Checking in with a Boston gas crew
The city of Boston is well known for its historic sites and scenes – Beacon Hill, The Old North Church, and Bunker Hill to name a few. But for National Grid, the historic nature of the city isn’t always a good thing, especially when it comes to the city’s aging natural gas pipelines. Some of the oldest pipes in the country are in Boston, and that’s why National Grid is making investments to upgrade them in line with our Connect21 vision.
I checked in with a Boston gas crew to see firsthand how our day-to-day operations are driving the Connect21 vision forward. My tour guides were from the West Roxbury, MA gas yard – Jenna and Dave.
Working underground in a major city poses some challenges – in addition to gas main, there’s communication cables, electric cables, water and sewage pipes, and even steam pipelines running alongside the areas that we’re working on. Crews need to be aware of where all of these systems are so they can avoid them when making repairs to our own pipes. They start the main replacement process by identifying where all of the residential connections tie into the main by digging test holes into the street and marking the connections.
Our crews also have to be wary of public safety (and their own) in a city with a heavy amount of traffic and pedestrians. Police details and new safety equipment, like tall safety cones and caution tape in this picture – help to protect the work environment.
Some of the cast iron pipes the crews are replacing look like this
…….and like this
But fortunately we’re getting new plastic pipe into the ground that doesn’t corrode, that costs less than cast iron, and that’s easier to maintain – helping us to meet Elevate 2018 goals around safety, reliability and cost competitiveness. Here’s a photo of what the pipe looks like as its being set underground, and a photo of a crew member using an “apple peeler” tool to prep a new piece of the pipe to connect to it.
Some of the plastic pipes are fused together using heat technology like this “Butt Fuser” that helps weld two pieces of plastic together.
While it’s all in a day’s work for our gas employees, main replacements are an essential part of our business as we strive to make the natural gas system safer, more reliable and more available to new customers. Thanks to Jenna and Dave for showing me the ropes.