City Of Vancouver Deploys Free-Swimming Tools For Successful Inline Inspection Of Pressurized Main

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Courtesy of Pure Technologies

With its Pacific Ocean entranceway and towering backdrop of snow-dusted mountains, it’s no wonder the City of Vancouver ranks among the most laid-back, beautiful cities in Canada, and indeed, the world. Water is in its blood.

This spring the coastal seaport city retained the services of Pure Technologies (Pure) to perform a condition assessment and risk analysis of the Powell-Clark Feeder Main, part of the city’s water system that daily delivers 360-million liters of high-quality water throughout the city. During the course of the assessment, the inspection team had to deal with unexpected challenges, but in true West Coast spirit, collaboration between the inspection teams led to success.

Over five days in March 2016, Pure performed an electromagnetic inspection of the subject pipeline utilizing its free-swimming PipeDiver® platform, and an acoustic inspection using its free-flowing SmartBall® inspection tool. Pure also monitored this feeder main using a Transient Pressure Monitor for three months prior to the previous two inspections.

PipeDiver inspection identifies electromagnetic anomalies

The Powell Street Feeder Main is comprised of prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP), ranging from 750 to 900-mm in diameter. The Clark Drive Feeder Main consists of 750-mm of bar wrapped pipe (BWP).

The PipeDiver electromagnetic inspection covered a cumulative distance of 4.57 kilometers and spanned 676 pipes. Unlike more restrictive assessment tools, PipeDiver is a flexible, free-swimming tool that flows with the product and is able to easily navigate through most butterfly valves, apertures and bends in the pipeline, delivering electromagnetic (EM) data for a variety of pipe type and materials.

EM technology provides prestressing wire-break estimates on each individual section of PCCP, which is the best indicator that this type of pipe will fail. This allows for one deteriorated pipe to be identified within an entire pipeline that is in good condition overall, and also provides the baseline condition on all pipes in the inspected distance.

Analysis of the data obtained during the inspection determined that one (1) pipe (less than one percent of the pipeline) in the 750 mm Powell-Clark Feeder Main displayed electromagnetic anomalies consistent with 30 broken prestressing wire wraps. This is well below the average distress rate observed by Pure Technologies in PCCP pipelines, which is 3.8 percent of pipes in structural distress.

SmartBall inspection tool used to locate leaks and gas pockets

In addition to the EM inspection, Pure also performed a SmartBall inspection to identify and locate leaks and pockets of trapped gas along the pipeline.

Unlike traditional external listening tools with limited success on large diameter pipes, free-flowing SmartBall technology provides a high degree of accuracy, since as the ball rolls, it can inspect every inch of a water main to detect leaks and gas pockets.

The SmartBall tool was inserted into the pipeline through a flange access and acoustic and sensor data was collected and recorded as the tool traversed the pipeline. At a distance of 5.8 kilometers, (only 470 meters from the end of the inspection run), the tool stopped tracking.

Crews from the City and Pure put their heads together to solve the problem.

Collective thinking clears the debris and all is well

By analyzing data from the earlier PipeDiver inspection, Pure determined that unknown debris likely lodged the SmartBall tool.

The City excavated and modified a tap to allow Pure to access the pipeline with a submersible ROV (equipped with a camera) to retrieve the SmartBall tool and examine the debris, which turned out to be an old forgotten tool cart. The cart and SmartBall tool were extracted, the data was evaluated and considered valid, and all was good.

From the SmartBall data, Pure Technologies detected three (3) anomalies characteristic of leaks and zero (0) acoustic anomalies characteristic of pockets of trapped gas.

While no gas pockets were identified during this inspection, two (2) instances of entrained air were identified as migratory acoustic anomalies, and flagged for future inspection, as they may develop new pockets of trapped gas.

Validated results help the City manage its infrastructure

In spite of the cart debris blocking the SmartBall tool during the last few meters of its long inspection journey, the data collected during the pipeline assessment was analyzed as valid.

When combined with the results from the PipeDiver EM inspection, the condition data will be used as part of the City of Vancouver’s asset management initiative and allow for proactive measures in the assessment and management of their infrastructure.

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