Posted: 5 January 2017
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Laser technology in the pipeline

Assessing pipeline damage on our gas network used to be long, laborious and expensive. A new laser innovation is set to change all that, as Welding Engineer James Gilliver explains.

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Laser technology in the pipeline

Laser technology in the pipeline

We’re testing the latest handheld laser scanning innovation to improve the way we assess pipeline damage on the gas network.

“When an opportunity comes along to improve the way you do things and propel you firmly into the future, you have to listen, learn and move your business forward”

James Gilliver, Welding Engineer, National Grid.

Insight:

Set-up times are radically improved, with engineers simply placing targets on the damaged area before scanning starts. The scan itself takes five minutes or less.

Source: National Grid.

The conventional method of assessing damage on our network of pipes was labour intensive. We had to use manual tools like bridging bars and depth micrometers. Setting up the job alone could take an hour. Assessing a large section of potential damage could take up to two days.

james-gilliver

James Gilliver, Welding Engineer, National Grid.

We were keen to find an alternative solution. So our Gas Transmission business gained funding through the Network Innovation Allowance to research new ideas that would eventually put the latest 3D scanning technology into the hands of our skilled pipeline technicians and damage assessors.

New ways of working

We’ve been testing the HandySCAN 700 handheld laser scanner and Pipecheck software in recent months, and the contrast between the new and old method is striking.

Set-up times are radically improved, with engineers simply placing targets on the damaged area before scanning starts. The scan itself takes five minutes or less. And reliable results are on the engineer’s computer screen in seconds, rather than hours.

Other benefits include a lightweight design that makes it easier for our engineers to transport and use the scanners with highly accurate and repeatable results regardless of the conditions under which the equipment is used.

We believe this technology will bring massive improvements to the industry. It will drastically reduce the time spent on assessing and analysing pipeline damage, increase the productivity of our technicians and assessors and improve the accuracy of results.

Having this improved data to hand means we’ll be able to make better decisions on where we need to invest in our network. This will help us ensure we’re providing the best value to customers and stakeholders from those investments that we do make.

Sharing the benefits

As the testing phase continues, there has been some interest from other gas distribution companies in adopting the technology. This is really positive for us as we are keen to share what we have learnt from innovations such as this one.

No business should forget where it came from and our old methods were tried and trusted. But when an opportunity comes along to improve the way you do things and propel you firmly into the future, you have to listen, learn and move your business forward.

To see how the new technology works and hear more from the technicians using it, click on the image below to watch the video.

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