Why measure soil resistivity?
Soil resistivity measurements have a threefold purpose. First, such data is used to make sub-surface geophysical surveys as an aid in identifying ore locations, depth to bedrock and other geological phenomena. Second, resistivity has a direct impact on the degree of corrosion in underground pipelines. A decrease in resistivity relates to an increase in corrosion activity and therefore dictates the protective treatment to be used. Third, soil resistivity directly affects the design of a grounding system, and it is to that task that this discussion is directed. When designing an extensive grounding system, it is advisable to locate the area of lowest soil resistivity in order to achieve the most economical grounding installation.
Effects of soil resistivity on ground electrode resistance
Soil resistivity is the key factor that determinates what the resistance of a grounding electrode will be, and to what depth it must be driven to obtain low ground resistance. The resistivity of the soil varies widely throughout the world and changes seasonally. Soil resistivity is determined largely by its content of electrolytes, which consist of moisture, minerals and dissolved salts. A dry soil has high resistivity if it contains no soluble salts.
Resistivity (approx), Ohm-centimeters
|Ashes, cinders, brine, waste||590||2370||7000|
|Clay, shale, gumbo, loam||340||4060||16,300|
|Same, with varying proportions of sand and gravel||1020||15,800||135,000|
|Gravel, sand, stones with little clay or loam||59,000||94,000||458,000|
Factors affecting soil resistivity
Two samples of soil, when thoroughly dried, may in fact become very good insulators having a resistivity in excess of 109 ohm-centimeters. The resistivity of the soil sample is seen to change quite rapidly until approximately 20% or greater moisture content is reached.
|Moisture content % by weight||Resistivity top soil||Resistivity sandy loam|
The resistivity of the soil is also influenced by temperature. Next figure shows the variation of the resistivity of sandy loam, containing 15.2% moisture, with temperature changes from 20° to -15°C. In this temperature range the resistivity is seen to vary from 7200 to 330,000 ohm-centimeters.
|Temperature C||Temperature F||Resistivity (ohm-centimeters)|
Because soil resistivity directly relates to moisture content and temperature, it is reasonable to assume that the resistance of any grounding system will vary throughout the different seasons of the year. Since both temperature and moisture content become more stable at greater distances below the surface of the Earth, it follows that a grounding system, to be most effective at all times, should be constructed with the ground rod driven down a considerable distance below the surface of the Earth. Best results are obtained if the ground rod reaches the water table.
In some locations, the resistivity of the Earth is so high that low-resistance grounding can be obtained only at considerable expense and with an elaborate grounding system. In such situations, it may be economical to use a ground rod system of limited size and to reduce the ground resistivity by periodically increasing the soluble chemicals content of the soil.
Chemically treated soil is also subject to considerable variation of resistivity with temperature changes. If salt treatment is employed, it is necessary to use ground rods, which will resist chemical corrosion.
At Heritage Geophysics you will find the latest in resistivity meters, electromagnetics, magnetometers, induced polarization, seismographs, and even magnetic resonance sounding systems.