SVI’S Macaw Pipe Cracker Helps Avert Drama At New BBC Studios In Cardiff

October 4, 2017

When faced with breaking out a 24” cast iron gas main outside the new BBC Wales headquarters being built in the centre of Cardiff, Wales & West Utilities faced a potential drama – a challenging gas connection in the heart of Wales’ capital city.

Drama was avoided, however, thanks, in part, to the use of the MACAW Pipe Cracker supplied by Steve Vick International (SVI) which helped Wales & West Utilities to complete the work in minimum time.

SVI, one of a number of organisations involved in the project carried out in August, supplied one of its MACAW Pipe Crackers which was fitted to an excavator on site. The arms of the MACAW gripped the 24” cast main and quickly and safely cracked it open so that the Wales & West Utilities team could gain access to the previously inserted 355mm PE pipe and make a new connection.

In thanking SVI for their help and involvement, Simon James, Wales & West Utilities Operational Manager for Cardiff, comments, “We knew this job could have been difficult from a logistical point of view, while working in such a sensitive area could have caused some real disruption to the city. We’re really pleased that the large diameter MACAW pipe cracker helped us break out the 24” cast iron main to make the new connection onto the 355mm PE inserted inside. It was an innovative way to carry out this essential connection as safely and as quickly as possible”

Cracking from the safety of the cab

The traditional method of breaking out a cast iron main has been to use a variety of handheld tools such as a sledge hammer or ‘podger’ bar but these have long been associated with health and safety concerns, particularly causing injury to operatives.

The large diameter MACAW Pipe Cracker used in Cardiff is designed for use with a typical 3 tonne excavator and will break out cast iron mains up to 24” diameter.

Using the excavator’s hydraulic power, and controlled from the safety of the cab, the cracker is simply located onto the main and the MACAW applies sufficient pressure to crack the pipe. Access around the whole circumference of the pipe is not required keeping excavation to a minimum.

Wales & West Utilities believe that the 24” main was laid at least 100 years ago, and was probably one of the first gas mains in Cardiff. Amec Foster Wheeler had previously inserted the main with 355mm PE; Wales & West Utilities then needed to smash out a section of the cast iron pipe to fit a 125mm PE Branch Saddle for eventual connection and supply to the BBC Wales’ headquarters which is due for completion in 2019.

As the location was Wood Street, one of the main arterial roads in the heart of Cardiff, completing the job in the shortest possible time was paramount. Wales & West Utilities estimated that to have smashed out the main by hand, which was the only alternative, would have taken two operatives up to a full day. Using the MACAW Pipe Cracker, the whole connection job was completed safely, with the minimum of disruption and with the carriageway fully reinstated within 4 days.

Elliot Ross, SVI’s Technical Support Manager, who oversaw the cracking operation, said “Using the MACAW Pipe Cracker was clearly a massive time saver for Wales & West Utilities as they had to be in and out of the site very quickly. We are delighted that we were able to contribute to such a successful outcome”.