of a CT.

rated current) and the short-circuit

stresses they are subjected to.

Basics of CT operation
As shown in the circuit diagram
(fig. 1) and in the equivalent
diagram (fig. 2) of the CT, the main
technological factors affecting the
response of the CT (output power,
phase and amplitude errors) are the
primary current and the number of
turns (hence the ampereturns level
chosen) as well as the dimensions
and characteristics of the cores and
secondary circuits.
The short-circuit withstand depends
mainly on the number of turns and
on the construction of the primary
circuit, as well as on the cross-section
of the primary and secondary

Fig. 3:

Photo and diagram


Alternative Technologies

Fig. 4:

Photo and diagram


The main factor between the

various designs of HV CT is
the location of the HV
insulation compared to the
primary and secondary
windings. The HV insulation
can be placed on the
primary winding or on the
active parts (cores and
secondary windings).
The first type is a
representation of the hair
pin or pendulum design,
according the opening of the
primary circuit (fig. 3).
The primary winding is
particularly easy to build in
the hair pin construction
(machine taping of the
insulation, primary parts
insulated and kept as sub
assemblies) and is best suited
for medium size currents
(200 A to 1500 A).
The pendulum construction
is currently used only in some
EHV designs.
Conversely, the inverted
CT design, with active
parts in the head (fig. 4) is
particularly advantageous
for large currents (primary
conductor is a short straight
For smaller currents, the
various designs differ on the
construction of the primary
conductors and of the

primary reconnections (double or

triple primary ratio).
This design has also the advantage
of spreading the primary winding in
an uniform and symetrical way
around the cores, avoiding local
saturation and reducing the leakage
flux. Finally the volume of the
insulator and therefore the volume
of oil is reduced by this design since
a single HV insulated tube is passed
inside the insulator instead of two
primary HV conductors as in the
hair pin design.

Fig. 7:

Diagram of isotherms
and convection courses
in a CT head.

Fig. 8:

Photos of rubber and

metal diaphragms.

Paper-oil insulation

Fig. 5:

Diagram of the electric

field distribution.


Fig. 6:

Diagram of impulse
wave distribution in a
CT insulation.

This technology is the most

commonly used for a long
time. ALSTOM has studied
extensively the behaviour of
paper-oil insulation.
A series of investigations have
been concentrated on the
calculation of the electric fields
within the CT (fig. 5). Our
inverted type CT uses a
metallic box to contain the
cores and secondary windings
and to act as ground screen.
It is therefore possible to obtain
an optimum distribution of the
electric field between the ground
screen and the HV screen.
Intermediate screens grade the field
within the paper insulation.
Special studies have checked the
behaviour of this insulation when
faced with high frequency
overvoltages that may appear during
disconnect switch operations. These
high frequencies (0.5 to 3 Mhz) are
created by rearcing.
The flow of these high frequencies
through the intermediate screens
was calculated (fig. 6) and the
impedance of these screens adapted
Similarly, we studied the shielding
of the secondary circuits against the
HF noise that may disturb the proper
operation of the relaying equipment
connected to the CT.

Unlike power transformers, heat

dissipation is less of a problem in
the CT. Therefore the ageing of the
paper-oil insulation is generally
very slow. However, at extra high
voltage levels, the dielectric losses
in the insulation are a factor to be
Calculation of thermal gradients
within the insulation (fig. 7) revealed
the important safety margin
inherent in our transformers, even
in tropical environments and high
burden conditions.
The barrier between the outside air
and the internal oil is provided for
a watertight diaphragm (synthetic
rubber or metal) (fig. 8).
This drastically limits the migration
of humidity in the insulating oil.

Fig. 10: Diagram and photo

of an SF6 insulated

Resin insulation
Resin insulation has been used for
almost 50 years in medium voltage
instrument transformers. Since the
60s, ALSTOM has pioneered the
use of this technology in the
construction of HV CTs. Resin cast
instrument transformers are sturdy,
without risks of leakage and have
excellent service records. Since partial
discharges are monitored and
eliminated during the manufacturing
cycle, reliable insulation properties
are achieved for the life of the

An existing product range of

ALSTOM instrument transformers
utilizes resin as insulation material
between the HV primary winding
and the active parts (cores and
secondary windings) (fig. 9).
Alternatively, the external creepage
distance is provided by a porcelain
The use of one single resin
(cycloaliphatic resin in this instance)
to provide for the internal insulation
and the external creepage distance
seems presently to be restricted to
construction up to 145 kV.

SF6 insulation
SF6 gas has been used successfully
for years as high voltage insulating
material in SF6 Circuit Breakers
and in Gas Insulated Substations
(GIS). Therefore its use in HV
instrument transformers was a logic
step that ALSTOM took more than
10 years ago (fig. 10).
The need for electrodes to be
smooth and of simple shapes to
guide the electrical field led to the
choice of the inverted CT design
for the HV SF6 CT.
A tank with an inside pressure of 3
to 4 bars absolute contains the active parts which have been enclosed in
a metal box acting as LV screen.
Fig. 9:

Diagram of a resin cast


These active parts are supported by

an insulating cone or by a supporting
tube bringing the secondary wirings
down to ground potential.
A HV screen controls the field at the
junction of the tank and of the top
of the insulator. This insulator is
either a porcelain insulator with an
internal liner of fiberglass or a
composite insulator (cylinder of
glass fiber and silicon sheds).
The internal gas pressure and gas
volume inside the porcelain insulator
require such a device, since a
single large porcelain insulator has
the potential to explode in many
projectiles (accidental breaking of
the insulator or arcing with flashover creating a thermal shock on
the porcelain insulator).
A pressure relief device limits the
pressure inside the insulator in case
of internal fault. Tests have proved
the safety of such a design.









Fig. 11: Fully displaced

short-circuit current.


I 1 : I 2 : 1200:5A
I th : 31,5 kA 1"
K ssc : 20
t al : 60 ms
T 1 : 100 ms
30 VA 5P20


15 cm

150 cm


I 1 : I 2 : 800:1A
I th : 31,5 kA 1"
K ssc : 12,5
t al : 60 ms
T 1 : 100 ms


400 cm

19 cm

Fig. 13: Different approaches

of a 525 kV CT


Transient Performances of
protective CT
The behaviour of a CT during a
short-circuit depends on its design
characteristics, the burden it feeds,
the circuit to which it is connected
(HV line), as well as the instant at
which the fault occurs.
The reliable operation of protective
relays connected to the CT depends
on the quality of the response of the
The saturation of the magnetic core
must be avoided during the transient
state (i. e. the first cycles of the
short-circuit current).
If we consider the equivalent circuit
of a HV line (R, L circuit), we observe
that the current depends on the
primary time constant ( T 1 = L/R )
and will be at maximum if the
short-circuit occurs when the line
voltage is crossing zero, resulting in
a fully asymetrical current (fig. 11).
The exponential component of the
current will remain longer if T1 is
high (i.e. at short distances from
powerful generators, typically
100 ms at 525 kV). The effect of
the exponential component is
saturation of the magnetic cores of
the CTs, affecting their accuracy
and the protective relays operation.
In order to avoid saturation, one
solution would be to increase the
core cross-section, but the
oversizing factor is large (more than
30 times the cross-section needed
for steady state operation), and the

Fig. 12: Core with air gaps.

problem remains if reclosing is

Another solution is to provide the
core with small air gaps (fig. 12) to
avoid the core saturation. But, with
one disadvantage: a reduction of the
Presently, only the IEC 44-6 gives a
comprehensive specification for such
transient applications and defines
3 classes of CTs suitable for transient
TPX: CTs without air gaps
TPY: CTs with small gaps,
providing accuracy for both
alternating and exponential
components of current
TPZ: CTs with larger air gaps,
providing accuracy
requirements only to the
alternating component.
The accuracy class is 10 % at the
limit conditions.
The computation of the core crosssection, the number and the size
of the air gaps is made while
taking into consideration several

accuracy class (TPY or TPZ)

line characteristics (primary time
constant T1, actual short-circuit
level Kssc), reclosing characteristics
(Close-Open duty cycle)
secondary burden (connecting
wires and relays impedance).
Attention must be paid to the
specifications as any exageration of
value of one or several parameters
could result in increasing the core
cross-section, and consequently the
size and the cost of the CT. As an
illustration of the importance of the
specifications, we give in the fig. 13
the resulting core cross-section for
different approaches of the same
specification.The customer
specification, after a few revisions,
was finally 3 VA class TPZ resulting
in a reasonnable cross-section
of 19 cm2.

Fig. 16: Dampers with

metallic rings.

Fig. 15: Stress distribution in

a porcelain insulator.



Design parameters
It is of the utmost importance that,
during an earthquake, even of large
magnitude, the electrical network is
not interrupted. Consequently, all
substation equipment have to be
designed to withstand, without
dammage, such extraordinary stress.
The characteristics of the resulting
ground movements (frequency,
acceleration) can be recorded by
seismographs during an earthquake
and be used for building a response
spectrum (fig. 14) by analyzing the
behaviour of single oscillators
submitted to this earthquake
simulation on a vibrating table.
Stress analysis
The stresses in all transformer parts
must be lower than the limit (with a

h =0.5 %

Damping Factor = h

Amplification Factor

h =1%

1.5 h =2%
h =3%


h =5%

1.0 -

h =7%

given safety factor). The most critical

part is the porcelain insulator,
mainly at its base where the bending
moment is at its maximum.
The primary method for analysing
the stress distribution is the
computerized calculation using finite
elements. Maximum stresses can be
calculated for different loading
situations (earthquake, wind, shortcircuit dynamical stresses, etc.)
(fig. 15).
Another solution is to consider the
CT being a simple oscillator and
compute the acceleration at its center
of gravity using the response
spectrum typical of the site. The
harmonic characteristics of the
transformer can be obtained by a
free oscillation test consisting in
recording the free oscillating
motions of a transformer after the
sudden release of an applied force
at its top. It is therefore possible to
record the bending moment
diagram and estimate the
maximum stress on the porcelain
insulator, compared to the
maximum allowed value.

h =10 %

Influence on the CT design

h =20 %

0.5 -






Fig. 14: Response spectrum for

nominal acceleration
of 0.5 g (Endesa Chile).

In order to be safe with accelerations

up to 0.5 g at the ground level, the
construction of a CT can involve
the following adaptations:
strengthen the active parts
secure the cores

use special porcelain insulators

made of high strength paste

use sealed flanges (cemented)
use specially designed gaskets
increase the insulator diameter
(in order to increase the I/v
section modulus)
provide the CT with specially
dimensioned dampers to
strengthen the base.

Damping devices
Instrument transformers (EHV)
operating in areas of high seismic
activity must be equipped with
dampers (fig. 16), in order to quickly
reduce the amplification of
transformer movements and lower
the specific frequency of the
equipment. They act as energy
absorbers, thanks to the friction
effects between their inner parts.
Several models have been designed
and tested by ALSTOM.
Among them, the best results
(damping ratio up to 17%) have
been obtained by dampers with
metallic rings. Thousands of them
are mounted on CTs and VTs (up to
765 kV) in operation in Chile and
Venezuela, countries known for the
occurence of frequent and severe
earthquakes. In operation, these
devices successfully passed the field

Fig. 18: Gas detector.


Fig. 17: Test of a 525 kV CT

in ISMES laboratory
Bergamo-Italy) for
Endesa (Chile).

Testing of the seismic dampers

In order to verify the quality of the
antiseismic design, many type tests
have been performed by ALSTOM at
different laboratories such as
(Bergamo) (fig. 17).
Such a Qualification Program
includes among other tests:
free oscillation tests to check the
specific frequency and the
damping ratio
frequency scanning (0.3 to 30
Hz) to find the oscillation modes
a final test consisting in applying,
on a vibrating table, the full
seismic acceleration to the center
of gravity of the transformer and
in recording the stresses in the

Some statistics on the HV CTs


Possible causes of a HV CT

Before reviewing the monitoring

devices available in HV CT, it is
necessary to keep in mind the data
concerning the failure statistics in
this kind of equipment. A Working
Group 23/07 of the CIGRE has
analysed the statistics from
10 countries covering the period
from 1970 to 1987. 136 000
transformers from 72 kV to 800 kV
were involved.
The conclusions led to an average
yearly failure rate of 0.039 %, i. e.
less than 4 failures per year for
10 000 transformers installed. Only
30 % of these failures led to destruction of the equipment.
This low rate was reached with
products of various ages and
construction. Some equipment had
been installed for almost fifty years.
But no doubt, in any case, a failure
of a HV CT presents an unacceptable
risk to the personnel. Moreover, a
failure of a CT will damage
adjacent equipment and disrupt the
operation of a portion of the
substation. It is therefore important
to be able to anticipate and prevent
the occurence of such a failure.

Every CT has passed a series of

electrical tests and process controls
during the manufacturing cycle in
order to ascertain its conformity to
the prevailing standards. Moreover,
the Quality Assurance System
implemented in the shops (the
manufacturing Units of ALSTOM
are qualified ISO 9001) guarantees
strict observance of the technical
and manufacturing specifications
during the various steps of
Therefore in operation, and with the
exception of almost direct lightning
strikes or low voltage wiring errors
(open circuit in a CT secondary
wiring), the main cause of failure of
a CT comes from the occurence of
partial discharges in the insulation.
These discharges deteriorate the
quality of the oil by creating gas
and other products which will start
a complete breakdown of the whole





Leakage current sensor


A ring CT installed on the ground

conductor coming from ground
screen of the insulation might detect
the increase of the leakage current
through the insulation of EHV CTs.

As stated earlier, the CT failures are

extremely rare. However, these
failures constitute a risk for
personnel and can cause serious
disruptions in the networks. In the
conventional paper-oil CT, failure
of the insulation creates a power
arc which occurs in the insulating
oil. This oil is instantaneously gasefied and produces a high energy
pressure wave which can
completely destroy the transformer.
Therefore, at the demand of
Electricit de France, ALSTOM has
engineered a new design, reducing
considerably the consequences of
such a failure.

Pressure sensor
The building up of gas in the
equipment may be detected by a
differential pressure sensor with
adjustable settings.
Gas detector
A simple and effective device (fig. 18)
has been designed by ALSTOM to
detect even small amount of gas
accumulations in the head of the
transformer. Such a bubble is
detected by a small light beam
carried by an optical fiber.
Hydrogen Detector
Placed at the lower part of the
transformer, a probe detects the
presence of hydrogen in the oil,
which is a warning signal of a
degradation of the insulation system.
Partial discharge discriminator
An electronic device capable of
identifying the partial discharge
signals coming from the transformer
from the ambient noise in the

A new design of HV CT
Rather than modifying the
insulation technology, ALSTOM
decided to adapt the traditional
paper-oil insulation to this new RSD
concept. This concept indeed is
very similar to the basic ALSTOM
design used for more than 30 years
in the production of hermetically
sealed CTs. More than 100 000
units are in service throughout the
The RSD concept is based on the
following design arrangements of
the CT:
reduction of oil, mainly in the
active parts
use of internal ground conductors
with sufficient cross-section for
handling the fault current

Fig. 19: Reinforced security

design ALSTOM
CTH 550 after artificial
internal arc test.

Fig. 20: Reinforced security

design ALSTOM CTS 420
after artificial internal
arc test (EdF Renardires).

a head designed to prevent

projections of parts in case of
special device to prevent the
transmission, inside the porcelain
insulator, of the overpressure
wave originated in the head at
the time of the fault.







Fig. 21: Diagrams of Faraday

and Rogovski CTs.



This design has been tested in

several laboratories:
KEMA (Netherlands) (fig. 19),
PEHLA (Germany) and EdF (France)
(fig. 20).
The internal fault test is performed
by applying 10 kV rms on a CT
with an artificial fault in the
insulation (provided by a metallic
rod short-circuting HV and LV
shields in the insulation). The result
is a fault current of more than 40
kA rms.
One can see :
the porcelain insulator remains
no parts of the CT travelled more
than 3 meters from the base of
the transformer
the fire was limited
the ground connections have not
been affected, allowing the
dissipation of the fault current.

Non conventional current sensors

have been developed, based on
various physical principles. ALSTOM
has concentrated the researches in
two different directions, both using
an optical fiber link between the
high voltage side and the ground.
One of these sensors is based on the
Faraday effect by which the current
flowing in a conductor induces a
rotation of the polarization plane in
a monochromatic light circling
around this conductor.
The other type of sensor is based on
the Rogovski coil technology and
measures the derivative of the
current flowing in the conductor
surrounded by the coil.
These sensors have the following
interesting characteristics:
no conventional insulation is
needed as the optical fiber
provides the link between high
and low voltage
optical link between the
equipment in the substation and
the control relay room
no saturation of the output
compactness and light weight
interesting price
intelligent interface needed
between the receiving/processing
electronic device and the
equipment in the substation to
increase the CT reliability in case
of a component failure.
As in all the non conventional CTs,
the electronic devices use low energy
data transmission, which requires
minor modifications in the substation.


While waiting for a standardization

of communication protocols with
numeric equipment of the substation,
ALSTOM has developed an optical
link to the analog/digital converters
of this equipment.
Faraday CT
The Faraday CT (fig. 21) has the
following major advantages for the
no electronic device at the high
voltage level as the broadcast/
receiving electronics are placed
in the relay building, near the
other equipment (protection
relays, meters, fault locators, etc)
large bandwidth.
In the present stage of ALSTOM
developments, the accuracy in
relaying class meets the IEC or ANSI
standards in temperature range from
50 C to +50 C. In metering class,
the accuracy is equivalent to class
0.2 from 30 C to +50 C and to
class 0.5 from 50 C and +50 C.
ALSTOM has already placed several
Combined CT/VT units in service and
the results have confirmed the
laboratory tests. The present efforts
are aimed at increasing the reliability
by using a monitoring system for the
measurement and logic system in
case of a failure of one of the
components, and, in the same time,
at reducing the cost of such a sensor
whose competitiveness with
conventional units presently begins at
420 kV.

Rogovski CT
The Rogovski coils (fig. 21) are
known for their accuracy, specially
with the ALSTOM design using a
double side printed circuit with
metallized holes, guaranteeing
perfect geometry and allowing for a
competitive price.
However such a simple principle
does not mean that it is automatically
simple to produce and the following
points are still in development:
the electronic transmitter placed
on the high voltage side
a power source to feed the
an integrator needed to restore
the measurement of the current.
The results obtained in the laboratory
environment are excellent and
research is pending to confirm these
results in the normal operation

Fig. 22: Non conventional

combined metering
unit ALSTOM CCO 525
(Bonneville Power
Administration, USA).

This short review of the present
technologies of such a modest and
often forgotten component of HV
equipment has invoked the efforts
and researches carried on by
instrument transformers specialists for
the last thirty years. They all lead to
an improvement of the quality and
reliability of the signal delivered by
this interface, a signal essential to the
smooth operation of the HV
The various Units of ALSTOM are
proud to have contributed to this
In the near future, the prospects
provided by the non conventional
sensors of ALSTOM (fig. 22) will allow
us to meet the new requirements as a
result from the increasing use of
electronic devices in daily operation
of the networks.


Your Contact:

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Fax: +65 68 46 17 95


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Tel. : +1 (484) 766-8100

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South America

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British Isles

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Ref. : CTH99EN - All rights reserved for modifications without notice - The dimensions, schemas and values are binding only after confirmation by ALSTOM.