Gas-bot repairs mains without disrupting rail services and wildlife

Britain’s largest gas distribution network Cadent has used a ‘gas-bot’ to repair ageing gas mains close to a railway.

The CISBOT (Cast Iron Sealing Bot) was used in Shendish Manor, Apsley, Hertfordshire, allowing Cadent to carry out the repair work on the pipeline which runs underneath a golf course and through land that is home to deer. The approach avoided disrupting rail services, the golf course or local wildlife.

Supplied by ULC Pipeline Robotics, CISBOT requires small excavations to enable it to enter and leave the gas mains through a special insertion tube. Once inside the gas mains, it is remotely operated by operators working in an above-ground vehicle or eco-friendly cabin powered by solar panels. The robot travels along the pipe and injects a special sealant into ageing pipe joints. This process reduces the risk of future gas escapes and can extend the life of a gas main by decades.

The robot can also work inside live gas mains with the gas still flowing, and thus local gas supplies do not need to be disrupted.

Although it’s currently not suitable for every type of gas maintenance or repair job, CISBOT is being increasingly used by Cadent across its networks. The technology has previously worked in London, including in The Strand and Oxford Street.

Cadent repair supervisor Eddie Gabbott, who managed the project, explained: "This is the first time we’ve used CISBOT in a rural location and just as it’s been a game-changer in urban locations, it can also revolutionise the way we do things in rural locations.

"Ordinarily we’d have had to dig trenches and bee here for months, which would have been disruptive for the local wildlife. With CISBOT however, we can work faster, smoother, more economically and with less disruption than with traditional methods."

ULC Robotics project manager Phil Pearson said: "After debuting CISBOT in Hertfordshire in Letchworth earlier this year, we’ve taken things to the next level with this project, which has shown CISBOT can be equally effective in rural as well as urban locations.

"It helped us fix a leak that could have disrupted both local gas and railway services without causing disruption to golfers and local wildlife.

"Those who may have concerns about robotic technology removing the human element from gas operations can rest easy. CISBOT needs a team of highly skilled human operators above ground to operate it, not to mention all the support staff involved in planning and facilitating the work."

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