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Faculty of electrical and computer engineering


Underground Cables

Compiled by: Biniyam Z.

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Chapter Eight

Underground Cables
 Introduction
 Types of cables
 Capacitance of single-core and three core cables
 Insulation resistance of a cable
 heating and Power factor of Cables

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 Electric power can be transmitted or distributed either by overhead system

or by underground cables.
 The underground cables have several advantages such as:
 Less liable to damage through storms or lightning
 Low maintenance cost
 Less chances of faults
 Smaller voltage drop and better appearance
 However, their major drawback is that they have greater installation cost and
introduce insulation problems at high voltages compared with the equivalent
overhead system.
 For this reason, underground cables are employed where it is impractical to
use overhead lines.
 Such locations may be thickly populated areas where municipal authorities
prohibit overhead lines for reasons of safety, or around plants and substations
3 or where maintenance conditions do not permit the use of overhead construction
 All electric cables consists of three essential parts:
1) The conductor for transmitting electric power
2) The insulation, an electrical insulating medium, needed to insulate the
conductor from direct contact with earth or other objects, and
3) External protection against mechanical damage, chemical or electro-
chemical attack, fire or any other dangerous effects external to the cable
 Figure below shows the general construction of a 3-phase cable.

 The various parts are

(i). Cores or conductors
 A cable may have one or more than one core (conductor) depending upon
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the type of service for which it is intended
 For instance, the 3-conductor cable shown in figure above is used for 3-phase services
 The conductors are made of tinned copper or aluminum and are usually stranded in
order to provide flexibility to the cable
(ii). Insulation
 Each core or conductor is provided with a suitable thickness of insulation, the thickness
of layer depending upon the voltage to be withstood by the cable
 The commonly used materials for insulation are impregnated paper, varnished cambric
or rubber mineral compound
(iii). Metallic sheath
 In order to protect the cable from moisture, gases or other damaging liquids (acids or
alkalies) in the soil and atmosphere, a metallic sheath of lead or aluminum is provided
over the insulation as shown in figure above
(iv). Bedding
 Over the metallic sheath it is applied a layer of bedding which consists of a fibrous
material like jute or hessian tape.
 The purpose of bedding is to protect the metallic sheath against corrosion and from
mechanical injury due to armouring
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 Over the bedding, armouring is provided which consists of one or two
layers of galvanized steel wire or steel tape
 Its purpose is to protect the cable from mechanical injury while laying it and
during the course of handling
 Armouring may not be done in the case of some cables
(vi). Serving
 In order to protect armouring from atmospheric condition, a layer of
fibrous material (like jute) similar to bedding is provided over the
armouring.This is known as serving
 Bedding, armouring and serving are only applied to the cables for the
protection of conductor insulation and to protect the metallic sheath from
mechanical injury

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Types of Cables
 Cables for underground services may be classified in to two ways
according to
i. The type of insulating material used in their manufacture
ii. The voltage for which they are manufactured
 However, the latter method of classification is generally preferred.
 According to the voltage for which they are manufactured, cables can be
divided into the following groups
i. Low-tension (L.T.) cables – up to 1000V
ii. High-tension (H.T.) cables – up to 11,000 V
iii. Super-tension (S.T.) cables – from 22 kV to 33 kV
iv. Extra high-tension (E.H.T.) cables – from 33 kV to 66 kV
v. Extra super voltage cables – beyond 132 kV
 A cable may have one or more than one core depending upon the type
of service for which it is intended
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 It may be (i). single-core, (ii).Two-core, (iii).Three-core, (iv). Four-core,
 For a 3-phase service, either 3-single core cables or three-core cable can
be used depending upon the operating voltage and load demand
 Cables are also classified depending upon the material used for insulation
such as paper, rubber or asbestos.
Cables for 3-phase Service
 In practice, underground cables are generally required to deliver 3-phase
power. For the purpose, either three-core cable or three single core
cables may be used
 For voltages upto 66 kV, 3-core cable (i.e., multi-core construction) is
preferred due to economic reasons
 However, for voltages beyond 66 kV, 3-core-cables become too large and
unwieldy and, therefore, single-core cables are used

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 The following types of cables are generally used for
3-phase service:
1) Belted cables – upto 11 kV
2) Screened cables – from 22 kV to 66 kV
3) Pressure cables – beyond 66 kV
1. Belted cables
 These cables are used for voltages upto 11 kV but
in extraordinary cases, their use may be extended
upto 22 kV
 Figure below shows the constructional details of a
3-core belted cable
 The cores are insulated from each other by layers
of impregnated paper. Another layer of
impregnated paper tape, called paper belt is
wound round the grouped insulated cores.
 The gap between the insulated core is filled with
fibrous insulating material (jute etc) so as to give
circular cross-section to the cable.
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 The core are generally stranded and may be of non-circular shape to
make better use of available space.
 The belt is covered with lead sheath to protect the cable against ingress
of moisture and mechanical injury
 The lead sheath is covered with one or more layers of armouring with
an outer serving ( not shown in the figure)
 The belted type construction is suitable only for low and medium
voltages as the electrostatic stress developed in the cables for these
voltages are more or less radial ( across the insulation)
2. Screened cables
 These cables are meant for use upto 33 kV, but in particular cases their
use may be extended to operating voltages upto 66 kV
 Two principal types of screened cables are H-type cables and S.L. type

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i). H-type cables
 This type of cables was first designed by H.
Hochstadter and hence the name
 Following figure shows the constructional
details of a typical 3-core, H-type cable
 Each core is insulated by layers of
impregnated paper.
 The insulation on each core is covered with a
metallic screen which usually consists of a
perforated aluminum foil
 The cores are laid in such a way that metallic
screen make contact with one another

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 An additional conducting belt (copper woven fabric tape) is wrapped
round the three cores
 The cables has no insulating belt but lead sheath, bedding, armouring and
serving follows as usual

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(ii). Separated Lead (S.L. ) type cables
 Figure below shows the constructional details of a 3-phase S.L (separated Lead)
type cable
 It is basically H-type cable but the screen round each core insulation is covered
by its own lead sheath

 There is no overall lead sheath but only armouring and serving are provided
 The S.L. type cables have two main advantages over H-type cables.
 Firstly, the separate sheaths minimize the possibilities of core-to-core
 Secondly, bending of cables becomes easy due to the elimination of overall
lead sheath
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 However, the disadvantage is that the three lead sheaths of S.L. cable are much
thinner than the single sheath of H-cable and, therefore, call for greater care in
 All the cables of above construction are referred to as solid type cables because
solid insulation is used and no gas or oil circulates in the cable sheath
 The voltage limit for solid type cables is 66 kV due to the following reasons
 As a solid cable carries the load, its conductor temperature increases and the
compound (i.e, insulating compound over paper) expands. This action stretches the
lead sheath which may be damaged
 When the load on the cable decreases, the conductor cools and a partial vacuum is
formed within the cable. The moisture reduces the dielectric strength of insulation
and may eventually causes the breakdown of the cable
 In practice, voids are always present in the insulation of a cable. Modern techniques of
manufacturing have resulted in void free cables. However, under operating
conditions, the voids are formed as a result of differential expansion and contraction
of the sheath and impregnated compound. The breakdown strength of voids is
considerably less than that of insulation

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3. Pressure cables
 For voltages beyond 66 kV, solid type cables are unreliable because there is a
danger of breakdown of insulation due to the presence of voids
 When the operating voltages are greater than 66 kV, pressure cables are used. In
such cables, voids are eliminated by increasing the pressure of compound and for
this reason they are pressure cables.
 Two types that is oil-filled cables and gas pressure cables are commonly used
(i). Oil-filled cables
 In such types of cables, channels or ducts are provided in the cable for oil
 The oil under pressure ( it is the same oil used for impregnation) is kept
constantly supplied to the channel by means of external reservoirs placed at
suitable distances (say 500 m) along the route of the cable
 Oil under pressure compresses the layers of paper insulation and is forced into
any voids that may have formed between the layers
 Due to the elimination of voids, oil-filled cables can be used for higher voltages,
the range being from 66 kV upto 230 kV.
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 Oil-filled cables are of three types
 Single-core conductor channel
 Single-core sheath channel
 Three-core filler-space channel
 Figure shows the constructional details of a single core
conductor channel, oil filled cable.
 The oil channel is formed at the center by stranding the
conductor wire around a hollow cylindrical steel spiral
tape. The oil under pressure is supplied to the channel by
means of external reservoir
 As the channel is made of spiral steel tape, it allows the
oil tape percolate between copper strands to the
wrapped insulation
 The oil pressure compresses the layers of paper
insulation and prevents the possibility of void formation
 The disadvantage of this type of cable is that the channel
is at the middle of the cable and is at full voltage with
respect to earth, so that a very complicated system of
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 Figure below (a) shows the constructional details of a single core sheath
channel oil filled cable.
 In this type of cable, the conductor is solid similar to that of solid cable
and is paper insulated. However, oil ducts are provided in the metallic
sheath as shown.
 In the 3-core oil filler cable shown in figure below (b), the oil ducts are
located in the filler spaces. These channels are composed of perforated
metal-ribbon tubing and are at earth potential

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 The oil-filled cables have three principal advantages
 Formation of voids and ionization are avoided
 Allowable temperature range and dielectric strength are increased
 If there is leakage, the defect in the lead sheath is at once indicated and
possibility of earth faults is decreased.
 However, the major disadvantages are the high initial cost and complicated
system of laying
4. Gas pressure cables
 The voltage required to set up ionization inside a void increases as the
pressure is increased.
 Therefore, if ordinary cable is subjected to a sufficiently high pressure, the
ionization can be altogether eliminated
 At the same time, the increased pressure produces radial compression
which tends to close any void. This is underlying the principle of gas
pressure cable

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 Figure shows the sections of external pressure cable designed by
Hochstadter,Vogal and Bowden
 The construction of the cable is similar to that of any ordinary solid type
except that it is of triangular shape and thickness of lead sheath is 75 %
that of solid cable

 The triangular section reduces the weight and gives low thermal
resistance but main reason for triangular shape is that the lead sheath
acts as a pressure membrane. The sheath is protected by a thin metal
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 The cable is laid in a gas-tight steel pipe. The pipe is filled with dry
nitrogen gas at 12 to 15 atmospheres.
 The gas pressure produces radial compression and closes the voids that
may have formed between the layers of paper insulation
 Such cables can carry more load, current and operates at higher voltages
than a normal cable
 Moreover, maintenance cost is small and nitrogen gas helps in
quenching any flame
 However, it has the disadvantage that the overall cost is very high

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Capacitance of a single core and three core cable
 Capacitance of a single core cable
 A single core cable is in effect an electrostatic capacitor because it has two
electrodes, the core of the cable and the sheath separated by a dielectric
material (figure below)

 Let  be the charge per unit length. By definition capacitance is the ratio
of the charge on one of the electrodes to the potential difference between
the electrodes
 R
voltage V  ln
2 r
 2
 C  F/meter
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 It is to be noted here that the capacitance of a cable is much more
important than that of an overhead line because of the nearness of the
conductors to one another and to the earthed sheath
 Also permittivity of the dielectric material is higher than that of air
Capacitance of a 3-core cable
 If we could assume that the dielectric is uniform between the core and the
sheath, it is possible to calculate the capacitance of a three core cable
 But normally it is not so and, therefore, it is desirable to find the
capacitance by measurement.
 In a 3-core cable, sheath is at earth potential and the three conductors at
supply potentials. There are six capacitances formed between these
 Three capacitances are between the sheath and the conductors and the
other three capacitances between the conductors (figure below)
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Fig. (a). Capacitance of 3-core cable (b). star equivalent of delta

 Let C1 be the capacitance between sheath and the conductor and C2 the
capacitance between each conductor.
 It is desirable to connect this system of capacitors into equivalent star
connection. The equivalent star of a delta connection (capacitance
between conductors) will be shown in fig. (b) above
 Since the star point is at sheath potential and the other terminals
correspond to the conductors of the cables, the whole system of
capacitors can be reduced to the following star system of capacitor
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 There are two unknown C1 and C2 to find out the Capacitance per phase
of the cable.We need to make two measurements:
i. Bunch the three cores and measure the capacitance between the bunched
conductors and the sheath. Let this be Cx given by Cx=3C1 as shown in fig.
below(a); and
ii. Connect any two cores to the sheath and measure the capacitance between
the remaining conductor and the sheath. Let this be Cy given by fig.
below(b).The equivalent circuit will be Cy=C1+2C2
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 From the two measurements,
C1 
C2   C y  C1 
1 C 
 C y  x 
2 3

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Since the capacitance per phase as in the previous figure (b) is given by
Co  C1  3C2
Cx 3  C 
   Cy  x 
3 2 3 
C 3 C
 x  Cy  x
3 2 2
3 C
 Cy  x
2 6
In case the test figures are not available, the following empirical formula due to
Simon gives an approximate value of capacitance for circular conductors
0.0299 r
Co   F / km
 T t  t t 2 
ln 1  3.84  170  0.52 2  
 d  T T 
where  r  relative permitivity of the dielectric
d = conductor diameter
t = belt insulation thickness
T = conductor insulation thickness
all in the same units. The main uncertainty in this formula is that of the value
of  r . An average value of 3.5 may be taken for calculation
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 A 3-phase, 3-core, metal sheathed cable gave the following results on test
for capacitor
i. Capacitance between two conductors bunched with the sheath and the
third conductor 0.4 µF per km
ii. Capacitance between bunched conductors and sheath 0.625µF/km
 Determine the capacitance (a) between any two conductors, (b)
between any two bunched conductors and the third conductor if the
sheath is insulated, (c) also calculate the charging current per phase per
km, when it is connected to 10 kV, 50 Hz
Solution From the above figure
Cx  3C1  0.625
and C y  C1  2C2  0.4
3 C
and from equation C y  x  Co
2 6
3 C 3 0.625
Co  C y  x  0.4   0.496  F / km
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 capacitance between any two conductors = 0.248  F/km
(ii). from the measurement
C1  0.208 F / km and C2  0.096  F / km
The equivalent circuit for measuring capacitance between two
bunched conductors and the third conductor will be as in fig. below

The equivalent capacitance C will be

C  2C2  C1
Substituting the values for C1 and C 2 , the capacitor
C  0.33 F / km
(iii). The charging current per phase per km will be
V 10
C o x10 Amps =
x314x0.496x10-6 x103
3 3
= 0.899 A
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Insulation resistance of a cable
 The usual load current flows through the core of the
cable whereas leakage current, i.e. the current which
is not useful, flows radially (from the conductor to the
sheath through the dielectric material as shown in the
 The flow of leakage current is shown by dotted lines
 The resistance of any material is given by

 Where  is the specific resistance of the material, l

the length of the current path and A is the cross
section normal to the flow of current

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 In case of a cable since the area of section increases as we go from the
core to the sheath we first write an expression for the insulation
resistance of an annular cylinder with radii x and (x+dx) units as
measured from the center of the core
dR  
2 x.1
 Here unit in the denominator represents the unit length of the cable i.e.
dR represents the differential leakage resistance for unit length of the
 R dx
2 r x

 R
 ln ohms/meter length
2 r
In case the length of the cable is l unit the leakage resistance
 R
R ln Ohms
2 l r
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 It is to be noted that the resistance of the core of the cable is directly
proportional to the length of the cable whereas the leakage resistance is
inversely proportional to the length of the cable
Heating and Power Factor of Cables
 The temperature rise of a body depends upon the rate of generation and
dissipation of heat by the body
 If the rate of generation is grater than the rate of dissipation, the
temperature goes on rising and vice versa
 In case of underground cable the sources of heat generation are
i. Core loss, i.e. copper loss in the core of the cable,
ii. The dielectric loss, and
iii. Sheath losses
 And the heat is dissipated through the dielectric to the ground and
finally to the atmosphere
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Core loss:
 In order to find out the core loss the value of resistance of the cable is
calculated as follows:
i. Knowing the resistance of the conductor at ambient temperature, 20˚C, the
resistance is calculated assuming an operating temperature of 65˚C
R65  R20 1   t 
where  is the temperature coefficient of the conductor material and t is the diffrence
in temperature which, in this case, is t = 65oC  20o C

ii. Since the effective area of section of the cable is smaller than the actual
physical section, the effective resistance of the cable is large. A factor of 1.02
is multiplied to get the resistance
iii. The length of outermost strand is greater than the central strand. The effect
of stranding on the resistance is obtained by multiplying the resistance as
calculated according to the length of the central strand by a factor of 1.02

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 Having calculated thus the resistance of the cable the core loss is
calculated as I2R where I is the current carried by the cable
Dielectric Loss
 The cable is a sort of capacitor with the core and sheath forming the two
plates of the condenser separated by dielectric material.
 The equivalent circuit for this system is represented by a parallel
combination of leakage resistance R and a capacitance C.
 The equivalent circuit with its phasor diagram is given in figure below.

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 The loss in the dielectric is due to the loss in the equivalent leakage
From phasor diagram R  tan 
V C
or  V C tan 

 P  V 2C tan 
where  is the dielectric loss angle and  is the power supply frequency.
since  is normally very small
tan   
P  V 2C watt, where  is in radian
From the phasor diagram, the power factor angle of the dielectric is given by
  90  
34  cos   cos  90     sin  4/9/2019
 The power factor of a dielectric is a function of the temperature of the
dielectric and also depends upon the voltage stress to which the dielectric
is stressed
Variation of dielectric power factor with Temperature andVoltage
 The variation of dielectric power factor with temperature of a cable
operating at normal voltage is given in fig. below

 1st water-washed paper

 2nd deionized water washed paper

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 The variation roughly follows a V shape, it decreases with increase in
temperature to a minimum value and rises again with increase of
 The minimum point lies somewhere between 30 ˚C and 60˚C depending
upon the type of impregnated compound
 In case of solid type cables when the stress are high, dielectric loss does
not vary directly as square of the voltage; rather the losses are more due to
the ionization (corona loss) at weak points in the insulation, as a result
there is increase of dielectric power factor
 The weak points may be in the form of moisture in the insulation or
generally the presence of void formation. A void is a space which may be
between the core papers and the conductor or sheath or may lie as, more
or less, flat films between one layer of paper and another
 This space instead of being filled with compound contains air or some
other gases at low pressures. Since the dielectric strength of air is smaller
than the normal working stress of the dielectric, such a space is liable to
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 Figure below shows the variation of dielectric power factor as a function
of electric stress.
 Since the electric stress near the surface of the conductor is maximum,
the voids near the surface are the first to break down and the ionization
then spreads progressively through the whole insulation; the voids near
the sheath are the last to breakdown

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Sheath Losses
 When single core cables are used for a.c transmission, the current flowing
through the core of the cable give rise to a pulsating magnetic field which
when links with the sheath, induces voltage in it. This induced voltage sets
up currents under certain conditions in the sheaths and this results in
sheath losses
 Since the sheath currents are proportional to the cable core currents, the
sheath losses are also proportional to the conductor losses.
 If  is the ratio of sheath loss to the conductor loss, the equivalent a.c.
resistance of the cable will be Req = R(1+  ) where R is the resistance of
the core of the cable
 According to Cramp and Calder Wood the sheath currents can be divided
into two kinds
1. Sheath eddy currents; these are the currents which flow entirely in the sheath
of the same cable
2. Sheath circuit currents which flow from the sheath of one cable to the sheath
of another cable
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 The first type of currents will flow through the sheath when the sheaths
of the two cables are not connected at both ends or when they are
connected only at one end because the currents do not find a closed path
through the sheaths of the two cables, whereas
 the second type of currents flow when the sheaths of both the cables are
electrically connected at both the ends. This is known as bonding of the

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Thank you
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