Posted: 16 September 2016
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The plug that’s worth £5m

Expensive and hazardous excavations at concrete inspections pits will become a thing of the past thanks to a smart new innovation on the gas network. Senior Civil Engineer Paul Ogden talks removable composite transition points (CTP).

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The plug that’s worth £5m

The plug that’s worth £5m

We came up with the idea for a removable CTP – an easy-to-remove plug that would fit between the pipe and wall.

"It’s been fantastic watching this innovation evolve from the spark of an idea into a fantastic finished product with so much potential"

Paul Ogden, Senior Civil Engineer, National Grid.

Insight:

Safety will be significantly improved and we’ll achieve estimated savings of up to £5m over the next five to ten years.

Source: National Grid.

As a senior civil engineer at National Grid, I’m always on the lookout for ways to do things better. Innovation is in our blood here. And when you’re surrounded by a culture of ideas, it breeds even more of them.

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Paul Ogden, Senior Civil Engineer, National Grid.

For a few years now, I’ve been working on developing one of these ideas into something that will have enormous safety and financial benefits for the business. It’s called the removable composite transition point (CTP) and, don’t worry, it’s far simpler to understand than it sounds.

The idea for removable CTP sprang from the difficulties we faced inspecting the points where large diameter gas pipes pass through concrete walls into our inspection pits. These transition points, where pipes leave the wall and enter the fresh air in the pit, are prone to corrosion if their seals fail. So we have a continual cycle of work where we inspect these points and repair and replace seals where necessary.

Sounds like a straightforward job? Well it’s not!

Historically, when the seals have failed, we’ve had to excavate down to the pipe. This is a challenging process where we need to break out significant amounts of concrete and steel. It’s costly for the business and potentially hazardous for those involved as we’re carrying out this heavy-duty excavation around live gas mains.

It was clear to me that there had to be a better, safer and cheaper way of doing the job. So by talking to colleagues and considering a few solutions we came up with the idea for a removable CTP – an easy-to-remove plug that would fit between the pipe and wall. If we could make it work, we’d remove the need for future excavations altogether.

Fast and simple

We received a grant from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) to design and develop and field test these units and the project is now drawing to an end after three busy years. Our final solution is exactly what we’d hoped for. It allows technicians to easily remove the unit, inspect the pipe for corrosion or damage, and then replace it in a fast and simple operation.

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These transition points, where pipes leave the wall and enter the fresh air in the pit, are prone to corrosion if their seals fail.

By removing the need for repeat excavations, we’re removing all the safety risks that are associated with that kind of work. There are financial benefits too. We have hundreds of these points on the network and many of them will need to be inspected in the next few years. By taking future excavations out of the equation we’ll save tens of thousands of pounds on each inspection, which is good for our business and the gas consumer, because it reduces the ultimate cost of their bills.

The new units are fully designed and tested and we’re working with a commercial partner to bring them into full production.

What we’re hoping is that over the next six years, up to 60 of the units will be installed on the National Transmission System (NTS). Safety will be significantly improved and we’ll achieve estimated savings of up to £5m over the next five to ten years.

It’s been fantastic watching this innovation evolve from the spark of an idea into a fantastic finished product with so much potential. We want to take it beyond the boundaries of National Grid into the broader utilities sector, as we believe that other utility users, such as water companies, could benefit from the technology.

Travelling the full innovation journey has been really exciting. The NIA funding, coupled with our own tried and tested internal processes, is a great recipe for bringing good ideas through quickly and simply, so we can make our business more efficient and effective in future.

You can learn more by watching our video about the Removable CTP project.

  • Andy Bathie

    Interesting but I can’t really see what’s happening here. Is it that there’s a core of concrete being removed from around the pipe such that access for inspection and repair can be achieved?

Looking ahead to FES 2018