Project GRAID completes its final major milestone!

Inspection at Bacton carried out

The GRAID robot has successfully navigated around its connection into the Shell 4 manifold at Bacton Terminal.

In the same year as the 50th anniversary of operation at the Bacton Terminal in Norfolk, the team brought the GRAID robot to site to complete its final online trial. This signified a remarkable achievement for everyone involved as this milestone was one of the first to be discussed 4 years ago, when GRAID was simply an idea. Previous successful completion of the Offline trial stage and the Online trial at Pannal Offtake gave confidence to the teams that GRAID was ready for the challenge at Bacton. The area around Shell 4 manifold was earmarked for the connection for GRAID and required a new ‘swan neck’ section of pipework which would allow a direct route to the below ground pipework. Additionally a concrete base was constructed to allow for the GRAID Launch Vessel to be easily re-installed in the future as the connection provides an additional four routes for future inspection works. The construction and day to day running of the site throughout the inspection works was carried out by J Murphy and Sons who are also carrying out the sites asset health upgrade program.

The team were on site for a total of 2 weeks with a planned list of activities and objectives to complete, with all the staff at the terminal being very helpful and understanding for such a new and innovative project. During the time on site we completed the following:

  • Navigated 100m+ of buried pipework mapping weld locations which will aid designers of any future upgrades / replacement programs,
  • Confirmed the location of an isolation weldolet which was used for the construction of the section of pipework 50 years ago. This information can now be used by the project team to focus their excavations on site and eliminate the requirement for any exploratory digging, which will reduce the cost considerably,
  • Carried out visual inspections of  the  36” Cameron Ball valves which were accessible around the connection point. This visual data allows for the confirmation of operation of the sealing face mechanism within the internals of the valves,
  • Collected wall thickness measurements from pre-determined locations within the accessible pipework which will enable the analysts to determine the condition of the pipework.

Following each successful inspection week, the robot was retrieved from the pipeline and was decontaminated by our specialist cleaning provider ; Pressure Force Ltd. This included using the bespoke tooling and cleaning techniques which have been developed from our Offline and previous Online trial at Pannal Offtake AGI. The main challenge for the team is to clean the 120m of tether on the Umbilical Management System (UMS).

All of the collected data can now be sent to the GRAID project partners; Pipeline Integrity Engineers (PIE) Ltd who will extrapolate the data and input the information into a condition model. This model aims to pinpoint the areas on a site that will be susceptible to corrosion and will help define a growth rate to determine an inspection frequency . This is a key step to extend the value of the GRAID data outside just the area of inspection.

During the inspection window the team also had the opportunity to host several employees from all of the Gas Distribution Operators and also suppliers of gas into the Bacton Terminal. Following an introduction to what GRAID can currently do and its future potential, the group were taken on a site visit and shown the robot being  operated live at site pressure of around 60 bar(g). Carrying out a demonstration like this was an excellent chance to see GRAID work in ‘live’ conditions and the feedback from the attendees was very positive.

The next steps for the team is to reflect on the busy period of Online trials and understand exactly how the robot can be improved for operational use. We will now also be considering how National Grid intend to progress this technology into business as usual and ensure that the full potential benefits are realised.

The successful completion of an inspection at Bacton was often looked at as an impossible task and one which would never happen, however with the hard work and dedication from the team we can all now say that GRAID completed one of its greatest tests. We personally would like to thank everyone that played a part in making the inspection at Bacton a reality and hope to return one day as the GRAID robot improves and advances.


Project GRAID Team