As a result, Whale has produced a specialised, bespoke range of vehicles for crucial maintenance of gas mains and supporting infrastructure. The supply of these vehicles is through National Grid’s build management agent – BT Fleet.

“Due to the very nature of the specialised work they carry out these vehicles are essential to our operations,” said Gary Foster of National Grid. “Having worked with Whale for over 10 years we know the products are built to exacting, high standards along with a guarantee providing us with full operational back-up minimising any downtime. This was an important factor in the purchase of the vehicles.”

The vehicles undertake a vital role in maintaining the gas mains and support infrastructure by cleaning out the syphons in the pipelines which require periodic maintenance. The waste material, condensate, is removed by vacuum loading before Mono Ethylene Glycol (MEG) is then introduced by ‘Fogger’ units, which spray a mist into the pipeline. The MEG lubricates the valves and helps maintain the system in good working order.

Whale’s design team worked closely with National Grid to develop the three generic types of vehicles: Dual purpose MEG/VAC units that carry waste and clean MEG; Vacuum only waste removal units and dual purpose MEG/VAC vans. The truck based units were produced at 7.5 tonne, 15 tonne and 18 tonne GVW.

A number of unique requirements were incorporated into the vehicle design because of the special nature of the application. These included: Non-return valves to prevent air being introduced into the gas main, hydraulic powered suction hose reels with clear in-line sight glass to facilitate monitoring of material being loaded.

A dedicated fluid recovery system to retrieve any spills at the valve manifold and hydraulically driven positive displacement pump for MEG loading and delivery. Of particular importance is the inclusion of flame traps on all pumps and vents as a safety precaution. To prevent the generation of sparks from static electricity, the vehicles are complete with earthing points, continuity straps and earthing reels.