It’s no secret that Canada’s water and wastewater utilities are facing severe challenges. From rising demand to leaking systems to constrained budgets, there is a growing need to better monitor and assess infrastructure and extend its useful life.
Calgary-based Pure Technologies is part of the solution. Traditional pipe inspection usually requires large open cuts, but the company’s leak detection, condition assessment, and monitoring technologies are much less disruptive and can help avert catastrophic failures, service interruptions, and environmental and property damage.
Last November, the City of Ottawa used Pure’s SmartBall to conduct an assessment of a 48-inch watermain. The free-swimming in-line leak detection technology is designed to operate in live large diameter water mains, and it’s capable of detecting and locating very small leaks and gas pocket leaks.
The City’s water distribution program manager, Shelley McDonald, says that the device helped her team locate the leak and, in the process, it found another one.
“Residents were informed that we were doing an assessment, but for the most part, nobody noticed it was taking place, and that’s a good thing,” says McDonald. “People continue to drive on the road above, and the pipe is safely insulated, waiting for repair. Signs of excavation will be less noticeable because that area won’t have been flooded due to a failure. We’re also deferring the cost of capital investment.”
Ottawa use other products, such as Pure’s acoustic fibre optic monitoring technology, to keep pipelines in service until repair is a necessity. “We’re able to defer some capital reinvestment until pipes deteriorate to a point that we want to intervene,” says McDonald. “It’s a luxury we wouldn’t have had if we couldn’t listen for breaks.”
Pure and the Lake Huron Primary Water Supply System also recently completed a comprehensive condition assessment project that inspected 47 kilometres of its main water transmission main.
“The client was interested in getting a handle on the current condition and remaining useful life,” says Mark Holley, the company’s U.S. president. “We did a condition assessment that included a leak detection survey and the PipeDiver, our free-swimming electromagnetic tool. It tells us where and how many pre-stressed wires are broken along the pipe.” The client excavated to validate results and used the assessment information to manage pipes going forward.
The environments in which Pure’s technologies and tools operate are pressurized and hostile. In many cases, they lack redundancy. These operational challenges have pushed the company’s research and development efforts.
R&D is part of what Holley believes makes Pure unique in its field. “A lot of our technology is borne from our projects,” he says. “Combined with our engineering services, this research provides our clients with assessments to take care of their infrastructure.”
Going forward, Holley expects that Pure will expand its coverage of the water and wastewater space. “Traditionally, our primary focus has been on large diameter pipes traditionally (12 to 16-inch and larger). We’re now looking at the need for condition assessment of smaller diameter distribution mains and also metallic pipe,” he says.
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