Two Cities in North Texas join forces to assess critical water main comprised of bar-wrapped and prestressed pipe

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Source: Pure Technologies

For water service providers in Texas, providing customers with consistent, reliable access to water is crucial, particularly in the summer months when dry conditions impact the water supply.

In order to ensure that residents receive consistent water supply, the City of Irving and a partnering agency have collaborated in times of need to supply the other with water.

In one specific instance, the City of Irving was able to keep customers of the partnering agency supplied with water from one of its 48-inch transmission mains. The combined effort between the utilities showed excellent organizational cooperation to achieve the most important goal for any utility – finding a way to provide consistent service.

In January 2014, the two agencies teamed up again, this time to assess the critical 48-inch Jamison Main that links the two utilities. The transmission main was constructed in 1955 and is made up primarily of Bar-Wrapped Concrete Cylinder Pipe (BWP). Since its construction, however, the main has had modifications: in 1965 and 1968 sections of Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) were added to accommodate the construction of Texas Stadium, and in 2009, another section of PCCP was added during the reconstruction of Loop 12 Highway.

The Difference Between PCCP and BWP

While BWP and PCCP look similar in cross-section, the pipe materials deteriorate in different ways and therefore are assessed differently.

For BWP, it is important for operators to identify and locate corrosion on the steel cylinder, since it is the main structural component and the bars are made with mild steel and are wrapped under less tension than PCCP; BWP essentially behaves like a mortar-lined and coated steel pipe.

PCCP is a concrete pipe that remains under compression because of the prestressing wires, with the thin-gauge steel cylinder acting as a water barrier. The high strength steel wire in PCCP is smaller in diameter and wrapped under higher tension, therefore corrosion makes it quite vulnerable to breakage.

As the prestressing wires in PCCP begin to break, the pipe becomes weaker and is more likely to fail catastrophically. It is important to locate and quantify the amount of broken wires in PCCP as they are the main structural component.

Because of the differences, the two materials are assessed using electromagnetic (EM) technology that identifies different signs of deterioration in each pipe.

In BWP, inspections identify both the presence of broken bars – which could indicate corrosion on the cylinder – and broad areas of corrosion on the cylinder itself. This approach allows operators to renew pipe sections with an undesirable amount of corrosion that could lead to pipe failure.

In PCCP, EM technology locates and quantifies the amount of broken wires. This method is extremely effective in identifying pipe sections that are suitable for renewal once the number of wire breaks passes a certain limit.

The Condition Assessment Program

For the Jamison Water Transmission Main assessment, the SmartBall® leak detection and PureRobotics® platforms were used to identify deterioration on both the primary pipe material, BWP, and the added sections of PCCP.

Completing a leak detection survey is an important aspect of a condition assessment project, since leaks are often a preliminary indication of a potential failure location. Pre-screening is particularly important in in BWP, since the steel cylinder is the main structural component and the pipe behaves similarly to a mortar-lined and coated steel pipe.

The leak detection survey identified one acoustic anomaly associated with a leak in 2.7 miles of inspection. The screening of the pipeline helps determine the baseline condition of the asset.

The PureRobotics platform was used for the structural assessment portion of the project. The tool is equipped with PureEM™ technology, which can identify distress on both pipe BWP and PCCP, but also features CCTV and above-ground tracking. By completing a structural assessment, damaged areas of the pipe can be targeted for selective renewal.

The Condition Assessment Program

In addition to gaining a valuable baseline condition of the transmission main, the assessment provided both utilities with more information about the location of additions to the critical transmission main.

The CCTV and line-locating feature were used to identify the exact location of two unknown manholes, which in turn were used as additional tracking locations. With more tracking locations during inline inspection, areas of distress can be more accurately located. The CCTV inspection also identified the location of a 48-inch gate valve and 90-degree bends.

Another challenge surrounding this main was accurate mapping of the sections that were added on after the original construction. Additions or alterations to existing pipelines can sometimes lead to inaccurate drawings. By tracking the tethered robotics tool above the ground using a manned sensor, Irving and its partnering agency were able to map out the relocated portions of the pipeline. This provides valuable information for future maintenance, assessment and renewal programs.

Through close collaboration, these two service providers were able to effectively manage a shared asset with the goal of preventing disruptive and expensive pipe failures. The information gained from the structural assessment will allow for the implementation of a cost-effective long-term pipeline management plan and effectively defer the replacement of the pipeline for the foreseeable future.

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