Current differential protection typically requires symmetrical communications channels—with equal latency in each direction—for correct operation. Conventionally, this has been delivered using protocols such as IEEE C37.94 over a Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) wide-area network (WAN). Modern packet-based WANs offer improvements in efficiency, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness for utility applications. However, jitter is unavoidable in packet-based networks and, in extreme cases, jitter inevitably results in substantial asymmetrical latency in communications paths. This paper clearly defines how a new source of asymmetry arises due to the use of "de-jitter" buffers, which can jeopardize critical protection services. This is demonstrated using an analytical modelling approach, which precisely quantifies the degree of risk, and through real-time demonstration with actual devices, involving current differential protection over an IP/MPLS WAN. Using a novel method of real-time manipulation of Ethernet traffic to emulate large WANs, the modelling approach has been validated. It is shown how the sensitivity of relays to asymmetry depends on the protection settings and the magnitude of the measured load current. To address the risk of protection maloperation, a new approach for compensating for asymmetrical latency has been comprehensively validated. These developments will be of immediate interest to utilities operating, or migrating to, a packet-based infrastructure.
- current differential protection
- IEEE C37.94
- power system protection
- time synchronization
- wide-area networks