Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Fault

scattergood01Have you ever wondered what guys like I do, when we’re not telling you that you need to do some completely unaffordable thing to keep your house wiring safe? We’re telling the utilities the same thing.

I ran across this the other day, talking about fixing an underground cable from a powerplant in California. It also highlights one of the reasons why a fair number of us are not fond of underground, no matter how much prettier you think it makes the landscape. :)

How do you fix a shorted cable ? Not just any cable. An underground, 3-phase, 230kV, 800 amp per phase, 10 mile long one, carrying power from a power station to a distribution centre. It costs $13,000 per hour in downtime, counting 1989 money, and takes 8 months to fix. That’s almost $75 million. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power did this fix about 26 years ago on the cable going from the Scattergood Steam Plant in El Segundo to a distribution center near Bundy and S.M. Blvd. [Jamie Zawinski] posted details on his blog in 2002. [Jamie] a.k.a [jwz] may be familiar to many as one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.

To begin with, you need Liquid Nitrogen. Lots of it. As in truckloads. The cable is 16 inch diameter co-axial, filled with 100,000 gallons of oil dielectric pressurised to 200 psi. You can’t drain out all the oil for lots of very good reasons – time and cost being on top of the list. That’s where the LN2 comes in. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN2through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. With the frozen oil acting as a plug, the faulty section is cut open, drained, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed. To make sure the frozen plugs don’t blow out, the oil pressure is reduced to 80 psi during the repair process. They can’t lower it any further, again due to several compelling reasons. The cable was laid in 1972 and was designed to have a MTBF of 60 years.

Finding out the location of the fault itself was quite a feat. It involved time-domain reflectometry (inconclusive), ultrasound, and radar (didn’t work) and then using an Impulse Generator-Tester (Thumper) which got them pretty close to the defective segment. What pinpointed the problem was a bunch of car batteries and some millivoltmeters. They hooked up car batteries to both ends, tapped the cable at several points and knowing the drops and resistance of the cable, got within a few feet of the fault. Finally, X-Ray equipment was brought in. Sure enough, they could see the cable shorting against the steel wall of the pipe. Cutting open, and closing it all up, required certified welders spending up to 8 hours on each section to avoid damage to the paper insulation. The welders placed their thumbs 3 inches away from the seams they were welding, and stopped when it got warm to touch, allowing it to cool off before starting again.

The failure was attributed to “TMB”, short for Thermal Mechanical Bending. TMB causes the cable to wiggle in place due to load surges. This eventually causes insulation failure due to abrasion against the pipe and separation of the many layers of paper tape. They repaired the short, put aluminum collars in most of the joints to hold the splices in place, and have added a load management scheme to reduce the current peaks. Apparently, the fix wasn’t good enough. According to this Wikipedia article, “the 315 megawatt capacity Scattergood Steam Plant (Unit 3) to West Los Angeles (Receiving Station K) 230 kV line is having to be replaced after only 45 years of operations, due to multiple failures within this rather long single-circuit, oil-filled, “pipe type” cable.”

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Feels Like Mission Impossible | Hackaday.

TDR’s are one of the most useful diagnostic tools ever, they pay for themselves quite quickly but it’s nearly impossible to convince bean counters that think Radio Shack sells useful meters that a $2K plus tool, that doesn’t fix anything, and occasionally isn’t good enough is justified. Heck, I haven’t even quite convinced myself yet. Thumpers work (sometimes) on the principle of “letting all the smoke out”. It’s much easier to find a broken something than a cracked one, after all. For the rest, if you’re interested follow the links.

It’s part of the reason than the electrical trades are often so fascinating to be in.

And there’s this, from his comment stream, showing how sometimes we manage to get authorized to buy a new widget.

Widespread touchscreen ordering to come to NYC fast food restaurants by next year?

mcdonaldsThis cannot be said enough:

The Actual Minimum Wage is $0.00!

Why? Because that’s what you earn when you do not have a job, or business (with customers, I suppose)

The Wall Street Journal reports that, on Wednesday, as predicted, the panel convened by Governor Cuomo to study fast-food wages will formally recommend paying workers statewide $15 an hour — a substantial raise that’s nearly double the current rate of $8.75. The only step left is an okay from Acting Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino (which he’s expected to give), and then Cuomo can move forward (which there’s every indication he will) regardless of how the Legislature feels about it. So it looks likely that a big raise will come to New York’s fast-food workers.

Briefly. Because the actual minimum wage is zero. Seriously, the franchisees are screwed. So is anybody who gets defined as being ‘fast-food.’ But you know who will benefit? Fast-food restaurants that are directly owned by a corporation or family […]

Moe Lane » Widespread touchscreen ordering to come to NYC fast food restaurants by next year?.

Yup. Exactly. Why would you hire a surly employee for $15.00/hr, when for say $13.00/hr* you can have a robotic vending machine that will work 24/7 without breaks, complaints, making fewer mistakes, and never not showing up for work? Huh? Why??

My friend Jack Curtis adds this:

This is one more such move in what appears a developing chain, following the initial action in Seattle. All of it appears as a reaction to a rather perfunctory “nation wide” campaign by the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) after that body proved unable to organize fast food. Conclusion: If the union can’t do it, the Democrats will.

The move has some interesting aspects. It applies to chains with over 30 locations in state. An obviously prime target: McDonald’s. With so large an increase in labor costs, Big Macs prices must rise significantly.in a time its sales have been dropping. That’ll teach ’em to resist an SEIU organizing drive!

What favors will a significant fast food price rise provide the customers? Last time we read: “How to Stimulate an Economy,” hefty price increases were somehow omitted. We note too that a lot of fast food customers are lower income folk who really can’t afford pricey restaurants. Aren’t these supposed to be the Democrats’ favorite folk to help?

Wasn’t in my copy either, sad to say.

In other economic news, Steven Heyward at the Powerline Blog notes:

Did you happen to catch this little detail in yesterday’s news about the old A & P grocery chain filing bankruptcy:

More than 90% of A&P’s workers are union members, with 35 different collective-bargaining agreements that A&P said require benefit increases that are unsustainable. A&P said it would try to negotiate immediate changes to the contracts to prevent “catastrophic” results on sales, but otherwise will seek court orders to force the contract changes.

Gee: I wonder if those labor agreements have something to do with the chain’s uncompetitive cost structure and declining business prospects.

Meanwhile, from our “Don’t Look Now But. . .” file, the Chinese stock market seems to have stabilized after a significant correction that could be confused for a crash. But then there’s this little detail reported yesterday:

China may have the world’s second-biggest stock market after the U.S., but at one point during a roller-coaster ride for investors this month only 93 of 2,879 listed companies were freely tradable—about the same number as trade in Oman.

As always, read the entire articles, there’s more than what I copied.

NON-scientific wild a** guess. Likely much too high, really.

 

 

What is America?

It’s late and getting later.

Enjoy, but more to the point,

Learn and employ!

Margaret Thatcher’s Ghost Stalks The Halls Of the European Union

ThatcherWell, it sounds as if the EU has found some method of stealing more productive people’s money to keep Greece going a bit longer. I didn’t pay all that much attention to the details, honestly. It’s all a sham and show anyway, nearly all of Europe, not even excluding Germany itself soon will be in the same boat.

My friend, Jack Curtis, explained it pretty well yesterday. Here’s part of what he said.

If the E.U. elects to advance funds, Greek debt that cannot be repaid already will be increased by the advance. The E.U. will be throwing good money after bad. Weaning an alcoholic as it were, by buying him drinks. But the facade of business as usual can proceed; the Greek banks can open in the morning.

If the E.U. simply says: Pay what you owe: The Greek banks and government will be forced into what amounts to bankruptcy and collapse. The shock may well collapse the stock markets and thereby the banks elsewhere as the overinflated market values deflate, collapsing still more banks by diminishing the worth of their holdings. And reducing the wealth of everyone else too.

Margaret Thatcher’s Ghost Stalks Halls The Halls Of The Euro … | jcurtisblog.

As he explains it’s a bad omen in a worsening situation. All of Europe, including the UK, will end up in this boat, unless the Tory ‘austerity measures’ are a lot tougher than I think, and besides since they keep stalling on leaving the EU, the rest will drag them along anyway. It won’t necessarily stop there either, we here in the US have decided in the last fifteen (or fifty, perhaps) years that this leaky boat is the way forward.

It amounts to a run on the bank, not the Podunk State Bank but the big ones, the ones billed as too big to fail, which really means that when they fail they will likely take their governments with them leading to who knows what. It’s not hard to see why the politicians want to paper over the mess they’ve made, it could be really catastrophic and when that happens it often turns into a hanging party for all hands.

Sadly, all thinking people have known for basically forever that this is how it ends. What ends? The Greek government at best, the EU and it’s constituent governments, maybe, in the worst case, western civilization. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Kipling said it over a hundred years ago.

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four—
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire—

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

But maybe that is too complex for those that think themselves fit to rule us. A few years ago Maggie Thatcher put it more succinctly.

“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
Margaret Thatcher

She also wisely noted, as Jack reminded us:

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

 

 

Forecasting the Future

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanOne of the many secondary duties I do in our business is strategic planning and how it affects us. That might mean that should we buy a new truck, a used one, or let some customers wait, because an electrician just isn’t much good standing around in the shop, he has to get to the job site with his tools.

A service truck these days costs something over $100.000, so you think about it fairly long and hard, particularly if you are hiring new people to put in it. It will last from about three years to seven or eight, so it has to pay for itself in that time. That’s pretty much how we go about deciding whether it is worthwhile to expand.

Frankly in the last seven or so years, it’s simply been too risky to assume anything, and so we, like almost all business has simply tried to get by on what we already have. I know that we could write enough business to support the truck, but the electrician, well, to be honest, I can no longer even guess what he’s going to cost me in five years, because the rules change so much and so drastically all the time.

Part of it is the general economy, part of it is the health care mess that Washington has made, part of it is the work rules that OSHA insists on, and make some operations nearly impossible, part of it is whether the clients are still going to go ahead with their plans, because they’ve all got these same concerns.

That’s us, a little contractor out here in Podunk, Nebraska. I haven’t a clue if we’ll even be in business at this rate in five years, let alone growing. there’s just too many variables. so whatever I decide on this kind of this is basically a SWAG (Scientific Wild A$$ Guess).

Now multiply that by (at least) several trillion variables and you have the problem with forecasting climate change, man-made or not. See the problem with it. The advocates are sure both that the climate is warming, and that it’s man’s fault, particularly CO2 emissions. I can’t say it’s impossible, and I can say it would be a good idea to reduce them, if it can be done at a reasonable cost.

See the problem? In that paragraph, there are at least 4 variables that I don’t have the answer to, and I’m not sure anybody else does either. And the kicker is that they want to spend at least several trillion dollars solving a problem that may or may not exist.

That’s why it’s all government money, not private investment. Nobody who has to answer for the money they spend is going to make this kind of a bet, only those that play with other people’s money, and are unaccountable. You would be wise if you read that as the government. then you add in all the university researchers, crony capitalists, and plain old crooks, who all (every single one) have lobbyists who stand to lose money, if these projects don’t go forward, and you have Leviathan’s juggernaut going downhill (or maybe over the cliff).

Nobody but the almighty can predict this stuff, all we can do is try to react. And here’s the real kicker. What new invention will make all this Stürm und Drang obsolete next week? Remember New York City had a terrible pollution and health problem a hundred years ago, from horse dung, the automobile solved it, even though it created other problems. Technology is like that.

We solved the air and water pollution problems that we had when I was a kid (more or less, anyway). Mostly we exported the pollution and the manufacturing jobs to Asia, now the air is pretty good here but one can hardly breathe in China. It’s fixable but, no one, not even us, is willing to pay the price on everything we buy at Wal-Mart to fix it.

Answers? Frustrating as it is, for you and me both, I haven’t got any. All we can do is live our lives, thoughtfully and perhaps a bit more frugally than we have been. You know, be a bit more efficient, combine trips, carpool, keep your car another year, that sort of thing.

Will it be better next year? I don’t know that either. But I do know that if we leave the creative types in our midst free to innovate as they have over the last five hundred years, it’ s a virtual certainty that it will be in fifty years. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Mr. President, You Have One Job

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usually called a “standard” in official U.S. government terminology). It is defined in Executive Order 10860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In essence, the President of the United States has one job: to protect the Republic from all enemies, foreign and domestic. So a year and a half before we hire a new guy or girl, how are we doing?

I’d say not good. There are many things wrong, the government seems to have lost its way to the point that it cannot tell the good guys from the bad ones, the productive from the moocher, the anarchist from the fascist, in essence, good from evil.

Yes, I did say good from evil. But understand this, it’s not supposed to be the President’s job to help you get a degree, let alone a useful one, nor to make sure you don’t starve because you haven’t found a job. Those things are your job, not is. If you fail, it is your problem, along with those who were foolish enough to depend on you. You don’t want to be a burger flipper that’s commendable, learn a marketable skill, and you won’t be. It would help if the government would get out of the way enough for productive people to be productive.

It would also help if the government would get out of the way enough for the health care industry to provide health care, instead of filling out forms for Leviathan.

But in a sense, none of this is the President’s primary tasking. That is, as it always has been to protect the Republic from foreign enemies. And in that the administration has failed, utterly.

As the linked article says, to be safe one needs some combination of raw power, respect, admiration, and fear. No one of them will really work. And that’s where the US is failing. Raw power is the one we have, but since we are unwilling to use it, it no longer matters. Thousands of tanks in a tank park at Fort Hood are an interesting (to some, anyway) artifact, not a symbol of power. Those same tanks rampaging down ‘Thunder Road’ in Iraq are an unmistakable sign that one is extremely unwise to poke at the Eagle, overmuch.

Notice anybody refraining from that poking lately? Yeah, me either. Here’s why.

The United States is no longer a serious country.

Now, by this I do not mean that America is no longer a super-power. By any gross indicator of strength, the United States is as powerful as it’s ever been, perhaps more powerful than at any time in its history. It has a massive, highly productive economy, a military second to none, and an alliance that dwarfs all possible competitors. On paper, it’s still the only super-power on this planet (or on any other that we know of, so far).

But the status of a great nation is built on more than raw power. It includes intangible qualities like respect, admiration, and, yes, fear. We don’t need all three of them; no major power does. But we need at least one of them at any given moment, and right now, we’re bottoming out in each of these measures. President Obama may insist that America is now “the most respected country on Earth”—a claim even the normally more forgiving folks at PolitiFact rate as only “half-true”—but the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese clearly disagree, and for good reason.

The Chinese hack of the Office of Personnel Management is the most recent, and most obvious, example of how our status is going down the drain. This is a disaster of unimaginable proportions. The intelligence damage, including security-clearance information, will last for decades. (I, of course, am one of the millions of federal workers waiting to find out if my files are now in Beijing.) Almost as shocking as the size of this breach, however, is the fact that no one seems to care very much, including the Chinese, who have shown no concern at all.

An Act of War, Ignored

In any normal world, a super-power would not tolerate this kind of an attack. Perhaps more accurately, a true super-power would never have to endure such an attack in the first place, because other nations would be loath to engage in such a direct act of open hostility. States do lousy things to each other all day long, but the wholesale and brazen theft of personnel records is a different kind of espionage. The scale is so vast that it is a direct challenge to the United States of America.

Countries, as a rule, do not do whatever they can do, they do what they think they can get away with.

Contunue reading: America, The Unserious Super-Power. Emphasis mine.

Seems to me when saudi Arabia and Israel find that they have more in c0mmon with each other than they do with theUnited states, something has goe deeply wrong.

We are pretty much stuck with this until 20 January 2017, but we would be perhaps wise to start thinking ait now. And keep it uppermost in our minds as we think about a new prsident.

%d bloggers like this: