The University of Southampton

Improving the Operational Efficiency of Subsea Cable Systems

Published: 31 October 2012

The Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton are further developing their links to tackle a number of interdisciplinary issues in the area of subsea power transmission.

For many years, engineers at the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory at Southampton have been involved in research, design and testing work on subsea power cables ranging from small links to GW scale HVDC interconnectors. Southampton is also host to the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, whose scientists possess a huge depth of expertise on the environment beneath our coastal waters. Since the launch of the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute, the two teams have been further developing their links to tackle a number of interdisciplinary issues in the area of subsea power transmission. This has led to the appointment of three new PhD students, supervised by a cross-disciplinary team.

Tim Hughes gained his first degree in Physics and joined the team in October, where he will be developing numerical models of the thermal environment seen by subsea cable systems. Predicting how this environment will behave and evolve over time is critical to accurately rating power cables, whose current rating is often limited by thermal considerations. Incorrectly rating the cable can either lead to poor asset utilisation, or worse still a premature failure of a multi-million pound asset. Tim’s work is funded through a HubNet studentship. John Emeana spent a number of years working in the offshore industry before deciding to return to university to study for a PhD. John’s work, funded through an iCASE award from National Grid, seeks to gain new knowledge from existing survey techniques to learn more about the evolution of the environment in which the cable operates. A wide variety of data will be used, ranging from core logs through to high resolution seismic data.

Maggie Phuan joined Southampton in 2011 to study for her MSc Energy & Sustainability with Electrical Power Engineering before taking on her PhD studies. Maggie is based at TDHVL and will be developing advanced thermal and statistical models applicable to wind farm cable systems. The inherent variability of wind generation means that conventional design rules using existing thermal models can lead to a very conservative system. New modelling techniques are essential in driving down the cost of connecting offshore renewable energy projects to the grid for the benefit of consumers.

Tim, John and Maggie join a growing cohort of Southampton students working on high voltage cable systems. The group have a long history of working with industry – if you would you like to know more about how you can benefit from our expertise, please contact Prof Paul Lewin.

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