CASE STUDIES

Robotic Pipeline Commissioning

A patented solution for the water industries that allows pipelines to be commissioned with a 100% reduction in water waste and chemicals usage. Meet Clean Pig.

70+
Happy Clients
90+
Project completed
20+
Industries
  • 100%
    reduction in water waste and chemical usage
  • 5%
    overall increase in manufacturing capability

Background

As part of a critical, long-term infrastructure project, Anglian Water intend to install ~500km of 600-900mm welded HDPE or epoxy coated carbon steel pipeline with intermittent flanged joints to transfer water from an area of high-water resource to an area of lower water resource availability.

The 20 new pipelines running from Lincoln in the north to Essex in the south of the region are considered to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK and will help secure water supplies for future generations.

The pipeline will form part of a national critical infrastructure smart network to improve supply resilience, drought resilience across the region and improve network performance.

The Challenge

Water is a limited resource and in the case of such a long pipeline, traditional testing and commissioning would require a vast quantity of water (assuming an average size of 800mm, ~2.7 billion litres of water would be required using the conventional approach with each flush, of which there would be three-five flushes).

Anglian Water therefore approached Innovolo with the challenge to create a robotic pipe cleaning and testing technique, which would also provide continuous performance data during the functional test phase to allow Anglian Water to commission the pipeline more efficiently. Clean Pig was born.

Therefore, the aim of the project was to establish and verify an alternative testing and commissioning method to minimise the water wastage while helping to plan and anticipate potential issues promptly, minimising downtime.

Uncertainties

The primary technological uncertainty was to design and develop a comprehensive system, known as 'Clean Pig', to ensure complete elimination of undesired maintenance, minimise waste and eliminate chemical applications. This was particularly challenging as the team were unsure how to develop an expandable structure for increased pipe diameters and a high-pressure close proximity sealing system to avoid exponential expansion shock of air on joint failure. The uncertainties were further amplified as the team needed to design a seal that could be inflated to create a movable pressure chamber inside the pipe which required to deflate and inflate multiple times while withstanding a high enough pressure.

To that extent, the Innovolo team initially conducted a series of expert design consultations, CAD analyses, feasibility studies and animations to elucidate the positioning of joint testing chambers, seals and joint detection units, close proximity pressure cleaning, debris pre-clearance and robotic non-scratch tractions.

The team faced challenges in how to achieve a sufficient seal to carry out the required pressure testing. Initially, the team found that pneumatically inflating the seal would not be sufficient to deliver the required pressure requirements leading to leaks and undesired imbalance. Therefore, after extensive investigations, the team utilised an alternative method using the principle of equalising pressure on hydraulic vs hydraulic rather than pneumatic vs hydraulic system.

As a result of the investigations, the team utilised a Walking Pipeline Traction technique for forward and backward motion which is a concentric cam technique designed to ensure positive linear progression. As this new technology has never been trialled or tested, the team conducted a series of iterative investigations in the design phase to meet the required industry acceptance and reduce the environmental impact. More iterations were required in the concept design due to concerns over the positioning of joints and seals due to the high pressures. Therefore, the team designed and developed a tangent enhanced seal technology in order to balance the pressure increase for overall enhanced system effectiveness.

The team faced further technological uncertainties with parameters such as static modes, power requirements, robot route location, remote control, intermittent user umbilical support connection to resources of water supply, recycling, suction and joint detection to ensure system longevity, reliability and stability.

The Innovolo design team sought to design and develop a comprehensive water testing system to significantly reduce waste, automate mechanical processes, reduce leakage and undesired maintenance. To that end, the team developed a sealing technology designed to ensure positive progression. The new development allows the pressure testing (fill the pipe with water and increase pressure to test, and dispose of water), swabbing (force a chlorinated swab through using water, dispose of water, swab and chlorine) and disinfecting (heavy concentrate chlorine by filling with water and disposal).

How We Helped

The technology combines all three tasks in a robotic machine so that when the first pipe section is laid, Clean Pig is inserted and undertakes all three tasks. As Clean Pig moves forward, it automatically cleans the pipe, stops at joints to test the pressure and lastly clinically sterilises. The technology uses only one small recycled tank of water for cleaning, testing, and sterilising the whole pipeline.

Moreover, the newly laid pipelines would be pressure tested to ensure integrity, then swabbed and disinfected to ensure they are clean, free from organics, solids, or contaminants with a 5% overall increase in manufacturing capability and with a 100% reduction in water waste and chemicals usage.

The advance would represent an overall increase in capability with the development of a new product or process to improve system setup to significantly decrease waste and improve the overall performance in line with paragraph 9b of the BEIS Guidelines.

Intellectual Property Protection
Robotics and Automation
Mechanical Engineering
Technical Documentation Drafting
Electrical Engineering
Testing and Certification
"Being innovative is important to our success as a business. We're always looking for new ways to improve our products and services, and our team of engineers is constantly working on new solutions. We're very pleased with the work we've done with the Clean Pig, and we know that it will make a difference in the industry."

What used to take us months now gets done in a matter of days

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