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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apthermeng

Research paper

thermal resistance

Ferdinando Salata*, Fabio Nardecchia 1, Andrea de Lieto Vollaro 2, Franco Gugliermetti 3

DIAEE, Area Fisica Tecnica, Sapienza University of Rome, Via Eudossiana, 18, 00184 Rome, Italy

h i g h l i g h t s

Optimal installation of electrical buried cables.

Proper evaluation of the thermal resistance of the soil.

Inuence of the geometric parameters of the trench.

Mutual inuence of multiple conductors in the same excavations.

Correction of design formulas provided by regulations.

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:

Received 11 September 2014

Accepted 22 December 2014

Available online 3 January 2015

Nowadays companies supplying medium/high voltage electric energy, near residential areas, tend to use

underground cables laying. Hence the design engineer is required to estimate the thermal resistance

around the underground cable to perform a right dimensioning of the cables; as a matter of fact what it

should be avoided is the overheating determined by a bad heat dissipation due to the Joule effect.

IEC rules provides a formula for the evaluation of the soil thermal resistance which is easy to apply. But

from an experimental point of view, as the bibliography shows, it was discovered it tends to underestimate the problem when dealing with very dry soils in particular.

Thanks to an experimental system, some useful data were collected for the validation of a 2D FEM

model of an excavated area with a linear heat source reproducing the underground conduit. The numerical model presents a variation of both the geometrical parameters of the excavated area and the

distance characterizing other cables (hence heat sources) located in the same site of installation

examined. In this way two dimensionless coefcients, useful to correct the values of the thermal

resistance furnished by the current regulations, were determined.

2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:

Underground cable

Linear heat source

Dry soil

IEC 287

Design method

CFD model

1. Introduction

It can be noticed how, in the past few years, near residential

areas in particular, there was a tendency to use underground power

cables supplying energy through medium/high voltage alternating

current. The data [1] conrm that this solution is not widely used

yet: when the voltage is very high (380 kV) the percentage of the

E-mail addresses: ferdinando.salata@uniroma1.it (F. Salata), fabio.nardecchia@

uniroma1.it (F. Nardecchia), andrea.delietovollaro@uniroma1.it (A. de Lieto

Vollaro), franco.gugliermetti@uniroma1.it (F. Gugliermetti).

1

Tel.: 39 0644585685; fax: 39 064880120.

2

Tel.: 39 0644585720; fax: 39 064880120.

3

Tel.: 39 0644585429; fax: 39 064880120.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2014.12.059

1359-4311/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

the following variations: 0.4% for countries such as United States

and Spain, 0.3% in Germany and Holland, 0.1% in Sweden and

Canada. Other countries, France and Switzerland, are characterized

by lower values, 0.2%. In Italy the underground electrical power

grid, with a voltage of 380 kV, equals to 25 km out of 10,700 km

(0.2% of the total), whereas the one with a voltage of 220 kV and

132e150 kV is 950 km out of 52,000 km (1.8% of the total).

There are many reasons why there is a tendency to prefer underground cables, one is the possible electromagnetic pollution

determined by overhead conduits. Underground cables imply extra

costs which, according to the valuation performed by European

managers grid, is 10e13 times more the price of a traditional

132e150 kV overhead line and 12e17 times more the very high

voltage power lines. Such difference is due to the fact that with

transfer the same amount of power of overhead cables, whereas for

380 kV power lines we need a doubling of the line. These costs are

determined by the necessary equipments for the exertion of underground cables requiring stations at regular intervals. Other

costs, caused by underground lines management, are determined

by the maintenance of the cables during their exertion, which is

more complicated and expensive. From a statistical point of view

the unavailability of the power line, in those sections affected by a

damage, varies from the typical values characterizing an overhead

line (about a few hours) to values that can reach 25 days (for underground cables) like in Refs. [2e4]. The fact that the cables are

installed underground does not mean that they are immune from

damages and malfunctioning, actually we have the opposite situation. As a matter of fact the problems caused by the disposal of

heat produced by the cables, due to the Joule effect, are wellknown.

Thus the cables laying is a solution which can be easily applied

to those sections where the power line has a high voltage, but not

very high, especially when there are external factors, such as areas

located near highly urbanized zones. Thanks to the environmental

benets of the exposed population, it is still possible to have underground cables at 132e150e220 kV with reasonable costs [5]; if

we are dealing with peripheral lines in particular, since they do not

belong to the group of the main high-voltage power lines, and

where failure may be more easily tolerated by the electrical system.

During the planning phase of the long-distance power line, it is

necessary to estimate the soil thermal resistance to verify the heat

disposal. Such value is provided by the IEC 287-2-1 regulation

through Formula (1), which is easy to apply:

RIEC

p

1

rT ln u u2 1

2p

(1)

269

which corresponds to the experimental one (with just one

conductor cable), the value of the resistance estimated has an underestimation of the 70% respect to the one measured experimentally. These results were later conrmed by the numerical

simulations performed through a validated FEM model [11]. The

regulations IEC 287-2-1, to make the estimation easier, provide the

Equation (1) to calculate the soil thermal resistance. It does not take

into consideration though that for very dry soils this equation underestimates the problems of heat disposal caused by the underground electric cable due to the Joule effect demonstrated in Ref.

[12].

In this work, it was also taken into consideration how the shape

of the excavated area and the positioning of the cable in the excavated area can nullify the value calculated through the formula

provided by the current regulations. The regulations [13], concerning underground cables installation (called the M1 type),

dene the minimum depth of the cable laying based on its category: category zero and 1:0.5 m; category 2:2:0.6 0.8 m; category

3:1.0 1.2 m. As a matter of fact the depth, width and the bed of

sand where the electric cable must be positioned and the backll of

the excavated area are all factors affecting the thermal resistance of

the soil thus presenting different values respect to those assumed

by the regulations [14].

Even the presence of many cables in the same excavated area

determines a thermal eld affecting, in a negative way, the heat

disposal of those cables installed individually [15]. In order to make

a more accurate evaluation of the actual thermal resistance of the

soil the choice was to suggest corrective coefcients of the Formula

(1) provided by the IEC regulation [16]. The purpose was to identify

two corrective factors (f1 and f2, dimensionless) in order to have a

better approximation of the actual value of the soil resistance as

shown in Refs. [17e19] and reach this type of relation:

where:

r: soil thermal resistivity (from 0.7 K m/W, for very humid soils,

to 3.0 K m/W, for very dry soils);

u: (2L/D);

L: distance from the center of the cable respect to the ground

level [mm];

D: outside diameter of the underground cable [mm].

where:

problems during the exertion of an underground conductor. A bad

disposal of the heat generated by the surrounding soil determines

phenomena which quicken the aging process of the insulation layer

of the cable. They are deeply affected by the maximum temperatures of exertion that the electric cable must endure even for short

time intervals as shown by Ref. [6]. Hence, furnishing the design

engineers with something reliable about soil resistance [7], in order

to avoid damages and malfunctioning which always lead to a lower

reliability and higher extraordinary maintenance costs respect to

overhead cables, is very important.

Hence the FEM software modeled different geometrical congurations [20] of the excavated area, and afterward different

positioning for two more cables installed near the disturbed cable,

in the same installation area where the cables are positioned. The

FEM model was validated experimentally thanks to a scale model of

an excavated area reproduced in a laboratory [9,21].

In this case study the focus is on the soil thermal resistance of

very dry soils [8] which present hard conditions of exertion for

underground conduits.

From the experimental analysis performed in the laboratory,

through the equipment here described in the paragraph 2.1 (whose

results were previously published [9,10]), it can be noticed how the

value of the resistivity experimentally measured in the rst attempt

is higher than the value provided by the Equation (1). In particular,

(2)

geometrical parameters of the excavated area;

f2: dimensionless factor affected by the presence of other cables

in the installation area.

In order to be able to study the thermal effects of an underground power cable in the surrounding soil it was reproduced a

scale model (Fig. 1) in a laboratory. A wooden box (whose plant

presents the following dimensions: length 1.9 m, width 1.5 m and

depth 0.35 m) was insulated from the surrounding environment

through polystyrene panels. The inside was covered with a waterproof enamel to avoid humidity exchanges between the soil and the

surrounding environment. Then it was realized a trench (width:

0.008 m), representing the section of the excavated area with the

underground cable, with the axis of symmetry of the longest side

included between the ground level and a depth of 0.15 m. Inside

this trench, at its midpoint, at a depth of 0.135 m and above a sand

bed, it was positioned a pipe made of steel. The pipe, which on scale

270

depth of 0.25 mm and a length of 1.5 m. In the zone right above the

cable, being the shortest section for the thermal ux generated by

the underground cable because of the Joule effect, there is a heat

exchange with the outside environment (Fig. 2).

This is the reason why between the ground level and the cable,

ve type of K thermocouples (Chromel (NieCr) ()/Alumen (NieAl)

()) were positioned, each placed at a distance of 25 mm from the

other. The cold junction of the thermocouples is immersed in a

thermostated bath with an accuracy of 0.1 K. They permit to

monitor the trend of the temperatures of the material covering the

electrical cable. Even the steel pipe, simulating the electrical cable,

has a thermocouple similar to what it was just described measuring

the reached temperature determined by the Joule effect. A stabilized constant current generator, with a voltage varying from 2 V to

15 V, supplies the pipe with electricity. The voltage drop DV at the

extremities of the pipe has a range of 1.8 2.8 V. The power owing

through the pipe was estimated by measuring the voltage drop at

the extremities of a resistance accuracy (rp 0.1 U 0.00001 U).

The laboratory, where the whole experimental equipment was

set, is a thermostated environment with the possibility to assess

the indoor temperature with an accuracy of 1 K.

The box is lled with argillaceous and compact soil (expanded

and sifted clay) reproducing an undisturbed dry soil. The trench is

lled with river sand around the cable up to the ground level. The

sand, before being placed in the trench, was subject to a drying

process of 8 h at a temperature of 80 C (353 K).

The thermophysical properties of the backll materials are

showed in Table 1 [22,23]. Their density and thermal conductivity

were measured respecting the requirements of the IEE Standard

442-1981-1996 [24] by using specic tools (MAE A5000T Thermal

conductivity probe: MAE CTS-45) with a maximum accuracy of 5%.

All the signals sampled are the result of a HP Agilent 34970A

DATA multimeter model. The measurement error of the multimeter, during the measuring phase of the output signal of the

thermocouples, has a maximum value of 4 mV. Every thermocouple furnished values with an accuracy of 0.2 K, with the

temperatures ranging between 273 K and 373 K. The total measurement error (calibration error included) is of 4 K.

In order to determine, from an experimental point of view, the

soil resistance 4 measurements were carried out waiting for the

system to be in stationary conditions. The system was supplied

with electric power which determined, for every linear meter of the

pipe, a disposal of a heat q respectively of 8, 10, 13, 18 W/m. The

stationary condition was considered satisfying after 6 h the thermocouple, registering the pipe temperature, presented variations

higher than 0.2 K. The soil resistance was estimated as follows:

Rsper

Tt Tair Tt Tair rp It

q

Vr Vt

(3)

chain, is respectively:

Rsper

Tt Tair

rp

It

Vr

Vt

6

4

0:033 10 3:6$10 0:0035 y3:7%

(4)

where:

dTt 0:6 K is the error generated by the type of thermocouple

used for the calculation of both the soil temperature and multimeter used for the surveying;

dTair 0:4 K is the error generated by the type of thermocouple used for the calculation of the air temperature;

Tt Tair 30 K is the temperature difference maintained

during the experimental phase;

drp =rp 106 is the accuracy of the resistor used by the experimental equipment;

dIt =It 0:0005=1:4 is the error determined by the measuring

instrument for the reading of the electric power owing

through the cable;

dVr =Vr ydVt =Vt 0:0035 is the error generated by the

measuring instrument for the reading of the potential drop

concerning the extremities of the accuracy resistor and the

cable;

Such value is acceptable because of the accuracy required by the

experimental measurements.

Table 1

Thermophysical properties of the materials used for the experimental equipment.

Material

Density d [kg/m3]

Specic heat cp

[kJ/(kg K)]

Thermal conductivity

l [W/(m K)]

Sand

Clay

1700

380

837.2

840

0.35

0.29

271

A mathematical model was implemented to reproduce the same

phenomena examined in the laboratory by using the experimental

data obtained in the laboratory. Such model was realized thanks to

a numerical prediction software which later was adjusted and

validated through the comparison of the outputs furnished by the

simulations performed with the experimental data. The software

used was a certied FEM produced by the software house Ansys.

Thanks to the simulation software it was possible to modify both

the geometry of the excavated area (with the simulated underground conduit) together with the number and the positioning of

the cables, with the certainty that the equations set to solve the

problem, the thermophysical properties of the simulated materials

and the conditions set for the surrounding area respect the physical

phenomena actually examined, thus obtaining valid results from

the simulations performed.

The commercial software used solves the energy equation as

follows:

0

1

X !

v

!

!

rE V$ y rE p V$@keff VT

hj J j teff $ y A Sh

vt

(5)

where: r is the density [kg/m3], E is the energy [J], !

y is the speed

[m/s], p is the pressure [Pa], keff is the effective conductivity, T is the

!

temperature [K], h is the enthalpy [H], J j is the diffusion ux of

species j, teff is the effective stresses tensor. The rst three terms on

the right side of the equation are respectively the energy transferred by conduction, species diffusion and the viscose dissipation.

Sh is the heat of the chemical reactions and other volumetric heat

sources which, in this case study, are absent. For a closer examination refer to Ref. [25].

Governing equation of the system is solved by nite-element

method employing semi-implicit method for pressure-linked

equations (SIMPLE) algorithm. The second order upwind scheme

is used for discretization of the equations. The convergence criteria

for all the dependent variables are specied as 1015.

While trying to reproduce the geometry to examine, one of the

main problems faced was the correct generation of the mesh

constituting the grid where the software would solve the equations. A structured mesh helps avoiding problems caused by the

error propagation. As a matter of fact we chose this kind of mesh,

preferring the Quad Map type. Due to the peculiar geometry

taken into consideration, it was assumed the case of a indenitely

extended cable and it was examined its transversal section in a

two-dimensional reproduction. Even the spacing and number of

cells can compromise the good quality of the calculus, hence the

numerical results obtained. What it should not happen is an excess

of cells, where estimation is performed, in order to avoid an

excessive load on the hardware resources of the machinery performing the calculation. This is why a mesh sensitivity was

conducted.

The cable is represented by a circumference divided into 4 arcs,

each of 90 . The area surrounding the cable is formed by a square

mesh representing the sand bed. The center of the circumference,

representing the cable, is placed in the point of intersection of the

diagonals of the square. The mesh connecting both the circular and

square geometry is the area requiring a higher level of accuracy to

avoid a loss of information while solving those equations describing

the thermal exchange phenomena inside the cable. This is the

reason why the more we distance from the area representing the

excavated area, the denser the section with the structured mesh

will be. Fig. 3 shows a detail of the mesh inside the cable.

It can be noticed how every arc forming the cable is divided into

22 equidistant nodes. The side characterizing the square geometry

surrounding the cable is divided into the same number of nodes as

well. Each node is connected, through a segment, to the corresponding node on the arc of the circumference. Each segment is

divided into 15 nodes with a ratio of 1.05. The rest of the excavated

area is divided into mapped quadrilaterals with cells characterized

by a regular shape. Outside the excavated area the ground is

mapped with cells characterized by a rectangular geometry where

the more we distance from the area taken into consideration, the

less dense the section will be; the distance between each node

increases with a ratio of 1.02. The mesh is then formed by about the

whole of 5.2 105 cells and it will be called, Mesh 1X.

The properties of the materials supplied as inputs to the simulation software are reported in Table 1. As for the experimental

equipment, the section of the mesh representing the excavated area

was virtually lled with dry river sand, while the simulation of soil

outside the trench was performed by using expanded clay.

The conditions of the area surrounding the cable furnished to

the software are: a temperature of 333 K on the surfaces of the

underground cable, a temperature of the outside environment of

313 K and an adiabatic condition on the other limit surfaces of the

excavated area.

To perform mesh sensitivity analysis two more meshes were

realized: one which is less dense (Mesh 0.5X) composed by a

number of cells of 1.8 105 and another which is denser (Mesh 2X)

with a number of cells of 1.3 106. In order to determine the good

quality of the number, while solving the thermal exchange equations of the three meshes, the difference between the heat exiting

from the circular surface (representing the electric cable) and the

dispersion of heat through the upper surface of the mesh (representing the soil) were compared. Table 2 reports these differences.

Table 2

Percentage difference between the heat generated, for each linear meter, by the

underground cables and the one dispersed from the soil (at ground level) for the

mesh tested with reference to 1X Mesh.

D%

Mesh 0.5X

Mesh 1X

Mesh 2X

32.58%

2.21%

272

higher accuracy, concerning the calculation, than 0.5X Mesh which

is less dense; we can notice how 2X Mesh (with a higher number of

nodes) does not present signicant improvements (for what concerns the accuracy of calculation) if compared to 1X Mesh. Once a

good level of numerical accuracy is reached, we can continue with

other simulations by using geometry of 1X Mesh, without the

necessity to make estimations with a higher number of nodes.

2.3. Numerical model validation

In order to make a comparison of the output of the numerical

simulation performed thanks to the experimental data, and determine their good quality, it was taken into consideration the value of

the soil thermal resistance inside the cable and the trend of the

temperature provided by the FEM model respect to the experimental data of the temperatures supplied by the thermocouples

placed in the excavated area above the cable.

During the numerous experimental tests, the extremities of the

pipe simulating the underground cable were supplied with electric

energy and heated, thanks to the Joule effect, until the pipe reached

a temperature of 61 C (334 K), whereas the environment of the

laboratory presented a temperature of 17 C (290 K). Once the

system reached a state of stability, these conditions were kept for a

time interval of 6 h. The complete model was then simulated, at a

stationary speed, with a scenario characterized by the same surrounding conditions. While making an estimation of the soil thermal resistance, the simulations presented an overestimation of

3.69% of the value measured in the laboratory.

Fig. 4 shows, right in the section between the heated pipe and

the ground level, the trend of the temperatures (these temperatures were normalized if compared to the air temperature of the

environment) of the numerical model respect to the values estimated through the thermocouples.

The maximum deviation ratio between the simulated and

experimental temperatures is 0.6%. The results reported lead to

consider the approximations of the numerical model as satisfying

results for its validation.

3. Results

3.1. How the geometry of the excavated area affects the soil thermal

resistance

consideration the shape and the materials lling the cable [16].

Sometimes, during the phase of realization, it is hard to respect the

instructions provided by the plan to create an optimal geometry of

the excavated area. Moreover realizing an excavated area is

expensive and during their realization the regulations are the only

parameters to respect; if there is any precise regulation the tendency is to carry out the simplest solution on the eld. Sometimes it

happens that once the conductor is laid over the sand bed, the

trench is not lled, due to economical reasons, with sand but with

the soil turned over to dig the trench. In this way the underground

electric cable is surrounded by different conditions, if compared to

those assumed by the regulations conceived to give instructions for

the estimation of the soil thermal resistance.

To examine these elements, while using the validated numerical

model, the geometrical parameters (Fig. 5) of the excavated area

were varied slightly and it was estimated the soil resistance for each

simulated case.

The geometrical parameters of the excavated area are dened as

follows:

d: thickness of the sand bed above the cable;

c: whole thickness of the sand bed;

b: width of the excavated area;

D: diameter of the underground cable (0.011 m).

geometry characterizing the excavated area. On the left there is the

geometrical conguration of the excavated area considered as a

point of reference, in the middle there is the displacement of the

cable or the corners of the geometry characterizing the trench and

on the right the nal conguration. Among the extreme positions

represented, some intermediate geometrical congurations, subject to numerical simulations, were realized.

Here is the description of the 4 cases:

1. Variations of the depth values characterizing the underground

cable laying (Fig. 6): the underground cable, located in an

excavated area, completely lled with sand, was shifted to the

minimum values (h value included between 0.5 m and

1.2 m) according to the values established by the regulations.

With a 0.1 m variation of the position of the cable, it is

Equation (1), the current regulations consider the depth of the

Fig. 4. Trend of the temperatures: simulated values against experimental values according to the distance from the pipe.

273

Fig. 6. Variation of the depth values characterizing the underground cable laying in a trench lled with sand.

1.1, 1.2, 1.8).

2. Variation of the thickness of the ll, sand or dirt (Fig. 7): as

previously said, the excavated area is seldom covered until the

ground level with sand only; due to economical reasons the ll

is often made of a layer of sand right above the conductor, followed then by the covering of the rest of the space with the dirt,

previously dug, up to the ground level. While keeping the cable

at a depth h (whose value is taken as a point of reference), 11

intermediate congurations, with a 0.1 m variation of the

geometrical parameter d (congurations: 2.1, 2.2, 2.11),

were examined.

3. Variation of the dimensions of the excavated area with the same

installation depth (Fig. 8): while keeping the underground cable

at the same depth h, and the dimension of the excavated area

being equal, the geometrical parameters c and b were varied.

In this way 8 different geometrical congurations (congurations: 3.1, 3.2, 3.8) were examined.

4. Variation of both the dimensions of the excavated area and

installation depth (Fig. 9): with the dimension of the excavated

area being equal, the geometrical parameters c and b were

varied in the same way as in the previous case, but at the same

time the depth, h, of the underground cable was subject to a

variation. 8 different geometrical congurations (congurations: 4.1, 4.2, 4.8) were examined.

The geometrical parameters of every conguration examined

are reported in Table 3. Every conguration is identied through an

ID composed of two gures divided by a point. The rst gure refers

to the case, the second represents the geometrical conguration.

The geometry considered as a point of reference is the same for the

4 cases and the second gure is number 1 (1.1 2.1 3.1 4.1).

The last column of Table 3 reports the ratio between the soil

thermal resistance estimated through the output data of the FEM

simulations respect to the values calculated (in accordance with the

regulations) through Equation (1).

While examining the results reported in the last column of

Table 3 and the graph in Fig. 10, it can be noticed how, in every case

analyzed, the values of the soil resistance are higher than those

provided by the regulations, in accordance with what was said in

the previous paragraph. This represents a demonstration of the

validity of the superheating problems affecting the exerted cables

planned by taking into consideration the data provided by the

regulations.

Hence it is possible to determine a dimensionless multiplicative

factor f1 (function of the geometrical parameters considered)

Fig. 8. Variation of the dimensions of the excavated area with the same installation depth.

274

Fig. 9. Variation of the dimensions of the excavated area and installation depth.

Formula (1) provided by the regulations:

c a d b h g

RFEM

c d h

A$

f1 ; ;

$

$

b D D

b

D

D

RIEC

(6)

are:

c/d: ratio between the thickness of the excavated area made of

sand and its section above the underground cable;

d/D: ratio between the portion of the excavated area made of

sand above the underground cable and its diameter;

Table 3

Geometrical parameters of the different geometries examined through the FEM

model and the ratio between the thermal soil resistance, used for the simulations,

and the one estimated by the regulations.

RFEM

RIEC

Conguration

h

1.2

1.3

1.4

1.5

1.6

1.7

1.8

2.2

2.3

2.4

2.5

2.6

2.7

2.8

2.9

2.10

2.11

3.2

3.3

3.4

3.5

3.6

3.7

3.8

4.2

4.3

4.4

4.5

4.6

4.7

4.8

1.2

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

1.2

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6

0.5

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.7500

0.8082

0.8764

0.9568

1.0358

1.1726

1.3214

1.5068

0.8082

0.8764

0.9568

1.0358

1.1726

1.3214

1.5068

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.3875

1.2875

1.1875

1.0875

0.9875

0.8875

0.7875

0.6875

0.5875

0.4875

0.3875

1.2875

1.1875

1.0875

0.9875

0.8875

0.7875

0.6875

1.2875

1.1875

1.0875

0.9875

0.8875

0.7875

0.6875

1.711

1.636

1.567

1.501

1.434

1.369

1.305

1.214

1.870

1.993

2.103

2.209

2.313

2.415

2.522

2.640

2.765

2.903

1.829

1.915

1.991

2.064

2.138

2.217

2.304

1.607

1.508

1.416

1.329

1.252

1.187

1.135

h/D: ratio between the depth of the underground cable and its

diameter.

Thanks to the exertion of the statistical function nlint of the

MatLab software it was possible to determine the constant values of

the relation (6). The values estimated are:

A 0.1218;

a 0.0443;

b 0.3273;

g 0.9003.

The design engineer facing these kind of problems can use the

formula (a formula which can be applied easily) provided by the

regulations (1) corrected through the multiplicative factor f1, in

this way the result is a soil thermal resistance whose value reects

the reality. It must be stressed that this is a precautionary value

since it refers to very dry soils [26e28]. The good quality of the

relation (6), used to determine the corrective coefcient f1, is

reported in Fig. 11 showing a maximum deviation of 8% respect to

the values used for the estimation (they are reported in the last

column of Table 3). The corrective coefcient f1 is valid in those

values characterizing the geometric parameters reported through

Table 3.

3.2. How the presence of other cables in the excavated area around

the underground cable affects the soil thermal resistance

Sometimes it happens that, for technical and economical reasons, many cables are installed in the same excavated area. The

Fig. 10. Ratio between the simulated soil thermal resistance and the one of the regulations for each geometric conguration examined.

275

Table 4

Geometrical parameters of the congurations with the 3 cables examined through

the FEM model and ratio between the resistance of the soil for the simulations and

the one of the conguration with just one cable taken as a point of reference

assumed by the regulations.

Conguration

Fig. 11. Trend of the soil resistance estimated through the correlation (6) respect to the

value provided by the simulations.

higher thermal stress, hence more problems caused by heat

disposal [29,30]. To examine these issues, we assumed the presence

of two more cables (with the same diameter) positioned horizontally (case A), vertically (case B) or a triangular mesh installation

(case C) around the cable, thus presenting more difculties for what

concerns the heat transfer (in bold, Fig. 12).

The geometrical parameters, useful for the characterization of

every different case, are:

i: axle spacing between the cables;

e: distance between the ground level and the underground cable with the lowest value of depth;

h: depth of the cable laying respect to the ground level;

D: diameter of the underground cable.

The diameter of the underground cable (D 0.011 m) and its

installation depth (h 1.2 m) present constant values for every

conguration examined.

While using the FEM model, for each case were analyzed 5

different congurations (.a, .b, , .e). For case A and case B, in

particular, the axle spacing i was subject to a progressive increase

of its value for every conguration (2D case.a; 4D case.b;

8D case.c; 12D case.d; 24D case.e). Instead in case C,

while still using, during the simulations, the structured mesh previously described, the axle spacing was subject to the same increase

of its horizontal and vertical projection.

The geometrical parameters of every conguration examined

are summarized in Table 4. Each conguration analyzed is identied through an ID presenting two letters divided by a dot. The rst

A.a

A.b

A.c

A.d

A.e

B.a

B.b

B.c

B.d

B.e

C.a

C.b

C.c

C.d

C.e

i

0,0221

0,0441

0,0883

0,1324

0,2648

0,0221

0,0441

0,0883

0,1324

0,2648

0,0312

0,0624

0,1248

0,1873

0,3745

1,2000

1,2000

1,2000

1,2000

1,2000

1,1559

1,1117

1,0235

0,9352

0,6704

1,1779

1,1559

1,1117

1,0676

0,9352

RFEM

RIEC

1,9175

1,8460

1,7715

1,7283

1,6688

1,8955

1,8011

1,6818

1,5923

1,3785

1,8805

1,7933

1,6897

1,6190

1,4773

letter is in capital letters and represents the case, the second letter

is in lowercase and represents the geometrical conguration. The

geometry, taken as a point of reference for all 3 cases (A, B, C), is the

one presenting just one cable and the same adopted in the previous

paragraph.

While analyzing the values reported in the last column of

Table 4 and the graph in Fig. 13, the soil resistance seems to be, in

every case, higher than the one furnished by the regulations. This

conrms the superheating problems characterizing the cables if

installed in the same excavated area.

As in the previous paragraph, it is necessary to determine a

dimensionless multiplicative factors f2 (function of the geometrical parameters considered) able to correct the value of the soil

thermal resistance estimated through Formula (1) provided by the

regulations.

d z

RFEM

i i e

i

i

e

; ;

B$

f2

$

$

D h i

D

h

i

RIEC

(7)

are:

i/D: ratio between the axle spacing of the cables and the

diameter of the underground cable examined;

i/h: ratio between the axle spacing and the installation depth of

the underground cable examined;

Fig. 12. Geometrical parameters of the distance characterizing the three cables in case A (horizontal disposition), case B (vertical disposition), case C (triangular disposition)

inside the excavated area.

276

Fig. 13. Ratio between the soil thermal resistance simulated and the one taken as a

point of reference for every geometrical conguration examined.

Fig. 14. Trend of the soil resistance estimated through correlation (7) respect to the

value obtained with the simulations.

the ground level and the axle spacing between the cables.

The constants in the relation (7) can now be determined:

B 0,0096;

d 1,0544;

1143;

z 0,0019.

In this case the design planner can use the formula provided by

the regulations (1) corrected through the multiplicative factor f2.

The good quality of the relation (7), useful to determine the

corrective coefcient f2, is reported in Fig. 14 showing a

maximum deviation of 10% respect to the values used for its

estimation (reported in the last column, Table 4). The corrective

coefcient f2 is valid in those values characterizing the geometrical

parameters reported through Table 4.

estimation of the soil thermal resistance is vital to avoid a superheating of the cables, caused by the Joule effect, that can lead to a

drastic decrease of the service life of the insulation material [6]. The

maintenance of underground conduits is hard to perform and

hence it is economically heavier than other types of underground

installations. This is the reason why thermal problems must be

taken into consideration during the planning phase [13]. An underestimation of the value of the soil thermal resistance, especially

for extremely dry soils, can determine several problems. The

possible presence of humidity in the soil increases the capacity of

heat exchange, thus helping the disposal of excessive heat of the

cables, but it is necessary to perform a dimensioning of the cables

(assuming the worst condition possible, that is a dry soil [26]).

The IEC rules furnish [16], for the estimation of the soil resistance around the cables, a value that tends to underestimate the dry

soil thermal resistance in the excavated area. In this study it was

carried out the estimation of two dimensionless factors f1 (6) and

f2 (7), multiplicative of the value provided by (1), providing a

more accurate calculation of the resistance values useful for the

cables dimensioning. This is why it was reproduced, in a laboratory,

an experimental equipment permitting a validation of a bidimensional numerical model. Through this numerical model it was

possible to study the thermal problem which varies with the

changing conditions of the cable installation; the geometrical parameters of the excavated area were subject to variation to determine the corrective coefcient f1 and the interaction according to

the distance separating the cable examined from other cables

(installed in the same area), in order to calculate the coefcient f2.

The expressions (2), (6) and (7) can help design engineers to

estimate the soil thermal resistance value for both the dimensioning of underground electric conduits and other situations

requiring the science of engineering, such as: planning of

geometrical heat exchangers, underground pipelines for the

transportation of hydrocarbons and every time there is a soil heat

exchange.

The benet of using the corrective coefcients here suggested is

a correct determination of the soil thermal resistance surrounding

the electric cables. This can help the right dimensioning of the

cables while keeping in mind the problem of the heat dissipation

generated by the joule effect; in this way malfunctioning during the

regular exertion of the cables can be avoided. On the other hand, in

order to use correctly the formula here suggested, some information concerning the geometry of the excavated area where the cables are placed, are necessary.

The results obtained in this case study are not interesting for the

scientic community only, but they can represent a guideline for

this type of industry as well. The corrective factors can be used

directly by designers of underground power lines.

This research will have a further development through the study

of the parameters variability impact, such as: cables diameter and

the surrounding conditions (thermophysical properties of the

materials, temperatures, etc).

Acknowledgements

4. Conclusions

The study here presented is an approach to improve the standard formula for the estimation of the thermal resistance of dry

soils surrounding the underground electric cables. Experimentally

it was demonstrated that the regulations tend to underestimate the

thermal issue of heat dissipation towards the soil causing malfunctioning problems affecting the cables which turn out to be

underpowered. Corrective coefcients were estimated and discussed by examining the numerical results obtained.

agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-prot sectors. A special

thanks to Mrs. Flavia Franco for the help she provided in the

preparation of this paper.

Nomenclature

b

c

the total thickness of the sand backll [m]

c/b

cable's sand bed [dimensionless]

d

the thickness of the sand backll on top of the cable [m]

D

external diameter of the cable [mm]

d/D

ratio of the thickness of the layer of sand on top of the

cable and the cable diameter [dimensionless]

e

distance between the underground cable with the lowest

value of depth and the ground level [m]

e/i

ratio between the installation depth of the closest cable to

the ground level and the axle spacing between the

cables [dimensionless]

f1

correctional factor affected by the variation of the

geometrical parameters of the excavated area

[dimensionless]

f2

correctional factor affected by the presence of other

cables in the installation area [dimensionless]

h

depth at which a cable is installed according to the works

plan [m]

h/D

ratio of the depth at which the cable was installed

compared to ground level and diameter of the

cable [dimensionless]

i

axle spacing between the cables [m]

i/h

ratio between the axle spacing and the depth of the

examined underground cable [dimensionless]

It

electric power [A]

L

distance of the axis of the cable from the surface of the

soil [mm]

RFEM

numerical value of the soil resistivity [m K/W]

RIEC

value provided by the regulations concerning the soil

resistivity [m K/W]

Rsper

experimental value of the soil resistivity [m K/W]

q

thermal power for each linear meter of the cable [W/m]

rp

value of the resistance of the precision resistor [U]

Tair

air temperature [K]

Tt

temperature of the cable in the experimental section [K]

u (2L/D) [dimensionless]

Vr

voltage drop produced on precision resistor [V]

Vt

voltage drop at the end of cable [V]

r

resistivity of the soil [K m/W]

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