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Percentage impedance of a transformer

Percentage Impedance (Z%)

The impedance of a transformer is marked on most nameplates - but what is it and what
does the Z% figure mean?

The percentage impedance of a transformer is the volt drop on full load due to the winding
resistance and leakage reactance expressed as a percentage of the rated voltage.

It is also the percentage of the normal terminal voltage required to circulate full-load
current under short circuit conditions

Measuring Impedance
The impedance is measured by means of a short circuit test. With one winding shorted,
a voltage at the rated frequency is applied to the other winding sufficient to circulate full
load current - see below:

The percentage impedance can then be calculated as follows:

Z% = Impedance Voltage x 100

Rated Voltage

Changing the Impedance Value

The most economical arrangement of core and windings leads to a 'natural' value of
impedance determined by the leakage flux. The leakage flux is a function of winding
ampere turns and the area and length of the leakage flux path. These can be varied at
the design stage by changing the volts per turn and the geometric relationship of the

The Effect of Higher and Lower Impedances

The impedance of a transformer has a major effect on system fault levels. It determines
the maximum value of current that will flow under fault conditions.

It is easy to calculate the maximum current that a transformer can deliver under
symmetrical fault conditions. By way of example, consider a 2 MVA transformer with an
impedance of 5%. The maximum fault level available on the secondary side is:

2 MVA x 100/5 = 40 MVA

and from this figure the equivalent primary and secondary fault currents can be

A transformer with a lower impedance will lead to a higher fault level (and vice versa)
The figure calculated above is a maximum. In practice, the actual fault level will be
reduced by the source impedance, the impedance of cables and overhead lines between
the transformer and the fault, and the fault impedance itself.

As well as fault level considerations, the impedance value also:

determines the volt drop that occurs under load - known as 'regulation'
affects load sharing when two or more transformers operate in parallel

Sequence Impedance (Z 1 Z2 Z0)

The calculation above deals with a balanced 3-phase fault. Non-symmetrical faults
(phase-earth, phase-phase etc) lead to more complex calculations requiring the
application symmetrical component theory. This in turn involves the use of positive,
negative and zero sequence impedances (Z 1, Z2 and Z0 respectively).

As with all passive plant, the positive and negative sequence impedances (Z1 and Z2) of
a transformer are identical.

However, the zero sequence impedance is dependent upon the path available for the flow
of zero sequence current and the balancing ampere turns available within the
transformer. Generally, zero sequence current requires a delta winding, or a star
connection with the star point earthed. Any impedance in the connection between the
star point and earth increases the overall zero sequence impedance. This has the effect
of reducing the zero sequence current and is a feature that is frequently put to practical
use in a distribution network to control the magnitude of current that will flow under earth
fault conditions.

Differential Protection

Differential protection is a unit scheme that compares the current on the primary side of a transformer with
that on the secondary side. Where a difference exists (other than that due to the voltage ratio) it is
assumed that the transformer has developed a fault and the plant is automatically disconnected by tripping
the relevant circuit breakers. The principle of operation is made possible by virtue of the fact that large
transformers are very efficient and hence under normal operation power-in equals power-out. Differential
protection detects faults on all of the plant and equipment within the protected zone, including inter-turn
short circuits.

Principle of Operation
The operating principle employed by transformer differential protection is the Merz-Price circulating current
system as shown below. Under normal conditions I1and I2 are equal and opposite such that the resultant
current through the relay is zero. An internal fault produces an unbalance or 'spill' current that is detected
by the relay, leading to operation.
Design Objectives
An ideal scheme is required to be:

Extremely stable under through fault conditions

Very fast to operate for an internal fault
Design Considerations
A number of factors have to be taken into account in designing a scheme to meet these objectives. These
The matching of CT ratios
Current imbalance produced by tap changing
Dealing with zero sequence currents
Phase shift through the transformer
Magnetising inrush current
Each of these is considered further below.

The Matching of CT Ratios

The CTs used for the Protection Scheme will normally be selected from a range of current transformers
with standard ratios such as 1600/1, 1000/5, 200/1 etc. This could mean that the currents fed into the relay
from the two sides of the power transformer may not balance perfectly. Any imbalance must be
compensated for and methods used include the application of biased relays (see below) and/or the use of
the interposing CTs (see below).

Current Imbalance Produced by Tap Changing

A transformer equipped with an on-load tap changer (OLTC) will by definition experience a change in
voltage ratio as it moves over its tapping range. This in turn changes the ratio of primary to secondary
current and produces out-of-balance (or spill) current in the relay. As the transformer taps further from the
balance position, so the magnitude of the spill current increases. To make the situation worse, as the load
on the transformer increases the magnitude of the spill current increases yet again. And finally through
faults could produce spill currents that exceed the setting of the relay. However, none of these conditions
is 'in zone' and therefore the protection must remain stable ie. it must not operate. Biased relays provide
the solution (see below).

Dealing with Zero Sequence Currents

Earth faults down stream of the transformer may give rise to zero sequence current, depending upon
winding connections and earthing arrangements. Since zero sequence current does not pass through a
transformer, it will be seen on one side only producing spill current and possible relay operation for an out-
of-zone fault. To prevent such occurrence, zero sequence current must be eliminated from the differential
scheme. This is achieved by using delta connections on the secondary side of any CTs that are associated
with main transformer windings connected in star.

Where CT secondaries are connected in star on one side of a transformer and delta on the other,
allowance must be made for the fact that the secondary currents outside the delta will only be 1/3 of the
star equivalent.

Phase Shift Through the Transformer

Having eliminated the problem of zero sequence currents (see above) through faults will still produce
positive and negative sequence currents that will be seen by the protection CTs. These currents may
experience a phase shift as they pass through the transformer depending upon the transformer vector
group. CT secondary connections must compensate to avoid imbalance and a possible mal-operation.

Magnetising Inrush Current

When a transformer is first energised, magnetising inrush has the effect of producing a high magnitude
current for a short period of time. This will be seen by the supply side CTs only and could be interpreted as
an internal fault. Precautions must therefore be taken to prevent a protection operation. Solutions include
building a time delay feature into the relay and the use of harmonic restraint driven, typically, by the high
level of second harmonic associated with inrush current.

Other Issues

Biased Relays
The use of a bias feature within a differential relay permits low settings and fast operating times even when
a transformer is fitted with an on-load tapchanger (see above). The effect of the bias is to progressively
increase the amount of spill current required for operation as the magnitude of through current
increases. Biased relays are given a specific characteristic by the manufacturer.

Interposing CTs
The main function of an interposing CT is to balance the currents supplied to the relay where there would
otherwise be an imbalance due to the ratios of the main CTs. Interposing CTs are equipped with a wide
range of taps that can be selected by the user to achieve the balance required.

As the name suggests, an interposing CT is installed between the secondary winding of the main CT and
the relay. They can be used on the primary side or secondary side of the power transformer being
protected, or both. Interposing CTs also provide a convenient method of establishing a delta connection for
the elimination of zero sequence currents where this is necessary.

Modern Relays
It should be noted that some of the newer digital relays eliminate the need for interposing CTs by enabling
essentials such as phase shift, CT ratios and zero sequence current elimination to be programed directly
into the relay.

Dissolved Gas Analysis (DGA)

DGA is one of the most valuable diagnostic tools available. It is a procedure used to assess the condition
of an oil-filled transformer from an analysis of the gases dissolved in the cooling/insulating medium. It is a
well established technique that is cost effective, providing essential information from a relatively simple,
non-destructive test based upon oil sampling. Whilst the analysis is normally done in a laboratory, on-line
devices are also available. The results reveal much about the health of the plant including its present
condition, any changes that are taking place, the degradation effects of overload, ageing, the inception of
minor faults and the most likely cause of major failures.
Oil sampling from transformers is equivalent to blood sampling from humans.
It should be noted that a severe fault may also produce free gases that collect in the Buchholz relay. This
closely associated topic is dealt with in Tutorial T5

Taking an Oil Sample

It is important that oil samples are taken carefully to avoid contamination or the loss of gas. Techniques
vary from the use of syringes to kits made up from bungs, tubes and sealed bottles. Opening a drain valve,
filling a bucket and pouring the contents into a jar will not produce meaningful results.

In the Laboratory
In the laboratory the mixture of gases must be extracted from the oil, for example by the application of a
vacuum. The mixture is then passed through a chromatograph where the individual components are
separated, identified and quantified. The results are normally presented in tabular form with each gas
listed together with the quantity found in parts per million (ppm) by volume.

Interpreting the Results

Interpreting the results is a specialist science. With knowledge and experience the results of a DGA test
can be used to produce a detailed and accurate profile of an individual item of plant. This is made possible
by the fact that different conditions within a transformer give rise to different quantities and types of
gas. For example, acetylene is only produced by arcing.

The Gases Measured

The main gases that are measured and their sources are as follows:

From the oil

Hydrogen H2
Methane CH4
Ethane C2H6
Ethylene C2H4
Acetylene C2H2
From the paper
Carbon Dioxide CO2
Carbon Monoxide CO
The Application of DGA
DGA can be used in a variety of ways such as:

On-line sampling for continuous monitoring - see Catalogue

One-off sampling with the results checked against statistical norms
Periodic sampling of a single item to establish trends
Selective sampling of large numbers with statistical predictions for the remainder
Mass sampling on a routine basis to collect detailed historical data
Fault analysis after a Buchholz alarm or trip

Responding to Abnormal Results

Abnormal results are likely to require follow-up action in the form of more frequent sampling and closer
monitoring. Internal conditions that produce gases include over-heating, partial discharges and
arcing. Where discharges or arcing are taking place techniques that enable insulation defects to be located
with accuracy have reached an advanced stage of development - see Catalogue (Field Services)

Other Information Available from Oil Sampling

This tutorial deals briefly with the subject of DGA. However, transformer oil contains a great deal more
information than is available from an understanding of the gases dissolved in it. Other parameters that
need to be taken into account include moisture content, acidity, dielectric strength, the presence of furans
etc. These are all important but outside the scope of this tutorial


The life of a transformer is dependent upon three crucial parameters; temperature, oxygen and
moisture. This tutorial deals with moisture. Information about the detrimental effects of oxygen is given

Most power transformers use paper and oil as the main form of insulation and during manufacture stringent
efforts are made to ensure that both are as dry as possible when new plant leaves the factory. Once in
service the moisture content begins to increase. Excessive moisture can put the life of a transformer at
risk. It is important to understand the source of this moisture, its effect and the preventive measures that
can be taken.

Source of Moisture
Once in service a transformer is subjected to the following sources of moisture:

external - from the atmosphere

internal - from manufacture
internal - from cellulose (paper) ageing

External moisture is repeatedly drawn into a free-breathing transformer as the working temperature rises
and falls with load.

Internal moisture is generated as cellulose insulation ages. The process by which this occurs is extremely
complex but can be summarised as follows. Cellulose consists of long chains of hydro-carbons. When
these chains are broken the carbon and hydrogen combine with any oxygen present to form carbon
monoxide, carbon dioxide and water. The gases are dissolved in the oil - see Tutorial T3 DGA. The water
remains largely in the paper where its presence contributes to further ageing as a vicious cycle is

Effect of Moisture
Moisture reduces the dielectric strength of paper and oil which in turn increases the risk of electrical
failure. It also reduces the mechanical strength of the paper.
Since hot oil is able to support more moisture than cold oil, percentage saturation is temperature
dependent. If hot oil is cooled the relative saturation will increase and an emulsion of water and oil may
form. Free water may also be produced which will have a serious effect on dielectric strength and can lead
to the formation of rust where it collects, typically in the bottom of main tanks and conservators.

Furthermore, when wet paper gets very hot, for example during a period of sustained over-loading, the
possibility of bubble formation arises. When this occurs moisture in the paper is boiled off as water vapour
introducing a risk of partial discharge and electrical breakdown.

Moisture Dynamics
Moisture in a transformer is very dynamic, moving with temperature between the paper and the oil. By far
the greatest quantity is contained in the paper which acts like a sponge. The ratio of water in paper to oil is
about 1000:1 (reducing to 500:1 if the oil is old). As the temperature rises moisture moves relatively rapidly
from the paper to the oil. As the temperature falls the moisture moves back into the paper, but more

After a period of prolonged steady temperature, the water in the paper and oil reaches equilibrium. At that
point by measuring the moisture content of the oil it is possible to estimate the quantity of water in the
paper from standard look-up tables. In a large transformer we are talking about tonnes of paper,
thousands of litres of oil and hundreds of litres of water.

Asset Management
Dealing with the problem of moisture in a transformer is a very important part of effective asset
management. For example:

Always record the temperature when an oil sample is taken for moisture analysis.

Never change oil because it is wet. The new oil will very quickly degrade to the same condition as the old
as moisture leaves the paper to re-establish a condition of equilibrium.

(a) Careful oil sampling and testing
(b) The use of on-line moisture sensors
(c) Silica gel breather design, application and maintenance
(d) On-line conditioning and monitoring systems
(e) Devices that continuously remove moisture from the air-space in the conservator
(f) Continuous on-line moisture removal systems connected into the oil system
(g) Specialist field drying services using heat and vacuum.

Buchholz Relays

A Buchholz relay is a gas and oil operated device installed in the pipework between the top of the
transformer main tank and the conservator. A second relay is sometimes used for the tapchanger selector
chamber. The function of the relay is to detect an abnormal condition within the tank and send an alarm or
trip signal. Under normal conditions the relay is completely full of oil. Operation occurs when floats are
displaced by an accumulation of gas, or a flap is moved by a surge of oil. Almost all large oil-filled
transformers are equipped with a Buchholz relay, first developed by Max Buchholz in 1921.
General Arrangement

Front View Rear View (Cover Removed)

B - Upper Float
A - Gas Collection Chamber C - Lower Float
D - Oil Surge Detector

Conditions Detected
A Buchholz relay will detect:

Gas produced within the transformer

An oil surge from the tank to the conservator
A complete loss of oil from the conservator (very low oil level)

Fault conditions within a transformer produce gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen and a range of
hydrocarbons (Tutorial T3). A small fault produces a small volume of gas that is deliberately trapped in the
gas collection chamber (A) built into the relay. Typically, as the oil is displaced a float (B) falls and a switch
operates - normally to send an alarm. A large fault produces a large volume of gas which drives a surge of
oil towards the conservator. This surge moves a flap (D) in the relay to operate a switch and send a trip
signal. A severe reduction in the oil level will also result in a float falling. Where two floats are available
these are normally arranged in two stages, alarm (B) followed by trip (C).

Gas and Oil Flows

Buchholz relays are equipped with a number of gas and oil inputs and outputs, including test and sampling
Gas sampling - a graduated sight glass provides an indication of the volume of gas that has accumulated,
typically 100-400cm3. After an alarm or trip signal has been received this must be collected and analysed
before the transformer is returned to service. Gas collection can be done at the relay, or at ground level if
suitable arrangements exist. Clearly the latter is a safer and more convenient option.

Functional Tests - a test petcock enables dry air to be admitted into the relay to check correct operation. A
trickle of air is equivalent to a gradual accumulation of gas. A blast simulates an oil surge. These tests are
sometimes referred to as 'blowing the Buchholz'. On completion it is important that the relay is bled to
remove the air that has been introduced.

Draining - a valve in the bottom of the relay enables an oil sample to be taken or the relay to be
drained. As with gas sampling, this facility can be brought down to ground level for enhanced operator
safety and convenience.

A range of accessories and services are available to assist with the safe and correct operation of Buchholz
relays including:

Ground level oil and gas sampling kits

Gas sampling devices - automatic
Gas sampling devices - manual
On-site gas testers - simple air/fault gas analysis
On-site gas testers - complex fault gas composition
Relay test kits
Vector Groups

Transformer nameplates carry a vector group reference such at Yy0, Yd1, Dyn11 etc. This relatively
simple nomenclature provides important information about the way in which three phase windings are
connected and any phase displacement that occurs.

Winding Connections
HV windings are designated: Y, D or Z (upper case)
LV windings are designated: y, d or z (lower case)

Y or y indicates a star connection
D or d indicates a delta connection
Z or z indicates a zigzag connection
N or n indicates that the neutral point is brought out

Phase Displacement
The digits ( 0, 1, 11 etc) relate to the phase displacement between the HV and LV windings using a clock
face notation. The phasor representing the HV winding is taken as reference and set at 12 o'clock. It then
follows that:

Digit 0 means that the LV phasor is in phase with the HV phasor

Digit 1 that it lags by 30 degrees
Digit 11 that it leads by 30 degrees

All references are taken from phase-to-neutral and assume a counter-clockwise phase rotation. The
neutral point may be real (as in a star connection) or imaginary (as in a delta connection)

When transformers are operated in parallel it is important that any phase shift is the same through
each. Paralleling typically occurs when transformers are located at one site and connected to a common
busbar (banked) or located at different sites with the secondary terminals connected via distribution or
transmission circuits consisting of cables and overhead lines

Basic Theory
An ac voltage applied to a coil will induce a voltage in a second coil where the two are linked by a magnetic
path. The phase relationship of the two voltages depends upon which way round the coils are
connected. The voltages will either be in-phase or displaced by 180 deg as below:

In phase 180deg displacement

When 3 coils are used in a 3 phase transformer winding a number of options exist. The coil voltages can
be in phase or displaced as above with the coils connected in star or delta and, in the case of a star
winding, have the star point (neutral) brought out to an external terminal or not.
Example - Dyn11
We now know that this transformer has a delta connected primary winding (D) a star connected secondary
(y) with the star point brought out (n) and a phase shift of 30 deg leading (11). Connections and vector
diagrams are as follows::



Other Configurations
By connecting the ends of the windings in other ways a wide range of options becomes available as set out

Phase shift (deg) Connections

0 Yy0 Dd0 Dz0
30 lag Yd1 Dy1 Yz1
60 lag Dd2 Dz2
120 lag Dd4 Dz4
150 lag Yd5 Dy5 Yz5
180 lag Yy6 Dd6 Dz6
150 lead Yd7
Dy7 Yz7
120 lead Dd8 Dz8
60 lead Dd10 Dz10
30 lead Yd11 Dy11 Yz11