David C. Powell
The World's Safest & Most Efficient Way to Dig Pipe!
Pipe Gator was started by Charles Patterson and patented.
The procedure involved in digging up natural gas pipelines for maintenance purposes entails
digging around these transmission pipe lines while in service - that means they're live. There
has to be access to the entire pipe, top, sides and bottom of pipe. A two foot clearance is
required underneath the pipe. Then the coating is scraped and chipped off the pipe, then
sandblasted to the bare pipe. The necessary repairs are then made while the live is still in
operation. (The job could be miles long.) The lines are then repainted, recoated and the
At first, excavators were used to expose the pipe usually 60' sections at a time leaving dirt
support (approx 3' -4') every 60' of exposed pipe having to expose the entire pipe with a 2'
clearance on the bottom side was being done with excavating equipment run by operator. This
is a slow tricky procedure and at times a challenge for even the most experienced operators.
Even with the lightest equipment - pipe contact is considered an industry no-no and these
incidents industry wide, were becoming more and more common.
This promoted the gas companies to make changes in the standard operating procedures
(SOP). This resulted in a rule change of not allowing the excavation buckets to dig closer than
18" from the pipe. The remaining dirt has to be dug out by hand. Example, a 10,000' job with
three excavators digging around the pipe could make approx. 300' per day per machine = 900'
per day. The changes in SOP brought the numbers down to 45' - 60' per day. The changes in
the amount of production loss and job cost was noted by the gas companies, but were
accepted because of the increased safety against the pipe hits.
In two weeks, keeping up with four excavators, my equipment burned one tank of fuel. We
made so much progress we would have to stop for 2 - 3 days so the rest of the crew (chippers,
painters, coaters) could catch up. They could not keep up with our progress.
A bid on a job based on excavator and hand digging, making 100' per day. We can make 100'
in approx. 30 minutes. The tool is currently patent pending.
Pipe Gator is changing the pipe maintenance industry.