Robot checks and seals joints in underground gas mains

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A ROBOT which works unseen underground to check and seal ageing joints in gas mains has been deployed in the North West for the first time.

Cadent operates four of the UK’s eight gas networks and Cisbot (Cast Iron Sealing Bot) is now operating in three of them: North London, North West and Norwich.

It has now been deployed in Salford and Oldham, with plans for it to move into central Manchester in 2020.

This robot brings several benefits, including:

  • No need to close busy roads – it is remotely-operated above ground from a special vehicle positioned beside the carriageway.
  • No disruption to gas supplies – it operates in ‘live’ gas pipes, with gas continuing to flow safely to local homes.
  • It works fast too, completing in a couple of weeks work that would take months or even years using traditional ‘open cut’ methods.

Cadent, which manages 21,000 miles of mains that distribute gas to 2.7 million properties in North West England, is working with local authorities in Manchester and beyond to identify sites suitable for Cisbot.

Adam Hassall, who manages the Cadent team which maintains and repairs the 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.

“We’ve already identified around 4km of mains that can be checked by Cisbot in the centre of Manchester, including some of the city’s busiest roads.

“Using Cisbot means everyday life and travel can continue without interruption, while we can make sure the gas network is running safe and sound, as it should be.”

Cadent has brought two Cisbot robots, operated by US company ULC Robotics, to the North West for concurrent trials which are now underway.

One of the robots is operating in the Langley Road area of Salford, checking 263 metres of a 16-inch diameter cast iron gas main – and 96 joints – over 19 days.

A second robot is checking 299 metres of an 18-inch cast iron main and 109 separate joints, which runs under Featherstall Road North in Oldham.

Gas remains a vital component of the North West energy landscape, with nearly 80 per cent of homes in Salford and 85 per cent in Oldham heated by gas.

Projects such as HyNet North West will bring greener gases like hydrogen, which emits zero-carbon, just heat and water, at its point of use, to the North West’s industrial and domestic gas network as early as 2024.