Improvement of the Standard Ampacity Calculations for Power Cables Installed in Trefoil Formations in Ventilated Tunnels

John Michael Colef, Francisco De Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Forced ventilated underground installations are challenging to design due to the complex mathematics of turbulent fluid flow. Previous methods have tackled this problem, but only recently, the effect of confinement on a single cable has been considered. In this paper, the effect of cable confinement on the practical case of ventilated trefoil installations is investigated. The complete Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) problem is solved using Finite Element Method (FEM) simulations and validated by laboratory experiments using pipes. Then, FEM simulations are used to vary the distance of the trefoil from the tunnel wall, the current, and the wind velocity to get a comprehensive picture of the phenomena. This data is used to create a new empirical equation for the Nusselt number for a wide range of operating conditions. The principle of similitude is validated for a scaled-down model of a large tunnel and then used to analyze the thermal rating of tunnels. The new equation improves the IEC standard equations by accounting for the effect of cable confinement on trefoil installations. An important finding of this paper is that a lower maximum permissible current rating is obtained, which if ignored can present a serious risk for thermal damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIEEE Transactions on Power Delivery
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Cable rating
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
  • Convection
  • Finite element analysis
  • IEC Standards
  • Mathematical model
  • Power cables
  • Standards
  • Ventilation
  • forced convection
  • turbulent flow
  • ventilated tunnel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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