The objective of the SGN NIC Robotics Innovation Project was to develop new, cutting edge robotic repair and inspection technologies which could operate inside live gas distribution mains for the first time.
RPS was awarded the role of Technical Service Provider to SGN to support the development of robotic solutions for the Great Britain gas distribution network in March 2014. This role entailed providing technical review and assessment of all stages of the project development, from conceptual designs through to live field testing, and involved high level collaboration with SGN and ULC Robotics, the manufacturer of the robotic systems.
This project pioneered the deployment of inspection and repair robots in live gas distribution mains that had never been attempted before. It involved the design, manufacture and field testing of the new robots, which were successfully tested in live gas mains in London in November 2015.
RPS ensured that the robotic systems developed could perform the requirements as set out by Ofgem (the British Regulatory Authority) and its conditions of funding, while also optimising the performance of the systems and ensuring that they could be safely utilised in a live gas environment.
The innovative technology measures degree of corrosion, wall thickness, stress and strain in pipelines and will allow gas utilities to asset manage the life of cast iron pipeline infrastructure. Its use will allow pipeline inspection and joint repair operations to take place with minimal disruption to customers, with fewer traffic restrictions, lower road reinstatement costs and no supply restrictions for gas customers.
The impacts these world-first robotic systems could have on the risk evaluation of metallic pipes in the UK was also assessed by RPS. A conceptual method was developed as to how these systems could be used to adjust network risk scoring (MPRS), depending on the results of the assessment and repair. The project culminated in the successful field trial of both systems on live gas mains in London in late 2015 and the delivery of final reports in January 2016.
The project was awarded the Engineers Ireland Excellence Award for Technical Innovation of the Year 2016 ad was Highly Commended at the NCE Awards 2018.