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Considerations for Ground Fault Protection in

Medium-Voltage Industrial and
Cogeneration Sy sterns

Abstract-Industrial plants utilize medium-voltage systems for in-plant ground (earth) by air or some form of solid insulation. Each
distribution of purchased and cogenerated electrical energy. During the form of insulation has characteristics that can be defined in
planning stage, system protection is generally specified, including the type terms of resistance and capacitance, such as in cables.
of source neutral grounding and ground fault protection. Where medium-
Naturally the resistance (insulation resistance) is extremely
voltage systems have expanded, circuit-breaker interrupting ratings have
also been increased. Accordingly, grounding consideration should be important, because this is the barrier effect of the dielectric
reviewed, particularly because charging and/or ground fault current which keeps the current-carrying conductor essentially iso-
values have also increased. The typical methods for grounding of lated from other conductors of electricity. The capacitive
medium-voltage neutral systems-high resistance, low resistance, and current, on the other hand, does not serve a useful function,
ungrounded, as well as methods used to detect the presence of a ground
although it does have predictable magnitudes in cables,
fault-are reviewed. Also, the effects of charging current and how the
ground fault protection method could affect conductor ratings are electric machinery, transformers, and surge capacitors applied
analyzed. to protect motors and transformers [I]. Thus all systems are
grounded, even if only through capacitive means.
System grounding is the single most important element in
I. INTRODUCTION the design of the industrial power system, and many compan-
ies have standardized practices that have been proven to work
T HE application of grounded systems developed because
engineers realized that delta (ungrounded) systems permit
damages due to overvoltages caused by system or equipment
well for the environment in which the company operates. Still,
cases exist where standards are applied without the benefit of
faults to ground. The question of which type of grounded comparing them against new circumstances, and this could be
system to use depends upon the plant process, and frequently a mistake, even if it did save engineering manhours. Expan-
the only factor evaluated is whether or not the owner wants to sion of the medium-voltage system for cogeneration is one
continue process operation, even after a ground fault has been example.
detected. This continuity of operation is the principal argu-
ment used by advocates of a delta or high-resistance grounded 111. MEDIUM-VOLTAGE SYSTEM (1000-15 OOO V)
neutral approach, assuming that the system is later shut down Let us examine what happens when we select a delta, a high-
before the electrical fault causes serious damage. This fault resistance grounded neutral, or a low-resistance grounded
damage limitation becomes the crux of the decision making. neutral, because it is rare that an industrial design would use a
solidly grounded neutral system intentionally, although this
11. SYSTEM (NEUTRAL) GROUNDING may happen when the utility and the designer of the plant
This is the heart of any system design, as well as a criterion distribution system do not communicate properly.
for designing the protection system. In the context of system The delta system should always have a ground detector in
grounding, one must be certain to agree that this term relates continuous operation on the system, because even the best
solely to how the source is grounded and not to any other designed power distribution system will be exposed to failures
terms, such as grounding of metallic structures or conduits to in equipment due to natural causes, design or construction of
an equipotential grid for purposes of providing ground current the equipment, or flawed installation. Of all the system
paths for personnel safety purposes. designs, the delta requires high maintenance because it has no
A classic statement relates that there is no such condition means to limit overvoltages that may occur subsequent to a
as an ungrounded power system, because each current- ground fault.
carrying conductor is insulated from other conductors and A ground fault detector will indicate that a ground fault
exists but cannot identify the location of the ground fault. So it
Paper IPCSD 86-32, approved by the Power Systems Protection Committee is necessary to open feeders and determine on which feeder the
of the IEEE Industry Applications Society for presentation at the 1986
Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, September 28- ground fault exists. The next question is whether this ground
October 3. Manuscript released for publication October 23, 1987. fault can be detected before the ground fault turns into a phase-
D. J. Love is at 3002 Hacienda Boulevard, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745. to-phase fault after a second phase becomes grounded, no
N. Hashemi is with Bechtel Western Power Corporation, P.O. Box 2374,
La Habra, CA 90632. doubt assisted by the increase of 73-percent voltage between
IEEE Log Number 8820189. the second phase and ground. It would do no good to shut

OO93-9994/88/07OO-0548$01.OO O 1988 IEEE


down the system upon detecting the first ground fault because A
/ I
this would defeat the main advantage of the delta system-that
is, it could remain on-line until it is convenient for operations
to shut it down for maintenance.
Other systems mentioned would have means to limit
overvoltages and, in varying degrees, to identify the branch in
which the ground fault exists. The low-resistance grounded
neutral may permit high levels of ground fault current (500- AT SWITCHGEAR CAPACITORS
1500 A, i.e.) to flow and facilitate selective tripping, whereas

a high-resistance grounded neutral would limit the ground
fault current to - 10 A, with detection by branch-circuit
current relays, neutral voltage relay, or some special pulse
generators [2].
One of the factors in deciding on a system grounding
method depends upon the magnitude of the charging current.
A. Charging Currents
One way to understand charging currents is to envision a "A "C

medium-voltage ungrounded system of one motor load with Fig. 1, Normal conditions. No-fault surge capacitors at medium-voltage
surge capacitors. In addition to the surge capacitors there is motor.
capacitance within the motor (turn-to-turn as well as turn-to- B
ground) and in the cable between the conductor and the shield.
Only the capacitance of the surge capacitors has been shown in
Fig. 1, for purposes of clarity. Note that the capacitor current
phasors lead the respective phase voltages by 90". Because of
the assumed balanced nature, the sum of the capacitor currents
equals zero.
Assuming a 13.2-kV motor, the capacitors at the motor

would normally draw 0.75 A, each as shown in Fig. 1 as lac,
Ibc, and ICC.When phase B becomes grounded, the current in
each other capacitor increases by &, (lab, Icb). The resultant
current to phase B, shown in Fig. 2, becomes equal to 3X the
initial capacitive current, 2.25 A. This 3lc is the charging
current, and each capacitive circuit element has a charging

current component. In this isolated system, the current returns IAB

= IIacI /330' = L (0.75) /330'
to the source as shown in Fig. 3. The ground fault relay, 51G,
actually measures zero current because the sum of the currents =
ICE l I c C I E' = (0.75) E'
equals zero. = IAB
-IB =
+ ICB (0.75)(0.866 - j 0 . 5 + 0.866 + j 0 . 5 )
If the system had a resistance-grounded neutral, the relay
51G would sense the current that flows to the system neutral. = L (0.75)( L ) = 3 (0.75) = 2 . 2 5 A
Fig. 4 shows the relative magnitude of this postulated ground CHARGING CURRENT I N FAULTED PHASE = 2 . 2 5 A
fault, using a low-resistance grounded neutral and comparing Fig. 2. Phasors for line-to-ground fault showing surge capacitor current.
the 2.25 A in phase B due to the surge capacitors to the neutral
return current Zbn equal to approximately 100 A. Relay 51G
will sense this Ibn and operate accordingly.
On the other hand, a high-resistance grounded neutral
system would require a neutral resistance that produces a

neutral fault current equal to or slightly greater than the

magnitude of the system charging current. Using the same
phasor designations of Fig. 4, Fig. 5 illustrates that the
resultant total fault current 2 & the charging current.
Therefore extensive damages may be permitted by alarm-only
systems when the charging current approaches 10 A.
To appreciate the effects of charging current requires the
use of a systems approach. Fig. 6 shows a series of identically
sized motors, each protected by capacitors, with the results of
charging current due to phase B faulting to ground on the Fig. 3. Effects of charging current only on ground fault relay of faulted
motor Mn branch circuit. The charging current on each, motor feeder. Actual fault current would include neutral resistor current.

The current in the branch circuit to motor Mn would be

IBN 'CB 4 ,'AB
equal to the phasor sum of Zbn and (n - 1) Zb. For example,
if n = 8, the phase B fault current in motor Mn will be equal
N-TURNS to the phasor sum of Zbn (e.g., 100 A) and 7 x 2.25 A: Z =
d(100)2 + (7 x 2.25)2 = 101 A. In this case, the capacitive
current did not add significantly to the total phase current.
Each feeder would conduct only 2.25 A, hardly enough to
cause false tripping. Also shown in Fig. 6 is the grounded
neutral-a resistor for the low-resistance installation with a
current relay, device 5 1G1. Alternatively, for a high-resistance
Fig. 4. Effects of charging current on low-resistance grounded neutral
installation, Fig. 6 shows a distribution transformer with a
system. resistor and voltage relay device, 64,paralleled to the trans-
former. secondary. Naturally, only one source grounding
IF Ibn method would be used for any one installation.
However, other factors have been ignored, and these could
impact upon the faulted feeder as well as the unfaulted feeders.
For instance, slow-speed motors have high values of charging
current, as can shielded cables, which may be oversized to
compensate for long runs between the switchgear and the
Thus individual unfaulted feeders may have charging
Fig. 5. Effects of charging current on high-resistance grounded neutral
system. currents that could affect the branch circuit relay sensitivity
when a high-resistance grounded neutral system is used.
Worse yet is the effect of these charging currents when
summed as in the motor Mn feeder of Fig. 6. The damage at
the fault would be escalated when the resistive neutral current
(Zbn) has been limited to a value slightly greater than (n - 1)
I b in order to limit overvoltages, and when the charging
current exceeds 10 A as shown in Fig. 5. There is some
excellent documentation on this damage subject, and the
authors of this paper encourage further reading of some well-
documented test results [3], [4].

Two examples are shown to illustrate how necessary it may
IEN+(n-l) IE(NET)
become to consider the effects of charging current. Fig. 7
represents an installation where generation has been added to a
TO GROUND 13.8-kV bus and where the overall system is not extensive. At
t rf- @ 13.8 kV, the system is grounded through a high resistance at
the generator neutral, tripping the generator breaker with
device 64G within seconds after detecting a 13.8-kV fault.

After generator circuit breaker 52G opens, the 13.8-kV bus is
monitored by device 64B, which will then trip circuit breaker
52L in the event that a ground fault persists. At 13.8 kV the
devices should trip and not just alarm [5].
In Fig. 7, two transformers reduce the 13.8-kV supply
GROUND GRID down to 4160 V and 480 V, respectively. The 4160-V system
Fig. 6. Ground fault current on system n motors, each with surge is shown to have a low-resistance grounded neutral with
capacitors. automatic fault tripping, but could have had a high-resistance
grounded neutral with alarm only for ground faults. (See later
M1 to motor Mn - 1, returns to the source, cumulatively discussion of 4160 V). The 480-V system is shown to have a
equal to a capacitive current magnitude of (n - 1)Ib. (The high-resistance grounded neutral, and while a discussion of its
charging current appears essentially as a capacitive load.) In merits are beyond the scope of this paper, there are excellent
the nonfaulted motor feeders, only I b will be measured by references which discuss the subject [6]-[9].
each 5 1G relay because there will be no balancing currents Icb In Fig. 8 the 13.8-kV system is more extensive, with the
and lab as there had been in the isolated system of Fig. 3. possibility of a high charging current in excess of 10 A, which
Thus unfaulted branch circuits will sense what appears to be a when accompanied by a corresponding resistor neutral current
ground fault. produces a resulting fault current approaching 20 A. Because

protection clears the fault within 1 min. This is obviously a

description for a solidly grounded neutral or low-resistance
grounded neutral system with ground fault protection and
circuit breakers.

7 52L 1 3 . 8 KV
The 133-percent level is defined as a system where there is
assurance that the clearing time for the fault does not exceed 1
h. The 133-percent level requires that the system be simple
and that ground faults be isolated in the relatively short time of
1 h.
The 173-percent level applies to those systems where the
time required to de-energize a grounded section is indefinite.
This 173-percent level (often referred to as a delta system)
therefore requires a higher level of maintenance, and the
insulation thickness is correspondingly greater. In reviewing
Fig. 7 . Cogenerationclosely coupled systems with limited plant distribution the 173-percent with many cable manufacturers, all concluded
system. that the cable used at the 173-percent level should be rated at 8
kV with 140 mils of insulation. From a practical standpoint,
few suppliers stock 8-kV cable, and probably 15-kV cable
would be used on the 4.16-kV delta (or high-resistance)
system, which could then operate safely and indefinitely with a
ground fault.
Therefore a high-resistance approach may be adequate on
4.16 kV if the cable is adequate. Similar considerations would
NC apply to voltage transformers, which would also require a line
voltage rating, even when applied phase-to-ground on the
high-resistance system. This bears mention for cogeneration
relay and metering of the generator.
Applying relays to protect this 4.16-kV system should
Fig. 8. Cogeneration with extensive plant distribution. include a voltage relay across the neutral resistor as a
minimum, since this can be used to detect a ground fault in any
20 A would produce significant damage at the point of fault, part of the system. To gain selectivity it will be necessary to
the design choice must be a low-resistance grounded neutral apply sensitive ground fault relays to each feeder set above its
system that trips rather than alarms. As in the Fig. 7 example, calculated (or measured) feeder charging current. Certain
the ground fault protection would operate to trip first the tie aspects of this selectivity have been covered by other authors,
breaker and then the respective faulted bus section. and suffice it to state that new hardware and techniques can be
expected to improve this feature [2], [7].
A. 4.16-k V High-Resistance Grounded Neutral Assuming that coordination is required for a radial system,
Caution is also needed when applying high-resistance the backup relay devices would rely more on time delay than
grounded neutrals to 4.16-kV systems. Whereas the charging upon time-current delay due to the practical limitation of
current will be considerably smaller than a 13.8-kV system, measuring sensitivity. Again hardware improvements and new
the desire to continue operations during a ground fault must be techniques could always improve the coordination capabilities
tempered with the fact that certain cable standards must be of devices on the high-resistance grounded neutral 4.16-kV
observed, and in general may affect the length of operating system.
time during a ground fault.
ICEA Standard S-66-524 applies to cross-linked polyethyl- B. Low-Resistance Grounded Neutral System
ene cable and lists among other facts the insulation thickness This is a very common method used for those systems that
required versus the system grounding and ground fault must trip for ground faults. The neutral resistor limits the
protection system. On 5-kV installations, the following should ground fault to a definite value, e.g., 500 A, loo0 A, 1500 A,
be noted in Table 3-1. for a definite period-10 s, 30 s, 1 min, etc. This system is
most practical for 13.8 kV and has the advantage of selective
Insulation Level tripping due to the nature of higher ground fault currents.
Caution must be exercised in selecting the resistance value
Rated Voltage 100% and 133% 173% so as to provide sufficiently for the time-current relationship
needed for selective tripping, such as may be found on a large
2001-5000 90 mils consult manufacturer radial distribution system [lo]. It is this selectivity that is the
most important advantage of the low-resistance grounded
neutral system. Fig. 9 illustrates a scheme based upon the
The 100-percent level is defined as a system in which the availability of only one external power source, and where the


E A C H 7.5 M V A . 2 = 6.25% I








Fig. 10. Common methods for ground fault current sensing.

current is set at 30 A, protection is extended to 3 percent of the
neutral winding (Le., 30 A/1000 A x 100% = 3%). A time
overcurrent relay device 5 1G with extremely inverse charac-
teristics would be more appropriate in the neutral when surge
capacitors are used.
Fig. 10 has a typical termination of a medium-voltage
shielded cable. After the cable is pulled up through the core-
balance CT, the cable jacket is removed to expose the shielding
tape or braid. Jumpering the shields together, the connection
to ground is made after this shield lead is brought back through
the CT. Grounding of the shield is universally made at the
Fig. 9. Partial protection scheme emphasizing ground fault protection.
switchgear, and often at cable midpoints, splices, and at the
load. This reduces the "touch potential" and also provides a
transformer secondaries may be paralleled at times. The path for the circulating currents. This precaution is necessary
individual load feeders are each protected for ground faults by only if the shield had been pulled through the CT; if the jacket
device 50G, an instantaneous overcurrent relay that is con- and shield were removed before the cable was passed through
nected to the secondary of a core-balance current transformer the CT, the shield ground would not have to be routed through
to sense 10-30 A, after which device 50G trips its respective the CT.
breaker. Failure to clear the fault necessitates backup ground Between cable shield ground connections, a potential exists
fault protection by device 51N1 to trip the bus tie breaker in that drives a circulating current, often of such magnitude
order to isolate the faulted bus section. Device 51N1 has very as to require derating of the cable ampacity. When applying
inverse tripping characteristics and is connected in the residual the core balance CT, the effects of this circulating current
circuit of the bus tie-breaker CT secondaries. After the tie must be subtracted from the measuring circuit by the method
breaker opens, only devices in that section containing the illustrated in Fig. 10.
ground fault will be responsive to further backup protection. For other examples of applying low-resistance neutral
Device 51N has the same characteristics as device 51N1, is grounding, please see [2], [ 6 ] , [lo].
connected in the residual circuit of each bus supply breaker CT
secondary, and will trip the bus supply breaker with which it V. CONCLUSION
is associated (breaker 10 or 20 in Fig. 9).
This paper has presented several aspects of system ground-
Device 51G1 is similar to devices 51N and 51N1, except
ing and the limitations of some systems with respect to
that it is connected to the secondary of a bushing or window
applying ground fault protection. Relays cannot prevent
CT through which the source transformer neutral-to-ground-
damage by themselves, nor can they be applied to compensate
ing resistor conductor is passed. This CT will sense true
for design deficiencies.
ground fault current, and device 51G1 functions to trip the
There is no one absolute solution to system grounding and/
primary circuit breaker, coordinating with device 51N and the
or protection, but judgment can be exercised by considering
bus supply breakers (see Fig. 10 for CT location).
some of the major phenomena described herein.
Alternatively, a residually connected device 50N or 5 1N
could have been used for the 500-hp protection circuit, it being 1) If the system voltage is 13.8 kV, apply a high-resistance
sensitive in the same range. However, the residual connection system only if the charging current is low and the
for protecting the 3000-hp motor would not be quite as detection scheme causes a tripping action, and not an
sensitive. Since a consistent approach in planning the ground alarm only.
fault protection (GFP) coordination is preferred, each load 2) If the medium-voltage system has a low-resistance
feeder should employ device 50G. If the minimum pickup grounded neutral, determine both the sensing method

(residual connection versus core balance CTs) and the [8] R. L. Smith, Jr., “Neutral deriving transformers for grounding low-
resistor size [lo]. voltage systems with delta-connected source transformers,” in Conf.
Record 1981 IEEE-IAS Ann. Meeting, pp. 451-455.
3) If isolated and limited, a delta system may be satisfac- [9] J. W. Foster, W. D. Brown, and L. A. Pryor, “High-resistance
tory, provided that cable voltage-level ratings are satis- grounding in the cement industry-A user’s experience,” IEEE Trans.
fied and a ground detector continuously monitors the Ind. Appl., vol. IA-22, no. 2, pp. 304-309, Mar./Apr. 1986.
[IO] D. J. Love, “Ground fault protection for electric utility generating
bus. However, a ground fault can lead to overvoltages, station medium voltage auxiliary power systems,” IEEE Trans.
even with a ground fault detector system. Power App. Syst., vol. PAS-97, no. 2, pp. 583-586, Mar./Apr. 1978.
4) If it is a delta or high-resistance grounded neutral
system, check the voltage ratings on the voltage trans-
formers. In addition, at 4160 V be certain that the cable
voltage level is satisfied. Daniel J. Love (S’49-M’52-SM’59-F’86) was
born in Fall River, MA, on September 27, 1926. He
5) The introduction of a generator on the plant distribution received the B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. degrees from
system raises serious concerns, particularly if a the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, and
grounded system already exists [ 5 ] . the M.B.A. degree from California State Univer-
sity, Long Beach, in 1951, 1956, and 1974,
6) A great amount of space has been dedicated to the respectively. He currently resides in Hacienda
charging current phenomenon because it has been Heights, CA.
overlooked or misunderstood. He is an independent Consulting Engineer, spe-
cializing in electrical systems and design as well as
7) Applying residually connected relays is an inexpensive in fire protection. He was with Bechtel Power
approach to ground fault protection on any type of Corporation, where for 19 years he was involved with generating station and
system. However, this inexpensive approach is marginal industrial power systems design as well as holding the position of Fire
Protection Engineer for several of the nuclear power plants. He spent three
on low-resistance grounded systems where coordination years in the Madrid, Spain, office of Bechtel as Chief Electrical and Control
is required [ lo]. Furthermore, on high-resistance Systems Engineer.
grounded systems, the sensitivity is extremely low and Mr. Love has been active on both the national and local levels of the IEEE,
having gone through the chairs to become the Chairman of the 1300-member
coordination may never be achieved [2]. Therefore Metropolitan Los Angeles Section, and subsequently through the chairs to
extensive planning on relay coordination may be neces- become Chairman of the 13 000-member Los Angeles Council. He has
sary on large systems. presented many papers on system design and protection in both the Power
Engineering and Industry Applications Societies. He was a Chapter Chairman
of the recently revised Buff Book, IEEE Standard 242-1986. He was recently
elected Vice-chairman of the Power Systems Protection Committee, which he
The authors wish to acknowledge the suggestions made by had previously served as Secretary. He was a recipient of the IEEE Centennial
Medal and was honored in 1986 with the Outstanding Engineer Merit Award
Richard A. Schmitter and Fred Y. Tajaddodi of Bechtel from the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering (IAE). He is a member
Western Power Corporation and Robert L. Smith of General of the Instrument Society of America, the National Society of Professional
Electric Company. Engineers, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and the National Fire
Protection Association. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in the State
of Illinois, a Professional Engineer-Electrical, in the States of Arizona,
REFERENCES California, and Louisiana, and a Professional Engineer-Fire Protection, in
the State of California.
[I] D. S. Baker, “Charging current data for guesswork-Free design of
high-resistance grounded systems,” in Conf. Record 1978 IEEE
Industrial and Commercial Power Systems., pp. 33-38.
[2] R. J. Deaton, “Limitation of ground-fault protection schemes on
industrial electrical distribution systems,” in Conf. Record 1984 Nasrollah Hashemi (S’79-MW) received the
IEEE-IAS Ann. Meeting, pp. 331-334. B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. degrees from the Univer-
[3] F. K. Fox and L. B. McClung, “Ground fault tests on a high resistance sity of Florida, Gainesville, in 1979 and 1981,
grounded 13.8 kV electrical distribution system of a modem large respectively.
chemical plant-Part I,” IEEE Trans. Ind. Appl., vol. IA-IO, no. 5, He is currently a Staff Electrical Engineer with
Sept. /Oct . 1974. the Bechtel Western Power Corporation, Los
[4] L. B. McClung and B. W. Whittington, “Ground fault tests on a high Angeles, and has responsibility for the design,
resistance grounded 13.8 kV electrical distribution system of a modem development, and implementing of computer pro-
large chemical plant-I 1,” presented at the Industrial and Commercial grams for computer-aided engineering, recently
Power Systems Conf. of the IEEE Industry Applications Society, completing a large relational database management
Milwaukee, WI, May 3, 1972. computer program. Previously he had been assigned
[5] R. H. McFadden, “Grounding of generators connected to industrial to a large nuclear power plant as a Field Engineer for computer-based
plant distribution busses,” in Conf.Record 1980 Industrial Commer- systems. Prior to Bechtel he was associated with the Florida Utility Research
cial Power Systems, pp. 83-85. Center as a Research Associate, with responsibilities for the design and
[6] J. R. Dunki-Jacobs, “The reality of high-resistance grounding,” IEEE development of a computer program for power system analysis.
Trans. Ind. Appl., vol. IA-13, no. 5 , SeptJOct. 1977. Mr. Hashemi has been involved with the Metropolitan Los Angeles Section
[7] B. Bridger, Jr. and W. E. DeHart, “High resistance grounding,” in of the IEEE as a Program Coordinator, and is the current Secretary. He is a
Conf. Record 1977 IEEE-IAS Ann. Meeting, Oct. 1977. Professional Engineer-Electrical, in the State of California.