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Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number NIA_SSEPD_0021
Title Thermal imaging Observation techniques for Underground CAble Networks (TOUCAN)
Status Completed
Energy Categories Other Power and Storage Technologies(Electricity transmission and distribution) 100%;
Research Types Applied Research and Development 100%
Science and Technology Fields ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) 100%
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 100%
Principal Investigator Project Contact
No email address given
Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution plc (SHEPD)
Award Type Network Innovation Allowance
Funding Source Ofgem
Start Date 01 January 2016
End Date 01 September 2017
Duration 20 months
Total Grant Value £311,100
Industrial Sectors Power
Region Scotland
Programme Network Innovation Allowance
Investigators Principal Investigator Project Contact , Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution plc (SHEPD) (99.999%)
  Other Investigator Project Contact , Southern Electric Power Distribution plc (SEPD) (0.001%)
Web Site http://www.smarternetworks.org/project/NIA_SSEPD_0021
Objectives ; Produce a literature review of available products; Select and acquire product examples for testing based on cost and performance criteria; Establish common equipment testing and results recording methods; Evaluate equipment performance in simulated fault scenarios; Issue equipment to field operatives for evaluation in real fault scenarios; Acquire data and develop tools for performing a detailed cost benefits analysis; Document all results, conclusions and recommendations; Evaluate project outcomes for possible adoption by BAU The project will be successful upon the achievement of the following results and conclusions after assessing devices as complementary tools:1) A range of thermal imaging devices are successfully evaluated as to their ability to locate or assist in locating underground cable faults and in which conditions;2) Practical comparisons are made between the performance of low cost devices with that of higher specification equipment;3) Substantiated recommendations are made on whether or not there are benefits in equipping field operatives with thermal imaging cameras, and low cost devices in particular.
Abstract Rapid and accurate pinpointing of underground cable faults is a key factor in minimising supply interruption time and repair costs. Methods exist for locating underground cable faults with varying degrees of precision but ways of improving accuracy and confidence are constantly being sought. One method used by SSEPD is a device supplied by Kelvatek known as a Bidoyng auto-recloser, which can detect when certain types of low voltage cable faults occur. This device alerts a monitoring centre and gives an approximate indication of distance to the fault, but there is a varying accuracy tolerance which could be +/- 10m or more. The fault location is pinpointed by depot staff taking readings with a "cable sniffer" device before committing to excavation. This device requires a bore hole to be drilled to a depth of 150mm and a sensor inserted. The sensor is capable of detecting the presence of certain gases which are emitted when a cable overheats significantly, e. g. when insulation material is burnt or melts. Usually at least 5 sniffer bore holes are required, sometimes more. In some scenarios, for example where there are multiple cable branches or feeders, there could be several attempts to identify the cable section on which the fault has occurred, often resulting in several bore sites and groups of cable sniffer tests. This adds cost and delay to pinpointing the precise repair site and subsequently the time taken to restore supply to the consumer. The effectiveness of cable sniffing is greatly reduced from 2 to 3 hours after the fault event due to gas dispersion/absorption, so response time is important. Time lost in "sniffing" the wrong cable segment could mean that the opportunity to pinpoint is lost. For some underground cable faults a surge generator (or ‘cable thumper’) can be used to help locate the fault. This device sends a high energy pulse into the cable in order to momentarily intensify the fault. While moderate cable ‘thumping’ may be acceptable there is a risk that sustained or frequent stressing can cause further cable damage. This project investigates a technical method using thermal imaging solutions as complementary tools in the context of locating underground cable faults in the power distribution network. When a cable fault occurs the repair operative uses conventional methods to locate the fault and pinpoint the excavation site. However, in a scenario where there is not enough precision, thermal imaging techniques will be employed to help locate the fault and confirm the primary excavation site. For some types of faults thermal imaging devices could be rapidly deployed upon arrival on site in order to detect a heat signature on the ground before using conventional methods. The project will determine under which conditions this could be beneficial. For example, an operative could rapidly deploy thermal imaging techniques and walk the cable route immediately upon arrival on site. If this method locates a fault from a residual heat signature it will reduce the number of bore holes for cable sniffers or reduce the amount of stress induced by cable thumping. The method could also eliminate false clues from the potential fault location data. The aim is to reduce both the time and costs involved in restoring power to consumers in the event of an outage caused by an underground cable fault and, in addition, to promote the proactive investigation of potential faults before they occur. Market analysis will be performed in order to identify a range of devices and study performance, functionality and cost. A literature review will be followed by an exercise of building a short list of devices, both high specification and low cost, for acquisition and evaluation in cable fault detection scenarios. A common test methodology will be established and field trials conducted by depot staff in order to evaluate and compare device performance. The benefits of using such devices to help locate cable faults will therefore be established. Consultation work will be undertaken by Kelvatek (Lisburn) to try to replicate and/or simulate underground fault conditions in order to speed up some trials, but field trials in real world scenarios and under different environmental conditions will be extremely valuable. Measurements will be recorded and statistics compiled in order to determine and rank the required measurement parameters for locating underground cable faults in different scenarios. Tests will be carried out in different environmental and weather conditions and for different types of ground surface (e. g. pavement, tarmac etc. ).Note : Project Documents may be available via the ENA Smarter Networks Portal using the Website link above
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 14/12/18