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Earthing System Maintenance

S.Ganesh Babu

s.ganesh babu.

Purpose of protective earthing

To ensure the safety of the people and property within the zone served by it. It requires a high current capacity path with relatively low impedence at the fundamental frequency. To ensure that the voltages developed under high fault conditions are not hazardous.

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Effectively earthed system is one in which: --The ratio of zero sequence reactance
to that of positive sequence reactance is less than 3. -- The ratio of the zero sequence resistance to that of positive sequence resistance is less than 1.

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NEED FOR A RELIABLE LOW IMPEDENCE CONNECTION. A GOOD LOW IMPEDENCE CONNECTION TO GROUND CONSISTS OF: A high conductivity. Corrosion resistant conductor (copper is a good choice). To be buried at a depth in the earth that it will not freeze nor dry out. Large enough to contact a suitably a large volume of earth covering a large area. Located in such a position that it is not influenced by other earthing system.

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Effect of large earth volume and area.

A large volume of earth reduces the current density in the soil and so the resistance to the earth. A large area connection allows the shaping of the electric field to be accomplished, reducing the touch and step voltage. It is hence, called a clean earth, atleast as clean as it gets. The traditional thought of providing a low impedence path to earth is now dispensed with. Modern practice requires shaping of the field in the ground to control voltage gradients around the eartrh electrode.

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VARIATION OF SOIL RESISTIVITY WITH TEMPERATURE. TEMPERATURE DEG.C Clay mixed with sand, 15% moisture. Resistivity in ohm-meter

20 10

72 99

0 (water)
0 (ice)


minus 5
minus 15
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0 2.5 5 10 15 20
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3x 10 to power 6 50,000 2100 650 270 8

1500 430 185 105 63 42



Chemicals traditionally used for changing resistivity are:

-- sodium chloride, NaCl (salt) -- magnesium sulphate MgSo4, -- Copper Sulphate CuSo4, -- Sodium Carbonate,NaCo3, (Washing Soda), -- Calcium Chloride, CaCl. Earth resistivity can be reduced to: -- 0.2 ohm meter using NaCo3,or -- 0.1 ohm meter using salt.

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1.2 grams per liter of salt in dissolved water has a resistivity of 5.0 ohm meter, while 6 grams per liter of salt in dissolved water has a resistivity of 10 ohm meter. GYPSUM:

has water retention property. Low solubility. Resistivity of 5 10 ohm meter. Neither acidic nor alkaline with Ph value between 6.2 to 6.9. Use of blast furnace slag on the granulated form is on an experimental stage.


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BENTONITE: -- Mixed in the ratio of 1 : 6 with black cotton soil. -- Is a volcanic product. -- Is acidic by nature, with Ph value of 10.5. -- Absorbs 5 times of water. -- Swells upto 13 times its dry volume. -- Non corrosive. -- resistivity is 5.0 ohm meter.

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-- Developed by Marconi communications Ltd in 1962. -- Contains crystalline form of carbon with low sulphur and Chloride content. -- Used in a concrete form with carbonceous aggregaate replacing HBG metal. -- Resistivity of 2.0 ohm meter reduces to 0.1 ohm meter when mixed with concrete. -- Retains moisture even in dry / hot climates. -- Used for anti static flooring and electro magnettic screening. -- In slurry state, causes corrosion on metals. -- Alumunium, tin coated, or galvanised steel not to be used in marconite. -- Used in Rocky locations.

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The three demands of an Earth system LIGHTNING AND SHORT CIRCUIT:

The earthing system should protect: -- occupants. -- damages such as fire, explosions, and flash over due to lightning. -- over heating due to short circuit.


-- must conduct lightning and short circuit currents

without introducing intolerable step and touch potentials.
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by providing a low impedance path to the unbalanced and neutral currents that are generated in an electrical network. Should provide proper protective coverage to all the connected equipments and cables, through protectinve sheilding and zoning to lightning system.

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Electrical earthing is designed primarily to render electrical installation safe. The purpose of earthing are : 1. Protection to the plant 2. Protection to the personnel and 3. Improvement in service reliability Non- current carrying parts with conducting surface such as tanks of Power Transformers, and frame work of circuits breakers, structural steel work in switch yard instrument transformer cases, lightning arresters and armored cables armoring should be effectively grounded for protection of equipments and operating personnel. Earth connections of all equipments should be made in duplicate. s.ganesh babu. 15

Connecting lead should have sufficient current carrying capacity. L A s should have independent earth electrode which should be inter connected to the station grounding system. All paints, enamel, seals should be removed from the point off contact of metal surfaces before earth connections are made. The resistances of earth system should not exceed 2 ohms for 33/11 KV Sub Stations. But in the sub stations of Distribution companies Earth resistance Maximum of 1 Ohm is maintained. Suitable grounding mat should be provided in the sub station yard.

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In a Sub Station the following shall be earthed.

The neutral point of the systems of different voltages which have to be earthed.

Apparatus, frame work and other non-current carrying metal work associated with each system, for example transformer tanks, switch gear frame work etc.,
Extraneous metal frame work not associated with the power systems, for example, boundary, fence, steel structures etc., The earthing Means connecting of Electrical equipment, machinery or an electrical system with the general mass of earth is termed as earthing or grounding

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A Sub Station earthing system has to satisfy four requirements:

The earthing system must provide an environment which is free from the possibility of fatal electric shock. The earthing system must provide a low impedance path for fault and earth leakage currents to pass to earth. The earthing conductors must possess sufficient thermal capacity to pass the highest fault current for the required time The earthing conductors must have sufficient mechanical strength and corrosion resistance.

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Earthing can be broadly divided as :

System Grounding ( System Earthing) Equipment Grounding (Safety Grounding).

Discharge grounding.

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System Grounding:
It is a connection to the ground of a part of the plant forming part of the operating circuits for example the star point of the transformer or the neutral conductor. The grounding of the lighting, arrestors also comes under the head of system grounding. The provision of system ground reduces to considerable extent the magnitude of the transient over voltages and there by increases the life of electrical equipment besides minimizing the services interruptions. Thus the fundamental purpose of system ground is the protection of installation and improvement in quality of service. The system ground also will ensure the safety of the personnel to some extent, as it helps to clear the fault speedily.
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Safety Grounds (Equipment Grounding)

It is a connection to the ground of non-current carrying parts of the equipments like Motors, Transformer Tanks, Switchgear enclosures, Metallic enclosures of all electrically operated equipments and also the installations used to carry/ Support electrical equipments. By connecting the frames to a low resistance ground system, a sufficiently high current will flow into the ground when accidentally the live parts of the equipment / Machinery touch the frames, and consequently saves the operating personnel from fatal accidents. Thus the equipment grounding is basically intended to safeguard to a great extent from the hazards of touch voltages. The safety ground is so designed that the potential difference appearing between the frames and the neighboring ground is kept within safe limits.

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Separation of system and safety grounds: During ground fault conditions, the fault current flows via the system ground. When the system and safety grounds are inter connected, the fault current flowing (via) the system ground raises the potential of the safety ground. Also the flow of current to safety ground results in hazardous potential gradient in and around sub station. In view of the above it is some times suggested that separate system and safety grounds will avoid the danger arising due to potential gradients. The idea is that by connecting the system ground to a separate earthing system situated in an accessible spot, the ground fault current does not flow through the safety ground. However, this separate system of grounds has many disadvantages and can be more hazardous as mentioned below

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Best Practices in Operation And Maintenance of Sub-station Equipment, And Auxiliaries

Lethal Current
A let-go current of 10 mA for men and 8 mA for women are accepted as the limit. Currents of 100 mA and above are fatal. The effect of current passing through human body depends upon duration and magnitude of the current as shown in next slide. If a fault is rapidly cleared the chance of severe injury or fatality is reduced or even eliminated.
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Danger Of Electrocution


20 0.1 s.ganesh babu. 10 1000 Current mA 5000 10000


Statutory Stipulations

All medium voltage equipment shall be earthed by two separate and distinct connections. As far as possible,all earth connections shall be visible for inspection. Each earth system shall be so designed that testing of individual earth electrode should be possible. Resistance of earth system shall conform to degree of shock protection desired.
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HUMAN BODY TOLERANCE At a current of :

1ma : no sensation 5ma : safe current. 20ma: muscles contract 20 50ma : painful shock, inability to let go 50 200ma: Heat convulsions or body further reduces. Usually Fatal. 200 1000ma : Ventricular burns, ventricular fibilliaration, asphyxiation and death

Resistances :

-- Dry skin : 1000 ohm -- wet skin: 100 Ohm. -- Hand to foot: 400 to 600 Ohms. -- Ear to Ear : 100 Ohms. -- Salt water wet skin 200 to 300 Ohms

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Earthing shall generally be carried out in accordance with the requirement of Indian Electricity Rules 1956 (as amended from time to time) and the regulations of Electricity supply Authority. All medium voltage equipment shall be earthed by two separate and distinct connections with earth. High and Extra High voltage equipments the neutral points shall be earthed by not less than two separate and distinct connection with earth, each having its own electrode at the Gen. station/Substation and may be earthed at any other point which do not interfere and if necessary through impedence.
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Earth electrodes shall be provided at Gen Stn., SS and Consumer premises in accordance with IS 3043. All earth connections shall be visible for inspection. Each Earth System shall be so devised that the testing of individual earth electrode is possible.

It is recommended that a drawing showing the main earth connection and earth electrodes be prepared for each installation.
No cut-out or link or switch other than a linked switch arranged to operate simultaneously on the earthed or rather neutral conductor the live conductors, shall be inserted on any supply system. (Link for test purpose excluded)
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Abnormal voltage hazards can be reduced by earthing

LIGHTNING Surge Arrestors Recommended.

SWITCHING SURGES Surge arrestors recommended

STATIC System ground connection through High Resistance. CONTACT WITH H.V. SYSTEM Efficient grounding of L.V. Limits the over voltage. LINE TO GROUND FAULT RESONANT CONDITIONS earthed system reduces resonant conditions. Resonance produce 6 times the system voltage.

RESTRIKING GROUND FAULTS Neutral Grounding is effective in reducing Neutral Displacement from Ground Potential and reduces the destructiveness of HF voltage oscillations following restrike.
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GIS Sub-Station Earthing

Area occupied by a GIS substation is 10-25% of conventional air insulated installation. Achieving low ground resistance,therefore, becomes difficult. Additional methods are applied to achieve required value of earth electrode resistance. Connecting the reinforcing steel mesh of concrete floor slab and structural steel to the Earthing grid reduces the earth electrode resistance. .

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GIS Sub-Station Earthing Cont.-

Using deep driven ground rods . Chemical treatment of soil. Bonding of metallic enclosures of GIS assembly. Increasing length of conductors. Barring access to limited area where it is not practicable to eliminate possibility of excessive potential difference during fault.

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With separate grounds we can avoid danger due to potentials only for faults outside the stations. Short circuit currents will be more if the fault occurs in the sub stations. The resistance may be more and in some cases sufficient currents may not flow to operate the relays.

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For effective separation of the earthing systems, the system ground shall be installed at a distance of at least twice the diagonal length of the sub station which is covered by safety grounding. The neutral of the transformer has to be connected to this remote earthing by means of insulated leads. Even with this arrangement one cannot always be sure about the complete isolation of the two systems and there is always a chance of inadequate electrical connection through buried neutral pipes etc., Hence, this is impracticable, complicated and costly. It is therefore a common practice to install a common grounding system and design the same for effective earthing and safer potential gradients.

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System Earthing

System earthing is governed by provisions of Rule Of I.E Rules, 1956. Unearthed systems have been tried and due to the phenomenon of Arcing Grounds associated with them, theses have been abandoned, excepting in a few cases of power station auxiliaries supply systems where other arrangements are made for indicating earth faults. In an ungrounded system the insulation of all the equipments, lines etc, will have to be much higher values as compared to those of equipments and lines of a grounded system. This aspect greatly reduces the costs and ensures more safety.

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Types of System Earthing:

Earthing through a resistance. Earthing through a reactance. Earthing through a Peterson coil

Earthing directly or solid earthing.


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Sub Station Earthing

Because of the difficulties and disadvantages involved in marinating the system grounding and safety grounding separately it is the common practice now to have a combined grounding system at the sub stations. The impedance to ground should be as low as possible. The impedance of the earth system shall not exceed the following limits in the sub stations

Power Stations

0.5 Ohms

Major Sub stations above 110 KV

Minor Sub Stations below 110 KV Distribution Station Transformer

1.0 Ohms
2.0 Ohms 5.0 Ohms 10.0 Ohms

Transmission line supports

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Touch Potential :
Touch potential is the potential difference between the ground surface potential where a person is standing and the potential of his outstretched hand (s) which are in contact with an earthed structure. It is normally assumed that a persons maximum reach is 1.0 meter.

Step Potential :
Step Potential is the potential difference between outstretched feet, at a spacing of 1.0 meter without the person touching any earthed structure

Mesh Potential
The maximum potential difference between the centre of a mesh in an earth grid, and an earthed structure connected to the buried grid conductors. It is worst case scenario of a touch potential.
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Transferred potential The transferred potential is a touch potential which is transferred some distance by an earth referenced metallic conductor. For example, consider a screened cable connecting two sub stations which are some distance apart. If a person disconnects the earthed termination at one end of a screened cable he may be subjected to the full ground potential rise occurring due to an earth fault. This can be a very high touch potential.
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. Earthing in a sub station must conform to the requirements of the Indian Electricity Rules and follow the directives laid down in section I and III of IS : 3043-1966. the earthing system has to be designed to have a low overall impedance, and a current carrying capacity consistent with fault current.

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The factors which influence the design are:

Duration of fault. Magnitude of the fault current. Resistivity of the underlying strata. Resistivity of the surface material Material of the earth electrode. Material of earthing mat conductor. Shock duration. Earth mat geometry.

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Steps to be taken for design purpose:

Finalize lay out plan of the substation. This gives the area to be covered by the earth mat. Obtain the earth resistivity of the location where substation is to be located. Determine the fault current likely to develop at the SS through system studies. A correction factor of 1.2 to 1.5 may be used for the determined value. Assumption of duration of fault is taken as 1.0 sec For calculating safe step and mesh potentials, a duration of 0.5 sec may be assumed.

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A uniform corrosion allowance of 0.12 mm per year is considered for steel as ground conductor. Life of a substation is taken as 40 years. Steel corrodes 6 times faster than copper. The electrodes spacing shall not be greater than twice that of the length of the electrode. The spacing of the mesh earth conductors shall be between 3 to 5 meters. Various specifications such as the area of the earth mat, Number of electrodes, size of the earth conductors shall calculated based on the mathematical formulae and conductor constants.

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The number of electrodes is given by the following thumb rule: N = I (fault) / 250, for a earth resistivity of 500 ohm meters. N = I (fault) / 500, for a earth resistivity of 5000 ohm meter. The current density of the unbalanced current in a normal system shall not exceed 40A / Mtr.sq. Short time over load under fault condition is given by I = (7.57 *10cube) / root of rho * t, where t is the duration of fault in secs. Safe step potential : (116 + 0.7 rho) / root t Safe touch potential : ( 116 + 0.17 rho ) / root t. where rho refers to surface earth resistivity and t , the duration of fault current in secs.

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The size of the earth bus and earth conductor are given by A = 0.0054 I x root t, for sweated and rivetted joints.(250deg) A = 0.0044 I x root t, for brazed joints.(450 deg.) These values are applicable for copper only and higher values are to be taken for steel.

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100 X 16 mm and 75 X 8mm size MS steel flats are being ordered for forming the earthing system for EHT Sub station and 33/11 KV Sub Stations respectively Earth mat shall be formed with the steel flats buried in the ground at a depth of 500mm. The earth mat shall extend over the entire switchgear yard and beyond the security fencing of structural yard by at least one meter. The outer most peripheral earthing conductor surrounding the earth mat shall be of 100 x 16 mm size MS flat.

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The intermediate earthing conductors forming the earth mat shall be of 75 x 8 mm size flat. All the risers used for connecting the equipment steel structures etc., to earth mat shall be of 50 x6 mm size excepting for earthing of L A s and transformer neutrals for which 100 x 16 mm or 75 x 8 mm size shall be used. All Junctions (crossing of the steel flats while forming the earth mat and taking risers from the earthmat for giving earth connections to equipments, steel structural conducts, cable shearths shall be propersly welded. Proper earthing lugs shall be used for connecting the earth terminals of equipments to the earthing steel flat.

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Provisions shall be made for thermal expansion of the steel flats by giving suitable bends. The earth mat shall be formed by placing 75 x8mm MS flat at a distance 5 meters along the length & breadth of the sub station duly welding at crossing. All the equipments, steel structural, conduits, cable sheaths shall be solidly grounded by connecting to the earthing mat at least two places for each. The ground mat of the switchyard shall be properly connected to the earth mat of the control house at least at two points. welding is done shall be given a coat of black asphalitic varnish and then covered with hessain tape to avoid rusting.
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All paints, enamel and scale shall be removed from point of contact in metal surfaces before applying ground connections. The risers taken along the main switchyard structures and equipment structures up to their top) shall be clamped to the structure at an interval of not more than one meter with ground connectors. 75 X 8 mm ground conductor shall run in cable trenches and shall be connected to the ground amt at an interval of 5 meters. Grounding electrodes 2.75 Mtrs length 100 mm dia 9 mm thickness CI Pipes shall be provided at all their peripheral corners of the earthiong mat and also at Distance of 10 Mtrs along length & width of switch gearand in the entire switch yard. s.ganesh babu. 48

The grounding electrodes shall be driven into the ground and their tops shall be welded to a clamp and the clamp together with the grounding shall be welded to the ground conductor.
The switchyard surface area shall be covered by a layer of crushed rock of size 25 x 40 mm to a depth of 100mm Transformers and L A s and single phase potential transformer shall be provided with earth pits near them for earthing and these earth pits in turn shall be connected to the earth mat.

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Power Transformers neutral shall be provided with double earthing. Neutral earthing and body earthing of power transformers shall be connected to separate earth electrode.
the entire earthing system shall be laid with constructional conveniences in the filed, keeping in view the above points. The joints and tap-offs where welding is done shall be given a coat of black asphalitic varnish and then covered with hessain tape to avoid rusting.

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Maximum Acceptable step Voltage

Fault clearance times

Fault clearance times On soil On chippings 150mm) 0.2 Seconds 1050 V 1400 V 0.35 Seconds 600 V 800 V 0.7 Seconds 195 V 250 V

Maximum Acceptable Touch Voltage Fault clearance times Fault clearance times On soil 0.2 Seconds 3200 V 0.35 Seconds 1800 V 0.7 Seconds 535 V

On chippings 150mm)
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4600 V

2600 V

815 V


The following are the minimum sizes of materials to used.

S. No 1

Item Grounding Electrodes

Material to be used CI pipe 100 mm (inner dia) Meters long with a flange at the top

3 4

Earth mat
Connection to between electrodes and earthmat Connection to between earth mat and equipment (Top Connections)

75 X 8mm MS Flat
75 X 8mm MS Flat 50 x 6mm MS Flat

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The size of trench for burying earth mat shall be 300mm X 500mm. The earth mat shall be buried in the ground at a depth of 500mm. The earth mat shall extend over the entire switch yard. All junctions and risers in the earth flat shall be properly welded by providing additional flat pieces for contact between two flats Provision shall be made for thermal expansion of steel flats by giving smooth circular bends Bending shall not cause any fatigue in the material. After welding, the joints and tap offs shall be given two coats of Bitumen paint Back filling of earth mat trench to be done with good earth, free of stones and other harmful mixtures. Back fill shall be placed in layer of 150mm, uniformly spread along the ditch, and tampered by approved means

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Earth electrodes shall be of CI pipe 100mm (inner dia) 2.75 meters long with a flange at the top and earth flat already indicated and shall be connected to earth grid in the Sub Station. All earth pits are to excavated and the preferred backfill is a mixture of coke and salt in alternate layers. A suitable size cement collar may be provided to each earth electrode. All bolted earth mat connections and strip connections to plant and equipment panel will be subject to strict scrutiny. Transformer Neutrals shall be connected directly to the earth electrode by two independent MS strips of 75 X 8mm. The transformer body earthing shall be done with 75 X 8mm flat. The independent connections of MS strips with earth mat shall be given on either side of the Transformer. All contact surface must be filled or ground flat ensures good electrical connection, and the contact surface shall be protected with a contact lubricant. Following this all connections shall be painted with heavy coats of bituminous black paint so as to exclude moisture.
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Neutral connection earth pipe shall never be used for the equipment earthing.

A separate earth electrode shall be provided adjacent to the structures supporting Lightning Arrestors. Earth connection shall be as short and as straight as practicable. For arrestors mounted near for protecting transformers earth conductors shall be connected directly to the tank.
An Earthing pad shall be provided under each operating handle of the isolator and operating mechanism of the circuit breakers. Operating handle of the isolator and supporting structures shall be bonded together by a flexible connection and connected to the earthing grid.

All equipment and switchgear etc., erected shall be earthed as per I.E Rules 1956. s.ganesh babu. 55