Synaptec Launches Light-Speed Cable Fault Response Tool

Synaptec has launched Refase, a new distributed sensor system said to significantly reduce outage and repair costs caused by subsea power cable faults by providing an automated response.

According to Synaptec, Refase reaches 100km out to sea and collates electrical performance measurements from up to 50 different locations at the speed of light and completely passively by sending and reflecting light along one of the optical fibers available inside subsea power cables.

The practical benefit is that faults can be recognized and responded to in any cable connecting any number of turbines since the technology has the ability to distinguish which cable section failed and is small enough to fit, the company said.

The reason why this is important for the renewables industry is speed as Refase recognizes faults in a specific cable and permits unaffected cables and turbines to return to production within milliseconds, much faster than humans or circuit breakers, which results in significantly reduced O&M response times, repair costs, asset damage and income loss, according to Synaptec.

The company said its objective with Refase is to reduce operating cost by eliminating human response costs, including the cost of engineers, crew transfer vessels, and often days of waiting for a weather window to reach the offshore substation to undertake manual fault location.

In addition, Synaptec wants to minimize the loss of income, returning healthy cables and turbines to generation in milliseconds instead of days, as well as to avoid the damage from repeat exposure to faults caused by manual fault location.

“Until now, no-one has been able to use optical fiber for real-time monitoring and control of offshore wind power assets, which by their nature are remote and inaccessible. Optical fiber is the gold standard for long range applications like this so using something you already paid for to remote detect faults and automate the response offers significant capex and operating cost savings for operators,” Philip Orr, Managing Director of Synaptec, said.

“We call it our ‘free-from’ approach; we are free from live copper wiring, big housings, power supplies, the requirement for GPS satellite access or data networks, and it even reduces the need for human intervention; it is completely unique.”

Refase, or Remote Fault Sensing, was developed with partial funding from SSE and ScottishPower. Its core technology was the product of research and development carried out by the company founders at the University of Strathclyde’s Institute of Energy and Environment.