IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - May/June 2018 - 86
Russ Yeckley and John Perulfi
oil circuit breakers
a look at the earlier generation
In the late 19th and early
20th centuries, the interrupting media
of circuit breakers were either air, oil,
or water. Figure 1 depicts a collection
of breakers of that vintage. the breaker
shown in Figure 2 was for application at
40 kV, installed in 1901, and consisted
of two barrels half-filled with water for
performing interruption and oil in the
upper section to provide open position
dielectric. this performed fairly well until several operations were made over a
short time, and it exploded, destroying
the adjacent power house. Figure 3
is an oil circuit breaker (OCB) that was
originally on the western Colorado power system at a voltage of 44 kV and in
service for 52 years; it consisted of two
barrels of oil with the interrupters and
a movable current-carrying member
as the demands by utilities for higher
voltages and currents increased, the
OCB became the breaker of choice.
In the United States, the bulk or dead
tank oil breaker was the most popular.
In europe, the live tank oil breaker design (also referred to as minimum oil
or sometimes called the oil-poor design) became the most popular. this was
primarily the result of oil being more
available in the United States.
the early OCBs relied solely on the
separation of contacts, and the long
arcing time produced was of little consequence. Oil became the preferred
circuit breaker medium because of its
greater insulation compared with air
and also for its greater effectiveness
In the March/April 2016 IEEE Power & Energy Magazine T&D Show Supplement, we
examined the potential next-generation switchgear dielectric and the interrupting medium in "Green Gas to Replace SF 6 in Electrical Grids," by Yannick Kieffel,
Todd Irwin, Philippe Ponchon, and John Owens. In the May/June 2016 issue of
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine, Russ Yeckley and Jerry Colclaser provided us with
a development history of the first sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) breaker beginning in
the 1950s in their "History" contribution, "First SF 6 Breaker Design." To this day,
SF6 remains the dominant dielectric and interrupting medium for switchgear at
medium and high voltages.
With these two 2016 articles representing the present, and possible future, direction of dielectric and the interrupting medium for switchgear, this issue's column looks at the previous generation of dielectric and the interrupting medium for
switchgear in the form of oil circuit breakers (OCBs). OCBs served the needs of the
power industry from the early 1900s until the early 1980s in production and new
installations and continue to serve our power system switchgear needs as many of
these vintage OCBs remain in service today.
Russ Yeckley received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of
Michigan and a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He was employed
by Westinghouse, where his initial work was in the development of OCBs. He participated in the development and testing of the first commercial SF6 circuit breaker.
He subsequently spent over 25 years with Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.
(MEPPI) in the design and manufacture of SF6 circuit breakers. He now serves as a
consultant to MEPPI.
John Perulfi received a degree in industrial engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and was employed by Westinghouse in their graduate EE Switchyear
Specialist Program. In 1960 he was transferred to the Westinghouse Power Circuit
Breaker Division involving the development and marketing of the complete line of
both oil and SF6 circuit breakers. During his 31 years at Westinghouse, he was the
marketing manager of gas-insulated equipment, manager of product and cost analysis, and quality assurance manager. In 1986 he was an initial member in a joint venture with Westinghouse and Mitsubishi Electric that later became MEPPI, where he
served as Mid-America region vice president. He is currently a consultant to MEPPI.
We are pleased to welcome back Russ Yeckley to the "History" column for the
second time as well as coauthor John Perulfi for the first time.
Associate Editor, History
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2018.2801959
Date of publication: 18 April 2018
ieee power & energy magazine