Unique robot repairing New York City gas lines with minimal interruption

Friday, January 26, 2018
Unique robot repairing New York City gas lines with minimal interruption
Tim Fleischer has more on the robotic cast iron joint sealing system.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As life goes on with a non-stop flow of traffic above ground, you would never know that under six blocks of West End Avenue, there is a robot traveling along at 17 feet a minute silently making repairs inside a large 20-inch gas main.

"We also seal all of the joints so that leaks don't come back in the future," said Gregory Penza, president and CEO of ULC Robotics. "So we are effectively rehabilitating the entire main."

His company, in collaboration with Con Edison and National Grid, developed and built CISBOT, a robotic cast iron joint sealing system. A CISBOT, outfitted with six cameras, was designed to allow technicians to examine the cast iron gas mains with little disruption to surrounding neighbors.

"And do that while the gas is still on to the customer is a big benefit," Penza said.

Con Edison determines which gas lines are needed to be rehabilitated and repaired and ULC's specially designed robot, a special launch system and support crew are called in for the work.

The goal is to "repair the existing to ensure reliability and safety, and also to inconvenience the residents less," Con Edison project specialist Stephen Sweeney said.

The CISBOT traveling inside the main fills the joints in the pipe with a sealant that lasts 50 years. It fills four joints a day.

"The robot allows (you) to see the joint pretty much in a 360-degree circumference," CISBOT crew leader Kurt Juergens said. "And we will view that as four segments, so we can assure a 100 percent saturation of the joint.".

There is no danger of explosion, technicians say, because there is no oxygen that would be needed for a spark. If Con Edison were to dig a trench to make the repairs, it would take 45 to 50 days. Needing only a 6-foot by 6-foot hole, CISBOT does it in about 18 days.

"If we replaced it the conventional way, it would be a $1.4 million job," Sweeney said. "And this costs at most about $400,000."

CISBOT is being used in other states and worldwide, but it remains noticed under the streets of the Big Apple.