Robotic Tools For Video Inspections Of Live 12- 36-Inch Natural Gas Pipelines

By Angelo Fabiano, NYSEARCH/NGA; and Gregory Penza, ULC Robotics | January 2011 Vol. 66 No. 1
Small VGC – front view

For more than 30 years, video inspection has been a fundamental analytical tool for the evaluation and assessment of pipeline integrity. Originally developed as an aid for sewer system maintenance, video inspection equipment has played a key role in the development of a variety of trenchless rehabilitation methods.

A cost-effective video inspection of gas pipelines will generate significant savings when conducted prior to pipeline repair or rehabilitation.

Pipeline rehabilitation technologies, for certain applications, typically yield significant economic savings and safety improvements for the natural gas Industry. However, benefits can quickly disappear for a project when internal obstructions or unrecorded fittings, such as valves and drip standpipes are encountered during the rehabilitation process. Most of the in-pipe trenchless technologies available today, for example, cured in place lining and modified PE slip-linings, require the pipeline to be taken out-of-service which can be costly and may interrupt service to customers. This is particularly true for large diameter pipelines 12 inches and greater that require decommissioning and purging of the pipeline. One way to mitigate internal pipeline problems prior to the project is to provide internal video inspection. Having the capability to pre-inspect the pipeline under live gas conditions assures that there will be no major obstructions or fittings that can negatively impact the project.

There is a growing need in the gas industry, in particular for companies that own and operate older large diameter pipelines, to replace or rehabilitate aging infrastructure. The ability to perform quick and reliable internal visual inspections under live-gas conditions using “no-blow” techniques (without gas escaping to the atmosphere) will provide operators with the necessary information to apply the best engineering solution. Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) are in need of internal camera inspection systems that provide high resolution video in a safe, efficient and cost effective manner.

The following describes the development of a series of Live Gas Internal Pipeline Video Inspection Systems developed by ULC Robotics and funded by NYSEARCH/NGA for their member gas companies. The inspection tools are designed to be quickly inserted through a relatively small access hole under “no-blow” operations. These quick entry systems are commercially available and can be provided as a service by ULC Robotics. Currently, ULC Robotics has three systems available for pipeline video inspection:

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