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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Call for information on polyethylene gas pipes

A project to manage the risks posed by elderly polyethylene (PE) pipes to distribution networks is calling on engineers to come forward with their data.

Launched in July 2010 by National Grid-Gas and Scotia Gas Networks, the objective of "IFI63 PE Asset Life Research" is to develop a scheme to manage and rank risks to PE distribution networks. The scheme also aims to demonstrate to regulatory authorities that control of these primary assets is being maintained in a safe and planned manner.

MACAW Engineering Ltd is leading the project, which is being delivered by a team of recognised industry experts from MACAW, Exova (UK) Ltd, Plasticpipes Ltd and MWH UK Ltd.

An important aspect of the project has been to gather information on the history of PE materials and their use in the UK. This information has been recorded in a database and is now available online via the IGEM website.

MACAW is asking Gas Engineers, either currently working or retired, to help improve the accuracy of the database by commenting, correcting or adding to the knowledge base.

Polyethylene (PE) pipes laid over the past 44 years now constitute around 60 per cent of the gas distribution supply networks in the UK.

Whilst confidence remains high in the long-term integrity of PE pipe and fitting materials, it is recognised that some parts of the installed network are now approaching their original minimum 50 year design life.

It is known that early PE materials were supplied to a lower standard of stress crack resistance than current pipe materials. Similar materials installed in the US and Europe have shown signs of failure at particular points of elevated stress due to extra bending loads.

In particular, we are seeking information on:

  • Information on where the early tan Aldyl A pipe (1969 - 1971) was installed
  • Where has orange PE100 pipe for up to 7 bar been used and in what sizes?
  • Pipe & Fitting manufacturers may have further information on when certain PE grades were used, particularly in the 1990s
  • Dates when particular jointing and installation techniques were started and possibly stopped
  • Information on other installation techniques that are not currently identified
  • There are many fusion tools described but the list is unlikely to be complete.  Any others?
  • Any information on pipe bursting and live mains insertion. Dates, sizes, locations, etc.
  • Installation and dates of PE above ground to meter boxes, house entry tees, etc.

To view the TimeLine Database and help with this project, please visit  or contact the project team by email Any information you can provide to improve the TimeLine Database will be appreciated.  Hopefully, in time, the Database will become more comprehensive and accurate.