Reaching across the pond

By Domenick Graziani

Sharing ideas and technologies on robotic pipeline inspection

One of the great advantages of being an international company is the collaboration that can occur between the UK and US. Though the business and regulatory environments may be different, the basics of dealing with gas and electricity transmission and distribution still apply.

KirstyMcDermottinUS-pipeline-safetyRecently, one such example of this kind of teamwork occurred when UK Project Engineer Kirsty McDermott met with the downstate NY gas teams to see how robotics are being used to inspect both transmission and distribution gas pipelines.

Photo: Left to Right: Paul Chauvin (National Grid US, Lead Quality Inspector, Gas Work Methods and Standards); Robert Wittmer (National Grid US, Lead Engineer, Gas Transmission Integrity Management Program); Kirsty McDermott (National Grid UK, Project Engineer, Gas Transmission Asset Management); and Richard Mezic (National Grid US, Manager, Gas Transmission Integrity Management Program)

“All in all, this was a very useful trip,” said Kirsty. “I came away with a good perspective of how these technologies are being used in the US. I saw the challenges and how they compare with ours. And I think this was another great step in exchanging information between the US and UK gas businesses.”

Lead Engineer Robert Wittmer of Gas Transmission Integrity Management, who hosted Kirsty for the majority of her stay, added, “It’s always positive when we can share the application of our technologies and we can learn from each other.”

The UK project that Kirsty represents is called ProjectGRAID (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device). It is an almost £6 million venture, funded by the UK regulator Ofgem, to determine the true asset condition of below-ground pipe at high-pressure gas installations. The project is on a three-year timeline with business as usual use by November 2018.

In the US, the next generation of robotic pipeline inspection gauges (PIGS), have been in development for more than 10 years through our own R&D efforts and collaboration with other utilities and agencies. The device that Kirsty saw is called the Explorer, a tetherless robot capable of inspecting long sections of transmission pipe – up to about a half mile – without interruption of gas service. Kirsty took part in the Explorer inspecting a 2,500-foot section of 24-inch transmission pipe in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

The Explorer offers fewer disturbances in the roadway compared to current methods. Ultimately the goal is to save time, money and collect better inspection data.

For more information on ProjectGRAID, click here.

(Photo: Workers set the robot in the transport tray.)Pipeline-Safety-feature


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