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iCore Keyhole solution: Customised training for SGN staff

01.08.16 - Gas distribution networks 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 TT 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 TT training centre of GRUNDOPIT K manufacturer TRACTO-TECHNIK in Germany from June 8 to July 22, 2016.

The lessons given by TT-UK trainers Jim Albarella and Steve Robson as well as TT’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 TT-UK, TRACTO-TECHNIK’s Bedford based UK sales organisation 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 TT 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 with 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 focussing 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 will provide a one stop keyhole solution, for mains and service replacement activities"David McLeod, Innovation Delivery Manager & iCore Project Manager, SGN

iCore project realisation
SGN approached TT-UK after having learned about the unique GRUNDOPIT K Keyhole drill rig developed and produced by TRACTO-TECHNIK. GRUNDOPIT K 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 GRUNDOPIT K 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 GRUNDOPIT K, but according to the given task the solution comprises the complete equipment and facilities for the mobile mains and service replacement.

The project was split into two key elements. Element 1 is to design, develop and manufacture the keyhole located and operated pipe installation system that will install PE pipes in the size range of 25 mm through to 90 mm. Element 1 has been broken down into four individual work packages:
  • GRUNDOPIT KHD 1200/50
    The directional drilling unit which can drill and install PE mains and services from 25mm to 90mm. but specifically will be provided with tooling for pipe sizes 63mm, 75mm and 90mm diameter.
  • Long handled tooling (LHT)
    A suite of tooling to install and remove a service connection as required, all within the SGN designated keyhole and operated by hand from the carriage way or ground surface.  
  • GRUNDOCORE KH/SG
    An integrated, hydraulically powered, core cutting unit specifically to cut and remove a carriageway core (600mm in diameter) to a maximum depth of 630mm. and the vehicle being lorry with conversion to house all items.
  • Transportation 
    A vehicle for an end to end keyhole solution. i.e. a lorry with specifically designed body frame to house all items G-Pit KHD 1000/50, corer, LHT, PPE, fire extinguisher, space for six off safety barriers, three road signs and a hand wash system.The vehicle will reduce disruption by minimising our presence on site and the size of excavations.

Field trials will commence in Edinburgh in August 2016. The complete project is due for completion in March 2017. 

iCore has the potential to deliver benefits for the gas distribution industry, the wider utilities industry and the public.
  • Faster operations will improve effciency across our mains replacement programme.
  •  Smaller excavations and above ground working means safer sites for our teams and the public.
  • Smaller site footprints and excavations being open for less time means less disruption for customers and road users.
  • Versatile technology can be implemented across a wide range of sectors including the water industry and telecommunications.
"This project will allow a wider scope of operations to be possible through keyhole and in turn create even greater benefits for gas customers." David Smith, Chief Executive, Energy Networks Association
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