Nov 2019
Gas Transmission
Vacuum Excavation for Local Transmission System (VELTS) - Stage 2
Nov 2019
Aug 2020
Oliver Machan – Innovation Project Manager
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Network Innovation Allowance
GT - Safety and emergency and GT - Repair
Asset Management, Health and Safety, Maintenance & Inspection, Network Automation and Gas Transmission Networks
Vacuum excavation (VacEx) has become a routine working practice for utilities during their maintenance, repair and replacement of buried assets. Benefits in urban environments include more rapid exposure of the assets, particularly where multiple and congested services are present, smaller excavation footprint, reduced damage to assets, improver operative safety, and reduced disruption and delay to highway users.

In contrast to its successful (if limited) deployment in urban environments, the gas industry has made only limited use of the technology (on average three times per year over the last five years) for Local Transmission System (LTS) asset excavations in rural environments - despite its acceptance as an approved practice under current safe working guidelines. LTS challenges are different - gone is the requirement for a rapid, low intervention dig with minimal impact on road users, however the ability to safely displace hand digging operations in close proximity to higher risk assets does offer scope for VacEx to deliver substantial value to the business and its stakeholders.

A feasibility study (Stage 1) has been conducted under SGN’s supervision to understand the use and perceived attitudes within SGN towards vacuum excavation near LTS assets in rural areas and questions the technical, logistical and risk barriers restricting its use. This study identified what technology developments and modified working practices might facilitate its extended use, for example as a safe excavation practice around valves, standpipes and protective sleeves. The vision is to remove all hand dig operations around LTS assets. 

The scope of work for the second and the third stages of the project following the feasibility study conducted in Stage 1 is outlined below. In Stage 2 of the project, an excavator head will be developed and go through laboratory testing and validation. The validated excavation head will then be integrated in the VacEx unit in Stage 3 of the project and the system will be tested and validated on site in the UK.
The objective of this project is to develop an excavation head to be integrated on a vacuum excavator to effectively agitate the soil for fast and efficient soil removal around LTS assets. The proposed solution will be a standalone unit that can be integrated into an existing VacEx unit.
This project will investigate the feasibility of developing an innovative solution to reduce costs, increase safety and improve efficiency when excavating on the Local Transmission System (LTS).