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MULTIPHYSICS

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OCTOBER 2018

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MULTIPHYSICS MODELING
3D PARAMETRIC FULL EYE SIMULATION
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PAGE 6
U N D E R G R O U N D C A B L E R AT I N G

NATIONAL
GRID MODELS
UNDERGROUND
CABLE ROUTES
The use of simulation to accurately predict the
rating of underground electric cables within
clear safety margins is enabling National Grid
to maximize output, ensure reliability, and keep
costs as low as possible.

By JENNIFER HAND

IF HOMEOWNERS PLUGGING IN new entertainment and


kitchen devices were asked to describe their expectation
of household electricity, the answers might well
include the words “safe,” “reliable,” and “affordable.”
Managing the electrical grid, ensuring that it matches
demand throughout the day, and keeping voltage and
frequency within acceptable limits are fundamental
for safety, reliability, and affordability. In England and
Wales, this responsibility lies with National Grid, which
owns, constructs, maintains, and operates the high-
voltage transmission network that provides electricity
to homes and businesses. Figure 1 shows a photo of
one of the high-voltage underground cable systems.
Challenges faced by National Grid include improving
the thermal management of these enormous networks;
optimizing routes for laying new cable and ensuring the
accuracy of cable ratings, especially in cases where repairs
of older sections have led to combinations of different
materials in the same cable line. Meeting these needs
requires a thorough understanding of the impact of
surrounding soil, cable age, repairs, and how the proximity
of other cables will affect a given section’s performance.

»»RATING CHALLENGES
MOST TRANSMISSION and distribution networks use standards
issued by the International Electrotechnical Commission
(IEC) and supported by the International Council on Large
Electric Systems (CIGRE), to work out the rating of a cable
— the maximum load it can support while remaining within
temperature limits and avoiding potential damage. Figure 1. A section of a high-voltage cable system in a tunnel (top) and
buried (bottom).

OCTOBER 2018 COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS 13


U N D E R G R O U N D C A B L E R AT I N G

Grid began with the creation of how it will affect a


of empirical models. cable,” Scott explains.

»»
Engineers at TDHVL work
closely with National Grid THERMAL AND
and undertake finite element ELECTRICAL PROFILING
analysis (FEA) with the FOR NATIONAL GRID the result
COMSOL Multiphysics® of this modeling work is a
software. Focusing new outlook, particularly for
primarily on heat transfer, rating cables that lie close
they first validated the together and optimizing the
ratings of particular types configuration of new cable
of cables, and then began routes. Close proximity
to analyze cable ratings at between cables can impede
Figure 2. Simulation results in COMSOL® software of the thermal specific “pinch points” in heat loss, lead to a rise in the
profile of cable laid directly in soil. isolation and for different temperature of both cables,
environments (see Figure 2). and reduce their current-
For example, when carrying capacity. However,
David Scott, network mapping engineer, looks after
soil is wet heat dissipates sometimes assessments
overhead and buried cable capabilities at National Grid’s
relatively quickly. Dry are overly cautious and
Asset Integrity Department. He explains, “The testing of
soil is more resistant due
high-voltage systems is not the easiest business. These can result in unnecessary
to the presence of small
cables are up to 165 feet [50 meters] underground and costs in the form of extra
air pockets, which limits
exist in the context of a larger system, not in isolation. The cable being laid. “We have
heat dissipation and
temperature of the earth around a cable may vary along its found that standards-
affects the cable’s thermal
length, and the thermal load changes where other cables, based methods of assessing
performance (Figure 3).
such as those of distribution or rail power networks, cross cable ratings are generally
The team accounts for
or pass close by. It is difficult to validate test results. We conservative,” says Scott.
soil dryness and cracking
are always looking for more accurate cable ratings.” “They have the potential to
when modeling the trench
The Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory (TDHVL) at suggest overheating issues
in which a cable runs.
the University of Southampton, which collaborates with when two cables are actually
“There are standards for
National Grid on innovation projects, has led the way in over 330 feet (100 meters)
soil and specialized backfill
modeling different cable components and using simulation apart and have very little
materials that we populate
to better understand the changes in performance that occur bearing on each other.”
in the model. Soil does
as they undergo environmental changes and begin to age. His team uses the
vary, so we tend to adopt
The research partnership between TDHVL and National relevant COMSOL model
a pessimistic assumption

Figure 3. Simulation results of a normalized airflow profile within a cross section of a long horizontal tunnel.

14 COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS OCTOBER 2018


With FEA we gain a clearer
understanding of the real situation, the
true cable rating, and what is possible.”
—DAVID SCOTT, NETWORK MAPPING ENGINEER, UK
NATIONAL GRID

Figure 4. COMSOL® model showing the current-carrying capacity of


four identical circuits as the separation between them is varied.

to ascertain whether a new mixed materials (see Figure


cable can be laid on top 5). “Many older cables Figure 5. Photos of field joints being used to connect separate sections
of an existing route and include a lead outer sheath, of cables together.
still adhere to safety and whereas new cables tend to
performance standards, be aluminum. If we need
ballpark figure is 20 million “If we model wind and
as well as the optimal to do repairs we prefer to
pounds [26 million USD] air temperature around
position (Figure 4). “With replace only the damaged
per kilometer of buried overhead lines and add in
modeling, we can now, section because of the
400-kV cable. Where the system load for a given
for example, give precise obvious cost implications.
feedback on the design of However, many cable work that necessitates the time, we’ll have a powerful
the new system and how systems are designed to installation of a cable is method for identifying
it impacts the existing minimize induced currents, triggered, lean asset design potential issues early, such
network,” says Scott. thus maximizing capacity. and the maximization of as where pollution may have
“Previously we might By mixing materials in any cable capacity are the top congealed on the surface
have had to ask for specific given repair, this element priorities for minimizing of the line,” Scott explains.
mitigation, mostly by asking of the cable design may costs. The knowledge we There is also the potential
the relevant third party to be compromised. Existing gain from simulation means to search for issues with
separate their cables further industrial standards do we can safely opt for much compression fittings, perhaps
or bury them more deeply. not consider the case less deep and convoluted as a result of fatigue cycling
Deeply buried cables do of mixed conductors in options.” This knowledge or mechanical damage, and
not perform particularly parallel. COMSOL allows is of particular benefit predict potential failure
well, and a widely spread us to calculate cable circuit when working in tightly modes for such fittings.
cable is expensive in terms losses and understand constrained parts of a power Scott adds: “It is easy
of land required — and what countermeasures transmission system such to focus on the physical
in confined urban areas are required when specific as in central London, where problem without getting
may not be possible. With materials are combined.” there is often little scope caught up in mathematical
complexities. We can use
»»
FEA we gain a clearer to extend the footprint of
understanding of the real RELIABLE the work of TDHVL and
a substation horizontally.
situation, the true cable RESULTS UNDERPIN adjust key parameters to
There is no shortage
rating, and what is possible.” DECISION-MAKING explore design options
of ideas for how to use
Another challenge is the THE REAL VALUE OF SIMULATION while remaining confident
modeling in the future
availability of spares for becomes clear when Scott in the results. If we
to inform decision
maintaining older systems discloses the cost of a new ensure accurate input,
making regarding the life
and repairs that result in transmission cable. “A the simulation has proven
cycle, compatibility, and
extremely reliable and
connectivity of high-voltage
helps us to make good
equipment, including
decisions about cable
aboveground cables.
OCTOBER 2018 COMSOL MULTIPHYSICS
laying and repairs.” 15