NO NEED FOR ROADWORKS AS ROBOT REPAIRS DECADES-OLD GAS NETWORK
MILES of decades-old gas pipes under the city centre are set to be repaired by robot in a first for Greater Manchester.
And no one will ever see or hear a thing – consigning hated roadworks to the past.
One project scheduled for next year involves hundreds of metres of mains pipe underneath the Mancunian Way, the M.E.N. can reveal.
The technology was first used under the roads and sidewalks of Boston and New York in the US and has also been deployed on Oxford Street in London and in Edinburgh.
Successful trials of the CISBOT – which stands for Cast Iron Sealing Bot – are now coming to an end in Salford and Oldham, oblivious to residents who would normally have to suffer having their roads dug up and the resulting traffic delays.
Supplies of gas also remain fully live throughout periods of work.
One of two robots brought to the UK by Cadent, which operates and maintains the region’s gas network, is operating in the Langley Road area of Salford, checking 263 metres of a 16-inch diameter iron gas main which dates back to 1878.
The pipe itself continues to withstand the test of time and is solid. But its sealing joints have aged over time and needed to be assessed then fixed if necessary.
That’s where the small robot, which comes with six cameras to beam images back to a command centre, comes in.
The pipe involved runs across Langley Road South in Charlestown, Salford, from Indigo Street through the adjoining housing estate and was selected because it has a history of gas leaks.
Operated remotely above ground from a vehicle positioned beside the carriageway, the CISBOT is driven into the pipe through a valve.
It then travels along the length, checking seals and repairing then.
Engineers control the robot from above with a joystick and command it to drill into then reseal the joints.
There are 50 joints on the Salford pipe and the project was set to end after just a week.
US company ULC Robotics, which operate the CISBOTS, said that under normal conditions, every joint would require excavation to test and the scheme would have taken months, with associated roadworks. A second robot is currently checking 299 metres of an 18-inch diameter cast iron main – with 109 separate joints – which runs under Feather-stall Road North in Oldham.
Cadent said that, in total, four kilometres of gas mains under central Manchester have already been identified for work by the robot in 2020. Adam Hassall, who manages the Cadent team which maintains and repairs gas mains in the Manchester area, said: “This is fantastic technology – a fast, efficient and non-disruptive way for us to check and seal joints at risk of failing as they age. It’s essential work, reducing the risks of gas escapes and extending the life of gas mains relied on by hundreds of thousands of people for warmth.”
Graeme Cleeton, vice president of ULC Robotics operations for the UK, said at the scene in Salford: “The technology does not mean any disruption to customers. Sometimes joints need remediation and that’s what our robotic technology does, so joints can last for a minimum of 50 years longer.”
Graeme Cleeton at the scene in Salford
A CISBOT in action and, inset, works above ground and a robot operator at the controls