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  • Innovation Spotlight – CISBOT and DVST

  • Innovation – How can we reduce our street work activities?


    National Grid Gas Distribution has recently trialed a revolutionary new technology under the streets of Camden on our 18 inch cast-iron gas main. Called the “Cast-Iron Sealant Robot” or “CISBOT” for short, it has the potential to fix multiple leaking joints with minimum fuss. Funded under the Network Innovation Allowance* the CISBOT project looked to demonstrate the potential of this technology on our gas mains.

    Authorising Engineer Mick Lench, helped to set up the trial site in Camden, and he said “I’ve seen technology advance, but nothing quite like this before,” When I started in the gas industry 37 years ago, we used to send men tied to rope down into pipes to fix joint leaks. So to be using robots was absolutely amazing, we’d never have believed it back then.”

    Developed by New York based company ULC Robotics, CISBOT is controlled by a trained operator in a vehicle above ground. CISBOT enters live gas mains through a single excavation then seeks out and fixes leaking joints using a special sealant.

    With the ability to shave days off current work times, CISBOT could dramatically reduce blockages on the UK’s busiest roads and kick-start a traffic-friendly revolution in our mains repair methods.

    Phil Clarke, National Grid Head of Gas Operations in London, said: “This is a major leap forward.  In this trial we’ve been able to fix over fifty gas mains joints using just one small hole in the carriageway rather than digging fifty excavations.

    “This means a massive reduction in traffic disruption and CISBOT also means we don’t have to shut off the gas while doing the repair so supplies don’t get interrupted.”

    The London Borough of Camden worked closely with National Grid to facilitate the trial and the council’s Network Manager, Brian Foxton, commented: “With over 16,000 – 17,000 excavations in Camden’s roads highway every year any reduction in that can only be of benefit to the road users.”

    Other benefits of CISBOT include less risk to engineers, less waste from excavations to send to landfill and cheaper repair costs which benefits bill payers.

    The new film also shows how National Grid is looking at to use another innovation known as Lizard sensors, in tandem with the new repair robot technology. Manufactured by Macclesfield based engineering firm DVST Ltd, Lizard can assess the condition of gas mains from the inside, allowing engineers to predict if a leak is likely and remedy the problem early on.

    Jeremy Bending, National Grid Director of Network Strategy for National Grid said: “We’ve got a network of 132,000km of gas mains a lot of which is under busy roads. If we could locate leaks before they happen and send in repair robots to fix the problem we could see a massive reduction in related traffic congestion.

    “Our challenge is to take innovations like CISBOT and Lizard and develop them further so they can be used across our business.”