Posted on May 4, 2017

PG&E Brings European Safe Digging Technology to the United States

By Laura Brackley

PG&E recently tested a new system developed in Europe and designed to help utilities across the globe improve the safety of their digging.

PG&E employees monitor the test of the ORFEUS technology at the Livermore Training Facility. (Photo by Aaron Rezendez.)

The technology is called ORFEUS, short for Optimized Radar to Find Every Utility in the Street. It’s attached to existing horizontal directional digging equipment and performs real-time scans of the soil using ground penetrating radar technology, which sends detailed information to the system’s operators to help them better understand what obstacles are underground.

Horizontal digging is often faster, more efficient and causes less disruption to built-up areas than traditional approach of digging a trench. The ORFEUS technology helps reduce risks associated with horizontal digging damaging underground equipment.

During the test on April 25 at PG&E’s Livermore Training Facility, the technology successfully identified plastic and steel gas lines, electrical conduit and a sewer main, said Aaron Rezendez, a PG&E gas engineer based in San Ramon.

“This system is a huge step forward in improving the safe digging in built-up areas,” said Rezendez. “This technology will help utilities, in the United States and internationally, avoid damaging underground utilities and will increase safety when digging in urban areas.”

The technology was developed in Europe with funding support from the European Union and was brought to PG&E in partnership with the Gas Technology Institute.

Further refinements will now be made before a commercial partner is sought to help bring the technology to other utilities.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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