A UGI plan to replace old gas lines faster was approved Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
The commission voted 5-0 to approve UGI's petition for a long-term infrastructure improvement plan --LTIIP.
That plan stipulates UGI will replace replace its cast iron mains within 14 years and its bare steel mains within 30 years.
UGI expects to pay $51.2 million each year through 2018 to implement the plan.
Next year, UGI customers may see higher gas bills to pay for that work.
The plan includes cast iron and bare steel main replacement and service line replacements. UGI also will replace gas service lines in conjunction with the replacement of mains to which they are connected.
Materials used for natural gas pipelines have evolved and require replacement as they age, according to UGI’s petition.
Cast iron was used in the oldest portions of UGI’s system, but it can be vulnerable to breaking from ground movement.
The industry transitioned to bare steel and wrought iron piping until the 1960s, but bare steel is susceptible to corrosion.
The industry then shifted to plastic piping, but some plastic lines installed decades ago have shown a vulnerability to stress cracking.
According to UGI, the company has already accelerated capital investment in infrastructure replacement, as a result of commitments made in a 2012 settlement agreement spurred by a 2011 fatal gas explosion in Allentown.
“One of the main criteria that the commission must use in judging the adequacy of an LTIIP is whether the plan accelerates the replacement of aging infrastructure,” said PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson in a news release.
“A thorough review of UGI’s LTIIP shows that proposed replacement schedule maintains the level set forth in the settlement and is an acceleration over their historic replacement schedule.”
UGI also plans to install excess flow valves; replace and relocate meters; and replace risers, meter bars, regulator stations and service regulators.
All improvements done under the plan are eligible for a distribution system improvement charge. Under the settlement, UGI cannot file for a such a charge until next March.
UGI provides natural gas service to about 356,000 customers in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. Its system contains approximately 5,423 miles of natural gas distribution mains and 117 miles of natural gas transmission mains.