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ABB Feeder Protection REF615 ANSI

ABB Feeder Protection REF615 ANSI

The REF615 is powerful, most advanced and simplest feeder protection relay in its class, perfectly offering time and instantaneous overcurrent, negative sequence overcurrent, phase discontinuity, breaker failure and thermal overload protection. The relay also features optional high impedance fault (HIZ) and sensitive earth fault (SEF) protection for grounded and ungrounded distribution systems. Also, the relay incorporates a flexible three-phase multi-shot auto-reclose function for automatic feeder restoration in temporary faults on overhead lines. Enhanced with safety options, the relay offers a three-channel arc-fault detection system for supervision of the switchgear circuit breaker, cable and busbar compartments.

The REF615 also integrates basic control functionality, which facilitates the control of one circuit breaker via the relay’s front panel human machine interface (HMI) or remote control system. To protect the relay from unauthorized access and to maintain the integrity of information, the relay has been provided with a four-level, role-based user authentication system, with individual passwords for the viewer, operator, engineer and administrator level. The access control system applies to the front panel HMI, embedded web browser based HMI and the PCM600 relay setting and configuration tool.

Standardized communication

REF615 supports the new IEC 61850 standard for inter-device communication in substations. The relay also supports the industry standard DNP3.0 and Modbus® protocols.

The implementation of the IEC 61850 substation communication standard in REF615 encompasses both vertical and horizontal communication, including GOOSE messaging and parameter setting according to IEC 61850-8-1. The substation configuration language enables the use of engineering tools for automated configuration, commissioning and maintenance of substation devices.

Bus protection via GOOSE

The REF615 IEC 61850 implementation includes GOOSE messaging for fast horizontal relay-to-relay communication. Applying GOOSE communication to the REF615 relays of the incoming and outgoing feeders of a substation, a stable, reliable and high-speed bus protection system can be realized. The cost-effective GOOSE-based bus protection is obtained just by configuring the relays and the operational availability of the protection is assured by continuous supervision of the protection relays and their GOOSE messaging over the station communication network.

Costs are reduced since no separate physical input and output hard-wiring is needed for horizontal communication between the relays.

Bus protection via GOOSE

Bus protection via GOOSE

Pre-emptive condition monitoring

For continuous knowledge of the operational availability of the REF615 features, a comprehensive set of monitoring functions to supervise the relay health, the trip circuit and the circuit breaker health is included. The breaker monitoring can include checking the wear and tear of the circuit breaker, the spring charging time of the breaker operating mechanism and the gas pressure of the breaker chambers. The relay also monitors the breaker travel time and the number of circuit breaker (CB) operations to provide basic information for scheduling CB maintenance.

Rapid set-up and commissioning

Due to the ready-made adaptation of REF615 for the protection of feeders, the relay can be rapidly set up and commissioned, once it has been given the application- specific relay settings. If the relay needs to be adapted to the special requirements of the intended application, the flexibility of the relay allows the relay’s standard signal configuration to be adjusted by means of the signal matrix tool (SMT) included in its PCM600 relay setting and configuration user tool.

By means of Connectivity Packages containing complete descriptions of ABB’s protection relays, with data signals, parameters and addresses, the relays can be automatically configured via PCM600 relay setting and configuration user tool, COM600 Station Automation series devices, or MicroSCADA Pro substation automation system.

Unique draw-out design relay

The draw-out type relay design speeds up installation and testing of the protection. The factory-tested relay units can be withdrawn from the relay cases during factory and commissioning tests. The relay case provides automatic short-circuiting of the CT secondary circuits to prevent hazardous voltages from arising in the CT circuits when a relay plug-in unit is withdrawn from its case.

The pull-out handle locking the relay unit into its case can be sealed to prevent the unit from being unintentionally withdrawn from the relay case.

REF615 highlights

  • Comprehensive overcurrent protection with high impedance fault, sensitive earth fault and thermal overload protection for feeder and dedicated protection schemes
  • Simultaneous DN3.0 Level 2+ and Modbus Ethernet communications plus device connectivity and system interoperability according to the IEC 61850 standard for next generation substation communication
  • Enhanced digital fault recorder functionality including high sampling frequency, extended length of records, 4 analog and 64 binary channels and flexible triggering possibilities
  • High-speed, three-channel arc flash detection (AFD) for increased personal safety, reduced material damage and minimized system down-time
  • Total control of the operational capability of the protection system through extensive condition monitoring of the relay and the associated primary equipment
  • Draw-out type relay unit and a unique relay case design for a variety of mounting methods and fast installation, routine testing and maintenance
  • One single tool for managing relay settings, signal configuration and disturbance handling

Analog inputs

  • Three phase currents: 5/1 A
  • Ground current: 5/1 A or 0.2 A
  • Rated frequency: 60/50 Hz programmable

Binary inputs and outputs

  • Four binary inputs with common ground
  • Two NO double-pole outputs with TCM
  • Two NO single-pole outputs
  • One Form C signal output
  • One Form C self-check alarm output
  • Additional seven binary inputs plus three binary outputs (available as an option)


  • IEC 61850-8-1 with GOOSE messaging
  • DNP3.0 Level 2+ over TCP/IP
  • Modbus over TCP/IP
  • Time synchronization via SNTP (primary and backup servers)
  • Optional serial RS-485 port programmable for DNP3.0 Level 2+ or Modbus RTU

Control voltage

  • Option 1: 48 … 250 V dc, 100 … 240 V ac
  • Option 2: 24 … 60 V dc




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Grounded or Ungrounded Systems

Designing a quality grounding system is not only for the safety of employees but also provides the protection required for buildings and equipment.

Ungrounded systems may provide greater continuity of operations in the event of a ground fault. However, the second fault will most likely be more catastrophic than a grounded system fault. Whenever ungrounded systems are used in a facility, the maintenance personnel should receive training in how to detect and troubleshoot the first ground on an ungrounded system.

Electrical systems can be operated grounded or ungrounded, depending on the condition of the systems use. Electrical systems are grounded to protect circuits, equipment, and conductor enclosures from dangerous voltages and personnel from electrical shock. See NEC Sections 110-9, 110-10, 230-65, 250-1, and 250-2 that list the requirements to provide this protection.
“Grounded” means that the connection to ground between the service panel and earth has been made. Ungrounded electrical systems are used where the designer does not want the overcurrent protection device to clear in the event of a ground fault.

Ground detectors can be installed per NEC Section 250-5(b) FPN to sound an alarm or send a message to alert personnel that a ground fault has occurred on one of the phase conductors. Ground detectors will detect the presence of leakage current or developing fault current conditions while the system is still energized and operating. By warning of the need to take corrective action before a problem occurs, safe conditions can usually be maintained until an orderly shutdown is implemented.

Grounded Systems

Grounded systems are equipped with a grounded conductor that is required per NEC Section 250- 23(b) to be run to each service disconnecting means. The grounded conductor can be used as a current-carrying conductor to accommodate all neutral related loads. It can also be used as an equipment grounding conductor to clear ground faults per NEC Section 250-61(a).
A network of equipment grounding conductors is routed from the service equipment enclosure to all metal enclosures throughout the electrical system. The equipment grounding conductor carries fault currents from the point of the fault to the grounded bus in the service equipment where it is transferred to the grounded conductor. The grounded conductor carries the fault current back to the source and returns over the faulted phase and trips open the overcurrent protection device.

Note: A system is considered grounded if the supplying source such as a transformer, generator, etc., is grounded, in addition to the grounding means on the supply side of the service equipment disconnecting device per NEC Sections 250-23(a) or 250-26 for seperately derived systems.
The neutral of any grounded system serves two main purposes: (1) it permits the utilization of line- to-neutral voltage and thus will serve as a current-carrying conductor to carry any unbalanced current, and (2) it plays a vital role in providing a low-impedance path for the flow of fault currents to facilitate the operation of the overcurrent devices in the circuit. (See picture below).

Consideration should be given to the sizing of the neutral conductor for certain loads due to the presence of harmonic currents (See NEC Sections 210-4 and 310-10).

A grounded system is equipped with a grounded (neutral) conductor routed between the supply transformer and the service equipment.

A grounded system is equipped with a grounded (neutral) conductor routed between the supply transformer and the service equipment.

Ungrounded Systems

Ungrounded systems operate without a grounded conductor. In other words, none of the circuit conductors of the electrical system are intentionally grounded to an earth ground such as a metal water pipe, building steel, etc. The same network of equipment grounding conductors is provided for ungrounded systems as for solidly grounded electrical systems. However, equipment grounding conductors (EGCs) are used only to locate phase-to-ground faults and sound some type of alarm.

Therefore, a single sustained line-to-ground fault does not result in an automatic trip of the overcurrent protection device. This is a major benefit if electrical system continuity is required or if it would result in the shutdown of a continuous process. However, if an accidental ground fault occurs and is allowed to flow for a substantial time, overvoltages can develop in the associated phase conductors. Such an overvoltage situation can lead to conductor insulation damage, and while a ground fault remains on one phase of an ungrounded system, personnel contacting one of the other phases and ground are subjected to 1.732 times the voltage they would experience on a solidly neutral grounded system. (See picture below).

Note: All ungrounded systems should be equipped with ground detectors and proper maintenance applied to avoid, as far as practical, the overcurrent of a sustained ground fault on ungrounded systems. If appropriate maintenance is not provided for ungrounded systems, a grounded system should be installed to ensure that ground faults will be cleared and the safety of circuits, equipment, and that personnel safety is ensured.

An ungrounded system does not have a grounded (neutral) conductor routed between the supply transformer and the service equipment because the supply transformer is not earth grounded.

An ungrounded system does not have a grounded (neutral) conductor routed between the supply transformer and the service equipment because the supply transformer is not earth grounded.

High impedance grounding

Electrical systems containing three-phase, three-wire loads, as compared to grounded neutral circuit conductor loads, can be equipped with a high-impedance grounded system. High-impedance grounded systems shall not be used unless they are provided with ground fault indicators or alarms, or both, and qualified personnel are available to quickly locate and eliminate such ground faults.

Ground faults must be promptly removed or the service reliability will be reduced. See NEC Section 250-27 for requirements pertaining to installing a high-impedance grounding system. (See picture below).

A high-impedance grounding system has a high-impedance unit, installed between the grounded (neutral) conductor and the grounding electrode conductor, which is used to regulate fault current.

A high-impedance grounding system has a high-impedance unit, installed between the grounded (neutral) conductor and the grounding electrode conductor, which is used to regulate fault current.



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