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

No-blow technology assures that no natural gas escapes from the system as the tapping, entry, inspection, and exit of the equipment takes place. This allows the operators to work in a safe non-gaseous atmosphere. The crawler has an expanding track system which allows it to travel over debris and some obstacles that are commonly found in steel and cast iron pipelines. The crawler is equipped with a pan and tilt camera for high resolution internal inspection and it is tethered to a control system. The combination of these components allows for precise video inspection for a variety of applications. The system is designed to travel up to 500 feet in each direction from the entry point and is capable of navigating through a limited number of pipe bends and branch tees.
Large VGC deployment from entry to inspection

Small VGC
Based upon success of the Large VGC, a smaller version of the crawler was developed for inspection of 12- to 16-inch pipelines. The design required the small version robot to enter the pipeline through a 3-inch taphole. This would allow the robot to enter pipe as small as 12-inch without the need of pipe reinforcement fitting. Small VGC works with the existing launch system and controls, and is interchangeable with the larger VGC robot which lower costs by permitting one support system to function with both tools.

Small VGC provides inspections of live gas mains under no blow conditions via a taphole drilled using standard hot-tap equipment. Unlike its larger cousin, the new 12- 16-inch robot does not have expanding tracks. Its compact design cannot accommodate the parts and components needed for the expanding strut system. Instead, a fixed track design was developed to allow sufficient clearance to maneuver over pipe debris and around many obstacles. All motors that drive the tracks are inboard and allow for enough clearance to climb up pipe bends, as steep as 45 degrees.

Small VGC travelling in pipe

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