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Home / Technical Articles / General guidelines for online partial discharge testing of power cables

Faults in the cable insulation

Online PD testing is becoming the topic of interest for power cable owners to ensure the safe and continuous operation of power cables. Partial discharge is a localised discharge in the insulation medium due to high voltage stress that does not bridge the space between the two conductors. Partial discharge testing of power cables is one of the diagnostic methods to detect and locate incipient faults in the cable insulation.

Online PD testing is becoming the topic of interest for power cable owners to ensure the safe and continuous operation of power cables.
Online PD testing is becoming the topic of interest for power cable owners to ensure the safe and continuous operation of power cables

If PD source is detected timely in the cable system, it could save the huge cost of unplanned outage to Plant owners.

Regular periodic or continuous monitoring of PDs inside cables and their accessories will help condition monitoring team to identify the location of incipient fault and then planning a scheduled outage of the suspected cable circuit in order to perform corrective measures.

Offline and Online PD

PD testing of power cables can be done offline and online. When doing offline testing, cable is disconnected at the terminations and then connected to separate power supply. There are different types of power supplies for this purpose i.e.

  • Very Low Frequency (going as low as 0.1Hz to 0.01Hz),
  • Resonant Voltage (frequency ranging from 20 Hz to 300Hz depending on the voltage) or
  • Normal power frequency (50Hz or 60Hz) supply.

Online PD testing is done while the cable is in service under normal operating condition by installing sensors at cable termination.

Example of HFCT clamped around Earth Shield of Power Cable
Example of HFCT clamped around Earth Shield of Power Cable

These sensors include but not limited to High Frequency Current Transformer (HFCT), Transient Earth Voltage Sensor (TEV), High Voltage Coupling Capacitor or Acoustic Sensor. Some of these sensors can be installed while the system is online while others (/ or in some cases) require outage of cable system in order to install them.

Online PD testing of power cables, sometimes, becomes challenging in the presence of high noise.

Problem of high noise worsen the situation when PD signals are superimposed onto noise signals. Simple pulse separation and classification techniques are not effective in such situation. Signal needs to be analysed in frequency domain then.

Following are the guidelines when conducting Online Partial Discharge Testing of Power Cables:

Guideline #1

Cable earth shield coming out of the cable (whether single core or three core) must not be touching any earthed metal except at terminating point to Substation Earth. Earth shield at cable termination should be insulated using shrink tubes in order to get access to individual cable earths.

This will help in easy installation and reliable measurement of PD in the cables.

Suitable Cable Termination for online PD measurement
Suitable Cable Termination for online PD measurement as individual earth shield of each cable is connected to substation earth separately. Also heat shrink tubes can be seen over earth shields.

Guideline #2

At cable terminations where access to the cable end is not permitted due to Health and Safety Regulations, permanent sensors should be installed with termination box near cable end providing access to the sensors connected to individual cable earths.

Guideline #3

Before doing online PD measurement, it is important to know the Cable Return Time. Cable Return Time is defined as the time taken by a pulse for completing a round trip along the circuit length. Cable Return Time improves the accuracy of PD source localization after detection.

Cable return time can be measured by injecting a pulse from one cable end and then calculating the time difference between injected and return pulse with the help of Oscilloscope.

Guideline #4

Online PD measurement should be conducted for longer time length in order to improve the reliability of test. Although, online periodic measurement of PD in power cables will be able to capture continuous discharge sources and if lucky, some intermittent discharge sources.

It is better to perform PD measurement at both ends of the cable in order to confirm test results.

Guideline #5

Most of the PD signals flowing along the length of cables have dominant frequency component of less than 5MHz due to low pass nature of power cable and propagation losses. It should be noted that filtering is not desirable in the range of 100 kHz to 5 MHz as applying such filtering may also filter PD signals.

Care must be taken when filtering is done within this range.

Guideline #6

PD signals are phase consistent. However, it is also observed that noise can be phase consistent. This might effect PD analysis if analysis is only considering Phase Resolved patterns. There are numerous analysis tools available in the market for PD detection within high noise. One should not only rely on such sophisticated analysis tools.

It is advised to stick to the conventional rules of identifying PD. However, it does not ignore the efforts done behind those analysis tools and their importance. Such tools can be used in conjunction with basic rules.
Example of noise activity during Online PD measurement in power cables with phase resolved characteristic
Example of noise activity during Online PD measurement in power cables with phase resolved characteristic

Plan View of Noise Phase Resolved Activity
Plan View of Noise Phase Resolved Activity

Guideline #7

Basic rules in identifying a PD signal in noisy data are:

  1. Pulse Shape: PD pulse travelling along the length of cable has bigger peak followed by few oscillations (in some cases).
  2. PD activity should be phase consistent.
  3. If such activity is found within the data, there should be reflected pulse(s) after main PD pulse. Such reflections will help in locating incipient defect site. However, it is also possible that there is no reflected pulses because of long cable lengths and attenuation.

Guideline #8

When PD is detected inside power cables, it is suggested to locate the defect source by further investigations. Once PD source is confirmed, it is advised to plan a scheduled outage in order to perform corrective measures.

Guideline #9

9. After corrective measures, it is also advised to perform online PD measurement regularly or continuously for some days or weeks in order to confirm the workmanship done during repair.

Few words more //

These are the general guidelines that can be followed to perform online PD measurements in power cables.

However, these guidelines do not favour or reject any technology, system or commercially available tools.

Online PD testing of power cables can be difficult or challenging but not impossible. By using proper procedure and correct methodology, reliable online PD measurements can be done even in the presence of noise. With the availability of huge research material, innovative analysis tools and sophisticated software, reliable online PD testing in power cables is possible as compared to the concept of PD testing 10 years before.

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More Information

Ammar Anwar KHAN

Ammar is Technical Application Specialist for Power Cables Condition Based Maintenance. In current position, he conducts training and education of Sales Teams, Field Service Teams and Power Cable owners on the topic of Online Partial Discharge Measurements in Power Cables.


  1. cyrus
    Jun 30, 2020

    There is an opportunity for a PD specialist in UAE , to carry out PD on Cables / GIS upto 400 Kv , Knowledge with Equipment ( omicron / Techimp or equivalent ). Gulf experience will be added advantage
    .pls send your cv to [email protected]

    • Jaspar Matters
      Jun 10, 2021

      Hi Cyrus, if you would like to hear about our range of PD testing capabilities please feel to email through to [email protected]. I would be keen to hear about what testing is required in particular.

  2. Pradip Sadarangani
    Jun 30, 2020

    what is the present state of similar PD testing for straight through cable joints, Thanks

    • Edwin Maurer
      Nov 25, 2020

      Hi Pradip, saw your comment on online PD testing with straight through joints, the Smart Cable Guard system by DNV GL which was developed by KEMA in colaboration with Dutch DSO’s is capable of pinpointing the PD or any full or intermittent fault to the location where the spot is active on the cable. for paper insulated cables the system works up to ~3 to 4km and for XLPE this is ~8 to 12 km.


    Aug 18, 2015

    Thanks for a nice article. Can you give me a detailed design of Shielded Room foundation. Is it necessary to do the foundation under the control room and the equipment as well or just shielded room.

  4. Edvard
    Apr 02, 2015

    Excellent guidelines Ammar! Expirience talking out of you!

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