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Peter Dow

Electrically de-icing cable-stayed bridges

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What started off as my politically-motivated blog (url deleted)last week, I've since been elaborating on, in an engineering design style, so I thought I should get some professional help.  😉

_110851098_bridge5.jpg
BBC: “Falling ice causes first Queensferry Crossing closure”

Keeping such bridges open even in icing conditions is really not rocket science. What, to me anyway, is the obvious solution – to pass an electrical heating current through the bridge’s support cables –  doesn’t seem to be “obvious” to other research scientists and engineers whose “Thermal Systems” for melting the ice are reviewed here.

I suggested this simple solution, outlined the calculations required and warned of some dangers in an email to the Queensferry Crossing bridge authorities and contractors in March 2019, but as usual, the authorities ignore solutions until there is a political price to be paid for continuing to ignore solutions in a pig-headed, in-denial kind of way that politicians like to get away with, if they possibly can.

There follows a link to a PDF of the email I sent the bridge authorities last year – hopefully you can click the link and open and / or download the PDF so you can read it.

Queensferry falling ice hazard solution – electrically-heated cable stays

Deicing power for 70km of cables
@ 100W/m = 7MW = household electricity within a 3 mile radius of the bridge.
@ 250W/m = 17.5MW = household electricity within a 5 mile radius of the bridge.

Cable strands
queensferrycrossingcablecrosssection55-s

Some strands in the cable are better situated for heating the cable than other strands, depending on their position in the cable as I have labelled them alphabetically, beginning with the label “A” for the centre strand (which is the worst strand for heating the outside of the cable, where the ice would be) and labelling the outer strands last in alphabetical order, which are best for heating the outside of the cable.

The cable strands are by convention named here using the format – “(Number of strands in the cable)-(Letter)”. Thus the centre strand in the 55-strand cable is named as “55-A”, the 6 strands immediately surrounding the sole 55-A are all named of type “55-B”.

For each strand in the cable we can assign a factor of heating capacity.

qfccable55-heatingcapacityfactors_1080.j

For the 55-strand cable, total heating capacity factor assigned is 48.

For the 55-strand cable, there are a total of 24 strands which have utility for heating the cable – 6 of the 55-F type name strands, 6 x 55-Gs and 12 x 55-Hs. The 31 other strands (the 55-A to 55-Es) are not needed for heating per se, though could carry electrical currents whether by design or otherwise.

We can tabulate for each strand label, the heating power fraction and percentage, according to each strand’s heating capacity factor as a fraction of the cable’s total heating capacity factor.

55heating.jpg

61strandcable.jpg
For the 61-strand cable, the total heating capacity factor assigned is 54.

For the 61-strand cable, there are a total of 24 strands which have utility for heating the cable – 6 x 61-Gs, 12 x 61-Hs and 6 x 61-Is. There are 37 other strands – the 61-A to 61-Fs.
61heating.jpg

73strandcable.jpg

For the 73-strand cable, the total heating capacity factor assigned is 54.

For the 73-strand cable, there are a total of 30 strands which have utility for heating the cable – 12 x 73-Hs, 6 x 73-Is and 12 x 73-Js. There are 43 other strands – the 73-A to 73-Gs.

73heating.jpg

See LINK DELETED for details for 85-, 91- and 109- strand cables.


VSL SSI 2000 Stay Cable System
There are a number of options available in the VSL SSI 2000 Stay Cable System so these figures cannot be confirmed without sight of the Queensferry Crossing engineering design specifications (or by actually measuring the cables, which I am unable to do!).

queensferrycrossingsun.jpg?w=500

For now, I am assuming for simplicity that the required maximum heating power in watts/metre is the same as the stay pipe diameter in mm. This is not far off the maximum heat radiation from the sun on such a stay pipe, square on to the sun, at midday, midsummer, on a cloudless day – or more than enough heat to melt any ice in short order!

At this maximum heating power and after the cable cores warm up, they will emit 1000÷π = 318 Watts of heat energy per metre-squared of stay pipe surface area.

cablepower.jpg

It is now possible to tabulate for each cable-label strand, the maximum heating power per metre and assuming a strand resistance of 0.001137 ohms per metre, what the maximum strand current would be.

strandpower.jpg

Cable voltages and power
To calculate the cable voltages and power and to calculate the total maximum power to heat all the cables of the Queensferry Crossing accurately, I will need to know how many of each size of cable and their lengths.

Direct Current Heating
Those theoretical differences between strand situations only matter for direct current heating if it is possible electrically to isolate strands from each other. The strands are attached via steel wedges to a steel anchor head, which, for now, effectively connects all the strands together electrically.

stay-cable-anchorages.jpg?w=768
Cable anchorages

electrically-isolated-strands.jpg
Teflon/PTFE-coated glass fibre fabric sheaths to electrically isolate the strands from the anchor head. The outer strands are for heating. The inner strands are for signals.

It should be possible to insert Teflon/PTFE-coated glass fibre fabric sheaths between the wedges which grip the  strands we wish to insulate and to isolate from the anchor head and from each other, unless and until they are connected to electrical heating or signal circuits.

The signal circuits could be used to report to the power supply control electronics at one end of the cable, the output of heating current sensors at the other end of the cable, to help to detect current leakage faults in the cable strands’ insulation, to implement a residual current device, to trigger safety power-cut-outs or circuit-breakers, most notably.

Teflon is a good insulator and is used for thread seal tape illustrating the properties of lubrication of the wedge to its housing cone required. The glass fibre fabric should provide strength under compression and a superior dimensional stability versus creep under load that a pure Teflon sheath may suffer from.

Clearly the sheath would have to remain thick enough to insulate against the highest voltage difference which might appear between the heating strands and the anchor head.

Such sheaths would likely not be available as an off-the-shelf product in the required dimensions (though general purpose PTFE-coated fibre glass cloth is commonly available) and would likely require to be custom manufactured, tested and proved in the laboratory.

So isolating the strands for DC heating purposes presents technical challenges. It would be very convenient if the outer strands could be preferentially used for heating purposes without having to isolate the strands electrically etc. but to achieve that we must consider using not direct current but alternating current instead.

Alternating Current Heating
The skin effect observed with alternating current changes matters in that with increasing frequency the heating current will tend to distribute towards strands nearer the surface of a cable. However if too great a frequency is used then the skin effect will increase the resistance of even the most superficial strands so much that inappropriately high and difficult to insulate against voltages would be required to obtain the required heating power.

Assuming that the appropriate AC frequency can be determined for preferentially heating the superficial strands of the Queensferry Crossing stay cables, although there would be no need to isolate the strands from the anchor head, there then presents the challenge of isolating the anchor heads and anchorages so that the current is not dissipated through the bridge instead of heating the cables as required.

Having isolated the cables for heating purposes, one may then wish later to reconnect the cables electrically to the rest of the bridge and disconnect the heating power supplies for lightning protection purposes. Certainly, one would not wish to encourage a lightning strike to find its way to ground via the bridge’s cable deicing power supplies!

Tower ice
To prevent the bridge piers or towers (with non-conducting concrete surfaces) from icing up, they could be surface fitted with new electrical heating trace cables which are then appropriately electrically-powered for deicing when necessary.

Ideally, such additional heating elements would have been embedded into the surface of the piers at construction time. Too late for that now.

Another option to consider is heating the hollow piers from within. However, considering the considerable mass and thickness of the piers their surfaces would have to be kept above freezing temperature all winter long. Heating the piers from within, there simply wouldn’t be time to allow the piers to get freezing cold because there was no icing then suddenly heat them from the inside to deice a sudden incidence of icing.

So heating from within bridge piers would use more electricity, though the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive – surplus grid electricity is a common occurrence at times of high wind power generation, so the electricity grid managers should offer a very low price for such electricity (just the grid connection charge) – plus it should be a lot safer upgrade from the point of view of bridge users – far less chance of things falling onto the road during the fitting of the piers’ internal heating elements.

Edited by Strange
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On 2/18/2020 at 10:10 AM, Peter Dow said:


electrically-isolated-strands.jpg
Teflon/PTFE-coated glass fibre fabric sheaths to electrically isolate the strands from the anchor head. The outer strands are for heating. The inner strands are for signals.

Such sheaths would likely not be available as an off-the-shelf product in the required dimensions (though general purpose PTFE-coated fibre glass cloth is commonly available) and would likely require to be custom manufactured, tested and proved in the laboratory.
 

This expandable E-glass sleeving, expands from a relaxed internal bore of 15mm to a maximum bore of 38mm and insulates to 500V when not expanded, which is a useful size while relaxed to accommodate the strand and while expanded to accommodate the wedges.

The insulation should cope with the highest DC voltage of about 100 Volts, used to power the longest and highest heating capacity factor strands, albeit that this sleeving is inappropriately resin-coated and would therefore likely require to be custom adapted, the resin cleaned off and re-coated with PTFE, tested and proved in the laboratory. Perhaps wrapping the wedges in PTFE thread seal tape is all that is required to supplement the product as supplied for satisfactory performance? A promising avenue for research.


expandable-e-glass-sleeving.jpg?w=500

DC Power Supplies
Not forgetting DC power supplies and I have noticed a comprehensive range of 3kW to 10kW DC power supplies here that I think will do nicely, an average of about a dozen power supplies per cable (more for the longer cables, fewer for the shorter cables), about 3500 power supplies required to de-ice all 288 cables.

high-power-lab-dc.jpg?w=500

Where to store the cable power supplies?
Let’s examine the option of storing the cable heating power supplies in the towers, racked next to the anchorages of the cables which they will be heating. There might just be enough room to squeeze in another half a tonne of power supplies for the 4 cables per floor (assuming their racks are securely attached to the tower walls), 12 tonnes worth of power supplies for all 24 floors per tower, for all 3 towers!

Even at 94% efficiency for switch mode power supplies, each tower’s cable power supplies could be generating at most about 0.4 MW of waste heat energy. A new massive extractor fan fitted into the roofs of the towers would be required to cool the inside of the towers while the DC power supplies are heating the cables.


Considering how cramped the insides of the towers are already, the daunting cooling problem, not to mention the risk of a tower fire destroying all of a tower’s power supplies at one time, it looks to be much the better option to install the cable power supplies on the deck, next to the deck anchorages to allow them to be supplied with power.

queensferry-crossing-on-deck-23-550x365-

The stay cables penetrate the surface of the deck, as can be clearly seen in this next photograph, taken during construction.

queensferrycrossingstaycablesinsidedeck.

Therefore best access to the anchor heads, to attach the cable heating power supplies, may be from inside the deck, where the power supplies themselves should be stored too.

Heating the towers may be as simple as a big electric heater on the ground floor, the warm air rising up the insides of towers in between the open stairways and scaffolding.

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DC Circuit Diagrams
Locating all the electrics at the deck anchorages, while leaving the strands earthed at the tower anchorages, offers advantages for design, development, installation, commissioning and servicing.

qfc-circuit-diagram.jpg
Circuit Diagram – 2 heating strands, 1 power supply

currentbalancedetector.jpg
Heating strands pair current balance detector

The window detector circuit compares the isolated power supply’s potential with respect to earth to detect the expected balance of current and voltage in the heating strands pair. If an imbalance fault develops then the safety switch is used to cut the power.

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On 2/18/2020 at 11:10 AM, Peter Dow said:

What, to me anyway, is the obvious solution – to pass an electrical heating current through the bridge’s support cables –  doesn’t seem to be “obvious” to other research scientists and engineers whose “Thermal Systems” for melting the ice are reviewed here.

It is not "obvious" because of the issues described in the paper at the link you provided. Example:  

Quote

the systems generally consume copious amounts of energy when operating.

 

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On 2/18/2020 at 10:10 AM, Peter Dow said:

Those theoretical differences between strand situations only matter for direct current heating if it is possible electrically to isolate strands from each other. The strands are attached via steel wedges to a steel anchor head, which, for now, effectively connects all the strands together electrically.

"Effectively"? Perhaps I should have used the word "incidentally".

Please note, however, that when introducing a design requirement to conduct large electrical currents between strand pairs at the tower anchor heads (see DC Circuit Diagrams) the incidental electrical connection at the wedges may be of insufficiently or unreliably low resistance and should be supplemented with an ultra-low resistance connector between the strand ends, to avoid faults developing from excessive resistance heating at the wedges.

On 2/25/2020 at 8:12 PM, Ghideon said:

It is not "obvious" because of the issues described in the paper at the link you provided. Example:  

Quote

the systems generally consume copious amounts of energy when operating.

 

"Copious" amounts of energy can be appropriate if that is what it takes to warm your thing (in this case a bridge) into the Goldilocks zone, neither too cold, nor too hot.

 

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If you want to make a capital purchase within the civil service the first thing the form asks is effectively "What is wrong with the status quo?".

Occasionally having to close a bridge may be less of a problem than the "solution" you are offering.

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7 hours ago, Peter Dow said:

"Copious" amounts of energy can be appropriate if that is what it takes to warm your thing (in this case a bridge) into the Goldilocks zone, neither too cold, nor too hot.

You said:

On 2/18/2020 at 11:10 AM, Peter Dow said:

Keeping such bridges open even in icing conditions is really not rocket science. What, to me anyway, is the obvious solution – to pass an electrical heating current through the bridge’s support cables –  doesn’t seem to be “obvious” to other research scientists and engineers whose “Thermal Systems” for melting the ice are reviewed here.

Those "other research scientists and engineers" found that, according to your link: 

Quote

The many different thermal applications simply heat the ice prone surface and, as such, tend to be very reliable and generally seem to work. Nevertheless, they consume very large amounts of energy.

You seem to be proposing a method that is within a class of methods that is known to technically work but is too inefficient according to the link. 
What is the cost of installing and running the suggested de-icing method?

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On 2/23/2020 at 11:30 AM, Peter Dow said:

queensferry-crossing-on-deck-23-550x365-

The stay cables penetrate the surface of the deck, as can be clearly seen in this next photograph, taken during construction.

I have just watched a Chammel 5 documentary on the new Champlain bridge in Montreal, which opened last July.

 

Your photo above  shows the cable sheath at Queensferry.
It is interesting to compare this with a ribbed de-icing sheath, adopted in  Montreal.

Apart from the expected journalistic hype,  the programme  highlighted some interesting points in current  bridge design and construction  practice.

Edited by studiot

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On 2/23/2020 at 6:30 AM, Peter Dow said:

Therefore best access to the anchor heads, to attach the cable heating power supplies, may be from inside the deck, where the power supplies themselves should be stored too.

deck-below-cables.jpg

 

On 2/27/2020 at 12:52 PM, John Cuthber said:

If you want to make a capital purchase within the civil service the first thing the form asks is effectively "What is wrong with the status quo?".

Occasionally having to close a bridge may be less of a problem than the "solution" you are offering.

The closure of the bridge for nearly 2 days was enough of a problem for a committee of the Scottish Parliament to questions officials for half an hour.

Reportedly, Transport Scotland is looking for a solution.

"Ice-busting equipment is to be fitted to the Queensferry Crossing in time for next winter according to Transport Scotland." - The Herald

"Ice-busting equipment is to be fitted to the Queensferry Crossing by next winter, Transport Scotland plans." - The Scotsman

I trust they will at least consider my solution and hopefully call me.

On 2/27/2020 at 1:35 PM, Ghideon said:

What is the cost of installing and running the suggested de-icing method?

I've suggested a budget of up to a few £10s of millions to develop and install a world-leading de-icing system for the Queensferry Crossing, based on my applied science research that will stop the accumulation of ice and keep the bridge open, regardless of whatever snow and ice weather.

Running costs would be for the most part the connection cost for the 20MW electricity supply. It will be automated enough so that the existing bridge operators will be able to run the de-icing system as easily as they manage the heating in their own office.

On 2/29/2020 at 3:23 PM, studiot said:

I have just watched a Chammel 5 documentary on the new Champlain bridge in Montreal, which opened last July.

Your photo above  shows the cable sheath at Queensferry.
It is interesting to compare this with a ribbed de-icing sheath, adopted in  Montreal.

I saw that.

https://forcetechnology.com/en/cases/test-of-new-concept-to-minimise-oscillating-bridge-cables-and-falling-ice

cable-with-ice-champlain-bridge-test.jpg?as=1&w=304&r=5b5a7134-9140-4340-8121-4d8d3f383b2e

cable-with-ice-ice-type-freezing-rain-champlain-bridge-test.jpg?as=1&w=304&r=f34bb41f-1eda-4265-8ee5-daa23c1b8832

cable-with-ice-ice-type-freezing-rain-deicing-champlain-bridge-test.jpg?as=1&w=304&r=a98a4f01-2c81-4d7b-a5ff-7d91e9197db1

cable-with-ice-ice-type-freezing-rain-deicing-ice-falling-of-the-cable-champlain-bridge.jpg?as=1&w=304&r=142c0216-5e80-444b-9855-f7e8ee42787a

cable-with-ice-ice-type-mixed-ice-deicing-champlain-bridge.jpg?as=1&w=304&r=447d42ab-d10b-4483-8dc3-bfb89b7a98fe

I think they are still going to risk damaging ice-falls, but this is just their first winter at Samuel de Champlian, so time will tell.

I prefer my solution which does away with ice-fall altogether.

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1 minute ago, Peter Dow said:

I think they are still going to risk damaging ice-falls, but this is just their first winter at Samuel de Champlian, so time will tell.

I prefer my solution which does away with ice-fall altogether.

Two points.

Queensferry is in the climatic regime discussed  in the BBC programme. That is frequent alternation between just below and just above freezing.

Champlain is in a much harsher environment.

You don't have to heat all the cables, just the sheaths.

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On 2/18/2020 at 10:10 AM, Peter Dow said:

....the centre strand (which is the worst strand for heating the outside of the cable, where the ice would be)...

If you want symmetric heating at 100% efficiency, use the central strand or all strands....

2 hours ago, studiot said:

You don't have to heat all the cables, just the sheaths.

Or ... You don't have to heat the sheaths, you can heat the cables, whichever is more convenient.

If you're zapping the cables with say 10MW, all that heat leaves the cables via the sheaths.

Typical advert at https://www.eheat.com/envi-high-efficiency-whole-room-120v-hardwired-electric-panel-wall-heater-2nd-generation-hw3012t/ :

Quote

result is a 100% pure convection, fanless heater that uses minimal energy

I'd like to see the comparison heater which produces less heat with the same input....

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10 hours ago, Peter Dow said:

I trust they will at least consider my solution and hopefully call me.

We will no doubt find out if they do.

 

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10 hours ago, Carrock said:

Or ... You don't have to heat the sheaths, you can heat the cables, whichever is more convenient.

Sounds good, but

The cables themselves do not need to be brought up to non ice temperatures, particular the inner ones.

I think the heat transfer coefficient between the outer surface of the  sheath and the environment (ie the ice) will be much greater than the transfer coeficient between the cables and the inner surface of the sheath.
I don't know if the sheath has an inner low friction coating which is also thermally insulating, but low friction is required between the cable and the sheath.
Further the outer of the sheath is in good physical and therefore thermal contact with the ice, but is not in such good contact the the outer part of the cable.

So less heat wil be required heat only the sheath and this heat will pass more quickly to the ice if the sheath is heated directly rather than indirectly via the cables.

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33 minutes ago, studiot said:
12 hours ago, Carrock said:

 You don't have to heat the sheaths, you can heat the cables, whichever is more convenient.

Sounds good, but

The cables themselves do not need to be brought up to non ice temperatures, particular the inner ones.

If the sheaths completely surround the cables, it's impossible (without a refrigerator) to avoid the cables being brought up to non ice temperatures. (Ignoring end effects.)

38 minutes ago, studiot said:

I think the heat transfer coefficient between the outer surface of the  sheath and the environment (ie the ice) will be much greater than the transfer coeficient between the cables and the inner surface of the sheath.

....................

So less heat wil be required heat only the sheath and this heat will pass more quickly to the ice if the sheath is heated directly rather than indirectly via the cables.

If heating the cables, the heat flux is independent of the heat transfer coefficient (for constant power). Whether the heat transfer coefficient is high enough, in near freezing conditions, to make the heated cable(s) hotter than they get in summer (At least 27C*) is a matter of engineering. £200 million retrofit?

.........

The delayed thermal response will be more noticeable if heating e.g. the central cable but how would more heat be required without breaking energy conservation?

 

Re part of your post I edited out without reading properly.....

After the above I noticed you were implicitly comparing a sheath with heater wires (direct sheath heating) to a sheath with no heater wires (cable heating).

If the sheath has good thermal conductivity no significant difference; if not, adding the wiring (but not the power) to the sheath would give similar results from the thermally conductive wires.

Getting a bit picky, if heating the sheath on the outside, the wires will be somewhat hotter than the sheath; some heat will be radiated from these wires and never heat the sheath while with cable heating, all the heat is radiated from the sheath.

 

Which is more 'efficient' isn't obvious.....

 

* Personal experience - I am not employed by the Scottish Tourist Board.

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20 hours ago, Peter Dow said:

Running costs would be for the most part the connection cost for the 20MW electricity supply.

That is the issue from what I’ve read so far about deicing of bridges. It is not very complicated to heat a cable. The problem is to do it efficiently. Most people wants open bridges, not so many are willing to pay for heating. Other methods are prefered but more research needed to find reliable and efficient methods. 

 

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Moderator Note

Peter,

You have been warned before about following rule 2.7 - that making posts where you link to your own sites is against the rules, and yet you persist in doing so.

We do not exist to advertise your personal sites, nor are we here for you to soapbox.

Discussing specific aspects of this problem is fine, but using this site like it's your blog is not.

 

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