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Drinking Water: Pipe Wall Assessment Technology

Municipalities often find repair and preemptive maintenance to be one of the toughest aspects of asset management. There is a need for a screening tool that can evaluate the condition of lengthy metallic pipelines, said Reid McDougall, VP of Pure Technologies’ Canadian region. Typically, this has been a costly and labourious endeavour, leading many utility owners to forego thorough inspections of less critical watermains until they reach a state of significant damage. In response to this need, Pure developed pipe wall assessment (PWA) technology.

“The PWA platform is unique because it is the first inline condition screening tool for metallic pipelines,” McDougall said. The SmartBall PWA tool is capable of inspecting long stretches of pipeline in a single deployment, and the low-resolution data it yields is effective in pinpointing the location of air pockets, leaks, and pipe wall stress. The Sahara PWA is tethered to the surface and covers shorter distances, making it ideal for assessments that require more precision and control, such as in densely-populated urban areas. Both tools provide a fast, affordable initial screening that allows operators to identify areas of potential damage. As a result, more detailed, expensive assessment can be prioritized accordingly.

Pure has funded dedicated research and development of metallic pipe assessment technology since 2011 through the Metallic Pipe Initiative. Since most of Canada’s pipelines are metal, improving the effectiveness of metallic inspection tools is important in maintaining Canada’s utilities infrastructure because early damage detection can pay big financial dividends. “This screening survey allows utilities to prioritize capital spending, and to manage their assets more effectively by determining which areas of a pipeline may require further evaluation with higher-resolution tools,” McDougall explained.

The technology has the potential to assist municipalities budget more effectively for publicly-funded capital and operating costs, which can soar as high as $8 million in the event of a large-diameter watermain failure. Additionally, every litre of water lost through a pipeline leak represents sunk costs, and some leaks can go undetected for up to 10 years.

Both the SmartBall and Sahara PWA platforms were commercialized in 2014. McDougall said, “Having a solution that can provide this level of data on such an operationally friendly and proven technology platform […] is something that has the industry very excited since it allows for the screening of large networks in a relatively short time.” He added that PWA’s ability to proactively detect pipe wall stress and leaks, and thus selectively replace damaged pipelines, makes it “an important part of the long-term, sustainable management of water and wastewater networks.”

Pure continues to work on improving the PWA analysis algorithm and will continue to add new capabilities, such as pipeline mapping.

– Katie Yantzi

Our panel said:

“Pure Technologies’ innovative approach is a true leader in remote sensing for leak detection that also provides substantial cost savings.”

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