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Fred Steennis
Utrechtseweg 310, 6812 AR Arnhem, the Netherlands,
Paul Wagenaars
Utrechtseweg 310, 6812 AR Arnhem, the Netherlands,
Tjeerd Broersma
Magistratenlaan 116, 5223 MB’s Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands,
Denny Harmsen
Utrechtseweg 68, 6812 AH Arnhem, the Netherlands,
Pascal Bleeker
Colosseum 11, 7521 PV Enschede, the Netherlands,
Edwin Maurer
Utrechtseweg 310, 6812 AR Arnhem, the Netherlands,


For network owners, the outage time (SAIDI) and outage frequency (SAIFI) rely considerably on the
performance of their MV power cables. Often, a large percentage of the network is quite reliable, but for
reasons certain network parts can be unreliable (due to internal defects or external damagers), such that
connected customers start to complain (even causing media attention) or industrial processes suffer significantly.

A monitoring tool called Smart Cable Guard (SCG) is available for MV cables (guarding up to 8 km in
length) that has two functions:
- weak spot locator: detects and locates internal weak spots as soon as their PD level gets considerable (such
that repair can be done before a fault happens, a so called preventive action; also helping to find the root
cause more effectively since the replaced component is not fully exploded which supports the feedback loop
of preventing similar problems )
- fault locator: detects and locates faults at the moment they appears (such that repair can be done more
both the weak spot locator and fault locator have a location accuracy close to1 % of the cable length monitored.

The function “fault locator” is new and treated in more detail in this paper. Both functions (“weak spot
locator” and “fault locator”) are based on the same principles, where travelling waves from weak spots (PD’s)
or faults (breakdown) are detected at both cable ends with time synchronized inductive sensors. The difference
in arrival time is used to locate the source of the PD’s or breakdown. The results are communicated to the
network owners, for weak spots within 1 hour, for faults within a few minutes. Network owners can see the
performance of their cables via a secured web-interface.

SCG is already being used by several network owners worldwide, both DNO’s and industries, both in on-
shore and off-shore cables, both for paper, XLPE insulated cables and a mix of these cables.

KEYWORDS: online, partial discharge, failure location, fault location, medium voltage, distribution
network, asset management, monitoring, condition monitoring, risk management, MV
underground power cable, diagnostics, SCG, Smart Cable Guard

Network owners know that the outage time (SAIDI) and outage frequency (SAIFI) as experienced by their
customers often rely considerably on the performance of their MV power cable systems. Especially in case the
cable system or certain components in the cable system:
- have been designed wrongly or
- have been installed wrongly or
- have been or are being subjected to high (repetitive) currents or voltages or
- have been aged for a long time under normal operation conditions or
- are suffering from external damages
then the SAIDI and the SAIFI can be influenced dramatically. In network areas with a high failure rate or long
outage times per failure, customers can start to complain and media attention can result in giving the network
owner a bad reputation. Authorities also can impose limitations with respect to the network unreliability, not
seldom coming with penalties in case the limitations are passed.

There are different ways to reduce actively the SAIDI and SAIFI. One can restructure the network by
replacing suspected network parts or installing back-up cables. Also it is possible to install remotely activated
switching, replacing hand switching operations. A different approach is to apply diagnostic techniques with the
object to identify weak cable parts and to replace these before the actual failure happens. It is not easy to claim
which of these approaches is the most successful one. It will depend on the network topology, the type of
components, their age and their degradation causes and it will depend also on the SAIDI and SAIFI reductions a
network owner wants to achieve in relation to the costs of an outage.

This paper will focus on one of the diagnostic tools that can be applied in order to reduce SAIDI and SAIFI.
It is the online monitoring tool called Smart Cable Guard (SCG) that can be used to identify and to locate weak
spots days, weeks or months before these fail. This enables a network owner to launch preventive actions,
avoiding failures. This feature of SCG has been published during the recent years a lot, both concerning the
fundamental parts as well as about the efficiency of SCG in detecting weak spots indeed [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. For
this paper this feature is called “weak spot locator”. The paper at hand will summarize this feature, but will also
announce and introduce a new feature, added to SCG, called “fault locator”. With this last feature, the same
SCG equipment used to identify and locate weak spots, can now also identify and locate a full breakdown
(failure or fault), within the first minutes after a breakdown happens.

SCG has been developed in a cooperation of various distribution network owners, a manufacturer of
monitoring equipment and DNV GL in the following Consortium:
- Dutch network owners (Enexis and Alliander), together owning of a medium voltage network (mainly
10 kV) of 69.000 km;
- Locamation, a Dutch manufacturer designing and manufacturing components and solutions for smart grids;
- DNV GL (KEMA became part of DNV GL in 2014), of which the DNV GL Energy part is delivering testing
and expertise for the energy value chain.
The contribution of the Dutch network owners has the advantage that over the years SCG has been subjected to
real life trials and that the efficacy of SCG and claims on this efficiency got the support from these network

Both, the “weak spot locator” and “fault locator” of SCG will be treated in separate chapters of this paper at
hand, starting with the well known “weak spot locator”. But first, the some general aspects of SCG will be
mentioned (Chapter 2), needed to understand the way the “weak spot locator” and “fault locator” work
(Chapters 3 and 4 respectively),


2.1 Electromagnetic waves generated by weak spots with PD’s and by faults

A typical SCG system (shown in Figure 1) has two inductive PD sensors placed in the cable network, one
sensor at position A and the other at position B. These positions can be several kilometers (km) away from each
other. So far, the maximum cable length that has been monitored successfully is 8 km (which, for weak spot
detection and location can only be reached in case the power cable doesn’t have much attenuation, like happens
with many XLPE cable systems).

Figure 1. Typical SCG set-up with left (location A) and right (location B) a sensor and a dedicated industrial computer with
wireless or LAN internet connection. The maximum distance between A and B is 8 km. Position X is the location of the weak
spot (with PD) or of the failure.

First, the electromagnetic waves will be introduced that come from a weak spot. At a weak spot X (in
Figure 1), often PD pulses will be created, travelling along the power cable in two directions, away from the
weak spot. These electromagnetic waves travel with a propagation velocity v of 150 to 180 m per µs (in a first
approximation this is the speed of light c, divided by the root of the dielectric constant of the insulation material
εr , i.e. v = c/√εr). An electromagnetic wave of a PD pulse is short in duration, for instance 1 to 10 µs.

Second, the electromagnetic waves will be introduced that come from a failure spot (full breakdown or fault).
Also in case of a failure, there will be electromagnetic waves going along the cable, also travelling in the two
directions like a PD pulse. And also their propagation velocity is the same as the one from PD pulses. The
electromagnetic wave of a breakdown is called in this paper a failure pulse. The duration of a failure pulse is not
well defined, because failure related phenomena go on until the short circuit currents are switched off.

Important for SCG is the first slope of the electromagnetic wave from a PD pulse or failure pulse. And these
are quite similar concerning their rise time. The striking difference is the amplitude. A PD pulse comes with a
voltage over the insulation of a few mV to maximum a few V. A failure pulse comes with a voltage over the
insulation comparable to the cable voltage at the moment the cable fails and for a MV cable this will be easily
several kV.

In order to detect and locate a PD pulse or failure pulse coming from location X, SCG has to detect the slope
of the electromagnetic waves passing the sensors placed at both cable ends A and B, see Figure 1. The sensors
are inductive sensors. The current measured by the inductive is the voltage of the PD pulse or failure, divided by
the characteristic impedance of the cable (in case there are no pulse reflections at the substation where the
sensor is placed, for here it will be assumed that this is the case indeed). With a cable characteristic impedance
of 10 to 20 Ω, the current from a PD pulse is in the range of mA’s, while the current from a failure pulse (its
initial part, before the 50 Hz based short circuit current takes over) is in the range of a few hundred ampere.

In case of a PD pulse, its amplitude and time of arrival is stored. In case of failure pulse only the time of
arrival is stored because the full amplitude of the failure pulse is not of interest and also difficult to measure.

2.2 PD and failure location

Of course, in order to be able to locate the weak spot generating PD’s and to locate failures, the time of
arrival of a pulse has to be determined. It means that both sensors at locations A and B have to be time
synchronized accurately. In order to reach a location accuracy of 1 % of the cable length in cable of 200 m or
longer, the time synchronization should be better than 100 ns difference maximum. This is achieved with small
injected time synchronisation pulses, being a patented technology [7].

The location accuracy realized in practice is a bit better than 1 % if all cables between the positions A and B
are similar. In case of different cables (PILC and XLPE mixed), the location accuracy will decrease, but is
normally always better than a few % of the cable length between the positions A and B. And since most of the
problems come from joints, the 1 % location accuracy is sufficient in most cases to identify the problematic joint.

2.3 PD and failure data presentation

At both locations A and B, the stored data is sent via internet to a DNV GL server, where all data is
combined. The difference in arrival time tells where a PD or failure is located. Only PD or failure data is
accepted of which the difference in arrival time corresponds with a possible PD or failure source inside the cable
under investigation. The rest of the data is considered to be noise. This feature is a robust noise suppressing
feature of SCG. The red thin arrows at the locations A and B in Figure 1 represent such noise attack, correctly
discarded by SCG.


3.1 Direct application of SCG

One example of SCG operating as a weak spot locator will be treated here. SCG detected three weak spots in
a paper cable having a length of almost 1.7 km. The related PD map generated by SCG is shown in Figure 2.
Such a map, but also the warning for an upcoming failure, is shown to the customer on a customer web-interface,
showing the progress of PD development and DNV GL’s warning development as a 24/7 service.

The paper cable at hand was suffering from an ageing impregnation compound, drying mainly, as shown in
the insert of Figure 2. The ageing / drying came with voids and in the open spaces PD’s were ignited. Despite
DNV GL’s warnings to the network owner for upcoming failures (among others at a spot of 390 m from the left
cable end), none of the weak spots were removed (in other words, there was no preventive action). As a result,
after a couple of month of having given intense and growing PD activity at among others that spot, the cable
failed at one of the weak spot indeed (390 m).

Figure 2. Typical SCG result of a weak spot that was detected and located with SCG in an almost 1.7 km long paper
insulated MV power cable (PILC). .

Many references treat other examples of SCG’s capability to detect and locate weak spots [1, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This
paper doesn’t treat more examples of SCG as a weak spot locator, since this paper also has the object to
introduce a new feature of SCG, being shown in the next Section. This is the ability to detect and locate a full
failure as well, at the same time as it is detecting and locating weak spots.

Since its introduction in 2009, SCG is being used in many different networks in the world. Now, in 2014, the
total result (July 2014) is that 55 cases (worldwide) were correctly identified as serious defects, out of the 76
cases that were reported by the network owners as being a serious defect indeed. In this way, SCG’s average
efficacy in finding defects is close to 70 %.
3.2 Grid wide impact on using SCG as a weak spot locator

An interesting consequence of applying SCG as weak spot locator is the following. A weak spot, removed
from service, is in much better condition than one that experienced a full breakdown. As a result, one can much
better identify the root cause and in this way speed up the learning curve (installation problem or design
problem). Consequently, it is possible to trace weaknesses in other network parts and to avoid that future bad
installation happens or bad components are going to be applied in any part of the network.


4.1 Full Scale Laboratory Test

The fault locator functionality has been tested in a laboratory test setup. This setup, depicted in Figure 3,
consists of four sections of 10 kV power cables, both PILC and XLPE, with a total length of 583 m. The exact
propagation time and velocity of each cable section is calibrated before the test. The cable sections are
connected together using two joints and a Ring-Main-Unit (RMU) with 100 kVA distribution transformer. The
cable is energized using a high-voltage DC source. A spark gap is installed in a joint or the RMU between the
conductor and the earth screen to simulate a full breakdown. The spark gap is set to breakdown at 6 kV. When
the full breakdown occurs electromagnetic waves start traveling to the left and to the right through the power
cable, away from the spark gap. These waves have a current amplitude of several hundred ampere and a rise
time of a few hundred nanoseconds. A real fault in the field will result in similar traveling waves. The setup does
not simulate the large 50 Hz short-circuit current that normally follows the initial traveling waves. The lack of
50 Hz short-circuit current is no issue, because the SCG fault locator functionality is based on the initial
traveling waves only.

Table 1. Full breakdowns

detected and located
80 m 347 m 68 m 88 m
Time of Fault
0.55 µs 3.14 µs 0.55 µs 0.80 µs
breakdown location
14:01 427.6 m
RMU 14:03 429.3 m
SCG sensor joint SCG sensor
14:05 428.6 m
Figure 3. Test setup for laboratory test. Full breakdowns are created in the joint at 80 m 14:07 426.7 m
and in the RMU 427 m, indicated by the yellow lightning bolts. At each end the circuit 14:15 84.7 m
under test is terminated using a large coupling capacitor. The SCG sensors are installed 14:18 85.2 m
around the earth connections of these capacitors.

This setup is used to simulate several faults at two different locations. The SCG sensors installed at each
cable end detect the traveling waves resulting from the breakdown. The exact arrival time of the waves at each
end is measured by the SCG sensors. The difference in arrival time is combined with the total cable propagation
time and length, while taking into account the different propagation velocities of the different cable types, to
determine the location of the fault. Four breakdowns are created in the RMU, and two breakdowns are created in
the joint at 80 m. The fault locations as detected by SCG are listed in Table 1. All breakdowns are detected and
correctly located by SCG. The maximum error is 5.2 m (0.9% of the total cable length).

4.2 First field test

For the next test the SCG system is installed on a typical 10 kV XLPE cable circuit in the Netherlands. The
circuit under test consists of three consecutive RMUs, with the SCG sensors installed the first en third RMU
(RMU A and C in Figure 4). This makes it possible to monitor two consecutive cables and the intermediate
RMU using a single SCG system (consisting of two sensors). The circuit under test has a total length of 1.4 km.

At the time of the test it was not permitted to create a real fault in an operational cable circuit. Fortunately,
the type of switchgear used in this situation allows single phases to be switched individually. Switching a de-
energized phase in the intermediate RMU (RMU B in Figure 4) results in electromagnetic waves traveling in
both directions. The electromagnetic waves from this switching are very similar, both in amplitude and shape, to
the waves following an actual full breakdown and of interest for the functionality of SCG. Therefore, such a
special switching operation can be used to test SCG’s fault locator.
busbar mer

SCG system
386 m 1023 m


SCG sensor SCG system

Figure 4. Test setup for first field test. Left: SCG sensor and HFCT (high-frequency current transformer) installed around
earth connection of power cable in RMU A. The HFCT is used to measure the actual current in parallel to the SCG system.
Right: Three consecutive ring-main-units (RMUs). One SCG sensor is installed in RMU A and a second SCG sensor is
installed in RMU C. A single phase is switched in RMU B, representing a fault (full breakdown). The black cable section
indicates the phase that is disconnected at both ends before the test, and during the test the switch in RMU B is closed again.

During the test a high-frequency current transformer (HFCT) is installed next to the SCG sensor in order to
measure the actual current waves resulting from the switching operation, see Figure 4. In total ten switching
operations are performed in a period of about one hour. Figure 5 shows waveforms recorded by the HFCT in
RMU A and RMU C. These measurements show the typical steep first slope and the steps that occur after and
switching operation (or full breakdown) in a cable circuit. These waveforms are also detected by the SCG
system, as if they are actual faults. The difference in arrival time of the waveform at each SCG sensor is used to
determine the origin of the “fault”. These locations are listed in Table 2. All ten switching operations are
detected by SCG. The average location of all ten faults is 370 m. This is 16 m (1.1% of the total cable length)
from the expected 386 m. This difference is most likely partially caused by a small error in the cable lengths in
the utility’s administration. The variation amongst all ten locations is much smaller, maximum 4.5 m from the
average value. This shows that tests reproduce very well, meaning that the time synchronization of the two
sensors and the arrival time estimation is very stable.

Table 2. Switching ope-

rations detected and lo-
cated by SCG
Time of Fault
switching location
9:04 370.1 m
9:13 369.0 m
9:14 368.6 m
9:16 370.6 m
9:18 370.2 m
9:19 368.2 m
9:21 373.5 m Figure 5. Currents measured during two different switching operations by the HFCT in
10:01 374.5 m RMU A (left figure) and RMU C (right figure). Detection and location of the fault is based on
10:03 365.9 m the first slope at t = 0 µs. The rest of the waveform, which depend on the cable network
10:06 370.2 m outside the circuit under test, is not used for location of the fault.

4.3 Second field test

A second field test is performed on a 10 kV PILC cable circuit with a total length of 2066 m. The setup is
depicted in Figure 6. The test is performed in the same way the first field test is performed. In this case four
switching operations were performed. The fault locations as detected by SCG are listed in Table 3. The average
location is 671 m. This is 29 m (1.4% of the total cable length) from the expected 700 m. This difference is most
likely partially caused by a small error in the cable lengths in the utility’s administration, or from slight
differences in propagation velocity of the individual cable sections. The maximum error from the average value
is 4 m.
RMU RMU RMU Table 3. Switching ope-
A B C rations detected and lo-
cated by SCG
Time of Fault
switching location
9:32 671 m
9:29 674 m
9:25 673 m
Figure 6. Test setup for second field test. Three consecutive ring-main-units (RMUs). One
9:23 667 m
SCG sensor is installed in RMU A and a second SCG sensor is installed in RMU C. A
single phase is switched in RMU B, representing a full breakdown.

4.4 Detection and location of temporary faults

Apart from the straight forward fault detection and location, it is interesting to note that SCG will also detect
and locate temporary (self-healing) faults any (first or later) moment these appear. This feature offers the
possibility to have SCG assisting in detecting and locating the more difficult “hidden” faults.

4.5 Detection and location faults in networks with an isolated neutral

Another interesting feature of SCG is its ability to operate in a network that has an isolated neutral. In case
of a fault, the isolated neutral of the network will reduce the 50 Hz fault current. But the first electromagnetic
wave of a fault will pass the SCG sensors as if the network doesn't have an isolated neutral. In this way the first
fault in a network with an isolated neutral will immediately be detected, even (long) before it develops into a
cross-country fault. Also this feature of SCG is of great support in keeping the network reliable.


In conclusion Smart Cable Guard (SCG) has the following main characteristics:
a) SCG has proven to be an attractive monitoring tool for MV power cables to detect and locate (independent
of the network grounding method):
- weak spots based on PD’s (with an efficacy close to 70 %, based on several years of field experience);
- temporary and permanent faults (with an efficacy close to 100 %, based on laboratory tests and first field
b) SCG can locate weak spots and faults with an accuracy close to 1 % of the cable length;
c) SCG can be installed in the earth leads of the power cables in a substation, depending on safety prescriptions
with or without switching actions;
d) Multiple substations in the cable circuit being guarded by SCG don’t reduce the efficacy of SCG;
e) Weak spots taken from service, dissected and investigated for the root cause of its weakness accelerates the
learning curve concerning better installation, better design and enhance grid planning;
f) The weak spot locator of SCG is being used to reduce the SAIDI and SAIFI, and in addition the fault locator
of SCG is being used to further reduce the SAIDI.


[1] Fred Steennis and Peter C.J.M. van der Wielen, “New On-line PD monitoring system with PD location for
long MV underground power cables”. The 17th Conference of the Electric Power Supply Industry (CEPSI),
Macau, China. October 2008.
[2] P. Wagenaars, P.A.A.F. Wouters, P.C.J.M. van der Wielen, E.F. Steennis, “Influence of ring-main-units and
substations on online partial discharge detection and location in medium-voltage cable networks”, IEEE
transactions on Power Delivery, 2010.
[3] Peter C.J.M. van der Wielen, E. Fred Steennis, “Risk-Controlled Application of Current MV Cable Fedders
in the Future by Intelligent Continuous Diagnostics”, IEEE, 2011.
[4] Peter C.J.M. van der Wielen and Simon S.M. Young. “Power Cable Asset Management in Combination
with Diagnostics”, The 19th Conference of the Electric Power Supply Industry (CEPSI), Bali, Indonesia.
October 2012.
[5] Hugo Miguel Pereira, Miguel Margues, Marcolino Borges Pinheiro, Rui Palhares, Thimas Raczy, Fred
Steennis and Pedro Almeida. “Partial discharge on-line monitoring in MV underground Power Cables as
part of Condition Based Maintenance Strategy”. Paper 0604. The 22nd International Conference on
Electricity Distribution (CIRED), Stockholm, Sweden, June 2013.
[6] Ravish P.Y. Mehairjan, Fred Steennis, Gian Carlo Montanari, Peter Morshuis, Dhiradj Djairam, Johan J.
Smit. “Experiences with the Introduction of Online Condition Monitoring in Asset Management for
Distribution Networks”, International Conference of Condition Monitoring and Diagnosis (CMD) 2014,
Jeju, Korea (Republic of Korea), September 2014.
[7] Patent, “Method and system for transmitting an information signal over a power cable”. WO 2004/013642
A3, February 12, 2004.