Gas pipe issues found post Grenfell

Gas pipe issues found post Grenfell

ACCORDING TO the company running ‘half of Britain’s regional gas networks’, pipes in around 1,000 high rises may not have received regular maintenance inspections.

The Times reported on the findings from Cadent, which runs half of Britain’s regional gas networks and was ‘spun out’ of National Grid last year. It is now under investigation by safety and energy regulators after it admitted ‘it had found gaps in its records’, with this potentially meaning gas pipes ‘in up to 1,000’ high rise blocks ‘may not have received regular maintenance inspections’.

Cadent is responsible for both operation and maintenance of pipes delivering gas from the grid to 11 million homes and businesses across the West Midlands, northwest and east of England as well as north London. It revealed issues with record keeping earlier in 2018, when a council asked for information about pipes within one of its tower blocks as part of checks after the Grenfell Tower fire.

It responded to the council by stating that ‘some of our records regarding high-rise buildings — buildings of six storeys and above — were not contained on our digitised records and were therefore not part of our regular ten-yearly survey programme’. A spokeswoman also added that 1,048 tower blocks ‘were not properly recorded in its system’, so some had missed out on surveys ‘which are supposed to check on the condition of the pipes every ten years’.

In relation to Grenfell Tower, Cadent said that its records ‘had been intact’, while the spokeswoman clarified that the company ‘did not know’ how many tower blocks had not seen checks, but that she expected the number to be ‘much lower’ than 1,048. There had, in some cases, already been surveys undertaken, but these had been recorded under the wrong address, with Cadent carrying out a survey to ‘resolve the issue’, to be followed by the completion of checks by July this year.

The spokeswoman did also state that the ‘data issue’ had ‘no impact whatsoever on our ability to respond to an emergency or attend a property within an hour where they can smell gas’, adding: ‘The gas pipes in high-rise buildings are made of steel and [are] designed to have a lifespan of several decades and are extremely robust. Our surveys are designed to pick up and address any potential issue many years before they occur.’

In response, energy regulator Ofgem stated it was investigating whether Cadent had breached rules ‘requiring it to keep accurate records’, while the Health and Safety Executive is also investigating, with liability for any failings to ‘lie with Cadent’. The Times pointed out that the news raises ‘uncomfortable questions’ for National Grid, which owns 39% of Cadent, as the mistakes ‘are believed to originate from a time when the networks were still under its control’.