Premium Membership ♕

Limited Time Offer: Save 15% on Pro Plan with discount coupon: MX15. Study specialized LV/MV/HV technical articles and studies.

Home / Technical Articles / An example of the effectiveness of directional overcurrent relays (ANSI 67, 67N)

When fault currents can flow in more than one direction…

When fault currents can flow in more than one direction with respect to the load current it is often desirable to determine which direction the fault current is flowing and trip the appropriate devices accordingly. This is usually due to the need to de-energize only those parts of the power system that must be de-energized to contain a given fault.

An example of the effectiveness of directional overcurrent relays
An example of the effectiveness of directional overcurrent relays (ANSI 67, 67N) (photo credit:

Standard overcurrent relays cannot distinguish the direction of the current flow. Directional relays (67, 67N) are required to perform this function.

An important concept in the application of directional overcurrent relays is polarization. Polarization is the method used by the relay to determine the direction of current flow. For phase directional overcurrent relays, this is accomplished by the use of voltage transformers, which provide a voltage signal to the relay and allow it to distinguish the current direction.

The details of polarization methods are not discussed here.

Because the voltage on a faulted phase can be unreliable, each phase is restrained via the voltage from a different phase. Care must be used when defining CT polarities as each manufacturer typically defines a preferred polarity to match the their standard connection diagrams.

Polarization for a 67N relay is more difficult. They must be polarized with zero-sequence current or zero-sequence voltage. Electromechanical 67N relays must be polarized via either a CT in the source transformer neutral (zero-sequence current polarization) or three VT’s connected with a wye-connected primaries and broken-delta connected secondaries.

BASLER overcurrent solid-state relay
BASLER overcurrent solid-state relay

Solid-state 67N relays usually must be polarized the same way but do sometimes offer a choice of either method. Microprocessor-based relays typically offer a choice of either method and, in some cases, can self-polarize by calculating the zero-sequence voltage from the measured three-phase line voltage.

An Example

As an example of the effectiveness of directional overcurrent relays, consider the primary-selective system arrangement. The primary main and tie circuit breakers and an example of protective relaying for those circuit breakers are shown in Figure 1 below.

Example protective relaying arrangement for closed-transition primary-selective system
Figure 1 – Example protective relaying arrangement for closed-transition primary-selective system

In Figure 1 the bus tie circuit breaker is normally-closed, paralleling the two utility feeds. Each main circuit breaker and the bus tie circuit breaker are protected via 51 and 51N relays. The mains also have 67 and 67N relays. Note that the 67 relays are polarized via the line voltage transformers, and auxiliary voltage transformers connected in wye-broken delta are supplied for polarization of the 67N relays.

The polarization results in the indicated tripping directions for these relays.

The need for the 67 and 67N relays can be demonstrated by considering a fault on one of the utility feeds. Should utility feed #2, for example, experience a fault, the fault current will be supplied both from the upstream system feeding utility feed #2 and from utility feed #1 through circuit breakers 52-M1, 52-T, and 52-M2. Because the 51 and 51N relays for 52-M1 and 52-M2 are likely set identically, they will both respond to the fault at the same time, tripping 52-M1 and 52-M2 and de-energizing the entire downstream system.

To avoid this, the 67 and 67N relays are set to coordinate with the 51 and 51N relays, respectively, so that the 67 and 67N relays trip first.

For a fault on utility feed #2, the 67 and 67N relays for 52-M1 will not trip due to the fact that the current is flowing in the direction opposite to the tripping direction.

However, the 67 and 67N relays on 52-M2 will sense current in the tripping direction and trip 52-M2. The downstream system is still energized by 52-M1 and 52-T after 52-M2 trips.

Reference: System Protection – Bill Brown, P.E., Square D Engineering Services

Premium Membership

Get access to premium HV/MV/LV technical articles, electrical engineering guides, research studies and much more! It helps you to shape up your technical skills in your everyday life as an electrical engineer.
More Information

Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Romaric
    Jul 29, 2022

    How would a 67 react/operate on a loss of its polarizing voltage?

  2. Jovenie Tagatac
    Mar 04, 2021

    Very informative, thank you.

  3. Aravind
    May 08, 2018

    I had a doubt about polarization what is related to the system with polarization and without polarization.and also phasor diagram angles with RCA

  4. Mahyar Karimi
    Jan 23, 2018

    This article is very useful. text is very fluent and simple for learning this subject.

  5. Mohamed
    Nov 02, 2016

    can any one explain me about the voltage reference for 67 relay with polarized and without polarized?

  6. sindhu
    Feb 28, 2015

    really good article

  7. Mahadev
    Jan 22, 2015

    what is the difference between power frequency withstand voltage and lighting impulse withstand voltage?

    • Kamil Dursun
      Nov 18, 2017

      During a lightning impulse, the stress on the insulation is short. Typically with a front time of 1.2 microsecond and a time to half of 50 microseconds. During power frequency overvoltages, the insulation is continuously stressed by a 50 Hz overvoltage, typically for 1 minute. The insulation material has better withstand against short overvoltages, such as LI.

  8. Mahadev
    Jan 22, 2015

    What is the difference between directional & nan directional over current/earth fault relay

    • Timothy Partasevitch
      Mar 17, 2017

      In a nutshell:

      Non directional overcurrent protection, I>, can selectively protect radial networks. Selectivity achieved by introducing a time delay of operation at every relay.

      Directional overcurrent protection Idir>, can selectively protect networks fed from both sides.

  9. sounder
    Dec 17, 2014

    Thanks for your guidance for 50 67

  10. vivek sharma
    Oct 18, 2014

    I am always having confusion about earth directional fault. on what behalf the polarization is selected in different relays and how to test this protection.
    Please suggest me its basic. (my mail id is [email protected])

  11. Cama
    Oct 10, 2014


    How will the phasorial diagram of Voltage and Current will look for the directional relay of 52-M2 will look like in case of earth-fault upstream of 52-M2 CB ?

Leave a Comment

Tell us what you're thinking. We care about your opinion! Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let's have a professional and meaningful conversation instead. Thanks for dropping by!

eighty one  −    =  75

Learn How to Design Power Systems

Learn to design LV/MV/HV power systems through professional video courses. Lifetime access. Enjoy learning!

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter

Subscribe to our Weekly Digest newsletter and receive free updates on new technical articles, video courses and guides (PDF).
EEP Academy Courses - A hand crafted cutting-edge electrical engineering knowledge