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S Speed, safety
and savings
ABBs new ultra-fast earthing switch

DIETMAR GENTSCH, VOLKER GRAFE, HANS-WILLI OTT, this special vacuum device combined with the rapid and
WOLFGANG HAKELBERG, ANDREAS BRANDT ABBs well- reliable detection of fault currents and light intensity of a
known and fast acting vacuum interrupter and the worlds new dedicated electronic unit, will ensure all arcs are
fastest limiting and switching device, the Is-limiter, have almost immediately extinguished. In technical terms, this
been in service for decades. Now the technologies from means that system availability and operator safety are
these devices have been cleverly combined to form an greatly enhanced for rated voltages up to 40.5 kV and
arc-fault protection system for medium-voltage switch- rated short-time withstand currents (1s) up to 63 kA. From
gear that operates in the ultra-fast range. As a product, an economic point of view, downtimes and repair costs
the extremely short switching time of less than 1.5 ms of resulting from faults will be drastically reduced.

84 ABB review 2|10

ronment. From a dielectric point of view,
1 Arc fault duration in electrical systems
the chamber actually constitutes two and the associated consequences.
vacuum gaps separated by a membrane.
One gap contains a contact pin at earth
Using a conventional protection device
potential while the other accommodates Arc fault duration: 200300 ms
a fixed contact at high-voltage potential. Detection by standard relay
Each element also features an integrated Clearing of arc fault current by the
upstream circuit breaker
ultra-fast micro gas generator (SMGG),
Possible dramatic consequences include
which is comparable in type and func- Fire/explosion
tionality to the gas generators in automo- Serious injuries to personnel (depend-
bile airbags 2. The SMGG drives a pis- ing on the switchgear design)
ton and is designed as a single-shot
Fast-acting protection relay with
piston actuator. The electronic unit, supplementary equipment (eg, Ith-limiter)
based on durable and fast analog tech- Arc fault duration: 50100 ms
nology, is phase independent in struc- Fast detection by special protection relay
ture, and ensures current and light de- Clearing of arc fault current by the
upstream circuit breaker
tection and reliable tripping within the Limited damage to equipment and
shortest possible time. personnel (depending on the
switchgear design)
When an internal arc fault occurs in a
Ultra-fast earthing switch (UFES)
switchgear system, the electronic unit Arc fault duration: 4ms after detection
detects the fault current (supplied by a Ultra-fast detection by UFES electronic
current transformer) and the arc light in unit (type QRU)
the compartment (measured by optical Ultra-fast extinction of the internal arc by
switching of the UFES primary-element
sensors). At almost the same time, the Final clearing of fault current by the
gas generator is activated. More specifi- upstream circuit-breaker
cally, the gas pressure drives the mov- No damage expected

n rare cases, failure inside a switch- able piston. This piston slides into the
gear cubicle due to a defect, an ex- first part of the vacuum chamber and
ceptional service condition or mal- eventually causes the contact pin to pen-
operation may initiate an internal arc, etrate the membrane and engage with
which constitutes a hazard 1. While the the fixed contact permanently and with-
absolute protection of all personnel is by out bouncing to create a solid metal Technologies from
far the most important concern during short-circuit to earth. The arc fault can
such an event, users would also like to then be short-circuited and extinguished ABBs vacuum
prevent system components from being
destroyed. ABBs new internal arc pro-
in less than 4ms after it is first detected.
The entire sequence, illustrated in 3,
interrupter and
tection system ensures that this is the leads to the safe connection of the pis- I s-limiter have been
case. ton to earth potential via a moving con-
tact system. cleverly combined
The system operates on the principle
that the uncontrolled release of energy Processing that all-important
to form an arc-fault
from an internal arc fault is prevented by information protection system
rapid metallic 3-phase earthing. Charac- The electronic unit has three input chan-
terized by a significantly low impedance, nels that enable continuous monitoring for medium-voltage
this type of connection causes the short- of the instantaneous current. The re-
circuit current of an arc fault to commu- sponse level, the criterion for detection
switchgear that
tate immediately to the fast-acting earth-
ing switch and extinguish the arc.
of a fault current, can be adjusted to suit
a wide variety of protection conditions by
operates in the
means of simple controls. With a low in- ultra-fast range.
The new ultra-fast earthing switch (UFES) put burden of less than 1 VA, the current
contains three complete primary switch- measurement system can simply be
ing elements type U1 (see picture on looped into the secondary wiring of the
page 84) and an electronic unit type QRU existing current protection transformers.
(quick release unit). Each primary switch-
ing element is similar in dimensions In addition to current monitoring, nine
(height 210 mm, diameter 137 mm), optical inputs are available for arc-fault
shape and fastening points to a 24 kV detection. The status of the arc-fault
pin-type insulator, and consists of a two- protection system is indicated by LEDs
part vacuum chamber embedded in and a 7-segment display on the front
epoxy resin to protect it from the envi- panel of the unit 4. Various floating

S 3 Speed, safety and savings 85

2 3-D section drawing and sectional view of an UFES primary switching element type U1 4 Electronic unit type QRU1

Epoxy insulator

Fixed contact
Vacuum Ceramic insulator
device Membrane
Moving contact pin

Rupture joint
Moving contact system
Micro gas generator (SMGG)

3 Event sequence description



I k I k I k I k I k


i (t) i (t) i (t) i (t) i (t)

0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 0.0 5.0 10.0 15.0 20.0 25.0 0.0 20.0 40.0 60.0 80.0 100.0 120.0

Time in ms Time in ms Time in ms Time in ms Time in ms

Internal arc formation. Arc detection by the electro- Tripping signal sent to the Rapid metallic 3-phase Final clearing of the fault
nic device (light and current). UFES primary switching earthing by operation of current by the upstream
elements (optional to the the UFES primary switching circuit breaker.
upstream circuit breaker). elements leading to:
Interruption of the arc
voltage: Immediate
extinction of the arc.
Controlled fault current
flow via UFES primary
switching elements to
earth potential.

86 ABB review 2|10

5 UFES primary switching element type U1 6 Demonstration installation showing UFES
primary switching elements on top

Standard IEC
Electrical maximum characteristics (different basic types)
Rated voltage (rms) kV 40.5
Rated power frequency withstand voltage (rms) kV 85 / 95
Rated lightning impulse withstand voltage (peak) kV 170 / (200)
Rated frequency Hz 50 / 60
Rated short-time withstand current (rms) kA 50 / (63)
Rated peak withstand current kA 170
Rated duration of short-circuit s 3 / (1)
Rated short-circuit making current kA 170

Mechanical characteristics
Dimension (diameter x height) mm ~ 137 x 210
Closing time ms < 1.6
Contact bounce duration ms 0

Mechanical life operations 1
Number of short-circuit operations 1
Shelf life years 30
Micro gas generator years 15

criteria for the switchgear can be simu- poorly accessible switchgear installation
ABBs system is lated and checked by the user, and the rooms.
corresponding trips displayed but not
an active internal transmitted to the SMGGs. The UFES primary switching elements

arc fault protection In combination with the TVOC light de-

can be installed in the switchgear cable
connection compartments or simply in
solution for medi- tection system, up to 54 compartments each separate busbar section to ensure
in a switchgear system (three compart- the entire system is covered. The UFES
um-voltage switch- ments per panel) can be monitored using will be available as a complete unit in a
one electronic unit. The TVOC extension type-tested ABB service box for simple
gear systems, modules, each of which contains nine installation in existing switchgear sys-
which greatly optical inputs, can be directly connected tems 6 and later as a loose device
to the five interfaces provided. Because (ie, the electronic unit and three primary
increases both detection of an arc fault by these mod- switching elements).
ules is also monitored by the electronic
system availability unit, at least 18 panels in a switchgear
and personnel system are provided with active protec-
tion. As each compartment is individually
safety. monitored, the location of the fault can
be easily determined.

contacts are provided as interfaces to The power to protect

other units. These can be used: ABBs system, suitable for rated voltages
To transmit the status of the electron- up to 40.5 kV and rated short-time with-
ics to a remote control room stand currents up to 63 kA (1s) 5, is an Dietmar Gentsch
To send commands to a circuit active internal arc fault protection solu- Volker Grafe
breaker feeding into the arc fault tion for new internal arc classified medi- Hans-Willi Ott
As an interlock to block the reclosing um-voltage switchgear as well as for Wolfgang Hakelberg
of a circuit breaker directly after existing older generation switchgear. It Andreas Brandt
tripping. helps to avoid serious damage to the ABB Power Products
switchgear, the equipment and the direct Ratingen, Germany
Together with the electronic watchdog environment. Therefore, it greatly in- dietmar.gentsch@de.abb.com
function, the functional capability of the creases both system availibilty and per- volker.grafe@de.abb.com
SMGG-igniter is also continuously moni- sonnel safety in the event of internal arc hans-willi.ott@de.abb.com
tored. The electronic unit can be switched fault. Furthermore it enables the minimi- wolfgang.hakelberg@de.abb.com
to test mode in which all the response zation of pressure relief arrangements in andreas.brandt@de.abb.com

S 3 Speed, safety and savings 87