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Abstract The cavities are an inherent shortcomings of XLPE

insulation used in electrical cables. Their effects are to tamper


dielectric properties of the insulating material. Indeed partial
discharges occur in these cavities for a relatively weak electric
fields. The purpose of this work is to determine by simulation,
the distortions caused by cavities on the electric field
distribution in the insulating layer of cable. The computation
method used to determine the electric field is based on
numerical resolution of Laplace equation using the finite
differences method. The threshold of partial discharges ignition
in gaseous cavities contained in XLPE insulation of 30 kV cable
is studed. The computation of the critical field by the
approached expression of Paschen permits us to elucidate the
harmfulness caused by a cavity according to its size and its
position.


Index Terms cable, electric field, gaseous cavity, insulation,
partial discharges, polyethylene.

I. INTRODUCTION
OLYETHYLENE is a thermoplastic product which
softens to turn into deformable form at 80C and melts at
110 C. This behaviour strongly limits the use of
polyethylene at high voltage. To remedy to this
inconvenience, a cross-linking process was introduced that
leads to the XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene)[1].
Observations made by electronic scanning microscope reveal
the presence of gaseous cavities in the XLPE material. These
cavities are the direct result of water steam penetration in the
insulator during the cross-linking process and also due to the
incorrect extrusion and cross-linking operations [2]. The
sizes of the cavities are between 1 m and 20 m and their
distribution in the cable is more important in the region
located at three quarter of the insulators thickness going
from the core [3].

A. Nouar is with the Electrical engineering department Universit Amar
Tlidji de Laghouat BP 37G Algeria; (e-mail: allalnouar@ hotmail.com).
M. Guibadj is with the Electrical engineering department Universit
Amar Tlidji de Laghouat BP 37 Algeria
I.K. Lefkaier is with the Electrical engineering department Universit
Amar Tlidji de Laghouat BP 37 Algeria
A. Boubakeur is with the Electrical engineering department Ecole
Nationale Polytechnique El Harrach BP 182, Algiers Algeria;
(e-mail: aboubakeur@ yahoo.com), http://www.enp.edu.dz.
These cavities make heterogeneous the insulation in the area
that they happened and cause a distortion in the distribution
of the electric field. The amplitude of the distortions in the
gaseous cavities depends essentially on the permittivity of
the retained gas, on the cavity shape and its position with
respect to the core.
Due to this fact, the electric field constitutes the most
important stress. Indeed, when the electric field intensity
inside the cavity reaches the limit value of the gas dielectric
rigidity, and accordingly to Paschen Law, partial discharges
occur. In order to solve this problem, we have developed a
numerical computation to resolve Laplaces equation and we
have used the finite differences method.


II. COMPUTATION OF THE ELECTRIC FIELD
The effect of the permittivity cavity
c
in an insulator of
permittivity
i
is estimated in term of potential perturbation.
The potential in the cavity and in the insulator obeys
Poissons equation:

2
0 V

+ = (1)
If we admit that the free charges density in the insulator is
too weak and may be neglected, then equation (1) turns into
Laplace equation.
The cylindrical cable has an axial symmetry; thus, the
electric field lines are radial. The cavities size is small
enough compared to the insulator thickness.
If we consider a spherical cavity, the potential in this case
presents turn symmetry around the radial axe of the cable.
Equation (1) takes the form:

1
2
sin 0
sin
V V
r
r r



+ =

| | | |
| |
\ . \ .
(2)

The analytical solution of equation (2) has as form:
cos
2
B
j
V A r
j j
r
= +
| |
|
|
\ .
(3)
Numerical Study of partial discharges
apparition in XLPE insulation of high voltage
cables
A. Nouar, M. Guibadj, I K Lefkaier , A Boubakeur
P
0-7803-7967-5/03/$17.00 2003 IEEE
Paper accepted for presentation at 2003 IEEE Bologna Power Tech Conference, June 23th-26th, Bologna, Italy


Index j represents the insulator i or the cavity c according to
the considered surrounding. Constants Aj and Bj are
determined by the boundary conditions.
Upon computation of Aj et Bj, we obtain the expressions of
the potential in the insulator and in the cavity:


3
. cos
0 2
2
r
c
i c
V E r
i
r
c
i

= +
+
| |
|
|
\ .
(4)

3
. cos
0
2
i
V E r
c
c
i


=
+
(5)

Hence we obtain the expressions of the radial and tangential
components of the field inside the cavity:

3
2( )
1 . cos
0 3
2
V r
c c i c
E E
cr
r
r
c i



= =
+
| |
|
|
\ .
(6)
3
( )
1
1 . sin
0 3
2
V r
c c i c
E E
c
r
r
c i



= = +
+
| |
|
|
\ .
(7)

where :

1
0
.
0
ln
V
E
R r
T
R
c
=
| |
|
\ .
(8)
r
c
: cavity radius,
r : any position from the cavity center,
V
0
: applied voltage in the cable,
R
T
: radius of the cable,
Rc : radius of the conducting cable.

We note that the two components of the field Ec depend on
the position (r,) and on the permittivities of the two
surroundings. When
I
>
c
, the field inside the cavity is
higher than that in the insulator.
III. IGNITION CONDITIONS OF PARTIAL
DISCHARGES IN THE CAVITIES

The field Ec of partial discharges starting in a cavity may be
deduced from the Paschens plot using the following
approached expression [4]:


0.7 0.3
E Kp d
c

= (9)

Where: K = 8.10
-3
for air; p: the pressure inside the cavity;
d: cavity diameter.
The comparison of computed electric field values inside the

cavities with regard to critical field values determined with
equation (9), can be used to predict the partial discharges
ignition.
IV. CONSTITUTION OF THE CABLE
The cable is constituted of elements presented in figure1.

V. THE INFLUENCE ZONE OF THE CAVITY ON THE
ELECTRIC FIELD DISTRIBUTION

To optimize the time of computing and the space
memory allocated to the application, we reduced the domain
to the boundary of the zone of influence of the cavity.

We define the boundary of the influence zone by a
level of the potential disruption V 10
-3
kV.

The contribution to the potentiel of yhe cavity is

3
1 2
1 2
. . cos
2
c
o V E r
r
r


+

=
| |
|
\ .
(10)

This term will be considered negligible with regard
to the value of the potential of the homogeneous insulation
as soon as it takes values of the order of 10
-3
kV. In figure 2,
we give the diagram of an insulation containing a cavity. The
domain surrounding the cavity marks the zone of its
influence on the potential distribution.


5

3
1
6
4
2
Type : 185mm , Al 30/50 kV.
1. Conductor radius : 7,65 mm.
2. Thickness of inner semi- conducting
layer
: 1,0 mm.
3. XLPE insulation thickness : 11.3 mm.
4. Thickness of outer semi-conducting layer : 1,20 mm.
5. Copper tape screen: wires and Cu foil : 0,8 mm, 25x0,1mm
6. PVC sheath : 53 mm.
Dielectric losses factor ( tg) : 4 10
-3
.
Electric conductivity ( ) : 10
-12
(. cm)
-1
.
Thermal conductivity ( k ) : 0.286 W/m. C.
Specific heat ( cv ) : 2.08 J/cm
3
. C.

Fig. 1. Cable characteristics.



















To delimit the zone of influence of the cavity on the
potential in the insulation (Fig.2) if we take account of the
effect of the variation of the permittivities between the two
mediums, we must use the expressions of the radial and
tangent components of the electric field:

3
3
2
1 cos r o c
V k
E E r
r r

| |
= =
|
\ .
(11)
and

3
1
1 . sin
c
o
V r
E E k
r r

| |
| |
= = + |
|
|
\ .
\ .
(12)
where : k =

+


1 2
2 2


Finally the intensity of the electric field in the insulation is
given by the resultant:

2 2
r
E E E

= + =
1
6 3
2
2
6 3
2 2
0
0
6 3
2
1 (4 . 4
. 2 . ) cos 1
. 2 .
c c
c c
o
c c
r r
k k
r r
r r E
E k k E
r r E
r r
k k
r r

(
| | | |
+ (
| |
\ . \ . (
(
| | | | | |
(
= +
| | |
(
\ . \ .
\ .
(
( | | | |
+ +
| | (
\ . \ .

(13)

While neglecting terms of order 6 and while estimating the
factor
0
E
E
to 10
-3
, we obtain the relation below:
( )
1
3
2 1 2
1 2
10 2. 1 3.cos
2
c
r
r



( | |
=
( |
+
( \ .
(14)

This ratio reached its maximal value for ' k = ;
with k= 0, 1, 2, 3 ....
In the case of sparking cavity, where
2
=1, we obtain :
r / r
c
10. This means that the dimension of influence zone
has a length of 10 times the cavity radius [5].
VI. FLOWCHART OF THE COMPUTING PROGRAM OF
THE THREE CONSTRAINTS.

We give the global flowchart for computing program of
electric field and Parial discharges.




























VII. RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
We developed computing program that permits us to
determine the distribution of the electric field in a cable
insulation (see characteristic), the obtaining results are:

- Case of a homogeneous insulation:

In a first step we verified the validation of our computation
program ascertaining that in absence of any default, the
logarithmic decrease of the electric field along the insulating
part, predicted by the analytical model, is similar to that one
calculated using the numerical simulation.
In a second step, we managed to test the procedure of the
electric field computation in the case of a presence of a
cavity. At first, we consider a cavity that has the same
properties as the insulation. The comparison between
obtained results and those of the homogeneous case being
satisfying. In presence of gaseous cavity-insulator-cavity.
Indeed, our numerical simulation obtained this result. We
Begin
Introduction of the features of the cable, the
insulation and the cavity.
Localisation of the cavity and
determination of the boundary
influence zone. Computing the initial
and boundary conditions

Partial discharges computing
Potential and electric
field computing
End
i
r
id
r
j
Cavity
Zone of influence

Fig. 2 - The influence zone of the cavity.


Conducting core


note a good agreement with analitical values. (more refined
discretion of the influence range: see figure 3)




















Case of a unique cavity:

The presence of a cavity influences the distribution of the
electric field in the region where it is located. Computation
by our model shows that this region, called influence region,
extends to a distance of many diameters of magnitude from
the cavity (fig. 4).
Results of the computations show that the maximum electric
field in the cavity depends on its position in the cable (fig.
5). However, size cavities between 1m and 20m, has no
effect on the field value. Our computations show that this
effect is translated by a decrease of the field about 40%
compared to its initial value. This decrease is due to the
difference between the electric permittivity of the gas
enclosed and that of the insulator (fig.6).



















It is important to note that the field inside a cavity may
overtake the critical value of the occurrence of the partial
discharges. In this case, the ignition cavity becomes a
precursor for the insulation rupture.
The critical field depends on the size of the cavity and the
pressure inside of this one. We suppose that the gas inside
the cavity is the air that was caged during the extrusion
operation and its pressure is 1 bar. The pressure is supposed
constante and thus, according to equation (9), the critical
field decreases with the increase of the cavity size.
The applied external field is practically uniform. The cavity
undergoes a polarization and thus, a local field appears that
contributes to the increase of the field inside the cavity.
We have calculated the value of the electric field on the
walls parallel to the field lines. The results show that this
field is weakly smaller than the field inside the cavity
(figure 4).




16.994 16.996 16.998 17.000 17.002 17.004 17.006
1.6
1.8
2.0
2.2
2.4
2.6
2.8
3.0
3.2
sur la ligne passant par le centre de la cavit
C

h

a

m

p



E


(

k

V

/

m

m

)
p o s i t i o n r a d i a l e r
i
( m m )
sur la ligne passant par les parois latrales
isolation sans dfaut










E
l
e
c
t
e
r
i
c


f
i
e
l
d


E


(

k
V
/
m
m
)


On the line passed t hrow the cav it y cent er
On the line passed on the lat eral part it io ns
Homogenious
isolat ion
Radial pos it ion r
i
(mm)

Fig. 3. Radial distribution of the field in the region containing a default


Fig.4. Rdial distribution of the field in the region containing cavity
(Numeric methode)

8 12 16 20
position, mm
2
4
6
8
E

(
k
V
/
m
m
)
1micro
1.5 micro
3 micro
7 micro
10 micro
15 micro
20 micro
forte concentration


Fig.4. Electric field in a cavity versus the cavity position.

Great concentration
Position (mm)
E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c

f
i
e
l
d


(

k
V
/
m
m
)

Fig. 5. Electric field in a cavity versus the cavity position




r
i

Cavity diameter
Cavity center
field E
:
analytique

a : analytical
b : numerical
a
b
a
a

Fig. 2. Radial distribution of the field in the region containing a default
E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c
a
l

f
i
e
l
d

Fig.3. Rdial distribution of the field in the region containing cavity



8 12 16 20
rayon du cble, mm
1
2
3
4
5
6
C
h
a
m
p

l
e
c
t
r
i
q
u
e
,

k
V
m
m
isolation homogne
isolation htrogne


Fig.5. Electric field in presence or absence of a default.

Radius cable (mm)
E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c

f
i
e
l
d


(

k
V
/
m
m
)

Heterogenious insulation
Homogenious insulation
Fig.6. Electric field distribution in presence or absence of a cavity.
Radius cable (mm)


The plot in figure 5 shows horizontal straight lines, which
represent the values of the critical field for each cavity size.
Comparing these values to those of the inner field at any
position, we deduce that the field inside the cavity attains the
critical value only for cavities of diameter high to 1m, such
result is confirmed by Kageyama [2]. In contrast, for any
default with size high to 20 m, the partial discharges appear
whatever the position of the cavity on the cable.
Figure 7 shows that for a given size of the default, partial
discharges occur only for a certain position, called limit
position. Below this position, the cavity constitutes an
unfavorable case.
As much as the cavity radius is higher, as the limit position
of the core is distant, e.g. the partial discharges are
favourable at larger range. Indeed, if we consider a cavity of
3 m size.
If this cavity is located between the core and 11 mm, the
electric field inside this cavity is higher than the critical one;
consequently this cavity will be a location for partial
discharges. In reverse, if it is placed between 11 mm and the
girdle no partial discharges will be involved.
The figure 7 may help for the determination of first
approximation of risky cavities in the cable.






















- Case of two cavities:

In a first stage we determine the radial distribution of the
electric field in the region of the two defaults in interaction.
Figure 8 shows that the field inside a cavity situated at the
core side is less than the field inside a cavity situated at the
girdle side.
This situation is reversed when the two cavities are in
contact (figure 9). Besides, we note that in the case of mutual
influence between two cavities, the two fields inside and on
the wall of one cavity are identical, whereas they are
different in the other one. This situation is reversed when the
two cavities are in contact.






































The reversion of the situation between influence and contact
phenomena may be explained by the fact that in the case of
mutual influence, the field inside the first cavity is higher
than in the homogeneous case. This disturbance causes a
supplement increase in the field inside the second cavity,
such result is confirmed by Agoris and Hatziargyriou [6].
After the contact, the antagonist electric discharges of
polarisation that were before face-to-face neutralize each
other, producing a new distribution of the electric discharges
in both sides of the two cavities in contact. In this way and
due to the fact that the external field applied to this region is
uniform, the electric fields inside the two cavities are equal.
Elsewhere, the results of computation show that the mutual
influence between two matching cavities will appear only for
a distance equal or less to 3 times the cavity diameter. For
cavities of different value, this distance is practically equal to

16.995 16.998 17.001 17.004 17.007
1.6
1.8
2.0
2.2
2.4
2.6
2.8
3.0
sur la ligne passant par le centre des deux cavits
C
h
a
m
p


E

(
k
V
/
m
m
)
1
Position radiale r
i
(mm)
sur la ligne passant par les parois latrales
isolant sans dfaut
Fig. 8. Radial distribution of electric field in two air cavities in interaction
On the line passed throw the cavity center
On the line passed on the lateral partitions
Homogeneous isolation







E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c
a
l

f
i
e
l
d

E


Radial position ri (mm)
Fig.9 . Radial distribution of electric field in two gaseous cavities in
interaction.

16.995 16.998 17.001 17.004 17.007 17.010
1.6
1.8
2.0
2.2
2.4
2.6
2.8
3.0
3.2
sur la ligne passant par le centre des deux cavits
C
h
a
m
p


E

(
k
V
/
m
m
)
6
position radiale r
i
(mm)
sur la ligne passant par les parois latrales
isolant sans dfaut

Fig. 7. Radial distribution of the electric field in two air cavities in
interaction
On the line passed throw the cavity center
On the line passed on the lateral partitions
Homogeneous isolation
Radial position r
i



E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c

f
i
e
l
d

E


(
k
V
/
m
m
)

Radial position ri ( mm )
Fig.8. Radial distribution of the electric field in two cavities in interaction.
Radial position r
i
( mm )


0 4 8 12 16 20
position (mm)
8.0
12.0
16.0
20.0
d
i
a
m
e
t
r
e

(


m
)


Fig. 6. Limit Positions of partial discharges apparition in air cavity with
respect to its diameter.
Position (mm)








D
i
a
m
e
t
e
r


(

m
)

Fig. 7. Limit positions of partial discharges apparition in gaseous cavity
with respect to its diameter.
Cavity diameter (m)
P
o
s
i
t
i
o
n


r
i

(
m
m
)



3 times the average diameter; such result is confirmed by M
G Danikas [7].
From fig.10 and fig.11 we can estimate, for a given
distance, the inter-cavity distance for which the partial
discharges appear, either in one cavity, or in both at the same
time. For this, it is sufficient to compare the value of the
eclectic field E inside the cavity with the critical one Ec.
If E E
C
partial discharges will occur and vice versa. In
order to study the partial discharges occurrence in the two
cavities, we considered a system of two cavities at the
following positions: near the core, near the girdle and at a
position of 3/4 from the cable, which presents the densest
region of the cable in cavities.
The two cavities near the core constitute the most favourable
case in term of occurrence of partial discharges.
If we take the example of the cavity of 3m, this one
represents an interesting case. Indeed, this cavity favours the
apparition of the partial discharges to a given inter-cavity
distance, where such apparition manifests only in the core
nearest cavity.
Another case is to refer to, cavities with 1m diameter.
This size is a limit case where for a given inter-cavity
distance; partial discharges appear only for cavities nearest
to the core, whereas in the case of a unique cavity we noted
an absence of partial discharges (fig.10). At the girdle, they
occur only in cavities of 20m. These discharges vanish
inside the two cavities at a relative inter-cavity distance
going from 1.5 to 2.






















If this distance decreases more, the partial discharges
will occur only in the cavity nearest to the core. The case of
cavities of 15 m sizes constitutes a distinguishable one.
Indeed, the partial discharges occur only if the two cavities
are close to each other.
























- Case of a cavity with special shape:

Once the two cavities are in contact, the regime passes
suddenly from influence phenomenon to contact one. The
ensemble of the two cavities presents a complex default of
special shape called bi-cavity.
The result of computations shows that the size of the default
practically does not affect the value of the field inside it. In
contrast, the shape affects this value. Indeed, for a given
position, the field inside the special shape of the bi-cavity is
15 % higher than in the case of a unique cavity (figure 12).


























1 2 3 4
Distance relative entre les centres des vacuoles
2
3
4
5
6
7
C
h
a
m
p

e
l
e
c
t
r
i
q
u
e
,

k
V
/
m
m
d= 1micm
d = 1.5 micm
d = 3 micm
d = 7 micm
d = 10 micm
d = 15 micm
d = 20 micm
Position 9
E1
E2



Fig. .9. Distribution of the electric field inside the two cavities with respect
to the distance between them at 0.35 mm from the cable core.










E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c
a
l

f
i
e
l
d

E


(
k
V
/
m
m
)


Relative distance between the cavities center


Fig.10. Distribution of the electric field inside two cavities with respect to
the distance between them at 0.35 mm from the cable core.

8 12 16 20
Position (mm)
2
3
4
5
6
7
C
h
a
m
p

m
a
x
i
m
u
n

(
k
V
/
m
m
) 1 vacuole
2 vacuoles


Fig. 11. Variation of the electric field inside the default with respect to its
position. Cases of a unique cavity and a bi-cavity










E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c

f
i
e
l
d

E


(
k
V
/
m
m
)

one cavity
bi- cavity
Fig. 12. Variation of the electric field inside the cavity with respect to its
psition. Case of a unique cavity and a bi-cavity
Position mm)



1 2 3 4
DIstance relative entre les centres des vacuoles
2
3
4
5
6
7
C
h
a
m
p

l
e
c
t
r
i
q
u
e
,

k
V
/
m
m
d = 1 micm
d = 1.5 micm
d = 3 micm
d = 7 micm
d = 10 micm
d = 15 micm
d = 20 micm
Position 17
E1
E2



Fig. .10. Distribution of the electric field inside the two cavities with respect
to the distance between them at 8.35 mm from the cable core



















E
l
e
c
t
r
i
c

f
i
e
l
d

E


(
k
V
/
m
m
)

Relative distance between the cavities center
Fig. 11. Distribution of the electric field inside two cavities with respect to
the distance between them at 8.35 mm from the cable core.


If the two cavities, separated by the insulator, approach more
and more each other, the mutual influence increases and
maintains a stable value less than 4/3 the diameter (figure
13). Once the two cavities take a contact (bi-cavity), the
electric field will present a discontinuity that elucidates the
sudden change from influence phenomenon to contact one,
and consequently, a new distribution of surface electric
discharges occurs at the contact between the cavities.
If the two cavities interfere (e.g. the distance between the
centres of the two cavities is less than the diameter of one
cavity) the gaseous default will have an average special
shape between spherical and a bi-cavity. In this case, the
electric field at a given position inside the default decreases
in linear manner with the diminution of the radial dimension
of the default (figure 12).

VIII. CONCLUSION
The electric field inside a cavity depends only of its position
from the cable core in the limit of the observed cavity sizes.
For cavities of diameter less to 1.5 m the electric field is
less to the threshold of the occurrence of partial discharges
whatever their positions are. However, these discharges
occur in cavities with diameter higher than 1.5 m for any
position. For cavities with size between 1.5 m and 20 m
the occurrence of partial discharges depends on the position
of these cavities. The interaction between cavities is feasible
only when the distance between the centers of the two
cavities is about 3 times the diameter of one cavity. Cavities
near the core are the most promoting for the occurrence of
partial discharges.
REFERENCES
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mcanismes de dgradation, et applications
industrielles , dition Ayrolle, Paris 1990
[2] S. Kageyama, M. Ono, S. Chabata Micro voids in
cross linked polyethylene insulated cables , IEEE,
transactions on power apparatus on systems, vol pas-
94,n4, pp. 1258-1263, July/August 1975
[3] B. Yoda, K. Muraki development of EHV cross linked
polyethylene insulated power cables , Hitachi cable,
pp. 506-512, Ltd Tokyo, Japan, 1972.
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et thories , dition Ayrolle, Paris 1990.
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me
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0 1 2 3 4
Distance relative D/d entre les centres des vacoules
3
5
7
2
4
6
C
h
a
m
p

l
e
c
t
r
i
q
u
e

E
,

k
V
/
m
m
position 9
10
12
16
19
17
18
E1
E2

Fig. 12. Variation of the electric field inside the cavities with respect to the
inter-cavity distance.
E
l
e
c
t
e
r
i
c


f
i
e
l
d


E


(

k
V
/
m
m
)


Relative distance between the cavities center
Fig. 13. Variation of the elctric field inside the cavities with respect to the
inter-cavity distance.