UK’s National Grid testing lidar to move gas pipeline inspection into the future

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National Grid, the sole owner and operator of gas transmission infrastructure in the UK, has undertaken a trial program to test lidar inspections for their gas network—a UK first. Funding is from the National Innovation Allowance (NIA) and NM Group is acting as a lidar service provider for the trial.

The project will conduct multiple aerial lidar scans of a single section of pipeline used for gas transmission. Afterwards, National Grid will test the 3D data for purposes such as measuring earth movement, updating asset information, and identifying safety concerns or third-party interference within the project area.

A survey aircraft.

NM Group’s Senior Client Manager Tim Hustwayte explained that this is a rare use of lidar technology for the UK gas industry. “Gas utilities haven’t adopted this technology in the same way that electricity utilities have,” he said to SPAR3D. “The NIA funding was therefore granted to see how this will add value to National Grid gas transmission with a view that, if successful, this would then cascade down to the other gas transmission companies in the UK.”

As to why this type of inspection had never been undertaken in the gas industry, the project team told us that “currently the Gas Safety Case approved by the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] requires visual aerial survey patrols, therefore the driver to do [lidar inspection]did not exist as the routes would be regularly visually inspected.”

“It is hoped,” they continued, “that once demonstrated, this technique will result in a reduction of the survey frequency and thereby a reduction in operating costs for operators.”

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About Author

SPAR 3D Editor Sean Higgins produces SPAR 3D’s weekly newsletters for 3D-scanning professionals, and spar3d.com. Sean has previously worked as a technical writer, a researcher, a freelance technology writer, and an editor for various arts publications. He has degrees from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where he studied the history of sound-recording technologies. Sean is a native of Maine and lives in Portland.

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