Case studies

We have some exiting projects on the go to help to keep the region cooking on gas ensure that every penny that we spend delivers maximum value to our customers.

Looking after our joints

Control Point is a system which allows us to externally assure all of the joints we use to link our pipes during replacement work – that’s an average of 2,250 joints per week!

Our colleagues use SMART technology to send data to third party experts who can assess the joints for quality and offer immediate feedback, before the joint is buried. The system helps us to target training and coaching for operators where needed and avoid joint failures requiring costly replacement or repairs in the future.

With a guarantee of 10 years on every joint that passes inspection and an expected 50 year life span, the approach is helping us to future proof the network.

Being considerate constructors

We’re part of the Considerate Constructors Scheme – a national, independent benchmarking programme. Expert assessors score work sites against a wide range of factors, including safety, good environmental practice, and consideration for the public.

A total of 19 of our sites won Considerate Constructor Scheme awards in 2015 – and we’re very proud of our performance.

Our involvement in the scheme has helped us to continue to refine our approach and ensure that when the roadworks signs and temporary traffic lights do go up, customers can be assured that our sites are safe and well run.

Listening for leaks

We’ve recently finished trials of advanced technology called Acoustek, which can ‘listen’ for gas leaks.

The equipment comprises a probe and a microphone which can send a sound wave 500 metres down a pipe. When the sound wave encounters an anomaly such as a leak or blockage, it bounces back, producing a sound graph that locates the problem.

We are entering the last stage of a trial process, which will involve finalising the prototype.

Tackling water ingress

Water and gas don’t mix. When water finds its way into our network, due to flooding or a burst water main, it can often take days to remove, leading to major disruption for customers.

We teamed up with third party engineering specialists to develop a faster way of tackling water ingress. The process uses a remote camera which is sent down pipes to spot water, and simultaneously pump it out.

The technology underwent successful field trials in 2015, and has since been used in several live water ingress incidents, including a hugely challenging incident in Consett, County Durham.

Improving site management with the ‘hub’

To make sure our work sites are up to scratch, managers often make inspection tours of the region. This is costly, time consuming, and not always practical – especially for more remote sites.

Over the past year, we’ve launched a new approach, which involves engineers sending back photos and data from site, using a bespoke app on their smart phones. This information is reviewed by mangers in real time at a central hub.

In Leeds, where the approach has been trialled extensively, site quality pass rates with the council are up 20%, and colleague safety has improved too.

Our engineers, while initially a little concerned about a ‘Big Brother’ mentality, have become fans of the new approach, finding it gives them more independence, and a greater sense of ownership of their sites.

The hub model is now being rolled out across our network.

 

Keyhole surgery for roads

Over the past two years, we’ve successfully trialled ‘core & vac’ technology, which allows us to take a small, circular sliver from a road or pavement, instead of digging a much bigger hole.

The technique – the civil engineering equivalent of keyhole surgery – has proven its worth in reducing the duration and disruption of jobs, as well as going some way towards limiting the amount of spoil we send to landfill.

We’ve recently invested in two core & vac rigs, housed on specially adapted trucks– making this a business as usual approach.

Investment where it counts

We invested wisely in our above and below ground equipment in 2015/16, putting money into sites at Wakefield, Darlington, Hull and Goole, among other places. This improved reliability and met the needs of expanding local populations.

For the past three years, we have pursued a policy of front loading our network investment programme, in order to target problematic, leak prone pipes as quickly as possible – reducing disruption further down the line, and saving money by avoiding continual repairs.