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New tool helps worker safety

July 19, 2017

When South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. began searching for an effective small-diameter PE squeeze-off and repair tool it went north—way north—to the manufacturing facilities of Footage Tools in Toronto, Canada.

Footage Tools has made squeeze-off tools for PE pipe since 1982 and has a long history of delivering tools to the industry driven by their input and requirements.

Footage tools had manufactured an aboveground squeeze-off tool for an emergency response since 1992. However, it became evident that the industry trend to remove personnel from the excavation at every opportunity and the need to maximize purchasing dollars demanded a tool that focuses on everyday construction and maintenance applications as well as emergency response. The design team went back to the drawing board and incorporated the feedback into a new every day above ground tool, the C200.Prototype samples were supplied to numerous utilities for feedback in the final design. “We were looking for a tool that would allow us to quickly make safe a blowing gas situation from PE pipe; however, after the pipe was squeezed, we wanted to be able to make repairs without having to cut out the particular section of pipe,” explained Keller Kissam, vice president of Gas Operations for SCE&G. “The Footage Tools C200 unit allowed us the flexibility to handle PE pipe from half-inch to two-inch.”

After several conference calls and studying various options available on the market, SCE&G asked Footage Tools to deliver a prototype tool for evaluation. Eventually, Charles Forsberg, general manager of System Engineering and Purchasing for SCE&G, felt they had a tool specifically designed for their operations. It offered the ability to safely and efficiently respond to a wide variety of field situations, he said. Next came the true test of the product in actual fieldwork. Stuckey Stoudemire, division manager, Gas Operations for SCE&G, was given the task of evaluating the C200. “We simply gave it to our gas journeymen and told them to use it. We listened carefully to their recommendations after about a month in the field, and passed all the comments back to the manufacturer.” Footage Tools incorporated SCE&G’s recommendations by taking the weight of the tool, adding a carrying handle for convenience, installing a grounding rod and cable and modifying the handle assemblies for ease of operations. “After we witnessed their response and commitment, we requested that they design a prototype of a smaller tool that would handle half-inch to one-inch CTS (copper tubing size) with a .090-inch wall thickness,” said Forsberg. Thus the C150 was developed. SCE&G has already taken delivery of 50 of these units in addition to 45 of the C200 model.

The C200 features a lightweight, 5-foot tall aircraft-grade aluminum frame with a steel center feed screw, adjustable gauge plate for half-inch to two-inch diameter over squeeze protection, integral centering springs, an integral carrying handle at the balance point that doubles as a storage space for the optional grounding rod assembly, and a collapsible stabilizer handle.

The first event that required utilization of the C200 was at one of the busiest intersection in Columbia, SC. A contractor had driven a grounding rod through a two-way, two-inch feed. “There was nothing but a single hole surrounded by a sea of asphalt and concrete sidewalk and curbing,” recalled Stoudemire. “The C200 allowed our employees to safely and quickly stop natural gas from blowing and make repairs. Otherwise, we would have been spending a great deal of time hammering asphalt and concrete.”

Another example where the C200 made its mark was in Charleston, SC. Here, one man with a posthole digger and the C200 was able to squeeze off a broken PE line in the middle of the night. By the time a construction crew arrived on the scene to make repairs, the situation was already safe.

Kissam said SCE&G is pleased with the tool. “We tested it repeatedly in a variety of true field conditions. Our operations personnel like the flexibility and ease of operations of the tool. Most importantly, it adds another element of safety for our employees.”

Pat Yaremko, sales, and marketing manager, PE products, of Footage Tools, said many employees from the utility participated in the venture, which made it a worthwhile learning experience for both vendor and customer. “We have a long history of relying on field feedback, but this project took on new dimensions as we progressed from a vendor-customer relationship to partners in the design of a new tool,” he said.

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