PIPE DREAM

NO NEED FOR ROAD­WORKS AS ROBOT RE­PAIRS DECADES-OLD GAS NET­WORK

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By PAUL BRIT­TON paul.brit­[email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @PaulBrit­tonMEN

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.”

VIN­CENT COLE

Graeme Clee­ton at the scene in Sal­ford

A CISBOT in ac­tion and, in­set, works above ground and a robot op­er­a­tor at the con­trols

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