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2014

International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP), Shanghai, China

Impact of Split Factor Value on the Safe Design of


Distribution Substation Earth Grid

2M. Osman

IS. D. Buba, w. F. Wan Ahmad, M. Z. A. Ab. Kadir,


Chandima Gomes, J. Jasni

2. Department of Electrical Power Engineering

1. Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

College of Engineering, Universiti Tenaga Nasional

Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia

43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia.

43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia.


sanibintahir@gmail.com

Abstract-Split factor is a fundamental consideration when

grid to an acceptable value for any possible fault condition,

designing a distribution substation earth grid. Arbitrary

limit the resulting step, touch, and transfer potentials in and

choice of split factor in earth grid design process may lead

around the substation to an acceptable value, ensure that a

to

person in the vicinity of grounded facilities is not exposed to

technical

and

economic

implications

resulting

in

underestimated or overestimated designs. In this paper, a

the danger of critical electric shock, and to minimize the

distribution

using

surface potentials which is approximately proportional to the

SESCAD and executed in MALT module of CDEGS. The

EPR which are both determined by the current flow from the

energization current was varied by 100%,75%,50% and

earth grid to the surrounding soil [2]. The earth grid must also

substation

earth

grid

was

designed

25% of the short circuit current available at the secondary

be

terminals of the upstream transformer to determine the

mechanical stress during the entire lifetime of the installation,

impact

and it must be able to withstand the expected thermal stress

on

safety

criteria

of

the

earth

grid.

Results

designed

and

installed

to

withstand

corrosion

and

from fault currents [3].

indicated that, the EPR for 100% fault current was higher,

The

whereas the step and touch voltages were lower. It was also

major

challenge

encountered

by

power

system

revealed that, there was no difference in step and touch

engineers during substation earth grid design is the arbitrary

voltages when energization current was set at 75%, 50%

choice of split factor which has significant technical and cost

and 25%.

implications. An overstated fault current can result in an

Keywords-

uneconomical substation earth grid design. Therefore, it is

split factor, safety criteria, distribution substation,

very important to know the maximum current that will flow to


earth

CDEGS.

through

the

grid

for

various

possible

earth

fault

locations. For instance, in the event of a low frequency power


I.

system fault such as phase to earth, phase to phase or three

INTRODUCTION

phase to earth, the total fault current that is assumed to flow

Earthing in any substation is essential to ensure safety of

through the substation earth grid may be typically larger than

human and animal life, to protect equipment against damage

the current discharged into the soil. However, part of the fault

by over voltage, and to ensure a reliable power system

current will return to remote sources and local transformer

operation. It consists of a complete set of measures used to

neutral through the shield wires of transmission lines, neutral

establish an electrically conductive path to earth, and is

and shields of distribution feeders and conductors of the earth

mandatory in all electrical power networks both at high and

grid. Only the current discharged into the soil through the

low voltage levels. Effective earthing systems in a substation

earth grid would affect the EPR. Therefore, accurate choice of

is required to limit touch and step voltages to safe values,

split factor is very important for the design and performance

enable efficient operation of protective devices, and to ensure

of a substation earth grid [4, 5].

good power quality and electromagnetic compatibility are

Another issue related to the choice of split factor is the

maintained [1]. Considering these safety concerns, the primary

configuration of the distribution system. In the event of an

objective of a substation earthing is to provide a means to

earth fault occurring on an overhead distribution network with

disperse electric current into the soil under both normal and

earthed neutral, the fault current returns to the earthed neutral

fault

and

through tower structures and footing, earth return paths and

equipment limits, or adversely affecting continuity of service,

earth wires, thus flowing through multiple parallel paths [6].

to limit the earth potential rise (EPR) of the substation earth

These parallel paths will cause the fault current to be divided

conditions

without

exceeding

any

978-1-4799-3544-4/14/$31.00 2014 IEEE

operating

762

into multiple paths to complete the return path to the source.

2
occupying an area of 62Sm The value of the short circuit

In such cases, the calculated level of fault current may well be

current available at the secondary terminals of the upstream

considerably greater than the actual current that will flow

transformer was calculated using equations (2a) and (2b)

through the earth grid. Therefore, ignoring the parallel paths

which produced a current of 7873A which may result when a

and only considering these high fault current levels could

bolted three phase fault occurs between the upstream and

result in an over design of the substation earth grid [4].

downstream substations. This value was used as the initial

Conversely, if an earth fault occurs along a distribution

energization current representing 100% of the fault current

substation fed by a cable line, a very large percentage of the

flowing into the earth grid. A fault clearing time of 0.3s which

fault current (up to 9S% for cable line consisting of three

is the minimum time threshold that would trigger ventricular

single core cables) will returns via the cable sheaths due to

fibrillation was used. The grid was redesigned using the same

their strong inductive coupling with the phase conductors [7].

dimension each time and successively energized with 7S%,

Obviously, it is clear that there is a variation in the magnitude

SO% and 2S% of the fault current assumed to flow into the

of

grid

grid while the complimentary percentages of the fault current

considering the two configurations. Hence, the choice of a

were assumed to return to the source [10]. The substation

fault

current

returning

to

the

substation

earth

similar split factor for the two systems may lead to an error in

safety criteria were studied under three scenarios for each

design. In this paper, a distribution substation earth grid was

value of the fault current. The cases were no surface layer

designed using SESCAD and executed in MALT module of

material, with surface layer material of resistivity 3000Q-m,

Current Distribution, Electromagnetic fields, Grounding and

and with surface layer material of resistivity SOOOQ-m.

Structure Analysis (CDEGS).

The CDEGS software package is a versatile set of integrated


engineering tool designed to analyze problems involving

P r;n
4 A

(1)

earthing, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic interference

Where.

including AC/DC interference mitigation studies and various

Rg is the grid resistance in Q.

conductor currents and electromagnetic fields generated by an

arbitrary network of energized conductors above or below


ground for normal fault, lightning and transient conditions.
The complete CDEGS package is made of 12 main integrated
tools

and

are: AutoGround,

utilities.

The

MultiGround,

main

packages

J3x VL

(2a)

transformer in MVA. and V[ is the line voltage in kV.

MultiGround+,

MultilLines,

h is the full load current in Amps; P is the power rating of the

MultiGroundZ, MultiGroundZ+, MultiFields, MultiFields+,


MultiFieldsPro,

Where,

software packages, three specialized packages and several


software

p is the soil resistivity in Q-m

2
A is the area occupied by the grid in m .

aspects of cathodic protection. CDEGS software computes

AutoGridPro,

Isc

I[

x 100 A

(2b)

%Z

AutoGroundDesign and Right-Of-Way. In this paper, the

Where.

MultiGround package comprising of RESAP, MALT and

lsc is the short circuit current in Amps; h is the transformer

FCDIST modules which are specialized for low frequency

full load current in Amps. %Z is the percentage impedance of

earthing analysis and design was used.

the transformer.

II.
The proposed site

METHODOLOGY
of

the

III.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

new distribution substation

Table 1 lists the measured apparent soil resistivity field data

(downstream) is located at Bukit Expo, Universiti Putra

indicating apparent resistance and resistivity values which are

Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia, while the main intake

the average values of five measurements conducted for each

substation (upstream) is located adjacent to the Universiti

probe spacing. The initial spacing between probes was 1m and

Putra Malaysia Stadium which is 2.Skm away and connected

increased in steps of 1m up to Sm. For measurement accuracy

using a cable line. The specification of the upstream and

purposes, the spacing between probes was equally maintained

downstream substations are 3311lkV, lSMVA, Z=IO%, and

and

11l0.43kV, 1OOOkVA, Z=4.7S%, respectively. Soil resistivity

recommended by [8].

measurement was conducted at the site according to Wenner

probes

were

Table 1 Average measured


Probe Spacing (m)

method using a 4-pole Megger Earth Tester as recommended


in [8]. The soil resistivity field data was used to determine the
soil model using RESAP module. Note that in this paper, the

1.0
2.0
3.0
4.0
5.0

earth grid was designed using SESCAD and executed in


MALT. The earth grid resistance Rg and area occupied by the
grid was initially estimated using equation

all

(1) where a

dimension of 2Smx2Sm was considered, which yielded a value


of Rg <SQ as recommended in [9]. The grid comprised of six
parallel horizontal rows and columns of copper conductors

763

arranged

in

straight

line

SOl'1

. . fiIeId data
resIstivIty
Average Apparent
Resistance (n)
46.2
27.8
20.0
12.5
8.0

Average Apparent
Resistivity (n-m)
290
349
377
314
251

as

These field data were used as inputs to the RESAP module for
a soil model to be determined which is presented in Table 2.
Note that this is the initial step in the design of any substation
earth grid and has to be done as accurate as possible.
Table 2 depicts the soil model obtained after the RESAP
run which indicates that the soil comprises of three layers. The
first, i.e. and top soil layer has a resistivity of 2630-m with a
thickness of approximately 1m. The second, i.e. middle soil
layer has a resistivity of 1560.40-m with 0.63m thickness.
The third, i.e. the bottom soil layer has the lowest value of soil
resistivity of 35.60-m with an infinite thickness. In summary,
the soil model is made of three layers with high resistivity
layer sandwiched between two low resistivity layers. Ideally,
the earth grid could have been buried in the third layer to take

Fig. 2a Potential profile for 100% fault current

advantage of the lower soil resistivity, however, it was


recommended in [10] that the burial depth of earth grids
should vary between 0.5 to 1.5m, as such a burial depth of
0.5m was adopted for this design which implies that the earth
grid would be buried in the top soil layer.

Table 2 Soil model developed by RESAP


Layer Number Resistivity (Q-m) Thickness (m)
1
263.0193
0.9948701
2
0.6354194
1560.450
35.67081
infinite
3
Figure 1 shows the top view of the earth grid, while Figures 2
to 5 illustrate the potential profiles, touch and step voltages for
100%, 75%, 50% and 25% of fault current injected into the
grid, respectively. Note the similarity in the touch and step

Fig. 2b Touch voltage profile for 100% fault current

voltages for 75%, 50% and 25% fault currents from the spot
levels at the middle of the grid indicating the same colour and
pattern. Nwnerical details have been provided in Tables 3 to 5.
27

21

15

Fig. 2c Step voltage profile for 100% fault current


X AXIS (METERS)

Fig. 1 Top view of earth grid

764

Fig. 3a Potential profile for 75% fault current

Fig. 4a Potential profile for 50% fault current

Fig. 4b Touch voltage profile for 50% fault current


Fig. 3b Touch voltage profile for 75% fault current

Fig. 4c Step voltage profile for 50% fault current

Fig. 3c Step voltage profile for 75% fault current

765

the step and touch voltages were exactly the same, which are
893.3 and 367.6V, respectively for all the three fault currents
applied.
The safety criteria for the earth grid designed with surface
layer material of resistivity 3000Q-m is presented in Table 4.
Results indicate that for 100% fault current, the step and touch
voltages

were

lower

with

values

of

3098.7

and

919V,

respectively, while for 75%, 50% and 25% fault currents, the
values of step and touch voltages were similar for all three
fault currents and higher than the step and touch voltages of
the case for 100% fault current.

Table 3 Without surface layer material, tFO 3s


Rg (n)
% Earth Grid
EPR (V)
Fault Current
2.45
19,302
100
2.45
14,477
75
2.45
50
9,652
25
2.45
4,825

Fig. 5a Potential profile for 25% fault current

Step voltage
(V)
508.6
893.3
893.3
893.3

Touch
voltage (V)
271.4
367.6
367.6
367.6

A similar scenario could also be observed in Table 5, for the


surface layer material of resistivity 5000Q-m, in which the
step and touch voltages due to 100% fault current were seen to
be lower than those from 75%, 50% and 25%, fault currents.
Note that the step and touch voltages have demonstrated
similar values for all the three cases of fault currents less than
100%.
. I 0f reslstlvltv 3000n-m, tFO.3s
Table 4 Sur[;ace aver matena
Rg
EPR
% Earth Grid Fault
Touch voltage
Step voltage
Current
(V)
(V)
(V)
(n)
2.45
19,302
100
3098.7
919
1015
2.45
14,477
3483.4
75
1015
2.45
50
9,652
3483.4
1015
25
2.45
4,825
3483.4

Fig. 5b Touch voltage profile for 25% fault current

Table 5 Sur[;ace ayer material of resistivity 5,000n-m, tFO.3s


EPR
% Earth Grid Fault
R
Touch voltage
Step voltage
Current
(V)
(V)
(V)
(n)
2.45
19,302
1388
100
4974
2.45
1484
14,477
75
5359
2.45
50
1484
9,652
5359
25
2.45
4,825
1484
5359

It is worth to note that, EPR is proportional to fault current

Fig. 5c Step voltage profile for 25% fault current

magnitude and the value of Rg, but there is no direct


relationship between fault current magnitude, the value of Rg,

Table 3 lists the safety criteria for earth grid designed without

and step and touch voltages. However, higher values of EPR

surface layer material resistivity for various percentages of

are known to influence touch and step voltages.

energization current. It was discovered that the value of Rg is

Visual

inspection of equations (4) and (5), i.e. the formula for step

similar for all fault current variations, as the grid were similar
in terms of area occupied, dimensions and the number of

and touch voltage limits indicate that the magnitude of step

buried conductors in the grid. It was also revealed that the

voltage only depends on the soil resistivity and the resistivity


of surface layer material. Similarly, touch voltage is a function

EPR as a result of 100% fault current was higher, while the

of body resistance, feet resistance and body current. Normally,

step and touch voltages were lower with typical values of

the burial depth and conductor spacing have more influence on

19,302V, 508.6V and 271.4V, respectively. Considering the


75%, 50% and 25% of fault currents, it was observed that,

the step and touch voltages than EPR which were observed to

although the EPR for each percentage of fault current was

be different for various percentages of energization currents.

different, typically, 14,477, 9,652 and 4,825V, respectively,

766

ESlep50

(1000+ 1.5Cs x Ps) 0.116


V
'\}ts

[8]

(4)

[9]

(5 )

IV.

[10]

CONCLUSION

The impact of split factor value on safety criteria of


substation earth grid has been presented. Three cases of safety
criteria were considered, i.e. without surface layer material,
with surface layer material of resistivity 3000Q-m, and with
surface material of resistivity 5000Q-m. The energization
current was splitted into 100%, 75%, 50% and 25% to
investigate its effect on the safety criteria. It was found that
the step and touch voltages as a result of lOO% fault current
were lower than those from 75%, 50% and 25% although with
a slight margin but enough to cause harm. It could be deduced
from the results obtained in this paper that, since the step and
touch voltage magnitudes for 75%, 50%, and 25% fault
current are all the same, the choice of 75% fault current
flowing to the grid and 25% returning to the source is
recommended with little error and could not lead to the
overestimation

or

underestimation

of

the

grid

geometric

parameters.

REFERENCES
[I]

[2]
[3]
[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

K. Nithiyanathan, "CYMGRlD Based Effective Earthing Design Model

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Advanced Substation Grounding Grid Design, EDSA Micro
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Samnanger Substation," Master of Science Thesis, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, June 2012.
A. Ware, J. Mostert, H. Africa and J. Van der Merwe, "Earth Current
Consideration for Earth Mat Design in HV Substations," Energize
Transmission and Distribution, www.energize.co.za. 2012.
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767

IEEE Standard 81-2012, Guide for Measuring Earth Resistivity, Ground


Impedance, and Earth Surface Potentials of a Ground System, ANSI,
2012.
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