A Game Changer For Steel Gas Mains Replacement and Connections
December 19, 2017
Following the successful Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funded project to develop a tool for the safe, effective window cutting of ductile iron mains, Wales & West Utilities has worked with Steve Vick International (SVI) to introduce a cutter which allows the removal of a window from a steel main.
Due to the lack of tooling available, Wales & West Utilities and all other gas distribution networks have not been able to plan the replacement of steel networks other than by inefficient methods such as ‘open cut’. Often, replacement jobs are rerouted to avoid the replacement of steel sections which results in additional work incurring extra costs.
Live Mains Insertion
As Wales & West Utilities replaces around 90% of its network using the Live Mains Insertion technique, the company identified a need to develop a tool to effectively cut a window in steel mains and be the first GDN to plan a replacement programme for its 200km steel network.
When it comes to transferring services to a newly inserted PE pipe, it is necessary to cut out the metal main. Cast iron can be simply broken out; Wales & West Utilities and SVI successfully developed the Rapid Window Cutter for Ductile Iron. Now the two companies have produced, with NIA funding, the hand-held Rapid Window Cutter for Steel which will transform the way the industry plans replacement programmes for steel networks.
The design of the tool builds on the successful engineering of the Rapid Window Cutter for Ductile Iron with modifications to the air powered motor and blade system. The cutter makes both semi-circumferential and longitudinal cuts, the latter using a light weight, easy to fit guide frame that allows free linear movement.
The frame incorporates a small winch at one end of the guide rail, and using a turn handle the winch cable is used to pull the cutter along the track. By adding this simple mechanism, the operator is in complete control of the machine without having to apply any force.
By developing a window cutter for steel mains, all networks can efficiently start to replace this material and avoid high costs associated with unplanned works, reducing costs for the end customer.
The Rapid Window Cutter for Steel is suitable for tier 1 mains with a maximum cutting depth of 13mm and comes with depth control discs which allow it to cut inserted mains safely without damaging the PE. The motor is air driven and is powered from a typical site compressor. The machine is quick to set up and easily operated by one person.
Where there is a need for a new gas connection on previously inserted mains, the Rapid Window Cutter is able to safely cut a typical ‘top tee’ size window in less than 30 minutes; this is dramatically faster compared with existing tooling.
Lucy Mason, Wales & West Utilities Innovation Manager, said:
“After the success of our Ductile Iron Mains Cutter, working alongside SVI to develop an equivalent for steel was a natural step. Our use of Live Mains Insertion is driven by what our customers want: us to work efficiently, safely and quickly, with as little disruption to them as possible. The Rapid Window Cutter for Steel helps us deliver this.
The Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) is an Ofgem incentive for funding smaller innovation Projects that can deliver benefits to customers.
Steel Pipe Cutting Made Fast and Easy
As part of the Rapid cutter range, SVI has also designed a circumferential cutter for steel mains.
With these two new products – The Rapid Window Cutter and the Rapid Rotary Cutter – SVI believes that it offers utilities faster, safer and more efficient cutting of steel mains.