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Paper Insulated Distribution Cables

For distribution and transmission purposes impregnated paper insulated cables have had an impressive record of reliability throughout the 20th century, except for the development phases in the 1920s and 1930s when the use of belted cable was attempted at 33-66 kV (chapter 2). The reliability of paper cables is indicated by the fact that the U K supply industry depreciates paper distribution cables over a 40 year life. Although the basic construction has changed little since impregnated paper was first introduced, there have been continuous improvements in materials and manufacturing techniques which have led over the years to high quality and reductions in dimensions. Probably the most significant change was the introduction of non-draining impregnants in the 1950s. This overcame the problem of migration o f impregnant which left a relatively 'dry' dielectric. Much information on the properties of all the materials used and of the impregnated paper dielectric has been included in chapter 3, which should be read in conjunction with this chapter.

CONSTRUCTION Paper cables in the 1-33kV range are often referred to as 'solid type' as they are designed to operate without internal or external pressure. The insulation consists of helically applied paper tapes with a small gap between turns (fig. 19.1). The registration of tapes in relation to each other is important to avoid successive butt gaps in a radial direction (chapter 3). When cables are bent for drumming and laying, the paper tapes have to slide over each other without undue creasing, wrinkling or tearing and are therefore applied with a gap between turns. The gap width must be such that, when the cable is bent to the smallest permissible radius, it will n o t close completely and cause wrinkling of the paper. F o r bending reasons the mechanical design requirements are as important as electrical aspects in relation to insulation thickness, certainly for low voltage cables. These mechanical requirements cover such features as the angle and lapping tension during paper application, the width of the tape (generally 12-28 mm), the thickness of the paper (0.07-0.19 mm), the paper density and tensile strength. 316

Paper Insulated Distribution Cables


Fig. 19,1 Single-core, 300ram 2, 600/1000V, paper insulated lead sheathed cable with PVC oversheath

The conductors in multicore cables are usually sector shaped up to 11 kV and oval for 33 kV. Solid aluminium is used extensively at 1 kV. Stranded conductors are normally pre-spiralled (chapter 4) to reduce the possibility of d a m a g e to the insulation by twisting during the laying-up operation but this is not universal for the smaller sizes of 1 kV cable. Belted construction The cable design with a 'belt' of insulation over the laid-up cores (fig. 19.2) is the most economical in terms of total material cost. Such cables are nearly always used up to 6.6 kV and are the most c o m m o n type at 11 kV. The spaces between the cable cores under the belt are filled with jute or paper. Whereas the main insulation consists of paper tapes precisely applied, the filler insulation has to be softer and less dense so as to be compressed into the space available and is weaker electrically. Stresses in the fillers have to be limited to an acceptable level and therefore belted cables are not generally used at voltages greater than 11 kV. Although any discharge between the outside o f the insulation and the metallic sheath may produce discoloration of the impregnating c o m p o u n d , it has little effect on the life of the cable. However, when BS 6480 was revised in 1969 it was decided to specify the inclusion of a semiconducting carbon p a p e r tape over the insulation for 11 kV belted cables, optional in I E C 55.

Fig. 19.2 4-core, 70mm 2, 600/1000V, paper insulated lead sheathed cable with STA and bituminous finish


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Fig. 19.3 3-core, 150 mm 2, 6.35/11 kV, screened PILS cable with PVC oversheath

Screened construction

The electric strength of impregnated paper is weaker in the tangential direction than in the radial direction and for cables at voltages above 11 kV it is necessary to ensure that the electrical field is radial (chapter 2). As operating voltages were raised with 3-core cables in the 1920s and early 1930s, non-radial fields were the cause o f extensive cable failures of belted cables. Hochstadter first pointed to the need for screening and the design is still sometimes referred to as H type. Screening consists o f a thin metallic layer in contact with the metallic sheath (fig. 19.3). As it carries only a small charging current, the thickness is unimportant but it is necessary to have smooth contact with the insulation together with an ability to withstand cable bending without damage. A paper/aluminium foil laminate, pinholed to allow penetration o f compound during impregnation (chapter 25) and applied with an overlap, is normally used but a thin copper or aluminium tape is often preferred because it is less susceptible to damage. Multicore cables usually require a binder over the laid-up cores and this is normally a copper woven fabric (CWF) tape. Fine copper wires are included in the fabric to provide electrical contact between the screen and the metallic sheath. Where screening is optional, i.e. at 11 kV, the disadvantages concern the extra complexity and cost of providing screened joints. The advantage o f screening is improved electrical quality, permitting operation to a higher temperature and hence increased rating. Most users, however, prefer the belted design because of simpler jointing. At voltage levels where it is necessary to adopt insulation screening a screening layer over the conductor is also required. This provides a smooth interface between the wires of a stranded conductor and the insulation, thus limiting discharge which may arise due to electrical stress enhancement on the strands or voids at the interface. Conventional practice is to apply two semiconducting carbon paper tapes over the conductors. SL and SA screened cables These are radial field single-core metallic sheath cables with electrostatic tape acting as the insulation screen. SL and SA refer to sheathing with lead and aluminium respectively. The three corrosion protected cores of SL cables are laid up together, armoured and finished with further corrosion protection (fig. 19.4). SA cables are laid up similarly with a PVC oversheath on each core but are not normally armoured. Although the amount of metal in the three individual sheaths is little different from that in a cable having three cores within a single sheath, the greater diameter results in

Paper Insulated Distribution Cables


Fig. 19.4 3-core, 150mm2, 19/33kV, SL cable

extra bedding and armouring material, thereby increasing the total cable cost. However, jointing and terminating is more convenient. Some users prefer to install three separate single-core cables rather than a multicore cable, but the multicore SL and SA designs provide some of the advantages of single-core cable and avoid the high magnetic losses which would occur with steel armour. SL and SA cables are not commonly used in the UK but are extensively employed in continental Europe and in other countries following European practice. A factor which has been associated with individual preference relates to the draining of oil-rosin impregnant on hilly routes, as there is less compound under the sheath with the singlecore construction. In the UK the problem was overcome by the use of non-draining (MIND) insulation.

INSULATION CHARACTERISTICS The characteristics of impregnated paper insulation, including moisture sensitivity and need for metallic sheathing, electric strength and resistance to discharge in butt-gap spaces, are reviewed in chapter 3. It is not only the electric strength which defines insulation thickness. Particularly at the lower end of the voltage range mechanical requirements predominate and at the upper end allowance has to be made for the condition of the dielectric resulting from impregnant movement during load cycles to defined temperature. An indication of insulation thickness and operating stresses is shown in table 19.1 (see also chapter 18). Even in the 6-15kV range the electrical stress is not a primary factor and the operating stress of 2-4MV/m is well below the capability of impregnated paper. However, because of the possibility of ionisation in voids it is necessary to ensure a high level of filling with impregnant. The electrical stress becomes important at 33 kV and, partly to reduce stress at the conductor surface, oval conductors are usually used in preference to sector-shaped conductors. The use of oval conductors for multicore cables also improves the bending performance of cable with the thicker insulation. For the same reason, more insulation is required on very small conductor sizes, in contrast with the increase in insulation thickness with conductor size on lower voltage cables.


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Table 19.1 Insulation thickness (minimum) and electrical stress (maximum) for paper insulated

cables Voltage (kV) Conductor size (Inln 2) Belted design insulation thickness Single-core and screened design Between conductors (mm) 0.6/1 1.9/3.3 3.8/6.6 6.35/11 8.7/15 12.7/22 19/33 50
1000 1.4

Conductor sheath (mm)


Insulation (mm)

Stress (MV/m)

1.2 2.0

0.24 0.13

50 1000 50

2.4 4.2 5.6

1.8 2.7 3.4

50 1000 50 1000 50 1000 50


2.0 2.4 2.4 2.8 2.8 3.6 3.6 4.9 4.9 7.3 6.8

1.0 2.0 1.7 2.9 2.4 3.3 2.6 3.8 2.8 4.4 3.2

M A S S - I M P R E G N A T E D N O N - D R A I N I N G (MIND) CABLES Special impregnants are used to prevent drainage o f the compound when cables are installed vertically or on slopes. Such cables were pioneered by BICC in 1949, initially at 1 kV. Following extensive development work in collaboration with Dussek Bros Ltd, during the next two decades they subsequently became almost universally standardised in the U K over the whole voltage range. When cables with oil-rosin impregnant are installed on routes having differences in level, the impregnant migrates towards the lower end and, unless great care is taken in making joints and terminations, there may be leakage o f the compound. On steep gradients barrier joints may be necessary and there is also a danger of lead sheath expansion resulting in fracture. More importantly, the loss of compound reduces the electrical strength of the insulation at the higher end, and the creation of a vacuous condition may lead to ingress o f moisture if terminations are not completely sealed. At voltages of 11 k and above, the loss of compound can cause a high level o f discharge within the cable and experience has shown that this may be important even for quite modest vertical sections such as at pole terminations. Before the advent o f M I N D insulation it was necessary for cables on slopes either to be partially drained and to have considerably increased insulation thickness to reduce the stress or, alternatively, to be of the pre-impregnated paper type o f non-draining construction. During impregnation, the M I N D compound is very fluid and readily saturates the insulation. On cooling to ambient temperature, the change of state to a soft solid form is accompanied by a slight contraction. With M I N D insulation it is even more important than with oil-rosin to ensure that the cooling process is slow, the c o m p o u n d

Paper Insulated Distribution Cables


being circulated through a cooling system to obtain temperature uniformity. This also prevents the formation of a skin on the compound surface which could act as a barrier to further compound entry. Even so, the volume impregnation factor is of the order of 93% in comparison with 96% for oil-rosin. Later MIN D compounds have been better than the original ones with respect to coefficient of contraction. In service the MIND compound will remain in position whereas oil-rosin compound may readily drain away and leave more voids in the insulation. However, when cables are tested immediately following manufacture, MIN D insulation shows more ionisation, i.e. greater difference in power factor between one-half working voltage and twice working voltage. When BS 480 was amended in 1954, the limit for multicore 33 kV cables was raised from 0.0006 for oil-rosin to 0.006 for MIN D to allow for this feature and further revision is detailed in BS6480: 1988. In addition, the impulse strength of MIND cable is slightly below that of virgin oil-rosin cable. Nevertheless, the BS6480:1988 requirements of 194kV at 33kV and 95kV at l l k V are readily met, the latter being above the IEC 55 requirement of 75 kV. Initial ionisation is not of importance and M I N D cable provides excellent long-term performance, as shown by a stability test with daily load cycles to a temperature 5C above the maximum permitted continuous limit and a voltage of 1.33 times the working level. Periodic measurements of the power factor at 1.5 and 2.0 times working voltage show that both oil-rosin and MIND cables reach a peak and then stabilise. MIND cables reach this peak more quickly, generally after a few cycles, and the level may subsequently decrease. At working voltage, however, in contrast with oil-rosin insulation, MIN D insulation shows little or no ionisation after a prolonged period of testing. It has been argued in some countries that, under short-circuit conditions, MIND insulation could be inferior because the conductor temperature permitted is such that the compound may change to the liquid state. This has been difficult to establish experimentally and it is apparent that the temperature of the mass of cable is well below that of the conductor. MIND cables have shown a very satisfactory service performance for over 30 years. Any shortcomings in this and any other respects arising in non-draining cables made elsewhere have no doubt been due to lack of recognition of the expertise necessary in formulating satisfactory compounds and correct processing techniques.

METALLIC SHEATHS Paper insulated cables are sheathed with either lead or aluminium and the characteristics of these two metallic sheaths have been discussed in chapter 3.

ALUMINIUM SHEATHED PAPER INSULATED CABLES In the early 1970s, many users throughout the world were considering changing to MV polymeric insulated cables. British manufacturers however, conscious that the service reliability of such cables appeared to be much lower than that of paper cables, drew attention to a further economy which could be obtained with paper cables whilst further development of polymeric insulation was proceeding. Substitution of an


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aluminium sheath for a lead sheath and a r m o u r provided a price saving o f around 25%. Service trials were quickly arranged and by 1975 nearly all the U K electricity utilities had changed to this construction for their 11 kV networks. One problem in the early years related to the multiplicity of designs available, all adding to the cablemakers' stocks. In addition to lead sheathed cables not being superseded for many years, the aluminium sheath could be smooth, which was slightly cheaper, or corrugated (fig. 19.5) and, as with lead sheathed cables, some authorities favoured a belted and others a screened design. A review was carried out by the utilities and in 1978 it was considered that the much better handling characteristics o f the cable with corrugated sheath had a distinct advantage. It was decided to standardise the belted cable with corrugated sheath in conductor sizes of 95, 185 and 300 mm 2, though the utilities which had traditionally used screened cable remained with this type, as detailed in EA 09-12. As cable weight was reduced by 50%, smooth sheath designs up to 185 m m 2 were no more difficult to install than lead sheathed cable but problems could arise with larger sizes in duct installations because of the stiffness of the cable. This extra rigidity was also detrimental in setting cable ends into equipment when space was limited in substations. The corrugated sheathed cable was however easy to install and had a distinct advantage over lead sheathed cable. The increased rigidity of smooth sheath designs, together with the high coefficient of expansion of aluminium, also caused concern regarding mechanical stresses in joints. Within the joint there can be 'bowing' of the cores in the joint sleeve after heating cycles. Whilst these problems can readily be overcome by the use o f joints of the cast resin filled type, the increase in cost is not always considered to be justified. Those utilities which used smooth sheathed cables continued with bitumen filled joints on the basis that the cables were installed in open-ring circuits and very seldom reached full design load. Manufacturing technique is particularly important for cables with corrugated sheaths because of the considerable increase in space between the insulation and the inside of the sheath. If this is completely filled with impregnating compound, it is possible to generate very high internal pressures at operating temperature. It is consequently necessary to control the amount of compound between that necessary to prevent ionisation within the insulation and that producing maximum pressure on heating. In addition, if the aluminium sheath should be punctured and water entered the cable, all the cable affected would have to be replaced. Sufficient impregnating compound therefore needs to be present to prevent water from penetrating along the cable. The

:~ i ~i~?::

Fig. 19.5 3-core, 11 kV, belted PIAS cable with corrugated aluminium sheath

Paper Insulated Distribution Cables


annular corrugation design used for these solid type cables (fig. 19.5) has positive advantages. In the event of local puncture of the sheath, the small clearance at the root of the corrugation, containing impregnating compound, is an obstacle to transmission of water along the cable. Furthermore, it is much easier to cut around one crest of a corrugation rib when a piece of sheath has to be removed for jointing or terminating. The economic advantage of the aluminium sheathed design (EA09-12) has undoubtedly been the main reason for the continued use of medium voltage distribution paper cables in the UK, whereas XLPE insulation has proceeded to oust paper in many other countries. XLPE cables are becoming competitive in price and their other attraction, that they do not require such highly skilled jointers, is having more impact as the traditional skills become less available.

The choice between steel tape (STA) and galvanised steel wire (GSW) armour for multicore cables is very much related to local practice. Generally in the UK STA is adopted for 0.6/1 kV and GSW is favoured for higher voltages because of its better resistance to mechanical damage and provision of improved longitudinal cable strength for handling purposes. However, in continental Europe and many other countries, steel tape armour, sometimes galvanised, tends to be used more extensively throughout the voltage range. Aluminium sheaths are not armoured and are finished with an extruded layer of polymeric material, commonly PVC. Lead sheathed and armoured cables are now also often finished with extruded PVC or MDPE but bituminous corrosion protection is also employed (chapter 5).


Continuous operating temperature

Conductor temperature limits as a basis for cable ratings are referenced in chapter 8. Table 19.2 summarises the requirements for paper cables. The temperature of 80C for 1 kV cables is based on the physical and electrical degradation of the dielectric materials. At the higher voltages the limit is primarily associated with the imposition of conditions to prevent increase in ionisation within the

Table 19.2 Conductor temperature limits for paper cables Voltage (kV) 0.6/1, 1.9/3.3, 3.8/6.6 6.35/11 6.35/11, 8.7/15 12.7/22, 19/33 Cable design Belted Belted Screened Screened Maximum conductor temperature (C) 80 65 70 65


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dielectric. Most distribution cables operate with cyclic loading predominantly on a daily basis. During heating there is expansion of the impregnant and for various reasons the compound may not flow back between the layers of paper during cooling, thus creating voids in which discharge may occur. Lead sheaths readily expand under pressure but do not contract when the pressure is reduced, thus reducing the likelihood o f the compound returning into the insulation. All these effects have a bearing on the maximum temperature which can be adopted. The temperature is lower for belted cables, owing to the non-radial field, and reduces with increasing voltage because of the more serious effect of ionisation on cable life. Technically it has been proved feasible to develop satisfactory impregnating compounds and cable construction to permit a temperature of 85C up to 33 kV but such cables have not been brought into commercial use.

Bending radii
Materials and methods of manufacture have to be chosen to mitigate against dielectric disturbance on bending. IEC 55 and most national standards prescribe the minimum bending radii quoted in appendix A19. The stiffness of impregnants changes with temperature to an extent which varies with composition and types of compound used. If cables are to be installed in cold climates, it is usual to prescribe a bending test to be carried out at an appropriate temperature, to ensure that there is no disruption of the insulation.

LIFE AND P E R F O R M A N C E C H A R A C T E R I S T I C S The service performance of paper cables has been so good that it is accepted as the standard by which other types are judged. Apart from mechanical damage, one of the main causes of cable replacement is the entry of water and the travel of the water through a considerable length of cable. Electrical failures in the dielectric are rare up to 6kV. At 11 kV and above they are more usually associated with the discharge and carbon tracking ('treeing') mechanism discussed in chapter 2. An interesting type of breakdown was known for many years as 'pinhole type failure below terminations on 11 kV belted cable'. It was common in South Africa but also arose elsewhere. Although not necessarily associated with high altitudes the incidence was greater at heights of around 1000 m. The failures invariably occurred in the vertical cable below terminations and at a distance of 1 to 15 m from the termination. There was intense pinhole type erosion of the dielectric papers, with no carbonisation but with green deposits both on the conductor and on adjacent insulating papers. After lengthy investigations it was established that the breakdown started from drainage of oil-rosin impregnant which allowed air to enter the cable through incomplete sealing of the wire interstices of the conductor in the termination. Discharge then occurred in the air-filled voids in the dielectric in the region of highest stress, i.e. where the conductors approach each other most closely and where the radii of the shaped conductors are smallest. The discharges resulted in the formation of oxides of nitrogen and ozone which attacked the paper to produce the pinholes and led to production of moisture. This combined with the oxides of nitrogen to form nitric acid which reacted with the copper to give the green copper nitrate.

Paper Insulated Distribution Cables


The solution was to use hermetically sealed termination boxes. Also the use of nondraining cables mitigates against creation of voids and the suction of air into the cable.

TESTS Testing procedure and requirements are reviewed and discussed in chapter 28.