Enclosures, Cabling & Connectors

Cable locator for failsafe cable fault diagnostics

May 2021 Enclosures, Cabling & Connectors

Accidentally hitting a power cable during a project can lead to costly repairs and create seriously hazardous safety situations. Digging in the wrong place can also lead to significant and unnecessary delays, not to mention run-on costs for the project.

Comtest’s Lourenco Menezes explains the importance of having the correct equipment for the job: “The Amprobe rugged and durable UAT600 series is specifically designed to pinpoint underground utilities and buried services up to 30 m deep and has accuracy to a depth of 6 m – ideal for this job.”

Mines generally use Thumper technology for cable fault location – a portable high voltage (25 kV) surge generator. At the fault, a high-current arc makes a thumping sound. Disadvantages of thumping are it is very time-consuming and the cable, exposed to high voltage surges, may be degraded and require re-insulation.

In December 2020, a Free State Gold Mine had a damaged cable incident and the breach needed to be pinpointed urgently. An external Thumper contractor was called in and the eventual diagnosis was that the damaged cable was at a length of 120 m. An excavation team was called in and dug to that length. Unfortunately, no breach in the cable was found. A new channel was then dug at 60 m and still no fault was found. On the third tracing attempt the breach was located across the road and on a different cable.

The consequence of the cable breach/fault was numerous days of lost production and the cost of the Thumper analysis. For the cost of an Amprobe UAT600 cable locator, the mine would not only have reduced the risks associated with the test, but have an instrument that is able to give an accurate reading, location diagnosis and solution within a day.

Features of the Amprobe UAT-600 series

The locating kit comes complete and ready for use with a transmitter, receiver, test lead kit, batteries and additional fuses, all in a mobile, protective duffle bag. The UAT-620 kit also includes a signal clamp for transmitting a signal when it is not possible to make electrical contact with the cable to be traced. For applications where ground fault locating is required, the UAT-600 transmitter can be used in combination with the optional A- frame accessory.

Applications include:

• Locates energised 50/60 Hz cables carrying current.

• Identifies the location of all metallic utilities: pipes, and energised and de-energised cables.

• Traces individual pipes or cables (energised or de-energised).

Three testing modes are available:

• Passive power mode (50/60 Hz) – tracing energised lines conducting current (no transmitter necessary).

• Passive radio mode (RF) – using surrounding radio waves to trace underground utilities (no transmitter necessary).

• Active mode using UAT-600-T transmitter.

Three active modes using the UAT-600-T Transmitter

• Induction – the transmitter will automatically start to radiate a signal around it using an internal antenna. Used for tracing individual cables where there is no access to the line to connect test leads or a clamp.

• Direct connection with test leads – the most reliable method to trace individual cable or a pipe.

• Clamp (included in the UAT-620 kit, optional for the UAT-610 kit) – provides an efficient and safe method of applying a locate signal to a cable, where it is not possible/safe to gain access to a cable for making an electrical contact.

Unparalleled safety

What sets the UAT-600 Series apart from other underground locators is its CAT IV 600 V safety rating. This allows users to connect the transmitter directly to an energised line up to 600 V in a CAT IV environment. Previously, if a crew needed to trace a specific electrical line by transmitting a signal through it, the line had to be de-energised first, adding maintenance time and reducing productivity.


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