In 2005, Pure Technologies (Pure), a provider of various structural monitoring and leak-detection technologies, set about to develop a pipeline assessment tool that could monitor and report on the condition of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes (PCCP) utilized in municipal water and sewer systems. The tool’s competitive advantage would be accurate assessment decoupled from the need to first dewater the systems— a costly and timely endeavour.
Pure’s initial efforts focused on a tool that could travel through an in-service PCCP network and identify areas where wire wraps, which give strength to the concrete pipe, are corroded and broken. Too many broken wraps would eventually cause the concrete pipe to degrade to the point where it would burst.
Prototypes based on existing electromagnetic-sensor technologies were first tested in Pure Technologies in-house flow loop—essentially a large pipe in its warehouse that can be pressurized to mimic a true pipeline system. In the test loop, experiments were conducted to check the buoyancy of the tool, its ability to flow with the water, and the ability of the electromagnetic sensors to identify defects in the test pipe.
Since no lab test—or even a controlled, simulated loop test—can accurately replicate real-world conditions, the next stage of testing the PipeDiver tool was to subject the platform to field testing. For this phase, Pure drew on the strong relationships it had with existing utility customers, especially those who had previously identified a need for pipeline-integrity testing. Over the course of the prototype testing, refinements were made to the electromagnetic sensors and to the overall design of the PipeDiver tool. Additionally, data collected during field tests allowed the participating utility to avoid replacing certain portions of the pipeline, resulting in a significant saving.
The first iterations of PipeDiver for PCCP are now commercially available and are widely accepted as the best way to manage PCCP systems.Pure is continuing to assess PCCP water systems around the world, with recent projects in Ontario, the United States and South Africa, and is beginning to deploy the tool for assessment of metallic pipeline networks.