Mitigation of Manhole Events Caused by Secondary Cable Failure

Date of Completion

January 2011


Engineering, Electronics and Electrical|Engineering, Materials Science




"Manhole event" refers to a range of phenomena, such as smokers, fires and explosions which occur on underground electrical infrastructure, primarily in major cities. The most common cause of manhole events is decomposition of secondary cable initiated by an electric fault. The work presented in this thesis addresses various aspects related to the evolution and mitigation of the manhole events caused by secondary cable insulation failure. Manhole events develop as a result of thermal decomposition of organic materials present in the cable duct and manholes. Polymer characterization techniques are applied to intensively study the materials properties as related to manhole events, mainly the thermal decomposition behaviors of the polymers present in the cable duct. Though evolved gas analysis, the combustible gases have been quantitatively identified. Based on analysis and knowledge of field conditions, manhole events is divided into at least two classes, those in which exothermic chemical reactions dominate and those in which electrical energy dominates. The more common form of manhole event is driven by air flow down the duct. Numerical modeling of smolder propagation in the cable duct demonstrated that limiting air flow is effective in reducing the generation rate of combustible gas, in other words, limiting manhole events to relatively minor "smokers". Besides manhole events, another by-product of secondary cable insulation breakdown is stray voltage. The danger to personnel due to stray voltage is mostly caused by the 'step potential'. The amplitude of step potential as a result of various types of insulation defects is calculated using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) program. ^