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Touch and Step Voltage Measurements

on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid


with Gravel and Asphalt Beds
May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Abstract
Table of Contents Gravel and asphalt are commonly used as surfacing materials in
Abstract.......................................................................... 2 and around substations. Both the electrical characteristics of the
Background.................................................................... 2 surfacing material and its moisture condition substantially affect the
Research Approach......................................................... 3
exposure (step, touch) voltage and the resulting current. This project
evaluates the effects of various types of surfacing materials (three
Test Setup........................................................................ 3
gravel types and asphalt) and conditions (dry and wet) on step and
Test Procedure................................................................. 3
touch voltages in and around substations.
Apparent Resistivity of Asphalt Using the Four-Pin
Measurement Method................................................ 4
Resistivity of Gravel Using the Volume or Container
Background
Method................................................................... 5 In general, the protective characteristics of a surfacing material are
highly dependent on its moisture content. A surfacing material is
Open Circuit Touch and Step Voltages......................... 6
less effective in protecting a worker when it is wet. Also, crushed
Exposure Current or Closed Circuit Touch Voltage......... 6 stone mixed with its own dust is significantly less effective compared
Thevenins Equivalent Resistance in Series with Feet....... 6 to washed stone, even in wet conditions. Dusty gravel retains mois-
Results............................................................................ 7 ture for a long time, increasing the period during which it is less
effective. In comparison, washed gravel dries out quickly, thus recov-
Open Circuit Touch and Step Voltages......................... 7
ering its insulating properties more quickly. Gravel with larger-sized
Open Circuit Touch Voltage.................................... 7 stone performs somewhat better than gravel with smaller stone. The
Open Circuit Step Voltage...................................... 11 protective characteristics of asphalt are significantly better that those
Exposure Currents or Closed Circuit Touch Voltages...... 12 of concrete in almost any environmental condition.

Thevenins Equivalent Resistance................................. 13 IEEE Standard 80, IEEE Guide for Safety in AC Substation
Apparent Resistivity of Asphalt by Four-Pin Method........ 14 Grounding, [1] provides typical resistivity values for various types
of surfacing materials in different regions of the United States.
Gravel Resistivity Data Determined from Volume or
Container Method..................................................... 15 These values suggest that the water with which the rock is wet-
ted has considerable influence on the measured resistivity. IEEE
Conclusions and Future Research...................................... 16
Standard 80 [1] resistivity values also indicate that local conditions
General................................................................... 16 and the type and size of stone may affect the value of resistivity. For
Gravel and Asphalt Resistivity.................................... 16 this reason, it is important to measure the resistivity of rock samples
Open Circuit Touch Voltage........................................ 16
typical of the type being used in a given area. This project investi-
gated the performance of three types of gravel beds and one asphalt
Open Circuit Step Voltage......................................... 16
bed in a full-scale test setup. Comparisons were also made with a
Exposure Current or Closed Circuit Touch Voltage......... 16 concrete slab. This information will be useful to substation ground-
Thevenins Equivalent Resistance................................. 17 ing design engineers who need reliable values of surfacing material
Recommendations for Possible Future Research............. 17 resistivity for proper substation ground grid design.

Equipment Used.............................................................. 17 In addition to measuring resistivity, this project investigated step


and touch voltages and the resulting exposure current characteristics
References...................................................................... 17
of the various types of gravel material and an asphalt bed in various
Cited References....................................................... 17
wet and dry conditions.
Additional Reading................................................... 18

Acknowledgments........................................................... 18

2 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Research Approach
The tests took place on a 24 24 ft (7.3 7.3 m) 4/0 copper mesh
grounding grid. Three gravel areas were then installed over three
quadrants of the ground grid, using different gravel for each quadrant
(1.5-in. [3.8 cm] crusher run, #57 washed gravel, and #34 washed
gravel), and a concrete slab was installed over the fourth quadrant.

An asphalt bed was installed outside and adjacent to one of the


ground grid quadrants to investigate the resistivity characteristics of
asphalt.

Voltage gradients in and around the ground grid were developed by


injecting approximately 22 A from a 240/480-V isolation trans-
former. Measured variables included the injected current, ground
potential rise, and voltages between selected surface locations and
the ground grid with and without connecting a 1000- resistor
representing a human body in the circuit. A more detailed charac-
terization of gravel and asphalt beds was determined by Thevenins Figure 1 Gravel and asphalt test areas
equivalent resistance (Rthev) in series with the 1000- resistor or
workers feet. The measurements took place on five different days
under varying moisture conditions.

Test Setup
A symmetrical, 24 24 ft (7.3 7.3 m) 4/0 copper ground grid
with four 12 12 ft (3.7 3.7 m) meshes was installed, and the
grid conductors were buried approximately 18 in. (46 cm) deep.
A concrete slab, containing no reinforcing steel or wire mesh, was
installed over one quadrant of the ground grid to investigate the
electrical characteristics of concrete in a substation environment.
Three gravel test areas (beds) and one asphalt test area (bed) were
installed over the remaining three quadrants of the ground grid
in late June 2010. The gravel types used were 1.5-in. (3.8 cm)
Figure 2 Gravel and asphalt test areas after installation
crusher run, #57 washed gravel, and #34 washed gravel.
The gravel beds were 46 in. (1015 cm) deep and extended
outside the grid area by 5 ft (1.5 m) to take corner (worst-case)
Test Procedure
This project consisted of making several voltage and current mea-
readings.
surements on various surfacing materials. The measurements were
The 6 6 ft (1.8 1.8 m) asphalt area was approximately 9 in.
taken for each test area in a consecutive manner. The measurements
(23 cm) deep and consisted of a base overlaid by crusher run and
are summarized as follows:
tar material. It was installed adjacent to the quadrant with the #57
washed gravel, overlapping it by 2 ft (0.6 m), as shown in Figures 1 Injected current (Ig).
and 2. Figure 1 shows the dimensions, locations, and specifications Ground potential rise with respect to a remote ground rod located
of the grounding grid, the gravel test areas, the asphalt bed, and approximately 150 ft (45.7 m) from the ground grid.
the concrete slab. Figure 2 shows a photograph of the test area after
installation.

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Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Open circuit touch voltage (Vtoc ). For this report, the open circuit
touch voltage is defined as the voltage measured between the
ground grid conductor and a pin driven at a surface location or
metallic shoe soles of a worker at that location.
Exposure current (Iexp ), measured as the voltage across a 1000-
resistor representing a human body. For this report, the volt-
age measured across the 1000- resistor is defined as the closed
circuit touch voltage (Vtcc ).
Open circuit touch voltage (Vtoc), measured between the ground
grid riser and the pins driven in the gravel (8-in. [20.3-cm] pins),
concrete (0.75-in. [1.91-cm] anchors), and asphalt (1-in. [2.5-cm]
nails). This measurement was used for comparison with the mea-
surement from the metallic soles representing workers feet.
Resistivity of asphalt, using the four-pin method. Figure 4 Measurement variables and locations

Voltage gradients in and around the ground grid were created by


injecting approximately 22 A into the ground grid. The current was Asphalt Bed at 2 in. (5.1 cm)

supplied from a pole-mounted distribution transformer through a


at 4 in. (10.2 cm) Nine pins used to
240/480-V isolation transformer, as shown in Figure 3. measure asphalt
resistivity at 2", 4",
7200/240120 V Pole Mounted
at 8 in. (20.3 cm) 8" and 12" spacing.
240/480 V Isolation
Distribution Transformer Transformer

240 V Variable at 12 in. (30.5 cm)


Transformer

Five pins used to


measure touch
voltage.
la
V51 V52 V53 V54 V55

Multigrounded Neutral System


24 24 ft (7.3 7.3 m)
Ground Grid with Gravel
Asphalt Test Areas

Figure 3 Current injection circuit Figure 5 Asphalt bed resistivity testing

A summary of various measurements, including their locations, is Apparent Resistivity of Asphalt Using the Four-Pin
shown in Figure 4. A summary of the measurements taken on the Measurement Method
asphalt is shown in Figure 5. The four-pin resistivity method was used to determine the electrical
resistivity of the asphalt. Figure 5 shows how the pins were installed
on the asphalt pad. The pins used in the asphalt were 16-penny
(~0.162-in. [0.411-cm] diameter) nails. The nails were driven into
the asphalt to a depth of 1 in. (2.5 cm). These pins were placed
along a diagonal, flush with the surface. The pins were placed in
locations to allow for four-pin resistivity measurements with spac-
ing of 2, 4, 8, and 12 in. (5.1, 10.2, 20.3, and 30.5 cm). A 120-V
source was used to inject the current, and a digital voltmeter was
used to measure the resulting voltage, as shown in Figure 6.

4 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

aluminum balls placed on the bottom electrode. The top electrode


was also weighed down with a concrete disk for good contact, as
shown in Figure 7(b). Figure 7(c) shows the device filled with #34
washed gravel, as an example, with the top electrode and concrete
weight removed. Figure 7(d) shows the device filled with 1.5-in.
(3.8-cm) crusher run gravel.

Figure 6 Four-pin measurement of asphalt resistivity using nail


electrodes

The resistance values obtained from these measurements were con-


verted to resistivity values by using the formula from IEEE Standard
80 [1] as shown in Equation 1.

Eq. 1
Figure 7 Gravel resistivity measurements using cylindrical test device;
A) Bottom electrode; B) Top electrode; C) Device filled with #34
Where: washed gravel; D) Device filled with 1.5-in. (3.8-cm) crusher run gravel

is the resistivity (-m).


To perform the measurements, a source voltage of 240 V was
a is the pin spacing (m or ft).
applied across the electrodes, and the current was measured. The
b is the pin depth (m or ft).
first reading was done with dry gravel. The test device was then filled
R is the voltage between the inner pins divided by the current
with water for the next measurement. Finally, the water was drained
through the outer pins ().
and another measurement was taken.

Resistivity of Gravel Using the Volume or Container The resistivity of the gravel sample was calculated from the follow-
Method ing equation:
The gravel resistivity was measured using the volume method. Fig-
Eq. 2
ure 7 shows a cylindrical test device that was used to measure gravel
resistivity. The device was a bucket made from 302 stainless steel.
The internal surfaces of the bucket were sandblasted and primed Where:
with an epoxy primer. Finally, urethane elastomer coating (80 mil is the resistivity (-m).
[2.03 mm]) was applied to provide the required insulation. A is the area of the cross section of the cylinder (m2; top and
The gravel sample was placed between the bottom and top elec- bottom cross sections are the same in this cylindrical device).
trodes, which were made of copper. To ensure good surface contact L is the cylinder length (m).
between each electrode and the gravel, crumpled aluminum balls R is the voltage applied to the electrodes divided by the current
were used between the gravel and electrode. Figure 7(a) shows the through the electrodes ().

5 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Open Circuit Touch and Step Voltages 1000 resistor


inside box
For the purpose of this report, the open circuit touch voltage (Vtoc ) is
defined as the voltage measured between the ground grid conductor
and the driven pins or metallic soles of insulating boots. These sur-
face locations may or may not be 1 m (approximately 3 ft) from the
ground grid conductor as defined conventionally. Each touch volt-
age was measured directly using a Fluke 87 digital multimeter. The
open circuit step voltages (Vstoc) were determined by the difference Testing at Pin
Location V35 Aluminum taped to
soles of insulated shoes
between two touch voltages located approximately 3 ft (1 m) apart.

The project also included measuring the open circuit touch volt-
ages (Vtoc ) by connecting the voltmeter between metallic soles of
insulating boots and the ground grid. The soles of insulating boots Figure 8 Measurement of exposure current or closed circuit touch
voltage
were covered in wire mesh and aluminum foil. These readings were
compared with the open circuit touch voltages (Vtoc ) measured
Thevenins Equivalent Resistance in Series with Feet
between the pins and the ground grid. (Refer to Figures 4 and 5 for
To characterize a surfacing material such as asphalt, gravel, or soil, it
identifying various surface locations and the location of the ground
is necessary to determine the Thevenins equivalent resistance (Rthev)
grid and the ground grid riser.)
that is in series with the feet when a contact is made. Because this
resistance is in series with the feet, it plays a major role in determin-
Exposure Current or Closed Circuit Touch Voltage ing the exposure current in a given environment.
Exposure current (Iexp ) is defined as the current flowing through a
1000- resistor with one side connected to the ground grid con- The Thevenins equivalent resistance can be computed by a number
ductor and the other side connected to a surface location through of methods, as published in several technical articles [2, 3]. IEEE
aluminum foil taped to the soles of two rubber insulating boots. The Standard 80 [1] provides a conservative but simple relationship for
exposure currents were measured by measuring the voltage across this resistance, as shown in Equation 3.
the 1000- resistor. With a 1000- resistor representing a human
Eq. 3
body, the voltage values read in volts directly represent the exposure
current values in milliamperes. Where:

The voltage measured across a resistor representing a human body s is resistivity of the surfacing material (-m).
is defined as a closed circuit touch voltage (Vtcc ). In actuality, this is
The circuit of Figure 9 describes the various electrical parameters
the voltage that appears across the body when a contact is made.
and their interactions in determining the exposure (body) current.
Because a 1000- resistor represents a human body in this project,
However, this complex network is far from providing a simpli-
it is convenient to define the exposure current in milliamperes as
fied approach to solve for the current. One approach that provides
the closed circuit touch voltage (Vtcc ) in volts. Additional informa-
considerable insight is to reduce the entire circuit into a two-port
tion regarding the significance of this voltage is provided in the next
network, typically known as Thevenins equivalent circuit. The cir-
section.
cuit looking from the two contact points C1 and C2/C3 is shown in
The exposure current was measured at every pin location. (Refer Figure 10. A two-port network can be similarly established between
to Figure 4 for the measurement locations.) A 180-lb (81.6-kg) contact points C2 and C3 to represent a step voltage that may exist
man wore the rubber boots for the exposure current measurements. between the two feet.
Figure 8 shows an example of the exposure current measurement on
the gravel.

6 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

From Figure 10, Equations 4 and 5 can be easily established:

Eq. 4

Eq. 5

Using Equations 4 and 5, an important relationship evolves, as


shown in Equation 6.

Eq. 6

Equation 6 suggests that Vtoc > Vtcc. It also suggests that the difference
in two touch voltages would be greater with a higher value of Rthev.
In other words, for a given (acceptable or safe) Vtcc, the Rthev must be
large if the Vtoc resulting from grid design is large. Conversely, if the
surfacing material is selected to produce a small Rthev, the grid should
be designed with closer mesh spacing to produce lower Vtoc measure-
ments across the substation yard.

Results
Figure 9 Resistance network in series with feet
Open Circuit Touch and Step Voltages
Safety analysis of a ground grid almost always includes computing
or measuring open circuit touch and step voltages. The safety goals
for the grounding grid are accomplished when these voltages are
within the tolerable limits that are typically determined from the
characteristics of surfacing materials. Due to numerous applications
of gravel in substations, it is important to know its characteristics
not only in regard to the voltages on the surface but also in its
ability to provide an effective resistance in series with the feet when
a contact is made. The open circuit touch and step voltage data
are presented in this section. The exposure current (closed circuit
exposure voltage) and Thevenins resistance data are presented in the
following sections.
Figure 10 Thevenins equivalent circuit to represent touch voltage,
exposure current, and equivalent resistance in series with workers feet Open Circuit Touch Voltage
Figures 11 through 14 show the open circuit touch voltages (Vtoc )
Thevenins principle (see Figure 10) replaces the entire circuit of measured between the pins and ground grid on concrete, gravel, and
Figure 9 by an equivalent circuit consisting of an equivalent voltage asphalt beds, respectively. Each figure contains six lines showing the
source (Vtoc ) in series with an equivalent resistance (Rthev ) behind measured data for various environmental conditions of the surfac-
the two points contacted by the person. When these two points are ing materials. All of the measured locations shown in Figures 11
contacted, the current (Iexp) would flow through the body, develop- through 14 are within the ground grid area.
ing the voltage (Vtcc ) across the body.

7 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Figure 15 shows the data for the asphalt bed located 3 ft (1 m) from
the perimeter of the ground grid. Figure 16 shows similar graphs
for four measurement points located 3 ft (1 m) outside each ground
grid corner.

Figure 11 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over concrete pad

Figure 15 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over asphalt bed

Figure 12 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over 1.5-in (3.8-cm)


crusher run

Figure 16 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage 3 ft (1 m) outside


each ground grid corner

Charts for the various surfacing materials, as much as possible, use


the same horizontal and vertical scales to facilitate ready visual com-
parison among surfacing materials. The data for the asphalt pad are
plotted versus distance measured from the ground perimeter rather
Figure 13 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over #34 washed
than from the ground grid center.
gravel
Figures 17 through 22 show the same open circuit touch voltages,
but with a different representation. Each figure shows a comparison
of touch voltages between various surfacing materials for a given
environmental condition.

Again, as much as possible, charts for various conditions use the


same horizontal and vertical scales to facilitate ready visual com-
parison among surfacing material conditions. The asphalt pad is
located outside the grid (see Figure 4), which results in the asphalt
data in the charts being displaced along the horizontal axis (distance
from center of ground grid) relative to the data for other surfacing
Figure 14 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over #57 washed
gravel materials

8 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Figure 17 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage, 7/12/2010 (initial Figure 20 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage (two days after wet
dry test) test)

Figure 21 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage (three days after wet
Figure 18 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage, 7/13/2010 (wet tests)
tests)

Figure 22 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage, 9/2/2010 (dry tests


Figure 19 Pin-to-grid open circuit touch voltage (1 hour after wet tests) repeated)

9 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

This project implemented two methods for measuring the open


circuit touch voltages. The method used to obtain the results shown
in Figures 11 through 22 consists of driving a pin into the surfacing
material and measuring the voltage from the pin to the ground grid.

The second method consists of measuring the voltage between the


metallic soles of workers insulating boots and the ground grid.
Between the two methods, the touch voltage measured by the
second method includes the influence of the surfacing material and
truly represents the voltage contacted by a worker. The method
Figure 25 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over #34 washed
involving pins, however, is more convenient to apply and is usually gravel
practiced in the industry.

Figures 23 through 28 show the same measurement scenarios as


those in Figures 11 through 16, except that these figures represent
the open circuit touch voltages measured between the metallic soles
of the workers insulating boots and the ground grid.

As before, charts for various conditions use the same horizontal and
vertical scales to facilitate ready visual comparison among surfacing
material conditions. Also, the data for the asphalt pad are plotted
versus distance measured from the ground perimeter rather than
from the ground grid center. Figure 26 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over #57 washed
gravel

Figure 23 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over concrete pad Figure 27 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over asphalt bed

Figure 24 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage over 1.5-in Figure 28 Boots-to-grid open circuit touch voltage 3 ft (1 m) outside
(3.8-cm) crusher run each ground grid corner

10 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

The following are some notable characteristics of the gravel, con-


crete, and asphalt with regard to open circuit touch voltages:

No significant difference was noted between the voltages mea-


sured from the pin to the ground grid and those measured from
the soles of a workers boots to the ground grid.
The maximum touch voltages were measured at 3 ft (1 m) outside
the ground grid corners.
At a given location, the touch voltage increased as the drying of
the surfacing material and soil progressed. Figure 30 Pin-to-pin open circuit touch voltage over 1.5-in (3.8-cm)
crusher run gravel
In the case of asphalt, the open circuit voltages could not be mea-
sured accurately using the Fluke 87 meter, particularly for the dry
surface conditions. This was due to difficulty in achieving a low
resistance contact between the nails and the surrounding asphalt.
The measured voltages, as a result, were lower than they should
have been (see Figure 27). A similar trend was observed in the
case of dry #34 and #57 washed gravel due to high soil-to-surface
contact resistances (see Figures 25 and 26).

Open Circuit Step Voltage


Step voltages were calculated by the difference between the two pin- Figure 31 Pin-to-pin open circuit touch voltage over #34 washed
to-pin touch voltages, each 3 ft (1 m) apart. Similar to touch voltage gravel
characteristics, the characteristics of open circuit step voltages over
one concrete and three gravel areas are shown in Figures 29 through
32. Due to inaccurate data, particularly for the dry conditions, the
step voltages over the asphalt bed are not presented.

Again, as much as possible, charts for various conditions use the


same horizontal and vertical scales to facilitate ready visual compari-
son among surfacing material conditions.

Figure 32 Pin-to-pin open circuit touch voltage over #57 washed


gravel

The following is a summary of step voltage characteristics for gravel


and concrete beds:

The step voltages at all measured locations are lower than cor-
responding touch voltages.
Similar to touch voltages, the step voltages increase as the gravel
Figure 29 Pin-to-pin open circuit touch voltage over concrete pad and concrete beds continue to dry.
Unlike touch voltages, the step voltages are higher near the center
of the ground grid. The earth voltage gradients (step voltages)
near the grid conductors are the highest. The gradients decrease

11 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

with the distance from the grid conductor. Conversely, the grid
conductor to earth voltage (touch voltage) is lowest in the vicinity
of the grid conductor and increases with the distance from the
conductor. This is because the conductor itself is at the ground
potential rise level, and the voltage gradients are steepest near the
conductor.

Exposure Currents or Closed Circuit Touch Voltages


Because the voltage value (in volts) measured across the 1000-
resistor can numerically represent the exposure current (Iexp) in
milliamperes, it is convenient to assign two titles to the same value.
Each exposure current (Iexp) value presented in this section could
Figure 34 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages (1 hour
also be labeled closed circuit touch voltage (Vtcc). The signifi- after wet tests)
cance of a closed circuit touch voltage in determining the Thevenins
equivalent resistance is explained in the section Thevenins Equiva-
lent Resistance in Series with Feet.

Figures 33 through 37 show the exposure currents over gravel, con-


crete, and asphalt beds at various distances from the center of the
ground grid. Each figure shows the exposure current for a different
environmental condition. Figure 38 shows the exposure currents at
four corner points located 3 ft (1 m) outside the ground grid. The
graph shows the comparison between the native soil and the three
gravel beds.

Again, as much as possible, charts for various conditions use the


same horizontal and vertical scales to facilitate ready visual com-
parison among surfacing material conditions. Also, the data for the
asphalt pad are plotted versus distance measured from the ground Figure 35 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages (two days
after wet tests)
perimeter rather than from the ground grid center.

Figure 33 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages, Figure 36 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages (three
7/13/2010 (wet tests) days after wet tests)

12 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

The exposure currents on washed gravel (#34 and #57) and


asphalt beds reduce dramatically within an hour from wetting. In
comparison, 1.5-in (3.8 cm) crusher run took three days of dry-
ing to reduce the exposure current level to that of washed gravel.
As expected, the highest exposure currents were measured 3 ft
(1 m) outside the ground grid corners.
In the case of washed gravel and asphalt, the change in exposure
currents is much more dramatic (several orders of magnitudes)
compared to the change in the open circuit touch voltage.

Thevenins Equivalent Resistance


One way to characterize a surfacing material and its resistive
Figure 37 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages (dry tests parameters is to determine the Thevenins equivalent resistance
repeated) (Rthev) in series with workers feet by measuring open and closed
circuit touch voltages. Figures 39 through 44 show the Thevenins
equivalent resistance of gravel, concrete, and asphalt beds at several
different test locations around the ground grid. Each figure shows
the resistances for a particular environmental condition. Figure 44
shows the equivalent resistances for the asphalt bed in various wet
and dry conditions.

The following observations are made from the Thevenins equivalent


resistance data presented in Figures 39 through 44:

The contact resistance at the feet and the overall resistivity of the
surfacing material have significant influence on the Thevenins
equivalent resistance protecting a worker. Both of these variables
Figure 38 Exposure currents or closed circuit touch voltages (corner in turn are highly dependent on the moisture content of the
points, all weather) surfacing material.
In the case of each surfacing material, the lowest Thevenins resis-
The following observations are made from the exposure current
tance measures were calculated for the wet surface conditions.
data:
In the cases of asphalt and washed gravel, the Thevenins equiva-
Between wet and dry conditions, the wet condition causes the lent resistance measures dramatically increased (several orders of
maximum exposure current for each type of surfacing material, magnitude) as the surfaces became dry.
including the native soil.
For most surface-covering materials and for relatively wetter envi-
In wet conditions, the exposure currents are significantly higher ronmental conditions (wet and one hour after wet tests), the Theve-
for concrete and 1.5-in (3.8 cm) crusher run compared to washed nins resistance measurements were consistent at all test locations.
gravels (#34 and #57) and asphalt. (The concrete pad has no
As the surfaces became dry, the resistance measurements between
rebar.)
the locations changed significantly, particularly in the case of
In wet conditions, the performances of 1.5-in (3.8 cm) crusher washed gravel and asphalt beds.
run and concrete are almost the same as the native soil.
Between #34 and #57 washed gravel, the performance of #34
gravel is slightly better due to larger-sized rocks.

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Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Figure 39 Thevenins equivalent resistance, 7/13/2010 (wet tests) Figure 42 Thevenins equivalent resistance (three days after wet tests)

Figure 40 Thevenins equivalent resistance (1 hour after wet tests) Figure 43 Thevenins equivalent resistance (dry tests repeated)

Figure 44 Thevenins equivalent resistance (asphalt, wet to dry


Figure 41 Thevenins equivalent resistance (two days after wet tests)
conditions)

14 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Apparent Resistivity of Asphalt by Four-Pin Method


Asphalt resistivity was measured using the four-pin method. The
resistivity values calculated from the measured voltages and currents
are shown in Figure 45.

The measured resistivity values of the asphalt at different pin spacing


and different moisture conditions do not seem to show any consis-
tency or trends. This is primarily due to difficulties in establishing
a low resistance contact between the nails (used as pins) and the
surrounding asphalt.

Figure 46 Resistivity of gravel samples (sample saturated with tap


water)

Figure 45 Asphalt resistivity at different pin spacing and moisture


conditions

Gravel Resistivity Data Determined from Volume or


Container Method
The data for gravel resistivity measurements are presented in a
bar chart format in Figures 46 through 48. Each figure shows the
Figure 47 Resistivity of gravel samples (sample with water drained)
resistivity values of 1.5-in. (3.8-cm) crusher run and #57 and #34
washed gravel samples for one environmental condition. Each
sample was first tested in dry condition, then the sample was satu-
rated with tap water, and finally, the water was drained from the
container.

The data in Figures 46 through 48 clearly indicate superiority of


#34 and #57 washed gravels compared to 1.5-in. (3.8-cm) crusher
run gravel in protecting a worker. The data also indicate that the
resistivity of washed gravel increases by a couple orders of magni-
tude just from draining the water from the container.

Figure 48 Resistivity of gravel samples (sample dry)

15 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Conclusions and Future Research For a given ground grid current, the open circuit touch voltage
primarily depends on the soil resistivity and the layout of the
General ground grid. Among various locations that were tested, the open
The following general conclusions can be drawn: circuit touch voltage increased with the distance from the center
of the ground grid. The maximum touch voltages were measured
The protective characteristics of a surfacing material are highly
at 3 ft (1 m) outside the ground grid corners.
dependent on its moisture content. A surfacing material is less
effective in protecting a worker when it is wet. Overall, the touch voltages increased with the drying of the
surfacing material and soil. In the case of asphalt, the open circuit
Crushed stones mixed with their own dust are significantly less
voltages could not be measured accurately using the Fluke 87
effective than washed stones, even in wet conditions.
meter, particularly for the dry surface conditions. This was due to
Dusty gravel retains the moisture for a long time, increasing the difficulty in achieving a low resistance contact between the nails
time during which it is less effective. In comparison, the washed and the surrounding asphalt. The measured voltages, as a result,
gravel dries out quickly, recovering its insulating properties. were lower than they should have been (see Figure 27). A similar
Among the washed gravels, the gravel with larger-sized stones trend was observed in the case of #34 and #57 washed gravel in
performs somewhat better than the smaller-sized counterparts. dry conditions due to high boot-to-surface contact resistances (see
Between concrete and asphalt, the protective characteristics of Figures 25 and 26).
asphalt are significantly better in almost any environmental con-
dition. The performance characteristics were determined based on
Open Circuit Step Voltage
The following conclusions can be drawn regarding open circuit step
the exposure current or closed circuit exposure voltage. Because
voltage:
the pins (nails) were not involved, these measurements were not
influenced by high contact resistance of the nails. The step voltages at all measured locations are lower than the cor-
responding touch voltages.
Gravel and Asphalt Resistivity
Similar to touch voltages, the step voltages increase as the gravel
The following conclusions can be drawn regarding gravel and
and concrete beds continue to dry.
asphalt resistivity:
Unlike touch voltages, the step voltages are higher near the center
Overall, the resistivity values of washed gravel (#34 and #57) as of the ground grid.
measured using the volume method are significantly higher than
that of 1.5-in. (3.8-cm) crusher run gravel. The difference in their Exposure Current or Closed Circuit Touch Voltage
resistivity values increased dramatically with the drying of the The following conclusions can be drawn regarding open circuit step
material. voltage:
The resistivity of the asphalt bed at different pin spacing (the
Between wet and dry conditions, the wet condition causes the
four-pin method) and different moisture conditions did not seem
maximum exposure current for each type of surfacing material,
to have any consistency or trends. This is primarily due to dif-
including the native soil.
ficulties in establishing a low resistance contact between the nails
(used as pins) and the surrounding asphalt. In wet conditions, the exposure currents are significantly higher
for concrete and 1.5-in. (3.8 cm) crusher run gravel compared to
Open Circuit Touch Voltage washed gravels (#34 and #57) and asphalt.
The following conclusions can be drawn regarding open circuit In wet conditions, the performances of 1.5-in. (3.8 cm) crusher
touch voltage: run and concrete are almost the same as that of the native soil.

No significant difference was noted between the voltages mea- Between #34 and #57 washed gravel, the performance of #34
sured from the pin to the ground grid and those measured from gravel is slightly better due to larger-sized rocks. This is likely due
the workers boots to the ground grid. to the fill factor and less contact area among larger-size rocks.

16 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

The exposure currents on washed gravel (#34 and #57) and one state to another (that is, during the drying and wetting periods).
asphalt beds reduce dramatically within an hour from wetting. In Drainage characteristics of the soil base should also be investigated.
comparison, 1.5-in. (3.8 cm) crusher run gravel took three days This could provide useful data for assessing step and touch voltages
of drying to reduce the exposure current to the same level. outside the substation grounding grid and outside the substation
As expected, the highest exposure currents were measured 3 ft fence in publicly accessible areas.
(1 m) outside the ground grid corners. The effect of base soil types, especially soil acidity, should be inves-
In the case of washed gravel and asphalt, the change in exposure tigated. This could provide valuable information for assessing corro-
currents is much more dramatic (several orders of magnitudes) sion of substation grounding grids. The decades-old data on seasonal
than the change in the open circuit touch voltage. variation of soil parameters [4] should be revisited and reconfirmed.

Thevenins Equivalent Resistance


The following conclusions can be drawn regarding Thevenins
Equipment Used
The following equipment was used in the tests:
equivalent resistance:
Digital multimeter
The contact resistance at the feet and the overall resistivity of
the surfacing material have significant influence on Thevenins Fluke 87, CQ-4007
equivalent resistance protecting a worker. Both of these variables, Fluke 87, CQ-4020
in turn, are highly dependent on the moisture content of the
Fluke 87, CQ-4028
surfacing material.
In the case of each surfacing material, the lowest Thevenins Ammeter
equivalent resistance values were calculated for the wet surface Fluke Amprobe 3000, CQ-4021
conditions. Soil resistivity tester
In the case of asphalt and washed gravel, the Thevenins equiva- AEMC CQ-4026
lent resistance values dramatically increased (several orders of
magnitude) as the surfaces became dry. Step-up transformer
HPS 15 kV, type ANN 240-480
For most surface-covering materials and for relatively wetter
environmental conditions (wet and one hour after wet tests), the
Thevenins equivalent resistance values were consistent at all test References
locations. As the surfaces became dry, the resistance values at
Cited References
various locations changed significantly, particularly in the case of
1. IEEE 80-2000, IEEE Guide for Safety in AC Substation
washed gravel and asphalt beds.
Grounding, IEEE, New York, May 1, 2000.
The Thevenins equivalent resistance values determined in this
2. F. P. Dawalibi, R. D. Southey, and R. S. Baishiki, Validity
project may be used to estimate the resistivity of the gravel. For
of Conventional Approaches for Calculating Body Currents
example, if a conservative design is desired, an average value for
Resulting from Electric Shocks, IEEE Transactions on Power
the Thevenins equivalent resistance values may be determined
Delivery, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 613626, 1990.
from the data obtained on 7/13/2010 in the wet tests or 1 hour
after wet tests. The surface resistivity values can then be deter- 3. F. P. Dawalibi, W. Xiong, and J. Ma, Effects of Deteriorated
mined from Equation 6. and Contaminated Substation Surface Covering Layers on Foot
Resistance Calculations, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery,
Recommendations for Possible Future Research Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 104113, January 1993.
The measurements were performed essentially in steady-state condi- 4. Seasonal Variations of Grounding Parameters by Field Tests. EPRI,
tionsfully dry, well wetted, and so on. It is suggested that mea- Palo Alto, CA: 1992. TR 100863.
surements also be performed during periods of transitioning from

17 May 2016
Touch and Step Voltage Measurements on Field-Installed Ground Grid Overlaid with Gravel and Asphalt Beds

Additional Reading Acknowledgments


Abledu, K. O., and D. N. Laird, Measurement of Substation Rock Principal Investigators
Resistivity, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, Vol. 7, No. 1, C. Day
pp. 295300, Jan. 1992. S. Patel
Bodier, M. G., La Secrites des Personnes et la Question des Mises G. Gela
a la Terre dans les Postes de Distribution, Bulletin de la Societ
Francaise des Electriciens, ser 6th, vol. VII, no. 74, pp. 545562,
Oct. 1947.

Elek, A., Hazards of Electric Shock at Stations during Fault and


Method of Reduction, Ontario Hydro Research News, Vol. 10,
No. 1, pp 16, 1958.

Hammond, E., and T. D. Robson, Comparison of Electrical


Properties of Various Cements and Concretes, The Engineer,
Vol. 199, No. 5165, pp. 7880, Jan. 1955.

Langer, H., Messungen von Erderspannungen in einem 220


kV Umspanwrek, Electrotechnische Zeitschrift, vol. 75, no. 4, pp
97105, Feb. 1954. (English translation is available in AIEE No.
80-1961, Guide for Safety in Alternating Current Substation
Grounding, Appendix V, pp 91102).

Thomson, P., Resistivity Tests on Electric Station Ground Cover-


ings, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles,
CA, July 12, 1983. [Internal report.]

Thomson, P., Resistivity Tests on Soil and Concrete, Los Angeles


Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles, CA, August 8, 1977.
[Internal report.]

18 May 2016
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