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Pipe Bending Systems

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If there is no TT representation in your country, please contact the TT headquarters at or phone +49 2723 808-0

Mobile Keyhole technology SGN improve and innovate operations

Gas grid operator SGN are constantly striving to improve and innovate their operations and services. One of several projects aiming to deliver an end to end Keyhole solution for current operational activities is the “iCore” project, which was realised in co-operation with TT. As part of the project’s realisation, the SGN staff attended a four-week customised training course at the TRACTO-TECHNIK training centre in Germany.

The centrepiece of the project is the iCore truck, which has the complete equipment and facilities for mobile pipe installation and connection works through a keyhole on board. The prototype of the iCore vehicle has been approved in March 2016. A customised training package, which is compliant with SGN templates, procedures and fits within the business for the SGN staff is also part of the project. It took place at the training centre in Germany from June 8th to July 22nd, 2016.

The lessons given by TRACTO-TECHNIK UK trainers Jim Albarella and Steve Robson, as well as TRACTO-TECHNIK Germany's project engineers Elmar Koch, Tobias Klein and Andreas Hanses included theoretical and practical units on construction, handling and operation of the iCore equipment. The four-week training was attended by SGN’s iCore team, namely John Brady, Piotr Lancmanski, Adam Shields, Kenny Watson and Jack Wright as well as and Innovation Graduate Max Paladini. For final approval at the end of the course SGN’s Innovation Delivery & iCore Project Manager David McLeod, iCore Team Manager Steven Tulloch and consultant Andy Ellis of DNV GL also came to Germany.

Project history
Operating a 74,000km network of gas mains and services across Scotland and the south of England, delivering gas to 5.9 million private and commercial customers, SGN are the second biggest gas provider in the UK. The private company places special emphasis on highest safety standards, excellent customer services and minimal impact on the environment. For the iCore project, the task was to develop a self-contained vehicle for the easy transportation of equipment, to carry out mains and service replacement activities within a Ø 600 mm keyhole, safely and efficiently with minimal disruption to customers.

After a comprehensive selection process SGN chose Bedford based TRACTO-TECHNIK UK, who are experts in trenchless technology, as their project partner. With headquarters in Germany, TRACTO-TECHNIK have a global network, and the experience and capability to provide an end to end solution delivering value for gas consumers in Great Britain. The project is structured with TRACTO-TECHNIK’s engineers doing the design work in Germany and project management and delivery work provided by TRACTO-TECHNIK UK. SGN also engaged DNV GL to provide technical assurance for the development and testing of the solution. DNV GL are renowned in the energy industry for their testing and advisory services with expertise that spans many disciplines.

Background and problem
From the 1850’s up until the 1950’s metallic mains were used extensively across the Great Britain gas distribution network. Since then the gas industry has moved away from this source of material and is replacing those mains with plastic pipes, in order to reduce and eliminate risk of fracture, corrosion, and/or leakages. SGN are currently working on a 30-year programme to replace all metallic pipes within 30 metres of property with new polyethylene (PE) pipes, which are more flexible and robust and if left undisturbed will last for decades, ensuring a continued safe and reliable gas supply for years to come. Currently there are over 7,000 kilometres of small diameter metallic pipes requiring replacement across their network.
Throughout the current eight year price control period (RIIO-GD1), SGN are focusing on replacing metallic pipes below 8” (Tier 1) as part of their total operating expenditure targets. Live/dead insertion is a big part of their mains replacement strategy, as opposed to open cut replacement, to minimise disruption to their customers and members of the public. Developing mains and service insertion methods further would help make the process even more effcient.

Through their keyhole technology projects, most notably iCore, SGN are developing a more advanced method to minimise the size of excavations and reduce disruption to customers on our tier one mains and service replacement jobs.

iCore project realisation
SGN approached TRACTO-TECHNIK UK after having learned about the unique GRUNDOPITK Keyhole drill rig developed and produced by TRACTO-TECHNIK. GRUNDOPITK is a steerable bore rig for the trenchless installation of gas and water service connections up to OD 63 mm from out of a circular keyhole of only 650 mm diameter. The spoil is removed from the keyhole by a suction excavator which provides access to the mains pipe, then GRUNDOPITK can be set up. The bore head and the drill rods are transported to the bore rig via a ‘lift’, automatically placed in bore direction and screwed together and drilled in one after the other. The pilot bore can be upsized in reverse mode to a maximum diameter of 90 mm. The product protection pipe is pulled in simultaneously and connected to the mains pipe by working above ground. The original asphalt core is then reinstated in to the keyhole afterwards and sealed with a special grout mixture. This means that additional re-instatement costs and possible consequential surface damages are avoided.

iCore does not only include the keyhole drilling rig, which is in fact a customised version of the GRUNDOPITK, but according to the given task the solution comprises the complete equipment and facilities for the mobile mains and service replacement.

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