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4 Power Transformer Protection Devices - explained in details
4 Power Transformer Protection Devices – explained in details (on photo: Bayer 69KV Substation Transformer; credit: ietc-team.com)

Oil Transformer protection

The power transformer protection is realized with two different kinds of devices, namely the devices that are measuring the electrical quantities affecting the transformer through instrument transformers and the devices that are indicating the status of the physical quantities at the transformer itself.

An example of the former could be current-based differential protection and of the latter oil temperature monitoring.

Protection Devices //

The following discusses protection devices typically delivered as a part of the power transformer delivery.

  1. Buchholz (Gas) Relay
  2. Pressure Relay
  3. Oil Level Monitor Device
  4. Winding Thermometer

The power transformer protection as a whole and the utilization of the below presented protection devices are not discussed here.

1. Buchholz (Gas) Relay

The Buchholz protection is a mechanical fault detector for electrical faults in oil-immersed transformers. The Buchholz (gas) relay is placed in the piping between the transformer main tank and the oil conservator. The conservator pipe must be inclined slightly for reliable operation.

Often there is a bypass pipe that makes it possible to take the Buchholz relay out of service.

Installed Buchholz gas relay
Installed Buchholz gas relay

The Buchholz protection is a fast and sensitive fault detector. It works independent of the number of transformer windings, tap changer position and instrument transformers. If the tap changer is of the on-tank (container) type, having its own oil enclosure with oil conservator, there is a dedicated Buchholz relay for the tap changer.

A typical Buchholz protection comprises a pivoted float (F) and a pivoted vane (V) as shown in Figure 1. The float carries one mercury switch and the vane also carries another mercury switch. Normally, the casing is filled with oil and the mercury switches are open.

Buchholz relay principal construction
Figure 1 – Buchholz relay principal construction

When minor fault occurs…

Here is assumed that a minor fault occurs within the transformer. Gases produced by minor faults rise from the fault location to the top of the transformer. Then the gas bubbles pass up the piping to the conservator. The gas bubbles will be tapped in the casing of the Buchholz protection.

This means that the gas replaces the oil in the casing. As the oil level falls, the float (F) will follow and the mercury switch tilts and closes an alarm circuit.

When major fault occurs…

It is also assumed that a major fault, either to earth of between phases or windings, occurs within the transformer. Such faults rapidly produce large volumes of gas (more than 50 cm3/(kWs) and oil vapor which cannot escape.

They therefore produce a steep buildup of pressure and displace oil. This sets up a rapid flow from the transformer towards the conservator. The vane (V) responds to high oil and gas flow in the pipe to the conservator. In this case, the mercury switch closes a trip circuit. The operating time of the trip contact depends on the location of the fault and the magnitude of the fault current.

Tests carried out with simulated operating conditions have shown that operation in the time range 0.050-0.10 seconds is possible. The operating time should not exceed 0.3 seconds.

The gas accumulator relay also provides a long-term accumulation of gasses associated with overheating of various parts of the transformer conductor and insulation systems. This will detect fault sources in their early stages and prevent significant damage.

A typical outlook of a Buchholz relay with flanges on both sides for pipe connections
Figure 2 – A typical outlook of a Buchholz relay with flanges on both sides for pipe connections

When the transformer is first put into service, the air trapped in the windings may give unnecessary alarm signals. It is customary to remove the air in the power transformers by vacuum treatment during the filling of the transformer tank with oil.

The gas accumulated without this treatment will, of course, be air, which can be confirmed by seeing that it is not inflammable.

In addition, the Buchholz relay can detect if the oil level falls below that of the relay as a result of a leakage from the transformer tank.

Other technical articles related to Buchholz relay //

  1. Protecting Oil Type Transformer with Buchholz Relay
  2. The Purpose Of Transformer Gas Relay

Go back to Index ↑


2. Pressure Relay

Many power transformers with an on-tank-type tap changer have a pressure protection for the separate tap changer oil compartment. This protection detects a sudden rate-of-increase of pressure inside the tap changer oil enclosure.

Figure 3 shows the principle of a pressure relay.

Pressure relay
Figure 3 – Pressure relay

When the pressure in front of the piston exceeds the counter force of the spring, the piston will move operating the switching contacts. The micro switch inside the switching unit is hermetically sealed and pressurized with nitrogen gas.

An internal fault in an oil-filled transformer is usually accompanied by overpressure in the transformer tank.

The simplest form of pressure relief device is the widely used frangible disk. The surge of oil caused by a heavy internal fault bursts the disk and allows the oil to discharge rapidly. Relieving and limiting the pressure rise prevent explosive rupture of the tank and consequent fire.

Also, if used, the separate tap changer oil enclosure can be fitted with a pressure relief device.

Principle construction of a pressure relief device
Figure 4 – Principle construction of a pressure relief device

The pressure relief device can be fitted with contact unit(s) to provide a signal for circuit breaker(s) tripping circuits.

A pressure relief device with contact units
Figure 5 – A pressure relief device with contact units

A drawback of the frangible disk is that the oil remaining in the tank is left exposed to the atmosphere after a rupture. This is avoided in a more effective device, the pressure relief valve, which opens to allow the discharge of oil if the pressure exceeds the pre-adjusted limit.

By providing the transformer with a pressure relief valve, the overpressure can be limited to a magnitude harmless to the transformer.

If the abnormal pressure is relatively high, this spring-controlled valve can operate within a few milliseconds and provide fast tripping when suitable contacts are fitted. The valve closes automatically as the internal pressure falls below a critical level.

Go back to Index ↑


3. Oil Level Monitor Device

Transformers with oil conservator(s) (expansion tank) often have an oil level monitor. Usually, the monitor has two contacts for alarm. One contact is for maximum oil level alarm and the other contact is for minimum oil level alarm.

A typical outlook of an oil level monitor device
Figure 6 – A typical outlook of an oil level monitor device

The top-oil thermometer has a liquid thermometer bulb in a pocket at the top of the transformer. The thermometer measures the top-oil temperature of the transformer. The top-oil thermometer can have one to four contacts, which sequentially close at successively higher temperature.

With four contacts fitted, the two lowest levels are commonly used to start fans or pumps for forced cooling, the third level to initiate an alarm and the fourth step to trip load breakers or de-energize the transformer or both.

The figure below shows the construction of a capillary-type top-oil thermometer, where the bulb is situated in a “pocket” surrounded by oil on top of the transformer. The bulb is connected to the measuring bellow inside the main unit via a capillary tube. The bellow moves the indicator through mechanical linkages, resulting in the operation of the contacts at set temperatures.

Capillary type of top-oil temperature measurement device
Figure 7 – Capillary type of top-oil temperature measurement device

The top-oil temperature may be considerably lower than the winding temperature, especially shortly after a sudden load increase. This means that the top-oil thermometer is not an effective overheating protection.

However, where the policy towards transformers’ loss of life permits, tripping on top-oil temperature may be satisfactory. This has the added advantage of directly monitoring the oil temperature to ensure that it does not reach the flash temperature.

Go back to Index ↑


4. Winding Thermometer

The winding thermometer, shown in the figure below, responds to both the top-oil temperature and the heating effect of the load current.

Capillary type of winding thermometer
Figure 8 – Capillary type of winding thermometer

The winding thermometer creates an image of the hottest part of the winding. The top-oil temperature is measured with a similar method as introduced earlier. The measurement is further expanded with a current signal proportional to the loading current in the winding.

This current signal is taken from a current transformer located inside the bushing of that particular winding. This current is lead to a resistor element in the main unit. This resistor heats up, and as a result of the current flowing through it, it will in its turn heat up the measurement bellow, resulting in an increased indicator movement.

Top-oil thermometer and winding thermometer main units fitted on the side of a power transformer
Figure 9 – Top-oil thermometer and winding thermometer main units fitted on the side of a power transformer

The temperature bias is proportional to the resistance of the electric heating (resistor) element.

The result of the heat run provides data to adjust the resistance and thereby the temperature bias. The bias should correspond to the difference between the hot-spot temperature and the top-oil temperature. The time constant of the heating of the pocket should match the time constant of the heating of the winding.

The temperature sensor then measures a temperature that is equal to the winding temperature if the bias is equal to the temperature difference and the time constants are equal.

The winding thermometer can have one to four contacts, which sequentially close at successively higher temperature.

With four contacts fitted, the two lowest levels are commonly used to start fans or pumps for forced cooling, the third level to initiate an alarm and the fourth step to trip load breakers or de-energize the transformer or both.

In case a power transformer is fitted with top-oil thermometer and winding thermometer, the latter one normally takes care of the forced cooling control.

Go back to Index ↑

Reference // Distribution Automation Handbook – ABB

About Author //

author-pic

Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears.Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design.Present on

6 Comments


  1. oringo Diweri
    Nov 25, 2015

    It is indeed clearly explained. Thanks.


  2. Craig
    Oct 20, 2015

    I have a new “Perfect Control – Model # PC 252” with instructions in the box. What do you think it’s worth?
    Thanks, Craig


  3. MOHAMED ELSYED
    Aug 07, 2015

    VERY GOOD DATA


  4. MOHAMED ELSYED
    Aug 07, 2015

    GOOD


  5. OSHORO MICHAEL
    Apr 25, 2015

    I have two energy meter on the same circuit at different location they are given different reading example first will read 265KW the second will be read 290KW distance between the two meter is +-250m the is at the generator the other is at the distribution panel the CT ratio is the same.


  6. vigneshwaren.n
    Apr 23, 2015

    how a bundled conductors will be ? pls show in picture
    can u explain the process of substations

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