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When North West based contractors Barnfield Construction encountered problems with ‘ghost’ gas mains, water and steam pipes in a contract for a private client they feared explosive consequences. Fortunately, multi utility connections specialists Crown Energy were able to resolve the potentially explosive difficulties so that the extension to the listed building proceeded without further incident.

The project was for an extension to a historic house. Outbuildings had existed in the past, but had long since been demolished. A vicarage, built over part of this site in the 1960’s, was demolished to make way for the new works.

The first part of the project, the disconnection of the old gas service and installation of a new main, was relatively straightforward. Disconnection and reconnection was coordinated by Crown Energy without difficulty. The new main required a four inch cast low-pressure main reducing to a two inch riser in MDPE (medium density poly ethylene) and termination in a steel pipe to the meter. This finally required purging and commissioning.

It was necessary to drive steel piles to establish a solid base for the new building and so, as a preliminary to this, the surface was excavated and a piling mat of aggregate laid down for the heavy piling plant. During these works an extensive network of two inch gas pipes, water pipes and old steam pipes were discovered. None of these were shown on service drawings and it was clear that the gas was still connected to mains at an unknown point.

Metal detectors revealed the full extent of the hidden network so that it could be removed. Crown Energy arranged for the prompt disconnection of the unrecorded gas network. Piling works then proceeded in the expectation that there was no further danger of striking hidden gas services that might cause an explosion. However, further excavation revealed another gas pipe in the side of a trench – again not shown on service drawings and at least eight metres away from the main. Crown Energy again arranged disconnection to make the site safe.

“This was a very unusual project and we were fortunate to have Crown Energy working with us,” explained Barnfield’s site manager Darren Mackenzie. “Not only were they able to liaise with the utility suppliers allowing us to make trench preparations in timely way, but they were invaluable when we encountered the ghost mains in bringing the emergency team to site so quickly.”

Speaking for Crown Energy, Keeley Downing explained. “The problem with many brownfield sites is that official service drawings do not reveal the full extent of the private networks installed. Sometimes, as in this case, these are not fully decommissioned when buildings are demolished and this can give rise to potentially explosive problems for contractors and their clients.”

Crown Energy specialise in multi-service connections for all utilities. This includes removal and disconnection of redundant services, evaluation of new service requirements and liaison between gas, electricity and water utility companies to ensure synchronised and timely completion of all services at the same time.

More Information:

Keeley Downing, Head of Energy and Utilities, Crown Energy
Tel. +44 (0) 161 762 7744 Fax. +44 (0) 161 761 2957
E-mail: Web:
Crown Energy, Crown House, Heap Brow, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 7JR, UK

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