Penelec Underground Cable News Web

Penelec to Rejuvenate Underground Cable to Help Enhance Service Reliability

May 17, 2021
Injection process will extend life of older underground electric lines in Erie neighborhood.

Penelec, a FirstEnergy Corp. utility, plans to inject aging underground distribution lines serving an Erie condominium complex with a silicone-based fluid that should prolong its useful life by up to 40 additional years. This technologically advanced repair method allows the cable to provide continued reliable electric service for a fraction of the replacement cost and eliminates the need to dig trenches through landscaped yards and driveways to bury new lines.

Over the decades, water and corrosive soil materials can penetrate underground wire through tiny cracks and fissures, causing power outages. Rather than disturbing dirt to replace more than 1.5 miles of aging underground cable serving about 140 customers living on Crystal Point Drive and surrounding streets, Penelec will use an electrical contractor to restore buried cable without excavation. Accessing de-energized wires through underground vaults, the contractor will force pressurized silicone-based fluid into the cable, filling the cracks and spaces in the worn insulation, encasing the wire with new material.

The rejuvenation work began on May 11 and is scheduled to continue over several days. It will be among the first times Penelec has employed fluid injections to rehabilitate underground electric cable. The US$125,000 project is part of the company's ongoing efforts to strengthen the durability of its electric system and enhance service reliability for its customers.

"This project should help prevent future power interruptions to a community that has experienced recent underground cable outages without the disruption and cost of installing all-new cable," said Nick Austin, regional president of Penelec. "Underground electrical equipment is in many ways better protected from the elements than overhead wires, but when an outage occurs, it often takes longer for our crews to pinpoint the underground problem and make repairs."

Penelec plans to rejuvenate more than 8500 ft of buried electric cable and replace an additional 11,000 ft of aging underground cable throughout its service area in 2021. Much of the cable to be replaced has been spliced and repaired too many times for those line sections to be good candidates for fluid injection.

The work is part of Penelec's Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plans (LTIIP II), a US$200 million initiative to accelerate capital investments over five years to help ensure continued electric service reliability for the company's 585,000 customers.

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