The 5 factors to assessing cable splice life expectancy.

September 27, 2019 George Fofeldea

power utility at night

Cable splice failures are expensive, so just imagine the dire consequences of a power failure leaving over 700,000 customers without power. Many of us in Ontario can still recall the shock of the 2003 Northeast Blackout.

As a consumer of electricity our expectation is that our lights stay on, our fridges stay cold, and our roads stay safe with operating traffic lights. When the lights go out, utilities have the extensive task of finding the source of the fault, communicating with public and customers, and taking on the cost of repair including labour costs.

How do utilities actively try to prevent electrical failures?

Utilities measure system average interruption duration index (SAIDI) and customer average interruption duration index (CAIFI) as both of these are negatively impacted by underground splice failures. They are constantly looking for ways to help improve these measurements – and improvement comes down to choosing safe and reliable products.

Identifying this need within the utility industry, I created a white paper that evaluates the five critical factors to help determine the overall life expectancy of a cable splice. I did this by leveraging 3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III’s 23 years of field experience.

Did you know: Some of the 3M Cold Shrink Products installed in the field are still operational after almost 50 years!

The goal of this study is to help provide utilities with research and insights to help improve their SAIDI and CAIFI measurements.

Study highlight: 5 factors to help determine the life expectancy of an electrical splice.

  1. Technology: Reliability of an electrical splice hinges on your ability to maintain radial splice pressure on the cables. 3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III is equipped with 3M™ Cold Shrink Technology, which retains radial pressure over the life of the cable splice. As a result, there is no loss of pressure with heat cycling.
  2. Materials: Elasticity and the capability to apply in cold environments (especially in Canada’s frigid winters) are critical. 3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III’s silicone rubber is an excellent material choice for splicing applications. It acts as a “living seal” – helping provide long-term elasticity (including at negative temperatures) and has great electrical properties required by a robust splice design. Additionally, we use silicone rubber filled with thermally conductive additives to help improve heat dissipating properties of the splice body. 
  3. Design: An electrical splice must be designed to manage electrical stresses by minimizing them for increased long-term performance. 3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III’s molded splice body exhibits design features that lower electrical stresses. The features include large electrical geometric stress cones, rounded semi-conductive electrodes with an undercut insulation that lower stresses at cable/splice interface and additional insulation thickness at the end of the inner electrode to compensate for increased stresses in this area.  
  4. Workmanship: Workmanship in splice installation and cable preparation have a great impact in long-term performance. A clear majority of cable failure investigations that I’ve run for our customers pinpoint poor workmanship in cable preparation techniques as the leading root cause for failures. Some of the negative impacts of inconsistent cable preparation and/or cleaning that increase electrical stresses can be mitigated by design features such as the rounded semi-conductive electrode with an undercut of insulation that lowers stresses in the area of the splice/cable interface.  3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III is designed to help mitigate these cable preparation errors and the molded electrical splice body offers ease of installation and high quality.
  5. Testing Procedures: A product that is designed and tested at levels meeting and exceeding industry standards will have an adequate long-term performance. For 3M™ Cold Shrink QS-III qualification testing, we rate our electrical splices one basic insulation level (BIL) level higher than the corresponding splice classification (ex. 15kV splices meet the BIL requirements of a 25Kv splice).

Want to learn more about the study or have a question for an upcoming project?

Myself and my colleagues work with utility and power companies across Canada – from helping them evaluate cable failures to helping pick the right electrical splice for the environment. Contact an expert like myself for more information.

About the Author

George Fofeldea

[enBio=George Fofeldea works directly with 3M utility customers across Canada helping to solve project problems and concerns. This gives George unique intel to understanding trends, pain points, and industry needs. George has been a power engineer for over 24 years and in his career, he has watched the industry evolve. What he’s most excited about is seeing how new technologies such as renewable energy, vehicle electrification, grid automation, and modernization will continue to shape and transform the electrical and energy industry towards a bright-er and more exciting future by helping improve safety and reliability.],[enJob=Power Engineer, 3M Canada],[frBio=George Fofeldea travaille directement avec les clients des services publics de 3M partout au Canada pour les aider à résoudre les problèmes et à aborder les préoccupations qui surviennent dans le cadre de leurs projets. Cela permet à George de comprendre les tendances, les problèmes et les besoins de l’industrie. George est ingénieur électricien depuis plus de 24 ans et a assisté à l’évolution de l’industrie tout au long de sa carrière. Ce qui le passionne le plus, c’est la façon dont les nouvelles technologies, comme l’énergie renouvelable, l’électrification des véhicules, l’automatisation des réseaux et la modernisation continueront de façonner et de transformer le secteur de l’électricité et de l’énergie vers un avenir plus prometteur en améliorant la sécurité et la fiabilité.],[frJob=Ingénieur électricien, 3M Canada]

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