In 2013–2014, Queensland Urban Utilities developed and implemented a first-of-its-kind risk-based assessment program in Australia utilising innovative technologies and engineering assessment techniques to assess critical sewer mains. This work was in line with Queensland Urban Utilities’ industry-leading approach to risk-based asset management.
A critical component of Queensland Urban Utilities’ sewerage network is a series of large-diameter sewer rising mains – also known as force mains – which are responsible for transporting 50 per cent of raw sewage in the Brisbane area for treatment. The mains are made of mild steel cement-lined (MSCL) pipe and prestressed concrete pipe (PCP), of diameters ranging from 1295 to 1840 millimetres (52 to 74 inches). The reliability of these sewer rising mains are important from both a customer and environmental perspective.
Building upon previous assessments conducted by Pure Technologies’ Engineering Services, Queensland Urban Utilities sought to identify industry best practices for assessing these critical large-diameter rising mains. The goal of the assessment was to understand the current condition of the mains and identify what remedial works or condition monitoring approaches would help maintain the safe operation of the mains, while extending the life of the assets in accordance with management plans.
In consultation with Pure Technologies, a comprehensive assessment methodology was developed which included: SmartBall® leak and gas pocket detection; ground surveys to determine residual ground cover; isolation, dewatering and cleaning of the mains; CCTV and laser profiling to determine internal deterioration; valve inspections; PureEM™ inspection to determine structural deterioration of the pipe walls; internal visual inspection to confirm and further document findings; transient pressure monitoring to identify loading conditions; and an engineering assessment with rehabilitation recommendations.
“Queensland Urban Utilities is keen to embrace new technologies to improve our customer service and the reliability of our water and sewerage network,' says Jonathan Farrell, Design Manager at QUU. 'The technical expertise provided by Pure has allowed us to undertake an accurate condition assessment and have the appropriate data to make an informed decision on the current condition of the mains. This will allow us to plan cost-effective, timely upgrades to ensure the asset reaches its design life.”
This was a first-of-its-kind assessment in Australia applying new inspection technologies, including the customisation of a 48-detector PureEM tool, as well as a new risk assessment technique for metallic pipes. Detections from the PureEM inspection (i.e. discrete areas of structural deterioration) were validated utilising alternate electromagnetic and ultrasonic techniques, which provided supplemental condition information for the structural assessment.
Inspection and assessment work on two of these critical mains has been completed at this point. The inspection identified specific pipes along the mains with deterioration; but more importantly, the engineering assessment with structural modeling determined that less than 1 per cent of pipes are at a higher risk of failure, meaning the main is in primarily good shape. This data coupled with engineering recommendations is enabling Queensland Urban Utilities to make informed decisions on the mains, including: selective repair or replacement, condition monitoring, and operational changes (i.e. safe working pressure), all for a fraction of the capital replacement costs.
In addition, the work associated with the assessment has provided Queensland Urban Utilities with some valuable lessons learned on the safe management and operation of the mains.