The voice of the networks

How Wales & West Utilities is reducing emissions and disruption

05 August 2020

Press contacts

James Pleass

Performance & Delivery Manager

Energy Networks Association

+44 (0) 20 7706 5149

+44 (0) 7792 220 974

[email protected]

ENA press office

+44 (0)7792 220 974
[email protected]

Britain’s homes and businesses are set to benefit from an emissions reduction bonanza over the next 12 years as a result of gas network company investment, according to figures by ENA. As part of that, we’re showcasing just some of the work our members are doing to do their bit as part of the programme.

The figures show that by 2032 investment in replacing old iron mains gas mains pipes with new hydrogen-ready pipes will have reduced emissions from the country’s network of gas pipelines by the equivalent of the carbon emissions of 526,443 cars since 2014, through the Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme.

Wales & West Utilities runs the local gas network in Wales and the South West of England. Replacing old metal gas pipes with new plastic ones, through the Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme, is a key part of the work that gas networks are doing to keep the gas flowing safely to homes and businesses today, and preparing the gas network to transport green gases like hydrogen and biomethane.

However, due to the nature of the work, this can at times be disruptive for communities and customers.

How is Wales & West Utilities reducing disruption?

Wales & West Utilities uses innovative techniques and technology to keep disruption to the public to a minimum whilst it replaces old metal pipes.

It replaces pipes using a technique known as ‘Live Mains Insertion.’ Put simply, this means that the new, green gas ready pipe is inserted into the existing metal pipe, avoiding the need for long trenches in the road. These trenches are replaced by small pits where the pipe is inserted from – up to 500m at a time. Of course, using this technique reduces the environmental impact of digging holes, with less spoil and backfill required.

But most importantly, this technique allows disruption to customers to be kept to a minimum. Live Mains Insertion means that customers gas supplies are only interrupted once – when the individual service pipe to their home is replaced – and for a shorter time, often less than 8 hours. 

What challenges does Wales & West Utilities face?

However, to use this technique as much as possible, engineers need to be able to cut into gas mains as safely and as quickly as possible. This is simple enough for metal pipes made from materials like cast iron, but it is much tougher and more time consuming for other ones made from other materials.

To use this technique, it is necessary to be able to cut into gas mains. This is simple enough with materials like cast iron, but for old pipes made from ductile iron or steel, it’s much harder and more time consuming. In the past, this has meant that some communities and customers haven’t been able to see the benefits of Live Mains Insertion.  

What is Wales & West Utilities doing to address those challenges?

To make sure as many customers as possible could see the benefits from this technique, Wales & Wales & West Utilities worked with local Wiltshire-based company, Steve Vick International to develop ‘mains cutters.’ These tools make cutting into gas mains made from ductile iron and steel easier, quicker and safer, which allows Live Mains Insertion to be used in locations it wouldn’t have been historically possible. 

Wales & West Utilities replaces over 50 percent of its gas pipes annually using Live Mains Insertion, the highest level of all gas networks in the UK. Using mains cutters has reduced the time to cut into gas pipes by over 60 percent and saved over £500,000 – savings that have been passed on to customers.

About Energy Networks Association

We’re the industry body for the energy networks. Our members own and operate the wires and pipes which carry electricity and gas into your community, supporting our economy. The wires and pipes are the arteries of our economy, delivering energy to over 30 million homes and businesses across the UK and Ireland. To do this safely and reliably, the businesses which run the networks employ 45,000 people and have spent and invested over £60 billion in the last eight years.

Learn more about how the energy networks operate and who we represent.

Press contacts

James Pleass

Performance & Delivery Manager

Energy Networks Association

+44 (0) 20 7706 5149

+44 (0) 7792 220 974

[email protected]

ENA press office

+44 (0)7792 220 974
[email protected]