Mark Brown with Doble Engineering

Industrial Talk is onsite at the 30th Annual SMRP conference and speaking with Mark Brown, Business Development Manager at Doble Engineering Company about “Technology that provides locational insights into cable and conductor faults”. Get the answers to your “Doble” questions along with Mark's incredible insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!

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Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott Mackenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots. And let's get


right once again, thank you very much for joining industrial talk, a platform, a warm and fuzzy platform that celebrates industry heroes all around the world. And if you're out on the video, I'm pointing at you right there pointing because you are bold, you are brave. You dare greatly. you innovate. Yes, thank you, you are solving problems and you are making the world a better place. Thank you very much for what you do. All right. As you know, as you can sort of tell by the buzzy buzz in the background, we are broadcasting on site SMR Pika 30th annual SMRP conference here in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is. It's great. It really is. It is a great conference with people who are solving problems. They want to collaborate with you. So check them out. All right, in the hot seat, Mark Brown Doble Engineering Company we're going to be talking about it's a mouthful, but we're gonna be talking about online testing of discharge medium and high voltage cables. Did I did did I do? Okay, you think I'm worn out? I'm all winded and worn out. I'm so glad you said yes to be on the podcast. You know why? Because I liked this topic. I liked the topic that we're talking about. Before we get into that topic, however, give us a little background of why you're such a great professional.


Well, I've been in the electrical industry for 30 plus years, I spent a little longer but we'll just stick with 30. Plus,


you got a job right out when you were five.


Exactly. Yeah. So been in partial discharge testing for about 13 years. And it's really a passion of mine. It was a new technology about 20 years ago. And it's evolved over the last 20 years into a very, very excellent way to determine the health of insulation of medium and high voltage cable.


Okay, you popped out partial discharge, talk to us to find what that is and why that's important.


All right, so. So in cable systems, once cable starts aging, in use and on site. There's micro voids and cables, especially XLPE, that's the insulation. And water will start diffusing into the insulation. And those were called cars, what they call water trees. And water trees will eventually start sparking inside inside the micro boil


hold you painted a picture that's interesting, I see sort of the degradation and the the ability to sort of penetrate that insulation. And it looks like it does. It's not a straight line, right? It's like,


exactly right, they call them water trees, they look more like bushes.


Very good, very good.


So and then eventually what will happen is a spark or an arc will happen inside that micro void or that bush or water tree. And they'll develop into electrical trees and will fall to ground. So what we do is we actually go in and we test for that partial discharge. And through the amplitude and repetition rate, we can give a probability of failure. First of all, we can tell if that partial discharge is dangerous.


So when we started looking at cables, this is not new cables. These are probably existing cables. And I would imagine they run the age of whatever.


Yeah, so that's exactly right. So so we test cables anywhere from from from two years old to 50 years old. Now, you say well, why do you test cables two years old? Well, a lot of customers will place new cable in and we'll come in and test to make sure the craftworks done correctly on this on the splices and terminations. Make sure that


they don't. Yeah, yeah. And that makes sense. Now, when you do that, now, cables, they can be short. Okay, I got that. And you can test this short cable. That's all fine and dandy. The challenge I see is that long cable and then being able to say, yeah, that long cable has an issue. And it's right here and being an underground guy. I don't even How do you do that?


That's good question. So So typically, what we do is we don't just test for long cables. We don't just test it to turn on a channel determination. We'll test it along the along the cable, the sensors can test up to 5000 feet. So we'll we'll take multiple tests along the cable. If they're splices we do on each side of the splice. And and by, by the bandwidth and the amplitude, we can determine where that partial discharge is located.


Many of the cables are underground, just right. And I pulled it and you know, and then you have the, you have the termination and you have the, the area where you're you're put the splice in, does the ability to be able to test for these cables? Can it be penetrated? Can you go underground? Like like, you know, here's a street, you know, there's underground cables, there's, there's five KV under there, right? There it is, right?


So typically, we utilize the manholes or volts that the splices are located and we we tested those points.


And then from there, you can you can say, yeah, there, there appears to be a challenge. And it's, you know, 727 feet in.


Yeah, we can't actually get that close. I wish we could. But what we can do is determine if the segment that segment is bad between a termination and a splice or splice and a termination. So typically, that's all they really want to know is that the segment is bad and replace the tire segment versus splicing in. Okay, well, just a section, right. And


so you can manhole cover man Holika, or termination to a manhole. And you can, you can take that, that section, and just sort of pull it on through replace whatever you need to replace and, and then you can retest it and say everything's all up thumbs up and good to go.


You got it. That's it.


What do you see it out there in the market? I mean, there's there's a lot of underground, there's a lot of cables, there's a lot of things going on.


We're seeing a lot of aged cable that needs to be tested. And typically, the testing has been done offline. And that's not good for aged cable. The reason why is an offline test typically doesn't overvoltage. And we're seeing the market turn to online. A lot of a lot of our customers don't want to take an outage. And this, this testing can be done online at system voltage. We don't have to take an hour, we don't


have to take it. You don't have to de-energize. You don't have to


de energize so and then. And they appreciate that. And I was just talking to several people that said we don't want to take any more outages for testing. And so we give them that ability, no outages. And it's non destructive. Because when you take an outage, and you do an offline test, you have to you actually overvoltage the cable when you bring a power supply in, so Oh, right. Right. Right. Right. So you could actually fail a cable?


Yeah, yeah, that's right. It's exactly if it's got if it's guy has challenges anyway. And then you said overvoltage, GodGod thing? Yes. Yeah, you're, you're introducing a failure, when maybe, maybe there is a weakness. But there's because of your system, because of what you do. You're able to say, hey, it's trending into failure, you've got X amount of time, whatever, you put it in your maintenance, whatever and pull it on out and replace it. That's


exactly right. We can give a probability failure and a probability of time of failure.


How accurate are you?


We're pretty accurate. I mean, we can't tell you that your cable is going to fail on October 19 2022. But we can 1203 Right, exactly. But we can give you you know, if it's a level four or five, you have maybe a year to repair replace. So it's, it's an estimate, and but we're pretty accurate.


You you chirped out level four or five is that sort of is it on a scale of one to 10, it's a


scale of one to five. So one to two is meaning you have no discharge and you're good to go. Maybe retest in three years. Level three, you have some partial discharge, but it's not dangerous. So as long as it stays level three, you're good to go. But maybe retest in a year. And then level four and five, the only difference between four and five is time of failure, it will fail. But you have a little more time with a four than a five.


Okay, so I'm gonna I'm gonna get a little geeky here. So I'm in a man. I mean, I'm in a vault. I'm right down there. I'm in the vault. I see the cable. I see the splice. I see everything and you're, you're not de energizing. So right off the bat, I'm a little like, I'm down in the fall, right? Energized cable. I'm gonna test it. And I don't have any indication. And I mean, how do you how do you deal with the safety concerns?


That's a good question. And that's one that everybody asks because there's always concern when you're operating voltage


I am already you're in a hole with a live cable.


Yeah. So so that's a good question. So, so double has a very innovative process and technologies, and it's a lot of its proprietary and patented. And one of the things we utilize is, is what we call a ucap. Now, what's the UK bits, it's a sensor that we placed, but it looks a lot like a horseshoe. It's a U shaped. And, and typically, we most of the time, we don't have to go down in the manhole because we can, we can just supply this ucap sensor with a hot stick above ground and take the reading.


That's the solution is stay out of that manhole. You don't have to, you know, monitor it and all that stuff and use a dog on hot stick. That makes sense. So next step, you got that horseshoe, it's on that cable? How quickly can you determine the health of that cable?


Good question. So we it typically takes us around four to six minutes to take a reading. And we actually the technology we have we have we call it a Corolla. And we actually can analyze data in the field. But typically what we do is, is we'll collect all the data uploaded to our lab in Massachusetts, have it analyzed and have a report back to the customer in in three to four weeks.


That's good. Now, one last question. So you put that horseshoe on you got it in there, you're taking a reading. And let's say it's a five. You don't know it's a five yet did you just you gotta analyze it. And so there's a Well, based off of your analytics, there's an imminent possibility of failure. Do you elevate that? Like, hey, here's, here's a five alarm fire. It's a five level. You gotta get it. You got, FYI.


Yeah. Well, so if we if we see something like that, a level five, we will issue a preliminary report right away. We won't wait. We'll let the customer know right away.


You know, I'm trying to poke holes in this mark. Not doing well at it. Because it seems like a no brainer.


It's it's very innovative. doable. It's been around for over 100 years. Yeah.


Everybody knows Doble? Yeah, definitely know the name. For sure. You know, how do people get ahold of you?


My email is


There it is, man. And do I have, I don't have to be just in the utility. I can be in a manufacturer. I mean, let's say I have some transformers over here. And I'm in the manufacturing, I got cables. It's all underground.


We do it all. We do it all. Anybody that has EDM or high voltage cable, again, 2.4 kilovolts. And above, we can help you


like that. We're great. Thank you. Good conversation. Appreciate it. All right. Once again, we're broadcasting from SMRP here in Raleigh, North Carolina, it is great, if you're in the maintenance and reliability market are considering that need to be a part of this conference and reach out to these professionals who are solving problems. All right, we're gonna have all the contact information for Mr. Mark Out on industrial So you're not gonna be able to get a hold of them. Thank you very much for joining. And we will be right back.


You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.


As always, thank you very much for listening to industrial talk as well as your continued support Marc Brown, reached out to him all the contact information will be available. And what's great about Mark and what's great about the company Doble is that they're passionate about making sure that your assets are up and running, and that you can identify the challenges that are associated with those assets. Specifically, being an old lineman. Being an old lineman, I really enjoyed that conversation because it's come a long way since when I was climbing towers and pulling in the ground cable to come along way. Kudos to mark, kudos to double Absolutely. And as you could tell we were at SMRP SMRP is an excellent organization to get involved with if you're an asset management professional. If you are in maintenance, if you are have any interest whatsoever in the world of reliability. You need to look up those folks at SMRP. It's a great organization, really dedicated to education. And it gives you the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best in industry in the world of reliability. So that's Another final note, again, I want you to support mercy chefs mercy chefs is a wonderful organization that is dedicated to bringing high quality meals to locations that are really challenging and dealing with difficulties within the In the fantastic organization, look at him versus All right. We're building a community community that is dedicated to both education, collaboration and innovation. You need to be involved. Go out to industrial talk, and just say, Scott, I want to know more. Let me know. That's industrial All right, be bold, be brave dare greatly hang out with Mark and your change the world. We're gonna have another great conversation coming from SMRP shortly so stay

Scott MacKenzie

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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