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Proceedings of 1998 International Symposium on IZlectrical Insulating Materials, in conjunction with 1998Asian International Conference on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation and the 30th Symposium on Electrical Insulating Materials, Toyohashi,Japan, Sept.27-30,1998



Yafei Zhou, MIEEE, A I Gardiner, G A Mathieson, Y Qin Industrial Research Limited 5 Sheffield Crescent, P'0 Box 20-028, Christchurch, New Zealand

Abstract - A portable partial discharge (PD) measuring system, which uses novel PD sensors and a handhold digital storage oscilloscope (DSO), has been developed and used for on-line assessment and monitoring of the insulation condition of large machines and other apparatus. The PD sensors use high voltage high frequency current transformers (HVHFCT). These are small and non-intrusive and thus can be installed at several positions in a machine terminal withom opening the machine. The DSO is available off-the-shelf at low cost. It can be carried to different plants and connected to both PD sensors in a machine, and controlled via a laptop personal computer (LPC), for PD measurement, processing, and communication for remote insulation assessment and conditionmonitoring.

This effective, convenient, and widely applicable technique has also been used to assess the insulation of cables and busbars. The simplicity of the portable PD measuring system is shown in this paper. Means of using the techniques for insulation assessment of large machines, high voltage cables, and busbars will also be introduced.


Large electrical machines and high voltage apparatus are major assets in a wide range of industries. Insulation failure and the resulting disruption of power generation, usage, and manufacturing has severe consequences. Insulation condition monitoring prevents expensive in- service failure and enables cost-effective maintenance to ensure that machines operate reliably, with high efficiency and long life.

Most techniques for assessment and monitoring of insulation detect partial discharge. The results of PD measurements are combined with knowledge of insulation materials and configurations, as well as operating conditions, to determine the insulation's state [l, 21. A PD monitoring system may consist of PD sensors (couplers), measuring and ]processing instruments,and data storage.Presently used s,ensorsare designed for particular machines, and cannot be installed in all machine types. The high cost of instruments has prevented a PD monitoring system from being widely used.


New PD sensors have been developed by IRL and used in plants for PD measurement. These use high-voltage high-frequency current transformers (HVHFCT) with a low-cost off-the-shelf DSO and LPC. HVHFCTs are non-inuusive and thus can be installed at several positions around machine terminals without opening the machine [3]. The oscilloscopeand LPC can be carried or freighted to different plants, and connected to PD sensors in a machine for PD measurement by one person. In many cases, the high signal-to-noise ratio of a properly positioned HFCT enables phase-resolved PD measurement to be made directly. In the presence of noise, suppression and data processing is done by a virtual instrument (VI) in the LPC. Many remote or small plants have no personnel skilled in PD measurement, so the system can be connected to a telephone network, enabling rcmote operation and measurement by experts.


The system configuration can be arranged in several ways as shown in Figure 1. The high frequency CT for PD sensing (coupling) can be placed around the ground lead of cable or surge limiting capacitor. A HVHFCT can be placed on the high voltage termination of the cable for live-line PD measurement. With the HVHFCT at the high voltage terminal, high signal-to-noise ratios can be achieved, and the direction of the PD signal from the machine and noise from outside of the machine can be identified.

The simplest configuratiion, for local measurement by plant personnel who connect the scope to the PD sensors and FT voltage or noise :signals,is shown in Figure la. The measured results, including PD levels and phase resolved PD waveforms, can be stored in the scope or processed for noise reduction and stored by the LPC VI. For remote operation, a telephone network connection is made. Two arrangements are described in Figures lb and IC. Figure lb shows remote master and local slave VIS.Figure ICshows pure: remote control.

1. When the PD-to-noise ratio is large, a line voltage signal is used to phase resolve the PD measurement directly.










I, \

figure la - local PD "ent

K Machine




Figure IC - remte control

Figure 1. The system configurations for PD measurement, locally at a plant (la), remotely from an office (lb) or some other location (IC).

2. When the noise is larger than the PD signal and cannot be distinguished by visual observation, filters or a software gate amplifier in the LPC VI can be used to suppress the noise. The principle is using noise to block the amplifier for the noise suppression and only allow the PD signal pass the amplifier. The LPC VI software can be replicated and altered for different situations.

Data processing software in the PC can also process the PD data to extract more information for insulation condition assessment. Such as the statistical analysis of PD amplitude distribution and polarity difference for specified acquisitions of PD measurement.







PD measurementsfor generators

The example plant has two 11 kV, 3.8 MW generators made in 1977. The main winding insulation is epoxy resin-mica, class F. One of the generators failed due to lightning strike and was rewound in 1995. The insulation condition of the other generator was unknown.

Two methods were used, live-line and on-line remote PD measuring. The live-line PD measurements were carried out using the HVHFCT, which was hooked on the high voltage conductor at the termination cubicle of the generator [3]. Calibration for the PD measurements was also carried out in live-line conditions. The measuring circuit is shown in figure la. As the HVHFCT has a high signal to noise ratio at the selected

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position for live-line PD measurement, no noise suppression was needed. The PD level of the two generators are all in hundreds of pic0 Coulombs (pC), which is quite normal for such insulation at 11k;V.

The PD measurement for insulation assessment showed that no dangerous PD threatened safe operatioa of both generators, especially pertinent to the 20 year old generator. The plant manager has now installed the on- line PD monitoring device for insulation condition monitoring to eliminate possible in-service failure and enable pre-planning of upgrades.

High frequency CTs were used for on-line PD measuring as shown in Figure 1. The CTs were coupled to the earth lead of each surge-limiting capacitor. The signal cable from the CTs was terminated on the termination cubicle, where the DSO can be connected for PD measurement.

The plant technician has been trained for local measurement and the remote measurement technique shown in Figures lb and ICwas tested.

The option shown in Figure lb was more reliable with much less communications interruption than Figure IC. The remote methods use VIS to display and control the data acquired from the scope in the plant. A software gate amplifier has been built within the VI to eliminate noise. The scope and PC were posted to the plant ovemight and attached to the connector!; on the termination cubicle by a technician in the plant. This provides a flexible and cost-effective method for many plants at remote places where no engineer is available to measure PD.

PD measurement for cables

The ageing population of high voltage cables and the opportunity to use non-intrusive techniques have increased demand for monitoring of cable insulation. Two on-line PD measuring methods using HFCT have been tested in 66 kV oil-paper cables terminartions. The circuit for the measurement is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. PD measurement by HFCT


The principle of method 1 is introduced in [4]. Method one and method two have a minimum measurable PD level about 50 pic0 Coulomb (pC) in this substation. The on-line calibration of 100 pC and the measured signal by the two methods is shown in Figure 3.

lW Stopped



15 Acquisltione . - --{ -


Chi zoom.



{.OX Virt



6.5X Hbrz


Chl Max


Chl Min




Ch2 Max


Figure 3. PD measurlement for cable by HFCT

Channel 1 is from the top HFCT (method l), channel 2 is from the bottom HFCT (method 2), and channel 3 is the current in phase with ithe phase voltage taken from a clamp-on CT and phase-shifting device. The PD measurements indicate th(at there is less than 50 pC PD in this cable termination.

Both methods can measure PD of three phases of the cable with the HFCT in each phase, so that the PD level of all phases can be determined and compared. These methods are non-intrusive and easy to implement. The direction of PD signal can be identified by on-line calibration so that the PD location can be estimated.

Two clamp type HFCTs placed on each side of a cable joint comprise a bridge circuit. The bridge circuit measures only joint PD, and cancels noise from either sides of the joint. This bridge circuit has been tried in the laboratory with good results, but field application has been limited by the inaccessibility of cable joints and dependence on joint insulation configuration.

PD measurement for busbars of breaker cubicles

Both off-line and on-line PD measurements have been conducted to assess and monitor metal-enclosed busbars insulation of 11 kV circuit break cubicles in three substations. The off-line PD measuring circuit is similar to the on-line method shown in Figure la, except the high voltage supply was from a PD free high voltage transformer, and there is 110 surge-limiting capacitor.


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The busbar insulation of one substation was bitumen compound. The PD inception voltage was from 6 to 7 kV. PD level at 8 kV - 30% more than the operating phase voltage 6.35 kV, was from 40 to 180 pC for different phases. Two consecutive years of PD measurements showed that this PD level did not increase.

The busbars at the other two substations were covered by extruded polymer material supported by plate-type porcelain insulators,with air space of 6 cm between phases and 5.5 cm between phase to earth, shown in Figure 4.For polymer, porcelain and air insulated busbars, deterioration caused by PD at the polymer insulation where it interfaces with the plate-typeporcelain insulator, is the main concem. The plate-type insulator has no extra creeping distance between phases and phase to ground.

Figure 4. Extruded polymer, porcelain and air insulated busbars

After 37 years of operation, the bulk oil circuit breakers will have to be replaced and upgraded. If the busbars are still sound and can be kept, costs are halved. This will also greatly shortenthe power interruptionduringupgrade.

Off-line PD measurement and ultrasonic detection indicated that the busbars of the two substations were PD-free at 8 to 12 kV for all phases. The PD measurement and visual inspection of insulation for the busbars showed that the busbar insulation system is in sound condition and can be retained in the circuit breaker upgrade. Unnecessary replacement, power interruption and costs can be avoided.

On-line PD measurement using a method similar to method 1 in Figure 2, for the busbars of one substation, showed that the minimum PD measurable was about 20 pC. PD over 200 pC were measured in on-line measurement. Correlating the off-line and on-line PD measurements, the PD should be from the cables or CT


bushings, which were connected with the busbars during on-line measurement. The spot of the PD origin can be identified by isolating each circuit breaker cubicle at a convenient time. The on-line PD measurements provide a simple and cost effective method to monitor the busbar and cable insulation as a preventative measure for insulation failure.


The on-line PD measuring methods provide convenient and cost effective tools for plant engineers to assess and monitor insulation. The remote PD measuring technique reduces the cost and extends the range of insulation condition monitoring for the plants remote from the PD experts. The successful trials of the techniques in cable and busbars insulation assessment showed the potential for wider application of the techniques to maximise economic benefits for aged plants and systems.


1. Y Zhou, G I Dix, and P W Quaife, Insulation

Condition Monitoring and Testing for Large Electrical Machines, 1996 IEEE Intemational Symposium on Electrical Insulation, Hotel Du Parc, Montreal, Quebec,

June 16-19, 1996,pp 239-242.

2. Y Zhou, A Gardiner, G Mathieson, Y Qin. Partial

Discharge Measurements On The Winding Bars From A Failed Machine. International Conference on Dielectrics and Insulation (ICDI), Hungary. 10-13 September 97 and 1997 IEEE Electrical Insulation Conference @IC), Chicago, IL USA. 22-25, September 97. pp 97-100.

3. Y Zhou, A Gardiner, G Mathieson, Y Qin. New

Methods of Partial Discharge Measurement for the


Assessment and Monitoring of

Machines. The same as above. pp 111-114.

Insulation in

4. Ginzo Katsuta, Atsushi Toya, Takeshi Endoh, Hiroshi

Suzuki and Yasuo Sekii. Development of New Detection Method of Partial Discharge for EHV Long-Distance Active Cable Line. Electrical Engineering in Japan, Vol. 112, No. 7, 1992. Translated from Denki Gakkai

Robunshi, Vol. 111-B, No. 11, November 1991,


Yafei Zhou, A I Gardiner,G A Mathieson, Y Qin Industrial Research Limited 5 SheffieldCrescent,P 0 Box 20-028,Christchurch, New Zealand

Phone: 64 3 358 9189 Email:

Fax: 64 3 358 9506

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