Robotics-as-a-Service & Technology Deployment

Project Detail

Following the most destructive storm to hit the Northeast U.S., ULC Robotics’ field crews worked around the clock to locate water blockages in low pressure gas mains while the R&D team rapidly developed an innovative new tool to assist in recovery efforts.

Cast Iron Gas Main Water Ingress

Client : National Grid

Location : New York

Project Timeframe : November 2012 to December 2012

The Challenges

When Superstorm Sandy hit the coast of the Northeast U.S. on October 29, 2012, it was classified as a Category 2 storm.

Large scale flooding sent thousands of gallons of water into the gas distribution mains–either through the service lines in the homes or via low-pressure cast iron mains. In order for gas service to be restored quickly, the water had to be cleared from the mains.

Water related gas outages, especially due to heavy flooding, have been a challenge for the gas industry for decades.  When gas mains flood, it is hard to tell where the water is lying, how much water has collected in the mains and, once removed by excavating, how much is left to be removed. Responding to water related outages often translates to a lot of guesswork, which means more excavation in roadways and time spent restoring gas to customers.

Our Response

ULC Robotics’ crews were initially called to assist with locating water blockages in gas mains approximately one week after Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the New York metropolitan area. ULC’s crews maintained a staging area just outside of Rockaway Beach NY, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the country, which enabled crews to conduct daily safety meetings and project briefings.

Using a customized PRX250 Pushrod Camera Inspection System, crews conducted camera inspections of live gas mains to identify areas of water blockages and other potential damages. With multiple crews in the field daily, ULC provided key information to National Grid such as the exact location and depth of flooded mains to help reduce guesswork by locating multiple points of standing water in the mains from one excavation.

This real-time information helped eliminate unnecessary and costly excavation when utility resources were extremely limited, allowing gas service to be restored to areas much faster than using traditional methods.

Rapid Innovation in a Time of Need

After seeing firsthand the exact amount of water still left in the mains, ULC Robotics identified the need to remove the water faster and with reduced excavations. Following a meeting with field management and innovation team personnel, ULC engineers rapidly designed and manufactured a prototype camera system that could be used to remove water through fewer excavations. A prototype “dewatering camera system” was deployed into the field within two weeks after the storm hit.

The dewatering camera system prototype was able to connect directly to utility vacuum trucks and launch into gas mains. The innovative, weighted design of the camera and siphoning tube ensured both were resting at the bottom of the main and able to remove 95% of each blockage.

ULC’s rapid development cycle and the deployment of this innovative new tool drastically changed the efficiency of the water locating and removal process during the storm restoration period.

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