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VLF cable testing

VLF cable testing is a technique for testing of medium ble Diagnostic Focused Initiative Project by NEETRAC-
voltage cables. The VLF test can be used in two ways: Georgia Tech) has shown that withstand tests have been
often applied in the past. This study has also shown that
Apply VLF to measure insulation losses (i.e. the in- the most preferred withstand tests use Very Low Fre-
sulation dissipation factor or Tan-delta) at dierent quency (VLF: 0.01 to 0.1 Hz) AC methods. Some obser-
VLF frequencies that are typically in the range of vations for the VLF withstand test are (Based on CDFI
0.01 to 0.1 Hz. In this case, the IEEE Guide. 400.2 results):
establishes the criteria for assessment. Accessories
for partial discharge testing is also available from VLF tests are simple for a utility to perform and do
several VLF test set manufacturers. not require specialized services

Apply VLF to XLPE cables in a monitored with- Cables that pass VLF tests are more likely to fail in
stand approach to detect potential failures (faults) in the future.
the cable insulation during a planned outage. The The failure rates can be high on a cable system basis
tested cable must withstand a VLF (Very low fre- with some studies showing in the range of 0.2 to 4%
quency) AC voltage for a specied testing time with- for 30 min tests performed at the IEEE Guide 400.2
out ashover. This method yields a Go/No Go voltage levels
statement. VLF cable testing uses dierent wave
shapes typically sine and square, voltages expressed IEEE Guide 400.2 provides suggested time and volt-
for these wave shapes dier as RMS is not always age test levels but exact parameters are not possible
applicable. In these cases the reference is via the since defect growth rates are not known and can vary
peak voltage. Frequency ranges used are within the widely.
range of 0.01 Hz to 0.1 Hz, where frequency selec-
tion depends on the load of the cable. Test voltage VLF tests at IEEE Guide 400.2 test levels do not
levels are calculated using a multiple of the cables signicantly damage cable systems 'good' insulation
nominal voltage, they are in the range of 1.5 U0 to but often can degrade insulation defects without a
3 U0. The VLF cable testing time varies from 15 test failure and shortened times to failure in service
to 60 minutes. IEEE Guide 400.2 establishes some Data have been collected using both of the com-
suggested test voltages and times. monly used VLF waveforms, there is little evidence
of a signicant dierence in failure rate outcomes
that can be ascribed to the voltage waveform
1 VLF withstand testing Many areas for further technically useful work have
been identied since the scatter in the data is large
High voltage in conjunction with partial discharge mea- and the results are not denitive.
surements are used on solid dielectric cable and acces-
sories within manufacturing plants to ensure the quality of Massive damage can not be detected withstand test.
completed cable system components from MV to EHV. For example a cut 50% through the insulation can
Thus, it is quite natural for utilities to also use partial dis- out last a withstand test by months.
charge tests as commissioning and maintenance tests for
Sometimes the test process can introduce contam-
cable systems in the eld. The goal of these tests is the
ination or damage which will not be detected by a
same as in the factory test, namely to detect any defective
withstand test but can fail in service years later.
components of the cable system before failure. However
in some cases a partial discharge tests are not available
and withstand test are used. While far less reliable, with-
stand tests are simple to operate and the equipment is in- 2 VLF tan delta testing
expensive. While withstand tests can't fail the vast ma-
jority of defects, some in the industry believe the risk of Medium voltage distribution cables and their accessories
damaging the cable is worth the few percent of defects form a critical part of power delivery systems. The sys-
they can fail in a controlled manner while the minimum tems employ insulation materials that have a low permit-
number of customers are aected. A recent study (Ca- tivity and loss. The permittivity and the loss are dielectric


properties of the insulation material. As the systems age, 3 International standards and
these dielectric properties can change. The dielectric loss
can be assessed since it can increase several orders of
magnitude during the service life of the systems. This
approach correlates well some lossy growths in aged poly- DIN VDE 0276 (after laying tests on new cables)
meric insulation such as water trees. IEC 60502-2:2014 Cables for rated voltages from 6
During the last three decade, VLF testing for extruded kV (Um = 7,2 kV) up to 30 kV (Um = 36 kV) (after
distribution cables has gained interest among the world- laying tests on new cables)
wide utilities. The increasing interest is evidenced by
publications and discussions inside the industry. In prac- IEEE 400-2012 Guide for Field Testing and Evalu-
tice, it is convenient to measure the dielectric proper- ation of the Insulation of Shielded Power Cable Sys-
ties at a VLF of 0.1 Hz.[1] This both reduces the size tems
and power requirements of the energizing source and in- IEEE 400.2-2013 Guide for Field Testing of
creases the resolution of the resistive component (near Shielded Power Cable Systems Using Very Low
DC component) of dielectric loss (not the capacitive Frequency (VLF)
component). While it seems there is no general consen-
sus as to the interpretation of the dielectric properties for CENELEC HD620 S1 (after laying tests on new ca-
diagnosis, many issues regarding the denition of more bles)
accurate means of system evaluation still need signicant
further study.
Tan delta measurement constitutes a cable diagnostic 4 See also
technique that assesses the general condition of the cable
system insulation, which can be represented in an overly Short circuit
simplied equivalent circuit that consists of two elements;
a resistor and a capacitor. When voltage is applied to Hipot
the system, the total current is the result of the contribu- Dielectric withstand test
tions from the capacitor current and the resistor current.
The tan delta is dened as the ratio between the resistor Dissipation factor
current and the capacitor current. The measurements are
carried out oine.
Nowadays, two dierent criteria are applied for diagnos- 5 References
ing a cable insulation system using the Tan value. One
criterion uses the magnitude of the Tan value as a tool [1] Eager, G.S.; Katz, C.; Fryszczyn, B.; Densley, J.; Bern-
for diagnostics while the other uses the dierence in Tan stein, B.S. (Apr 1997). High voltage VLF testing of
values for particular electrical stresses or voltage levels. power cables. IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery. 12
The latter is commonly known as the Tip-Up of the (2): 565570. doi:10.1109/61.584323.
Tan value.[2] The results for both criteria are often in- [2] IEEE Guide 400-2, Guide for Field Testing of Shielded
terpreted using recommendations given in the guide. The Power Cable Systems Using Very Low Frequency (VLF)".
guide provide a hierarchical level that evaluates the cable IEEE-SA.
insulation system. The major caveats with this approach
6 External links
losses can't be located.
VLF High Voltage Insulation Testing - LinkedIn dis-
Since most systems do not provide simple guard cir-
cussion group
cuits to prevent erroneous loss contributions from
the terminations or joints, many systems will show Cable Diagnostic Focused Initiative Phase 1 Final
unnecessary high levels of tangent delta when actu- Report
ally the insulation system is in good condition.
Experience of Withstand Testing of Cable Systems
A hot cable system can produce signicantly ele- in the USA
vated tangent delta values as compared to a cold ca-
ble First Practical Utility Implementations of Monitored
Withstand Diagnostics in the USA
The vast majority insulation defects are not asso-
ciated with losses. For example a knife cut 50% Cable testing excerpt from Prysmians Wire and Ca-
through solid dielectric insulation which produce the ble Engineering Guide
same tangent delta levels before and after the test.

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