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Socio Economic Impact Of Failure Of Transmission Line
Tower Foundations
A report by Christian Johnson and Thirugnanam
ABSTRACT
Transmission line towers are constructed for power evacuation purpose from generating stations to various
load centers. Though they are considered to be the most stable and versatile semi-permanent structure,
often they collapse due to failure of foundations, disrupting transfer of large blocks of power affecting the
society to a larger extent. A brief review of literature on failure of transmission line tower foundations have
been made and Case study involving data collection and visual inspection of transmission line tower
foundation apart from diagnosis of transmission line tower stubs and laboratory experimentations have been
presented. Based on the literature review and the case study undertaken as a part of the research, three
predominant causes leading to failure of transmission line tower foundations have been discussed. Socio
economic impact of failure of transmission line tower foundations have been discussed. Remedial measures
found through the research study for preventing failure of transmission line tower foundations have been
briefly outlined.
Keywords:
Corrosion, Foundations, Failure, socio- economic, transmission line tower
INTRODUCTION
In India, development of electric power over the years has been phenomenal. The installed capacity has
risen from a mere 2301 MW in 1950-51 to 167,278.36 MW as on 31st October 2010. The hydro electric
potential in India is estimated to be 84,000 MW at 60 % load factor. Of this about 40% is in the north
eastern region, 38 % in the northern region, 10 % in the southern region, 7% in the eastern region and 5% in
the western region. The north eastern region is richly endowed with hydro electric potential. As the demand
growth is not large in this region, bulk of the hydro electric potential in this region can be developed and
utilized in other regions This would require development of extensive transmission system.
Coal reserves are estimated to be about 202 billion tones. Of this 69% is in the eastern region, 23 % is in the
western region and 6% in the southern region. The Northern region has very little coal requiring need to
transport coal in bulk or transport coal in bulk or transmit equivalent electrical energy over long distances.
Lignite reserves are about 202 billion tones, of this 89% is in the southern region, 6% in the northern region
and 4 % in the western region. Lignite is used for power generation near mine mouths as lignite is not
transported over long distances due to risk of spontaneous combustion. As such, the electricity generated
from lignite is consumed within the region involving transmission over moderate distances. Electrical power
is being generated using natural gas also. Power from natural gas is generated near or at moderate
distances from load centers. India also has a well developed nuclear power generation programme. Nuclear
power is generated at moderate distances from the load centres. The transportation cost of nuclear fuel is
very small in comparison to the cost of transmitting equivalent electrical power the same distance. However
for environmental reasons, the nuclear power stations are situated at distances from load centres.
Collapse of transmission line towers is reported from many corners of the nation interrupting the power and
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affecting the national growth as well as common man life. The restoration of collapsed transmission line
tower will incur huge expenditure in terms of time, man power, materials and human life.
A Brief Review of Literature
Ramakrishna.V and Asthana.A.K (2004) have mentioned that the disposition of the primary resources for
electrical power generation in India viz. coal, lignite, and hydro potential are quite uneven. This uneven
distribution of generation resources adds to the transmission line tower requirement even in unfavorable and
risky locations. Shah et al. (2004) have presented a case study on renovation and modernization of
transmission line towers in the Gujarat state, India. Gujarat state has the longest coastal line admeasuring
more than 1500 Kilometers. Many transmission lines pass through the coastal areas of south Gujarat and
peninsular regions of Saurashtra and deserts of Dutch. This kind of location has a very adverse effect on the
life of the transmission line. As some of these lines have lasted for more than 25 years, Gujarat State
Electricity Board in the year 2001 had carried out certain renovation works in those lines. Gupta.O.P et al.
(2005) have presented a case study on rectification of transmission line tower stubs of 132 kV Aligarh-
Hathras transmission line. The phenomenon of excessive corrosion was observed during the last quarter of
1991. A detailed study related to corrosion and taking preventive measures was initiated with a view to
prevent failure of transmission line tower and the rectification work was executed for tower no.79 and
87..The investigation revealed that the leakage current (stray current) from power conductors through
insulator strings to tower exists in variable magnitude depending on voltage intensity, insulator surface
contamination and atmospheric moisture. In addition, due to induction in ground wires from the three
phases, resultant induced current flow through the loop formed by ground wire, the two towers at each end
of the span and the ground underneath the span .Rokade et al. (2008) have presented a case study on
corrosion of transmission line tower foundation of 230 kV lines from Thermal Power Station I to Thermal
Power Station II, Neyveli Lignite Corporation Limited, Tamil Nadu.
CASE STUDY
The transmission activities Tamil Nadu are fully owned by a Government based department called TNEB
(Tamil Nadu Electricity Board). The EHV network in Tamil Nadu has around 62,000 steel transmission line
towers as on October 2010. Also Tamil Nadu has an EHV network consisting 400 kV- 250 ckm, 230 kV
6856 ckm, 110 kV 12765 ckm, 66 kV 1196 ckm, totaling 21167 ckm. The field study includes collection
of data from various field offices of TNEB to identify the most affected transmission line tower foundations,
visual inspection of transmission towers in certain selected places to explore the causes for failure of
transmission line tower foundations and conducting Half-Cell potential test at the coping portion of certain
tower foundations to assess the intensity of corrosion. Two transmission stubs one from inland area
(Coimbatore) and the other from coastal area (Chennai) had been removed from the field by deploying JCB
and transported to HTI (Hydro Training Institute). Half-Cell potential test, Rebound hammer test,
Carbonation test, and Chemical analysis of the stub concrete and soil around the transmission tower
foundation have been conducted to draw some useful inferences about the distress phenomenon in the
embedded portions of the tower foundations. After the tests, the stub concrete had been broken and the
thickness of the stub angle was measured. Soil samples collected around the transmission line tower and
the concrete collected from the transmission line tower stub coping area in certain chosen locations in the
state of Tamil Nadu have been analyzed for its chemical constituents. Apart from above following
experimentations were also made.
Suitable admixtures in the concrete and protective coatings on the surface of the stub angle and surface of
the stub concrete have been identified through laboratory study.
Performance of thus laboratory proven admixtures and coatings has been verified in model tower
foundations.
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Performance of laboratory proven admixtures and coatings in rehabilitation of transmission line tower stub
excavated from the field for diagnosing the stub has been examined. Remedial measures against failure of
transmission line tower foundations have been suggested.
PREDOMINANT CAUSES
Deterioration of Transmission Line Tower Stub Concrete
From the reconnaissance survey conducted, it is identified that factors like improper selection of tower and
tower foundation, poor grade of concrete, inferior quality of concrete, insufficient curing of coping / muffing
concrete, wrong shape of coping, improper selection of angles, paints, improper alignments, stub levels, and
improper tightening of bolts, etc., have directly or indirectly caused deterioration of tower foundations.
Corrosion of Transmission Line Tower stub angle
Owing to highly alkaline nature (pH >12), concrete possesses corrosion protective features and normally
provides a non corrosive environment for embedded stub angle of transmission tower foundation. However,
defects and cracks in the concrete can allow water and salts to penetrate into the concrete and leads to
subsequent corrosion and weakening of the leg. Submergence of stub steel above concrete chimney for
some period during rainy season in water acting as salt dissolved electrolyte, the corrosion process is
aggravated particularly in the presence of chlorides, sulphates and phosphates. The resultant produces of
rust and complex compounds with chloride have a larger volume than the original material. This leads to the
formation of local cracks and chip-off, which allows salt to penetrate further into the affected stub where the
process of corrosion will be more and more accelerated. A mechanism of pitting or crevice corrosion will
initially occur in the presence of aggressive ions such as chlorides. These ions are responsible in the
formation of pits on the surface, which accelerates corrosion attack. An important consequence of pitting is
that the localized attack may be very severe which may lead to structural catastrophe.
Because of the corrosion phenomenon, ferrous materials are oxidized to ferrous oxide and the volume of the
ferrous material increases to a larger extent and sets in strain in the cover concrete leading to formation of
cracks. The cracks open, draining the rain water into chimney concrete enhancing the corrosion process
resulting finally in spalling of chimney concrete. The process continues further even to the extent of eating
away of transmission tower leg starting from the coping level to the bottom level.
Also there is a possibility of leakage of current from power conductors through insulator string to the tower in
variable magnitude depending on voltage intensity, insulator surface contamination and atmospheric
moisture. In addition, due to induction in ground wires from the three phases, resultant induced current flow
through the loop formed by ground wire, the two towers at each end of the span member. This stray current
causes corrosion at location where current leaves the structure and enters the ground through water
electrolyte.
Corrosion at the Stub Angle / Coping concrete Interface
Because of different conditions existing at the stub angle / coping concrete interface an electro chemical
process sets up at the interfacial zone. As the stub angle interface is exposed to the atmosphere which has
a higher concentration of oxygen with respect to the stub angle below the interface, there is a possibility of
differential aeration type of corrosion to occur like a ring of rust around the stub angle interface.The
difference in moisture level and salt content at the interfacial zone also aggravates the corrosion process.
The symptom of this type corrosion in the interfacial zone is observed widely in all the towers. But the
intensity is higher in the coastal zones.
SOCIO ECONOMIC IMPACT
The basic needs of every human being for survival are considered as food, clothe and shelter. This
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phenomenon existed for several hundreds of years, till recently. But now the trend has changed as electric
power also become one of the basic needs. The electric power plays a very vital role not only in the survival
of human being but also for the development of nation. National economy and growth largely depended on
the availability of electric power supply. As a basic need and as a raw material, power is necessarily to be
made available at competitive price and at regular, uninterrupted, uniform and steady supply. Otherwise,
there will be disturbance in the productivity, which will affect the national growth and economy. Since the
national growth and development has to be matched with that of the world, the power supply has to be of
great concern to get an important role for our nation in the global arena. Besides the above failures in the
transmission line tower components amounts to thousands of rupees only in maintenance costs apart from
other related expenditures. Many of these failures are corrosion related due to exposure of the system
materials to aggressive atmospheric and / or soil environments. These towers are of a variety of designs and
were constructed to different specifications. In India while the oldest transmission structure still in service is
more than 75 years old, the transmission line towers in service for 40 to 50 years old are experiencing
deterioration on various accounts. Hence any improvement in enhancing the durability of transmission line
tower foundation cant be taken lightly. The damages in the existing transmission line tower foundations
have been categorized as moderate, severe and very severe damages and remedial measures have been
suggested to improve the service life of transmission line towers.
REMEDIAL MEASURES
General
Based on the filed visit, diagnosis of stub specimens and laboratory investigations conducted as a part of the
research, the following procedures can be followed to strengthen and to enhance the durability of the
transmission line tower foundations.
Moderate damages
If the cracks in the coping area are wider and if the crevice corrosion at the interface seems to be
developing, and if the reduction in thickness of the stub angle is less than 20 %, and more than 10 %, the
damage may be considered to be moderate and stub has to be strengthened as below.
1) The loosened carbonated concrete in the coping area should be completely removed so that the resulting
surface would be conducive to achieve high bond strength with over lay concrete.
2) A simple carbonation test using spraying of phenolphthalein may be done for knowing the depth of
carbonation and all the carbonated concrete should be scrapped, and the concrete surface should be
cleaned by water jet. All the rust and flakes from the corroded stub angle should be removed using emery
sheet.
3) Flexi bond ACSR coating (Flexi bond ACSR : water: Cement at the ratio of 1:1:3) to be applied on the
stub angle from the lower most point of the groove up to the depth of 2 ft ( 0.60 m) above ground level.
4) Application of overlay concrete out of M20 grade with 20 % Cement replacement by fly Ash and Silpas
super chemical admixture and smooth slanting surface should be formed to drain out the water.
5) A groove to be formed in the stub angle /concrete interface and allowed to cure and after setting,
Elastober acrylic material to be poured in the groove to form a woring and allowed to set.
6) After the curing of over lay concrete and the setting of Elastober, the concrete surface to be coated with
Zycosil Nano penetrant at the ratio 1:10 ( 1 Part of Zycosil and 10 parts of water) to be applied on the
concrete horizontal and slanting surface by wet and wet method and at the ratio of 1: 20 (1 part of Zycosil
and 20 parts of water ) in the vertical surface up to a depth of 2 ft (0.60 m) below ground level.
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Severe damages
If the cracks are extensive in the coping or if the concrete in the stub are deteriorated to a larger extent and
if the reduction in the thickness of the stub angle is more than 30 % and less than 50 %, the damages may
be considered as severe.
1) All the concrete from the bottom of the corroded portion up to the muffing point should be removed and
the surface of the left out stub concrete should be cleaned thoroughly by water jet.
2) All the rust and flakes from the corroded stub angle should be removed using emery sheet.
3) Inner cleats and outer cover plates equal to the thickness of the stub angle for 2 ft ( 0.60 m) length in the
corroded length have to be welded by fusion welding
4) Flexi bond ACSR coating (Flexi bond ACSR : water: Cement at the ratio of 1:1:3) to be applied on the
stub angle from the lower most point of the groove up to the depth of 3 ft ( 0.90 m) above ground level.
5) Concrete out of M20 grade with 20 % CRM by fly Ash and Silpas super chemical admixture should be
used for forming the new stub from the bottom point of the corroded portion and smooth slanting surface
should be formed to drain out the water in the muffing area.
6) Groove to be formed in the stub angle /concrete interface and allowed to cure and after setting, Elastober
acrylic material to be poured in the groove to form a woring and allowed to set, if the location is dry one. If
the tower leg has to stand in a water stagnated area or coastal area, the stagnated, the woring may be
introduced.
7) After the curing of concrete and the setting of Elastober, the concrete surface to be coated with Nano
Zycosil penetrant at the ratio 1;10 ( 1 Part of Zycosil and 10 parts of water) to be applied on the concrete
horizontal and slanting surface by wet and wet method and at the ratio of 1: 20 (1 part of Zycosil and 20
parts of water ) in the vertical surface up to a depth of 2 ft (0.60 m) below ground level.
Very severe damages
If the cracks are extensive in the coping or if the concrete in the stub are deteriorated to a larger extent and
if the reduction in the thickness of the stub angle is more than 50 % the damages may be considered as
very severe.
1) All the concrete in the corroded portion should be completely removed so that the resulting surface would
be conducive to achieve high bond strength with over lay concrete.
2) The corroded angle has to be cut removed by the gas welding after guying the tower.The rust and flakes
in the remaining portion of the stub angle should be removed using emery sheet.
3) New stub angle to be welded and splice jointing be made in the corroded portion by fusion welding. Flexi
bond ACSR coating (Flexi bond ACSR : water: Cement at the ratio of 1:1:3) to be applied on the stub angle
from the lower most point of the groove up to the depth of 3 ft above ground level.
4) Concrete out of M20 grade with 20 % CRM by fly Ash and Silpas super chemical admixture should be
used for forming the new stub from the bottom point of the corroded portion and smooth slanting surface
should be formed to drain out the water in the muffing area.
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5) Groove to be formed in the stub angle /concrete interface and allowed to cure and after setting, Elastober
acrylic material to be poured in the groove to form a woring and allowed to set, if the location is dry one. If
the tower leg has to stand in a water stagnated area or coastal area, the woring should be formed out of
Demech deep grout.
6) After the curing of concrete and the setting of Demech grout , the concrete surface to be coated with
Nano Zycosil penetrant at the ratio 1;10 ( 1 Part of Zycosil and 10 parts of water) to be applied on the
concrete horizontal and slanting surface by wet and wet method and at the ratio of 1: 20 (1 part of Zycosil
and 20 parts of water ) in the vertical surface up to a depth of 2 ft ( 0.90 m) below ground level.
CONCLUSIONS
Failure of transmission line tower foundations have been critically diagnosed based on review of literature,
case study involving elaborate field and experimental investigations Predominant causes for failure of
transmission line tower foundations have been presented and socio economic impact of failure of
transmission line tower foundations have been pondered. The damages in the existing transmission line
tower foundations have been categorized and appropriate remedial measures have been suggested to
improve the service life of transmission line towers.
REFERENCES
1.Ramakrishna.V and Asthana .A.K (2004), Towards National Power Transmission Grid in India, Seminar
on Innovative Techniques for Design, Construction, Maintenance and Renovation of Transmission Lines, 5
-6 February, 2004 New Delhi. pp. I/73 I /84.
2. Gupta.O.P, Singh.V.B. and Surendra Narain, 2005, Corrosion of Transmission Line Tower Stubs
Proceedings of Short Term Training Programme on Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of
Transmission Lines for Civil Engineers, Organized by Engineering Staff College of India, Hyderabad Vol-
II, 14-25 November, pp.4.1- 4.5
3. Shah .J.B. et al, (2004), Strategical Renovation and Modernization of EHV Transmission Lines in the
State of Gujarat, Seminar on Innovative Techniques for Design, Construction, Maintenance and
Renovation of Transmission Lines, 5-6 February, 2004 New Delhi. Pp. 11-23.
4. Rokade.R.P., et.al, 2008 , Development of Methodology for Refurbishment of Transmission Line Tower
Foundation Journal of Structural Engineering, Vol.35, No.1, April- May, pp.66-72
This research paper by Christian Johnson (Senior Manager at the Hydro Training Institute of Tamil Nadu
Electricity Board, Tamil Nadu, India presently doing research at IRTT, Anna University of Technology,
Coimbatore) and Thirugnanam (Professor and Head of the Department of Civil Engineering at Institute of
Road Transport and Technology (IRTT), Erode) will be of great help to engineers looking for the impact of
failure of transmission line tower foundation. We are thankful to Er. Christian Johnson for publishing his
paper here on engineeringcivil.com
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