SGN – Award-Winning Innovation Worth ‘Piping Up’ About

SGN – Award-Winning Innovation Worth ‘Piping Up’ About

SGN is one of the country’s leading utility companies with over 3,800 employees distributing gas through over 74,000km of pipes. SGN delivers heat and energy to 5.9 million homes and businesses across three distinct network areas that include South London, Scotland and the Hebrides, and the west of Northern Ireland.

Recently, SGN has been developing robotics systems that are revolutionising the way gas utilities inspect and repair mains, benefiting customers, businesses and the environment. We look at these recent pioneering robotics systems developed in partnership with ULC Robotics Inc, which led them to win both the Utilities and the Innovation B2C categories at the UK Business Awards 2017.

Business Context behind the Initiative

SNG’s regulator Ofgem sets operational outputs for removing risks from the gas network and SGN’s main method for achieving this is the replacing of ageing metallic main pipes with modern polyethylene pipes.

Despite on-going transformation to plastic pipes, over 26,000km of metallic gas mains still remain in place within SGN’s networks. As a result, repair methods must still be implemented to successfully service these pipes, methods such as:

  • Excavation and encapsulation of pipes
  • Excavation and external injection of a sealant
  • Full mains replacement

However, in 2013, SGN won £6.6m funding through Ofgem’s Inaugural Network Innovation Competition, with a bid to develop pioneering robotic techniques that would help challenge existing methods of repair by addressing issues more efficiently.

The Outstanding Initiative

SGN identified ULC Robotics Inc. as the perfect partner for their ambitious and ground-breaking approach to revolutionising the maintenance of metallic pipes. Together the two companies pioneered two systems:

1. CISBOT (Cast Iron Joint Sealing Robot)

The large robotic repair platform – CISBOT allows gas mains to be renewed effectively without replacing the pipe. The robot is able to travel up to 170 metres in each direction from a single excavation, meaning that servicing can be accomplished without the digging of long trenches in the road.
Following a detailed appraisal and controlled testing regime, GSN field trialled CISBOT with ULC Robotics under live gas conditions in the UK for the first time in November 2013.

2. CIRRIS™ (Cast Iron Robotic Repair Inspection System)

After the success of CISBO and more funding from the Network Innovation Competition, SGN started developing and commercialising two new robotics systems in February 2014.

After nearly 24 months of development with ULC Robotics, SGN patented the CIRRIS XI™ Inspection Robot and CIRRIS XR™ Repair Robot in May 2015 to be used to internally seal metallic joints, and remotely inspect large diameter mains.

Business Impact and Results

Thanks to these pioneering robotics systems, SGN will be able to receive other network licenses to extend the life of large diameter cast iron pipeline infrastructure while improving safety, reducing traffic congestion, overall excavation footprint, inspection time and general inconvenience to customers.

The UK Business Awards 2018

Is your organisation shaping the future of business?

Entering the awards is a valuable opportunity to bring your team together and celebrate your success. Not only that, the finalists receive a benchmarked feedback form from our panel of independent and impartial judges, and you have the opportunity to present your entry live to them at the awards finals in front of other industry leaders.

This year we have 25 categories aimed at organisations who want to shape the future of business and increase their engagement, reputation, and turnover. Entries can be from individuals and/or organisations, as well as companies who have partnered with other businesses to achieve their goals. To see which categories you could enter this year click here.