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By Steven McFadyen (/users/steven) on January 6th, 2014

CalculatingCableFaultRatings
When selecting a cable, the performance of the cable under fault conditions is an important consideration. It is important
that calculations be carried out to ensure that any cable is able to withstand the effects of any potential fault or short
circuit. This note looks at how to do this.
The primary concern with cables under a fault condition is the heat generated, and any potential negative effect this may
have on the cable insulation.
Calculation of fault rating is based on the principle that the protective device will isolate the fault in a time limit such that the
permitted temperature rise within the cable will not be exceeded.
Contents [hide]
The adiabatic equation 1.
Derivation - Adiabatic Equation and k
Obtaining Values of k 1.
2.
Non-adiabatic effects 3.
Other Cable Fault Issues 4.
References 5.
Theadiabaticequation
When calculating the fault ratings of a cable, it is generally assumed that the duration so short enough that no heat is
dissipated by the cable to the surrounding. Adopting this approach simplifies the calculation and errs on the safe side.
The normally used equation is the so-called adiabatic equation. For a given fault of I, which lasts for time t, the minimum
required cable cross sectional area is given by:
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A - the nominal cross section area, mm
I - the fault current in, A
t - duration of fault current, s
k - a factor dependant on cable type (see below)
Alternatively, given the cable cross section and fault current, the maximum time allowable for the protective device can be
found from:

The factor k is dependant on the cable insulation, allowable temperature rise under fault conditions, conductor resistivity
and heat capacity. Typical values of k are:
Value of k
Temperature Conductor Material
Initial C] Final [C] Copper Aluminium Steel
Thermoplastic 70C (PVC)

70 160/140 115/103 76/78 42/37
Thermoplastic 90C (PVC) 90 160/140 100/86 66/57 36/31
Thermosetting, 90C (XLPE, EDR) 90 250 143 94 52
Thermosetting, 60C (rubber) 60 200 141 93 51
Thermosetting, 85C (rubber) 85 220 134 89 48
Thermosetting, 185C (silicone rubber) 180 350 132 87 47
*where two values; lower value applied to conductor CSA > 300 mm
* these values are suitable for durations up to 5 seconds, source: BS 7671, IEC 60364-5-54
Tip: for a better understanding of cable insulation and how it is categorised, refer to our Cable Insulation
Properties note (http://myelectrical.com/notes/entryid/178/cable-insulation-properties) .
Example
Consider a maximum fault current of 13.6 kA and the protective device trips in 2.6 s. The minimum safe cable cross
sectional area of a copper thermosetting 90C cable (k=143) is:

Any selected cable larger than this will withstand the fault.
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A =
t I
2

k
2
t=
k
2
A
2
I
2
2
S = = 154
2.6 13600
2

143
m m
2

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Derivation-AdiabaticEquationandk
The term adiabatic applies to a process where there is no heat transfer. For cable faults, we are assuming that all the
heat generated during the fault is contained within the cable (and not transmitted away). Obviously this is not fully true, but
it is on the safe side.
From physics, the heat Q, required to rise a material T is given by:

Q - heat added, J
c - specific heat constant of material, J.g .K
m - mass of the material, g
T - temperature rise, K
The energy into the cable during a fault is given by:

R - the resistance of the cable,
From the physical cable properties we can calculate m and R as:

and

- material density in g.mm
- resistivity of the conductor, .mm
l - length of the cable, mm
Combining and substituting we have:


and rearranging for A gives:

by letting

Subscrib
Q = cm T
-1 -1
Q = Rt I
2
m = Al
c
R =
l
r
A
c
-3
r
Rt= cm T I
2
t = c Al T I
2
l
r
A
c
S =
t I
2

k
k =
c T
c
r

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Note: T is the maximum allowable temperature rise for the cable:

- final (maximum) cable insulation temperature, C
- initial (operating) cable insulation temperature, C
Units: are expressed in g (grams) and mm , as opposed to kG and m. This is widely adopted by cable
specifiers. The equations can easily be redone in kG and m if required.
ObtainingValuesofk
The constant k can be calculated from the above equation.
A more common approach for is to use the tabulated values for k, for example, from BS 7671 .
IEC 60364-5-54 also allows a more direct calculation of k, using:

Q - volumetric heat capacity of conductor at 20C, J.K .mm
- reciprocal of temperature coefficient of resistivity at 0C, C
- resistivity of conductor as 20C, .mm
- initial conductor temperature, C
- final conductor temperature, C
[C] Q [J.K .mm ] [.mm]
Copper 234.5 3.45 x 10 17.241 x 10
Aluminium 228 2.5 x 10 28.267 x 10
Steel 202 3.8 x 10 138 x 10
Substituting the above values and rearranging the IEC equation slightly, gives:

- copper conductors

- aluminium conductors

- steel
T =
f i
f
i
2
[1]
[2]
k = ln( )
( + 20) Q
c
20
+
f
+
i

c
-1 -3
20
i
f
c
-1 -3
20
-3 -6
-3 -6
-3 -6
k = 226 ln( 1+ )

f i
234.5+
i

k = 148 ln( 1+ )

f i
228+
i

k = 78 ln( 1+ )

f i
202+
i

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Non-adiabaticeffects
As mentioned, the adiabatic equation assumes no heat is dissipated from the cable during a fault. While putting the
calculation on the safe side, in some situations, particularly for longer fault duration there is the potential to be able to get
away with a smaller cross section. In these instances, it is possible to do a more accurate calculation.
Considering non-adiabatic effects is more complex. Unless there is some driver, using the adiabatic equations is just
easier. Software is available to consider non adiabatic effects, however, there is a cost, time and complexity associated
with this.
The IEC also publish a standard which deals with non-adiabatic equations:
IEC 60949 "Calculation of thermally permissible short-circuit current, taking into account non-adiabatic heating
effects".

The method adopted by IEC 60949 is to use the adiabatic equation and apply a factor to cater for the non-adiabatic
effects:

I - permissible short circuit current, A (or kA)
I - adiabatic calculated permissible short circuit current, A (or kA)
- factor to allow for heat dissipation from cable
The bulk of the IEC 60949 standard is concerned with the calculation of .
OtherCableFaultIssues
In addition to the direct heating effect of fault currents, other considerations include:
electro-mechanical stress and fault levels large enough to cause cable failure
performance of joint and terminations under fault conditions

While in most cases the none heating effects are not serious, there may be situations where these could pose a risk to the
cable or equipment/personnel in the vicinity.
References
[1]. BS 7671 - Requirements for Electrical Installations. 17th ed. United Kingdom: IEE; 2008.
[2] IEC 60364-5-54 Low-voltage electrical installations - Part 5-54: Selection and erection of electrical
equipment - Earthing arrangements and protective conductors. 3rd ed. IEC; 2011.
I = I
AD
AD
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Steven has over twenty five years experience working on some of the largest construction projects. He has a deep
technical understanding of electrical engineering and is keen to share this knowledge.
About the author
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Steven McFadyen (/users/steven)
M oreinterestingNotes:
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Earth El ectrode Resistance

Avatar If the rods are too close to


each other, the electrical fields will interact and
the overall resistance with not be half of
How to refer faul t level s across a transformer

Avatar This is the level of short


circuit fault (in MVA) the transformer has been
designed to withstand. 2 seconds is the
Cabl e Si zing Tool

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calculation tool.Regards,Vasile
How a Di gi tal Substation Works

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comment. You are correct, integrating legacy
systems is a key issue. Merging units are an
4 Comments

ptjackson
Where I have 3 cables carrying Phase 1 in parallel (e.g. 9 cables, 3 sets of 3), must each
conductor have the ability to withstand the full fault contribution or can the fault be divisible by 3?

Steven McFadyen Mod
I would calculate the current the cable is likely to see. For example, a 3-phase short circuit
through fault, will likely see each cable carrying 1/3 of the current. On the other hand an
earth fault in any of the cables, would see a fault current governed by that cables
impedance.
Verify the cable on the current determined from the calculation.

ram31
for selection of cross sectional area of 11KV cables , will the short circuit current rating be based
on the short circuit current rating (breaking capacity) of the disconnect switch or on the short
circuit current flowing in the circuit or feeder? Consider a situation where the breaker fault current
breaking capacity is 31.5KA and the fault current calculated is 2 KA.

Steven McFadyen Mod
The typical phrase used in the standards is that you use the value of fault current which can
flow through the protective device (taking into account any current limiting capability). I think
your fault rating calculation should be on the 2 kA.
Think of it this way - you size your switchboard by calculating the fault current and taking the
next highest standard rating; so why not rate the cable based on the calculated fault level.
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