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Nehad EI-Sherif, P.Eng, M.Se., MBA

Senior Member, IEEE MNKYBR Inc. 1401 Elliott Street Saskatoon , SK S7N OV9, Canada nehad.

Abstract - Industrial power systems, whether low voltage (LV) or medium voltage (MV) systems, are the backbone of any industrial facility. To keep production going and minimize downtimes, they are required to be very reliable . Therefore, it is important to deploy various protection systems to detect and react appropriately to any abnormal condition that can lead to a failure to deliver power or to a hazardous condition . Ground faults are the most common condition experienced by a power system . Hence the ability to detect and react as needed quickly is paramount. The goal of this paper is to help protection engineers, engineering consultants, and power system operators to apply ground-fault protection systems correctly while also complying with local electrical codes.

Index Terms -

Ground faults, ground-fault protection of

equipment (GFPE), ground-fault relays, neutral grounding.



Most North American industrial power systems are designed to have an intentional connection to ground (earth's mass), i.e., grounded systems, via a low impedance path.

Grounding of three-phase systems is done by connecting the main transformer or generator neutral to ground. For a single- phase (split-phase) system, the mid-point of the transformer winding is connected to ground . Most ungrounded systems, still in service, are legacy systems that have not yet been converted to grounded systems . An ungrounded delta-connected transformer can be grounded by connecting either one of its corners or the mid- point of one phase winding to ground. A grounding transformer (zigzag or wye-delta) can also be used to provide an artificial neutral that can be connected to ground . Those three methods are shown in Fig . 1. System grounding is a common practice because it limits the voltage rise of un-faulted phases during a ground-fault to

a predictable value within the normal dielectric capabilities of

applied insulation systems. System grounding also provides

a safer path for ground-fault currents to allow the detection of

such condition by ground-fault relays and minimize step- potential hazard. A ground fault (also referred to as a line-to-ground fault) is an unintentional connection between an energized conductor and ground. This condition leads to a large amount of current flowing to ground, resulting in excessive heat damage at the fault point. Ground faults can create various safety hazards such as fire, electric shock, and serious damage to rotating machinery and electronic equipment. Line-to-ground faults comprise approximately 98% of all electrical failures [1]. Overcurrent protection can detect a ground-fault condition, if the fault current is higher than the device setting . Overcurrent

protection devices are set at a value higher than the nominal

load current (by enough margin) to prevent tripping during an overload condition. Accordingly, overcurrent devices cannot detect high impedance arcing ground faults due to their very

low current

required by both the National Electric Code (NEC) in the US and the Canadian Electric Code (CEC). In order to understand and properly implement those code requirements, it is important to differentiate between system grounding and equipment grounding. System grounding of a wye-connected system is the connection of the neutral to ground. Delta-connected systems are grounded as shown in Figure 1. Equipment grounding, on

the other hand, is the connection of all non-current-carrying conductive metal parts (such as metal enclosures, motor frames, conduits, cable trays, and junction boxes) to a local

grounding grid which is connected to earth . The

of all non-current-carrying metals parts together and to the electrical supply source , which is called bonding, creates a low-impedance circuit for the fault current. This facilitates the operation of ground-fault protection. On the other hand , connecting of non-current-carrying metals parts to earth limits the voltage to ground (i .e., touch potential) on those parts to a safer value. ensures that those metal parts are always at ground potential. Therefore , a person who comes in contact with those parts , during a ground-fault condition, is exposed to a less hazardous voltage . System grounding and equipment grounding, also referred to as safety grounding, serve different purposes . Equipment grounding is implemented to provide personnel safety, while system grounding provides system operational stability. It is worth mentioning that ground-fault relays only provide equipment protection and are not appropriate for personnel protection . To provide personnel protection against shock hazards, a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is used [2].

11 covers the

definition, causes and types of ground faults. Then a brief discussion of power system neutral grounding methods is given in Section Ill. Finally, various topics related to ground- fault protection are covered in Section IV. The topics covered are : 1) protective relay technologies, 2) ground-fault detection methods, 3) proper operation, 4) installation problems, 5) testing, 6) applications, and 7) electrical code requirements in

Canada and the US .

magnitude . Therefore, ground-fault protection is


This paper is organized as follows : Section

~ :(£-: tik:


1 c



Corner grounded


Centertap grounded

Grounding transformer

Fig. 1 Grounding of 3-phase delta systems

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A. Definitions

The NEC defines a ground fault as : "an unintentional, electrically conductive connection between an ungrounded conductor of an electrical circuit and the normally non- current-carrying conductors, metallic enclosures, metallic race ways, metallic equipment, or earth. " [3]. On the other hand , the CEC defines a ground fault as : "an unintentional electrical path between a part operating normally at some potential to ground, and ground." [4]. From those two definitions, it is clear that both codes have a similar definition for ground faults, although the NEC provides a more detailed definition than does the CEC .



Ground faults may occur because the dielectric function of insulation is compromised for any number of reasons, among them :


Aging , physical damage, and stresses (caused by overvoltages, lightning , etc .) wear insulation out resulting in its failure

Exposure to moisture, chemicals, or conductive dust

Raccoons and rodents (e.g., squirrels, beavers , and rats) chewing into insulation or bridge an insulating gap between conductors

Accidental human intervention causing a fault (e .g., dropping tools or improperly handling conductors)



Within industry literature, the most commonly defined ground fault is the bolted fault. A bolted fault is

characterized by having zero impedance-to-ground . Practically, it is difficult to have a zero impedance-to-ground fault. Yet , human mistakes (e .g., leaving grounding cables connected after maintenance or crossing conductors during equipment assembly) could result in a bolted ground fault. The magnitude of ground-fault current is controlled by the : 1) system total impedance (grounding impedance, transformer and cable impedances) and 2) fault impedance

system (i .e., constant

to ground . Accordingly, for a given

system impedance), the magnitude of the fault current is

determined by the fault impedance

fault impedance depends on the fault's nature . Therefore, an external impedance is used to limit the fault current to a

predetermined value as explained

Equipment type ground faults in low voltage distribution systems could be classified into three ranges : 1) High magnitude low impedance faults that can be detected by normal phase overcurrent protection because the current is high enough , 2) High impedance arcing ground faults that require dedicated detection that isolates and measured the zero sequence current that is associated with the fault and not normal load current unbalance , 3) Ground-fault currents having a predetermined value that are experienced by high impedance grounded systems . This value is determined by the impedance of the grounding element used . Detection systems for all types of ground faults have

to ground . Since , the

in the following section .

been available for many years; however modern technology has allowed significant improvements in the methods and devices available for detection and identification of ground faults in impedance grounded systems.



As previously mentioned, neutral-to-ground impedance plays an important role in determining the ground-fault current. To illustrate the effects, the single-phase equivalent circuit, shown in Fig . 1, is used . Note that XL represents the per phase inductance of the power carrying cable and the transformer secondary reactance . Usually, the per-phase distributed capacitance to ground is assumed to be balanced and can therefore be lumped together. The capacitive reactance between each phase conductor and ground is represented by Xco (the suffix 0 indicates the zero sequence component). A further simplification can be made to the circuit by obtaining the Thevenin equivalent reactance of the parallel combination of the three X co (i .e. X co/3) . Finally, V1 represents the line-to -ground voltage of the faulted phase. For example, to model a line-to-ground fault on phase A, V1 equals phase A to ground voltage. A line-to-ground fault of impedance Z, is represented by connecting Z, between the output terminals of Fig . 2.It is worth mentioning that the phase-to-phase capacitances are not modeled as they have

no contribution in ground fault

As mentioned previously, the magnitude of the ground- fault current is determined by the total system impedance (system characteristic) and the fault impedance to ground (fault dependent). Therefore , to control the magnitude of the fault current , an external impedance of a known value can

be added to the system. This impedance is typically inserted between the system neutral and ground. Referring to Fig . 2, the external impedance inserted

between the neutral and ground is in parallel to the total

system charging capacitance, Xco/3 . Accordingly,

ground-fault current magnitude is determined by the equivalent impedance of this parallel combination .

currents .


Fig . 2Single-phase equivalent circuit of a power system

The different methods of neutral power system grounding are shown in Fig . 3. According to the nature of the

grounding element inserted between the source neutral and

ground , power systems

1) Ungrounded : No intentional connection of the system

neutral to ground is made . Yet, the system distributed charging capacitance establishes such a connection to ground. Therefore, ungrounded systems are capacitive grounded systems. 2) Solidly Grounded: The neutral is directly connected to ground with no intervening impedance . This has the effect of shorting the charging capacitance , X co/3 .

are classified as :

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3) Resistance Grounded: A resistance is used to connect the system neutral to ground . Based on the value of the grounding resistor (and hence the magnitude of ground fault current permitted to flow) , resistance grounding is further classified into high-resistance and low-resistance grounding. 4) Reactance Grounded: A reactor is used to connect the system neutral to ground . Similar to resistance grounding , reactance grounding is classified to high- reactance and low-reactance grounding. A ground-fault neutralizer, which is also known as tuned-reactance grounding or Peterson coil, is a special case of reactance grounding, where an adjustable reactor is tuned to resonate with the total system charging capacitance Xco/3 .

Power system neutral grounding is a broad topic and has been covered extensively in industry literature . For more information, consult [1], [5] and [6] .







Resi stance Grounded

Solidly Grounded

Reactance Grounded

Fig . 3Power system grounding methods


Usually, a protection system is compromised of:

1) Transducers (or Sensors): Convert a physical quantity (e .g., current, voltage , light, etc) into a proportional electrical output. This output is then fed to a protective relay . Current transformer (CT) and potential transformer (PT), also referred to as voltage transformer (VT), are the most commonly used sensors. CTs and PTs step down the power system current and voltage, respectively, to safer levels for protective relays to handle. Light, pressure, and heat sensors are other example of sensors used for power system protection. 2) Protective Relays : Process the electrical output of the

transducer to

whether there is a fault or not) . If a fault is detected, a trip

command is initiated to

determine the power system condition (i .e.,

open or

close circuit breaker(s) . In

simple terms, a protective relay is an electrically operated device designed to trip circuit breaker(s) when a fault condition is detected. A ground-fault relay processes the CT output signal to determine if a ground-fault condition exists . If it does, the relay sends a trip signal to clear the fault.

3) Circuit Breakers : Mechanically open or close power

system circuits based on a relay command.


Batteries : Provide backup power to the protection

system in case of power loss . 5) Communication Channels : Used to enable or inhibit

tripping of remote equipment and communicate the status of

the power

fault data to the power system control room .

system . Communication is also used to transmit

A ground-fault protection system consists of some or all of the above components. For example, ground-fault protection systems used in low voltage applications (i .e. system of 1 kV or less) typically have no ground-fault relays. Instead the

ground-fault sensing unit is integrated into the circuit breaker. On the other hand, medium voltage ground-fault protection systems use ground-fault relays and current sensor(s) to

detect a ground-fault condition . The number of CTs used

depends on the detection methods used , as explained later. A communication option is typically not included with ground- fault protection systems.

A. Current Transformers

The four types of CTs : 1) wound, 2) bar, 3) window , and 4) bushing are shown in Fig . 4 [7]. Window CTs are usually used in medium voltage ground-fault protection systems provided that the window is big enough to fit the power cables . When selecting CTs , the following factors should be considered: 1) continuous primary current rating , 2)

continuous thermal current rating factor, 3) rated output, 4) short-time thermal rating, 5) short-term mechanical rating, 6) nominal system voltage , 7) accuracy class, 8) basic insulation level (BIL) , and 9) saturation [7]. CT polarity is very important for the proper operation of a ground-fault system . The CT polarity defines the relative instantaneous direction of the CT primary and secondary current. When primary current is entering the marked primary terminal, the corresponding secondary current is leaving the similarly marked secondary terminal [7] .



WindowCT Fig. 4 Types of CTs


B. Protective Relay Technologies

Ground faults in solidly grounded low voltage systems are

often arcing and therefore rapid fault clearing is required to avoid the damage caused by the excessive arc heat. Also, the magnitude of ground-fault currents is typically less than the phase overcurrent device rating . Phase overcurrent devices are designed to withstand overloads for a considerable length of time. Therefore, they are not appropriate for detecting and clearing ground faults. Accordingly, a dedicated device (i.e . ground-fault relay) is required to detect ground faults. No different than other protective relays , the very first ground-fault relay models introduced were electromechanical

devices . Those moving parts to

relays relied heavily on coils interacting with detect ground faults .

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As a result of the advancement in electronics during the 1960s, static relays (also known as solid state relays) were

relays, static relays

have no moving parts and use electronic, electromagnetic, or

optical components to

Analog electronics (e.g., diodes, transistors , operational amplifiers) were initially used to implement analog static relays. Later, digital static relays were introduced. Digital static relays employed digital electronic components (e.g., analog-to-digital converters , logic gates, flip-flops) to implement the same functionality as their electromechanical and analog static relay predecessors. Microprocessor based relays were introduced in the mid 1980s. At the beginning , each protection function had its own microprocessor. As the technology matured , it became a common practice to develop multifunction protective relays and later on combining control and protection functions into an Intelligent Electronic Device (lED) .

introduced . Contrary to electromechanical

detect ground faults .

C. Detection Methods

Regardless of the protective relay technology used, a ground fault is detected by one of the following three methods [8] :

1) Ground Return : The connection between the source (transformer or generator) neutral point and ground is

passed through

premise of the detection principle is that normal load current


current flowing and sensed in this portion of the circuit is a

does not return to the source via ground . Accordingly,

a CT window as shown in Fig . 5. The

ground-fault current. One problem with this method is that any unbalance in capacitive coupling current could cause

relays overcome this

nuisance tripping . Some ground-fault

by filtering out the capacitive current component and only use the resistive current to detect a ground-fault condition .




,c------------- PHASE B

'------------ NEUTRAL





Fig . 5Ground return detection technique [8)

Core Balance (or Zero Sequence) : In those cases

when the source grounding conductor is not available (e .g. feeders) , the three phase and the neutral (if present) conductors are passed though the CT window as shown in

all phase currents must

return to the source via a phase conductor or the neutral conductor. Therefore, the total current passing through the

CT window (i.e ., l a + I b + l e + In) at any given time is zero .

Consequently , the

hence there is no CT output. When a ground fault occurs , the current imbalance through the CT window establishes a magnetic field that generates a CT output proportional to the ground-fault current. This method is the primary method uses for detecting ground faults in medium voltage systems .

resultant magnetic field is also zero , and


Fig . 6. During normal operation,

.----------j'---lr------- PHASE A

~--+--_+------ PHASE B

'---+---+------ NEUTRAL









Fig . 6Zero sequence detection technique [8)

3) Residual (or Differential) Current: Phase overcurrent protection CTs (when available) can be used to detect ground faults by connecting them as shown in Fig . 7.This connection provides a residual current, which is the phasor summation of the phase currents and the neutral current (if present) . For a healthy system , the differential current is always zero . On the other hand , if a ground-fault condition exists, then a non-zero differential current will flow through the ground-fault relay . This method is the primary method used for detecting ground faults in low voltage systems , since low voltage circuit breaker integral trip units are used.










--+;~I-- .J------- PHASE


'-----I:f:t::q=-::l'-------- NEUTRAL

PHAs e


-G-RO-U-N-D---I:f:t::q-d~------ L



Fig . 7Differential current detection technique [8)

D. Proper Operation

Due to its simplicity, low cost , and high accuracy (since only one CT is used), core balance is the most commonly used method for detecting ground faults in medium voltage power systems . Therefore, it will be used to illustrate the operation of the ground-fault protection system shown in Fig. 8.

a 3-phase 4-wire power system with a

single-phase to neutral load , where the core balance ground-fault detection method is used . Note that there is no ground connection of the neutral conductor downstream of (after) the CT, which is very important to ensure proper

operation as explained in

Referring to Fig . 8,the 3-phase load is balanced (i.e ., the sum of the 3-phase currents is zero) . Also , the single-phase load current flows from the source to the load through the CT and returns back to the source through the CT through the neutral. Therefore , the magnetic fields of all currents flowing through the CT will cancel and there will be no CT


Fig. 8 shows

the following section .

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Incoming Service





the relay as a fault condition . If the value of ILG is higher than the relay pick-up value , then the relay will trip to clear a

fault that does not exist. In other words, the protection

system nuisance trips .

Incoming Service




Fig. 8 A 3-phase 4-wire power system with no ground-fault [9]

When a ground-fault occurs as shown in Fig . 9,the fault current will return to the source via ground bypassing the CT. Therefore, the magnetic field balance is lost and a CT output (proportional to the ground-fault current) is induced . This output triggers the ground-fault relay to trip .

Incom ing Service






Fig. 10 Desensitization of a ground-fault protection system [9]

Incoming Service




~~ M


Fig . 9 A3-phase 4-wire power system with a ground-fault [9]

Fig. 11 Nuisance tripping of a ground-fault protection system [9]

From the previous discussion, it is clear that the integrity of the ground-fault protection system is compromised by

neutral-conductor grounding connection .

This condition is encountered in many installations. Therefore, special care should be given to make sure that the neutral conductor is only grounded at the main bonding jumper which is located in the service entrance section . There should be no additional grounding connections downstream from the bonding jumper and the CT.

Incorrect CT Polarity: When using the residual

current method to detect a ground-fault, the neutral CT must be installed with the same polarity with respect to the phase CTs. This will guarantee that during normal operation, the neutral current magnetic field cancels the magnetic fields of the phase currents. Therefore, a balanced condition is attained and there is no CT output. If the neutral CT is installed with incorrect polarity , the neutral current will generate magnetic field that adds to the magnetic fields of the phase currents . In other words, the load current is interpreted as a fault current and a CT output is induced , resulting in false tripping .

misplacing the



Conductor Omission from Passing through the CT

Window: When using the core balance method to detect a ground-fault, all conductors (including the neutral) must pass through the CT window . Omission of any of the conductors from passing through the CT will result in false tripping due to current unbalance .


Incorrect Power Cable Installation through the


Window: When using the core balance method to detect a ground-fault , the power cable should be located at the center of the CT window . The cable should not be placed directly against the CT chassis . If the cable is in contact with the CT chassis false operation could take place due to

E. Installation Problems


The following installation problems can prevent proper operation of the ground-fault protection system [9]:


Grounded Neutral Downstream of the



phase 4-wire systems, this condition has the effect of desensitizing the ground-fault protection system (during a ground-fault) and causing nuisance tripping (during normal operation). First, to illustrate the desensitization effect, a 3-phase 4- wire system with a grounded neutral conductor downstream of the CT during a ground fault is shown in Fig . 10. The fault current has two components: IF that returns to the source via ground (similar to the situation shown in Fig . 9) , and IFN that returns to the source via the neutral conductor and flows through the CT. In other words, not all the fault current

bypasses the CT. The value of

unbalance) will determine how the relay responds to the fault condition . If IFN is lower than the relay pick-up value,

then the relay will never trip and the fault will go unnoticed .

On the other hand ,

value , then the relay will trip but slower than expected (if an

inverse time relay is used). The reason being the fault current measured by the relay (i .e., IFN) is lower than the actual fault current value . Therefore, the protection system is desensitized . Fig . 11 is used to illustrate the nuisance tripping scenario . This time the same 3-phase 4-wire system is shown during normal operation (i .e. with no ground-fault) . This is the same situation shown in Fig . 8 with the exception that now part of the load current (ILG) returns to the source via the neutral connection downstream of the CT (i.e. bypassing the CT) . This current unbalance in the CT is interpreted by

IFN (i .e., the current

if IFN is higher than the relay pick-up

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condition . Proper installation of shielded and unshielded








power cables is shown in Fig .


Unshielded Cable

Shielded Cable

Fig.12 Proper installation of cables through the eT window

5) Direction of Neutral and Phase Conductors : To avoid

false tripping because of unbalanced currents, the neutral and phase conductors must pass through the CT window in the same direction .

6) Passing the Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC) through the CT Window: The EGC provides a low

resistance return pass to the fault current. Passing the EGC through the CT window forces the ground-fault current to go

CT (instead of bypassing it) . This has the effect

through the

of restoring the current balance through the CT. Therefore, there will be no CT output during a ground-fault condition . Consequently, the ground-fault relay fails to trip.



Unlike rotating machines and other equipment, protection systems (including ground-fault systems) remain standstill and inoperative until a fault develops. Protection systems are similar to car airbags; they sit unnoticed, yet must operate properly and reliably whenever needed . To guarantee that the protection system stays vigilant at all times proper maintenance and testing is required . The NEC recognized this in Article 230 .95(C) which reads as follows [3]: "the ground-fault protection system shall be performance tested when first installed on site. The test shall be conducted in accordance with instructions that shall be provided with the equipment. A written record of this test shall be made and shall be available to the authority having

jurisdiction." The performance tests of ground-fault protection systems are:

1) Neutral Insulation Resistance : It is imperative to test the neutral insulation resistance to detect any unintended grounding connections downstream of the bonding jumper or the CT. This will eliminate the desensitization and nuisance tripping of the protection system mentioned previously. To perform this test , one must temporarily remove the neutral disconnect link and measure the resistance between the neutral and ground as shown in Fig .13. If the measured value is less than one megaohm, then the problem should be corrected prior to placing the equipment into service [9] .

3-Phase, 4·Wire







I N1










To loads




L_ -----r-------J


'- Equipment











Fig.13 Neutral Insulation resistance test [9]

Injection : As mentioned earlier, it is

a code requirement to conduct performance testing during

ground-fault protection systems commissioning . Also regular maintenance testing is essential to ensure proper operation . Primary current injection is one of two test methods used for evaluating the ground-fault protection system performance. The advantage of primary current injection method (over the simulated fault current method discussed next) is that the whole protection system is tested. Primary current injection verifies that CTs are

mounted and wired correctly and that there is no nuisance tripping during normal operation [9] . Also, primary current injection is the only method capable of testing integral ground-fault trips on low voltage circuit breakers [10] . The test is performed by injecting primary CT current into the protected system phases and neutral conductors to duplicate the flow of ground-fault current under different conditions. The test set used includes a high current supply designed to provide variable current (up to 1000 A or more at 2.5 V, or similar) via built-in autotransformers . A current supply capable of delivering 1200 A or more may be needed, if the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) requires

protection system setting .

Detailed test instructions and diagrams for various ground-

testing at the full ground-fault

2) Primary Current

fault protection systems can be found in [10j. 3) Simulated Fault Current (or Secondary Current Injection) : An alternative to the primary current injection test

is the simulated fault current test. This test is conducted by

simulating a ground-fault current generated by an external coil wrapped around the CT core or by using a separate test winding in the CT. The current injected is the secondary CT

current equivalent to the simulated primary CT ground-fault current (hence the name secondary current injection) .

Accordingly, a high current supply is not required , which is a huge cost saving over the primary current injection test. A simulated fault current verifies the proper operation of the CT, ground-fault relay, shunt trip and the control power supply. However, it cannot detect a neutral grounding connection downstream of the CT, incorrect CT polarity, and that all conductors are passed through the CT window

in the same direction. Therefore the simulated ground-fault

test is not adequate to verify that the entire ground-fault

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protection system is correctly installed . Also, this method cannot be use to test integral ground-fault trips on low voltage circuit breakers. Consequently , the test must be supplemented by thorough visual inspection to detect the existence of any of

the aforementioned problems . The only restriction is that

the simulated fault current test combined with a thorough visual inspection must be accepted by the AHJ . Otherwise , primary current injection test must be used instead . 4) Reduced Control Voltage : The control power needed to operate a ground-fault system is provided via an external power supply or from the protected system lines . The latter

method is advantageous because the protection system is a standalone system that is not dependent on an external power supply to operate. A line-fed protection system control power is typically driven from a control power transformer (CPT) as shown in Fig .12. Depending on the protection system design , a CPT with an appropriate turns ratio is used . A 480/120V CPT is commonly used and hence is used to demonstrate the importance of the reduced control voltage test. Fig .14 shows a fault on one of the power lines energizing the CPT. This fault forces the CPT input voltage to change from line-to-line voltage to line-to-ground voltage .

Therefore, the CPT input voltage drops by a factor of

from 480 V to 277 V. Consequently, the CPT output voltage drops (by the same ratio) to 69 V from 120 V. Accordingly , a ground-fault protection system must operate at 69 V (which is approximately 58% of the rated control voltage) to detect and trip that ground-fault. This is the reason for UL 1053 standard to require ground-fault relays to be fully operable at 55% of the rated input voltage [11] .


[----- -- - -

I A1





'----N --+

+ N2






I lffi




To Loads

L_ =-----~~UiP:;---~


Fig.14 A line-fed ground-fault protection system during a fault (9)



As mentioned previously, 98% of all electrical failures are attributed to ground faults [1]. Accordingly, ground-fault protection is applicable in almost all industries. Ground-fault protection is used in mining , pulp and paper, oil and gas, cement and aggregate, and forestry industries. It is also has a variety of applications in construction , agriculture, food and beverage, electric utilities, and the entertainment industry. Within those industries, a few examples of potential applications are protection of generators (permanent or portable), feeders, motors, etc.

H. Code Requirements

From the previous discussion , it is clear that ground -fault

protection can be applied virtually everywhere . Therefore, it is important to have guidelines on when the application of

ground-fault protection is required and when it is prohibited .

Electrical codes are developed to provide the required guidance . The NEC in the US and the CEC in Canada have similar requirements for the application and prohibition of ground-fault protection . Keep in mind that both codes are on a three year review cycle . Therefore , those requirements

are under regular evaluation, which makes it very important


stay up-to-date with the code 1) NEC Requirements : The

new revisions . term ground-fault protection

of equipment (GFPE) is used by the NEC to reference

ground-fault protection systems . This term is used to emphasize that those protection systems are not appropriate for personnel protection . GFPE for service disconnecting means became a code

requirement in 1971 as a result of the

burned down equipment reported on large capacity 480Y/277V solidly grounded services [12]. The

requirements for applying EGFP are found in Chapter 2

(Wiring and Protection), Article 230 .95

fault protection of equipment shall be provided for solidly grounded wye electric services of more than 150 volts to ground but not exceeding 1000 volts phase-to-phase for each service disconnect rated 1000 amperes or more." [3] . Setting of GFPE is done in accordance to Article 230 .95 :

"The maximum setting of the ground-fault protection shall be 1200 amperes, and the maximum time delay shall be one second for ground-fault currents equal to or greater than 3000 amperes." [3]. The requirements of Article 230 .95 for applying GFPE are extended to the following applications [3] :

high number of

(Services) : "Ground-

1. Branch Circuits - Article 210.13

2. Feeders - Article 215 .10

3. Overcurrent Protection - Article 240.13


5. Critical Operations Power Systems - Article

Health Care

Facilities - Article 517 .17

708 .52

The requirement for prohibiting the application of GFPE is

230 .95 Exception : " The ground-fault

protection provisions of this section shall not apply to a

service disconnect for a continuous industrial process where a nonorderly shutdown will introduce additional or

increased hazards."

rational for prohibiting GFPE. The rule of thumb is : the application of GFPE is prohibited when unplanned interruption of power to industrial processes (due to GFPE operation) results in a life-safety or catastrophic-failure hazard more significant than the electrical hazard mitigated by their operation [12] . For example , the continued operation of the fire pumps until the fire is extinguished is essential and overrides any safety concerns due to a ground-fault. Therefore, the protection of fire pumps by GFPE is prohibited by Article 695 .6(G) : " Ground-fault protection of equipment shall not be permitted for fire pumps ." [3]. The deliberate wording and content of the code specifies what is required , prohibited , and by its absence , what is not.

also stated in Article

[3] . This exception clarifies the code

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In other words, there are incidences where the application of GFPE is not required, yet it is not prohibited . For example, GFPE is not required on single phase, dc circuits , impedance grounded systems, ungrounded wye systems, any type of delta or open delta systems, whether solidly grounded or not. An area of confusion is Chapter 4 (Equipment for General Use), Article 430 (Motors, Motor Circuits and Controllers) where there is no requirement for GFPE . Yet Articles 430.51, 430 .53, 430.55, and others include requirements for ground-fault protection . Article 430 .51 declares that ground- fault protection does not include the types of devices required by Articles 210.8 (GFCI), 230.95 (EGFPD) , and 590.6 (GFCI protection for temporary installations). Unfortunately, no definition for the difference between GFPE and ground-fault protection is given . Even though not required , it is a standard practice to equip motors with rapid EGFP when the value of a motor rewind or the risk of an extended outage would economically outweigh the cost of the EGFP . Motors 50 HP and higher, depending on the application, are typical candidates for installing EGFP.


CEC, PART I Requirements : The requirements for

ground-fault protection are intended to minimize and, as far as possible, eliminate equipment damage and fire hazards related to arcing ground faults [13] . Those requirements are stated in Section 14 (Protection and Control), Rule 14- 102(1) (Ground Fault Protection): "Ground fault protection

shall be provided to de-energize all normally ungrounded conductors of a faulted circuit that are downstream from the point or points marked with an asterisk in Diagram 3 in the event of a ground fault in those conductors as follows:


for circuits of solidly grounded systems rated more than 150 volts-to-ground, less than 750 V phase- to-phase and 1000 A or more; and


for circuits of solidly grounded systems rated 150 V or less to ground and 2000 A or more." [4].

The setting of ground-fault protection is specified by Rule

14-102(2): "Except as permitted by Subrule (8), the maximum setting of the ground fault protection shall be 1200 A and the maximum time delay shall be one second for ground fault currents equal to or greater than 3000 A."

[4]. Where Subrule (8) states that: "In ground fault schemes

where two or more protective devices in series are used for ground fault coordination, the upstream protective device settings shall be permitted to exceed those specified in Subrule (2) where necessary to obtain the desired coordination, provided that the final downstream ground fault protective device in each circuit required to be

protected conforms to the

Ground-fault protection is a requirement for the following applications [4] :

requirements of Subrule

(2) ." [4] .

1. Submersible Pumps - Rule 29-596(d)

2. Neon Supplies Secondary Circuits - Rule 34-302

3. Fixed Electric Heating Systems - Rule 62-116

4. Renewable Energy Systems - Section 64, Rules 64-064(4), 64-066(e) , and 64-112(e)

5. Relocatable Structures - Rule 70-120(4)(a)

6. Interconnection of Electric Power Production Sources - Rule 84-016

Similar to the NEC, the CEC does not permit ground-fault

of fire pumps as per Rule 32-212 : "Ground fault


protection shall not be installed in a fire pump circuit." [4] .



Providing ground-fault protection is of prime importance since ground faults represent the majority of abnormal power system conditions. Ground-fault protection systems are used to detect and clear ground faults to minimize or prevent (if possible) equipment damage. Electrical codes in Canada and the US determine when the application of ground-fault protection is required, when it is prohibited, their setting, and where to install them . There are some cases where the electrical codes neither prohibit nor require ground-fault protection systems . In those cases, the application of ground- fault protection is a judgment call based on the economical value and importance of the equipment to be protected . In order to guarantee proper operation of ground-fault protection systems, proper installation, performance testing during commissioning, and frequent maintenance are required.



[1] J. R. Dunki-Jacobs, F. J. Shields

and C. S. Pierre,


Industrial Power System Grounding Design Handbook, Thomson-Shore, 2007. N. EI-Sherif, M. Nilson and R. Zweifel , "Reducing Electrocutions in Industry: Application of a Class C

Ground-Fault Current Interrupter in a Pulp and Paper

Magazine, vol. 21 , no .

Plant," IEEE Industry Applications

1, pp . 49-53, 2015 . [3] NFPA 70, 2014 National Electrical Code, Quincy, MA:

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).


C22 .1-15, 2015 Canadian Electrical Code, Part I,


Toronto , ON : CSA Group . D. Beeman, Industrial Power Systems Handbook, New


York: McGraw-Hill, 1955. N. EI-Sherif and K. Sheldon, "A Design Guide to Neutral- grounding of Industrial Power Systems ," in IEEE Petroleum and Chemical Industry Conference (PCIC), Calgary, 2017.

[7] IEEE Std 242-2001 (Buff Book), IEEE Recommended

Practices for Protection and Coordination of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems. IEEE Std 142-2007 (Green Book), IEEE Recommended Practices for Grounding of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems.

[9] P. Beisert, "Performance Testing of Ground Fault


Power Test Electrical Maintenance and safety

Conference, Long Beach, CA, 2010. Available: performance-testing-ground-fault-protective-devices [10] GEI-48907, "Ground Fault Protection Systems - Performance Testing," GE Industrial Solutions, 1986. Available:


Protective Devices , A Look at Article 230 .95 ," in



[11] UL 1053, "Standard for Ground-Fault Sensing and Relaying Equipment," Underwriters Laboratories (UL),


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NFPA 70 , 2014 National Electrical Code Handbook ,

role, he authored peer-reviewed papers, technical articles,







white papers and delivered technical presentations. Nehad


(NFPA). C22 .1HB-15, 2015 Canadian Electrical Code Handbook, Toronto , ON : CSA Group .

also assisted with launching new products and the development of product road maps . He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)




and several professional societies and associations including IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), IEEE Industrial

Nehad EI-Sherif, P.Eng., M.Sc., MBA is the founder and president of MNKYBR Inc., an R&D and engineering services company . He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering (major in Power Systems and Machines) from Ain-Shams University, Cairo, Egypt in 2001 and 2005 respectively and an MBA from the University of Saskatchewan in 2015 . In 2006, Nehad moved to Canada after accepting a scholarship award to pursue a PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. Seeking practical experience, Nehad decided to put his PhD on hold and joined the Research and Development (R&D) department at Littelfuse Startco in 2010 . While working in R&D, he was involved in software and hardware design of protection relays and the certification of various products with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) . In 2013 , Nehad moved into the Marketing and Product Management department at Littelfuse Startco . In this

Applications Society (IAS), IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES), International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), Association of Professional Engineers & Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS) and Egyptian Syndicate of Engineers . Nehad also serves on numerous committees and working groups including NFPA NEC CMP 2, UL STP 943, IEEE-SA SCC 18, CSA Z462 , CSA C22 .2 No.144, and C22 .2 No.166 standard committees , IEEE Communications-Based Protection of Industrial and Commercial Power System Working Group (CommWG), and Entertainment Services & Technology Association (ESTA) Electrical Power Working Group (EPWG) . He is also the chair of the IEEE Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Committee (PPIC) Training, Safety, Standards, & Codes (TSSC) Subcommittee and is a member of the IEEE Pulp, Paper and Forest Industries Conference (PPFIC) executive committee. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Saskatchewan, holds one patent and has another patent pending application.

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