A theoretical and experimental investigation into fire induced flashover of high voltage transmission lines.
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This thesis documents a research study of High Voltage transmission line faults induced by fire. Conductor to conductor and conductor to ground flashovers have been experienced by electricity utilities around the world under conditions of veld and sugar cane fires. These types of faults are unpredictable and negatively impact line reliability and quality of supply. This is a crucial problem when the revenue of the industry is sensitive to voltage dips. Electricity utilities have taken a preventative approach, like clearing vegetation from the line servitude in order to decrease the frequency of line faults. There has also been a drive to collaborate with sugarcane farmers in order to have harvesting fires planned with utilities. Some success has been achieved with these initiatives however there still remains a large number of faults. The focus of this study is on the mechanism of fire-induced flashover. Previou s work has displayed the existence of two theories. The first theory suggests that flashover is due to the reduction in air insulation strength caused by a reduced air density that results from the thermal effect of the fire. The second theory suggests that small particles present in the fire cause electric field distortions that induce flashover. This study is focused on a theory , which indicates that flashover is induced due to an enhanced electric field which is a result of the conductive properties of the flames present in the air gap (the flame conductivity theory). The effects of particles and a reduced air density is said to support this mechanism that is the primary reason for flashover. This thesis present s a summary of the literature where firstly an understanding of air insulation behavior is displayed. Thereafter specific interest is given to the effect of fire and flames wherein the physics of flames are discussed. This then leads to the description of the flame conductivity theory. Chapter 4 deals with a simulative investigation into the effect a conducting flame has on the electric field distribution. This is looked at with a varying flame conductivity and gap length in mind. The simulations specifically cover the 275 kV and 400 kV line configurations. The simulative investigation results in a mapping of electric field enhancement against conductivity values and gap sizes. Thus a flashover probability is assessed by using the two factor flashover criteria when analyzing the electric field stresses. The objective of the experimental work in this study is to obtain insight on how the flame geometry and orientation affects flashover and the dependence of flashover on gap size. Tests involving a fire beneath a conductor were carried out for different gap sizes . Experimentation with particles above a flame was also conducted. It was concluded that flame structure does have an impact on flashover since a flame with sharp edges is more likely to cause flashover. Particles have a reducing effect on air insulation strength. This is mainly due to the fact that the particle reduces the effective air-gap size. No significant effect over and above this is noticed . For gaps spanned by clean Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) flames flashover voltage increases as gap-length increases with some degree of nonlinearity. Flame resistances and conductivity were approximated from measured currents and voltages.