Concept to Commercialization R&D
Field Deployment of Advanced Technology
Gas Main Inspection

Live Gas Main Inspection Technology from ULC “Crosses the Pond”

ULC Robotics

The Large VGC Inspection Crawler from ULC Robotics was successfully utilized to inspect several large diameter cast iron gas mains operated by Scotia Gas Networks (SGN) in the suburbs of London and another city south of London. The real-time video provided by the crawler allowed SGN to assess their mains, looking for pipeline features and debris that may hinder future projects at the selected locations.

Inspections with the Large VGC as well as other cameras and crawlers from ULC are capable of launching into and operating in live gas mains, so gas utilities such as SGN do not need to disrupt service to customers. In urban areas such as London, shutting down gas service in one main could lead to the costly and resource-heavy burden of relighting gas appliances in customers’ homes or putting all residents on bottle service.


Scotia Gas Networks delivers natural gas to 5.8 million customers in the United Kingdom. Their service territory covers all of Scotland and parts of England, including a section of London.

The Large VGC Crawler from ULC Robotics was purpose built to inspect live 18”-48” gas mains without allowing methane to escape. The tethered crawler enters the gas main using a launch tube that mounts vertically onto a valve in a minimally sized pit and only requires a 4” tap hole in the main. Once inside the main, the Large VGC is capable of traveling 750’ in either direction of the entry point for a total inspection distance of 1,500’.

Direct Assessment of Cased Pipeline

ULC’s Micro-Magnetic Crawler Makes Appearance in Pipeline and Gas Journal

ULC Robotics

The Micro-Magnetic Crawler made an appearance in the Tech Notes section of Pipeline and Gas Journal‘s December issue. Titled Robotic Inspection Tool Makes Direct Assessment of Cased Pipeline a Reality, the article explains the advantages the crawler provides to cased pipeline operators as a remotely controlled inspection device.

New federal pipeline integrity rules require utility companies to evaluate thousands of gas mains buried beneath highways, railroad tracks and airport runways – each and every one cased inside a larger pipe. The research and development team at ULC Robotics in New York has developed a robotic inspection tool that is capable of inspecting and gathering critical data about the integrity of cased pipe.

The Micro Magnetic Crawler (MMC) is a remotely controlled robotic device developed to directly assess cased gas mains. The robot magnetically attaches to the interior wall of the casing and travels in the annular space between the gas main and the casing; a space as small as 1.25” high by hundreds of feet long. The ultra-compact MMC is capable of gathering data by utilizing an array of advanced sensors and can obtain high resolution video viewable in real-time, allowing potential defects and features to be instantly analyzed. Using the MMC, gas companies can gather data from within the annular space in order to assess and locate damaged spacers, shorts, pipeline coating defects, water infiltration and pipe wall thickness.

Real-Time Visual Assessment

Front and rear mounted cameras provide real-time, full motion video of the outer surface of the cased gas main. The video feed is viewable and recorded remotely for onsite and post inspection review.

The control system incorporates integrated video measurement software that enables the operator to acquire dimensions of features found during the inspection; such as the size and location of delaminated coating.

Integrated Sensor Package

The Micro Magnetic Crawler’s pitch and roll sensors allow for remote navigation and provide the precise circumferential and linear location of defects and anomalies while integrated temperature and humidity sensors capable of remotely determining environmental conditions within the casing.

Using a double echo, ultra-sonic thickness gauge, the MMC is also capable of taking spot wall thickness measurements. The UT sensor can measure the pipe wall thickness through a variety of coatings including coal tar TGF-3, enamels and epoxies and PE two-layer coatings such as PRITEC.

The Importance of Research and Development for Gas Utilities

The Micro Magnetic Crawler is a trenchless technology that began as a research and development project funded by NYSEARCH member companies and serves as a prime example of how the development of new technology can make the gathering of difficult-to-acquire data more efficient and cost effective for gas utilities.

The research and development team at ULC Robotics specializes in developing a wide range of tools, including advanced robotic devices, which allow utility companies to reduce excavation, save money and better utilize scarce resources in order to safely maintain their critical pipeline infrastructure.

To see other R&D projects, cameras and crawlers developed by ULC or to learn about pipeline inspection and other technical services for gas utilities, please visit or call 631-667-9200.

No-Dig Anode Installation Technology

3 Ways New Technology Helps Gas Utilities Improve Efficiency

ULC Robotics

As people who work with natural gas distribution infrastructures every day, we constantly develop new ways to advance gas infrastructure maintenance, making it safer for gas workers, contractors and the general public while reducing maintenance costs.

While you may be thinking about robotic technology and complex devices, new technology does not have to be complicated in order to improve efficiency–it can also be a simple change in process that provides a better way to accomplish your goals. Below are three ways new technology has helped improve the efficiency of infrastructure maintenance; either by reducing costs, creating a safer work environment or just helping gas utilities better understand their pipelines.

1. New Methods of Pipeline Locating Improve Safety During Excavation

Data from utility maps is highly susceptible to being out-of-date, incomplete and inaccurate and should be confirmed using a locating service before any excavation takes place. While conventional locating methods are commonly used to attempt to confirm data from maps, it is possible that many pipeline features are both not on the map and are not able to be detected using typical locating practices.

Using our in-pipe locating technology ULC is able to pinpoint the location of all your pipeline features and provide highly accurate mark out on the street surface to ensure the safest work environment when excavating near buried gas mains.

2. Inspecting Your Mains Will Help You Prioritize Maintenance Resources

Camera inspections of your live gas mains allow you truly assess conditions and look for damage without taking the mains out of service. Internal pipeline video provides data on pipeline wall conditions, valve positions, services, stub services, branches, tees and damage. Most of our camera systems are also used to locate sources of water infiltration and even provide video imaging when fully submerged underwater. This data allows gas utilities to identify and locate potential risks and gather the data needed to properly prioritize maintenance.

3. Updated Processes Open Up Better Ways to Do More With Less

In our industry, the processes and procedures in place for regular maintenance work have been around for many years and often remain unchanged. Process improvements are designed to meet our goals while minimizing risk by finding new ways to get our work done. As these processes are updated, gas utilities benefit from improved safety, lower costs and improved efficiency.

The updated process we developed with Con Edison to simplify the anode installation process clears multiple CWOs per day while helping to improve efficiency. The No-Dig Anode Installation Process can be performed entirely without excavation, eliminating the need for street opening permits. The process also reduces disruption to the public, environmental impact and lowers the cost of your cathodic protection.

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