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Zooming in on leaky pipes saves a flood of problems

Mining & Resources

A PIPELINE assessment tool capable of pinpointing leaks and imperfections in water networks is helping to locate weak spots before they become costly pipe bursts.

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P-CAT is a condition assessment technology that allows pipeline owners and operators to accurately identify defects and develop cost effective solutions.

It was developed by researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and commercialised by water management company Detection Services.

P-CAT co-developer Martin Lambert said the technology was able to detect leaks, pipeline weak spots and blockages.

“What we are doing is using little pressure waves in a pipe and essentially we look at the reflection,” he said.

“The wave travels down the pipe and when it hits a change in the pipe – a leak, a change in the wall thickness or a deteriorated section of the wall – it sends a reflection back to the sensors and you can tell where the defect is.

“It works a bit like a radar system at an airport where a radar pulse hits a plane and then comes back with a reflection. Then it’s a matter of determining or understanding what you are getting back.”

The technology creates a controlled water hammer event where a small pressure transient is directed into the pipeline and is able to run for up to 2km.

Sensor fittings are placed along the pipeline about every kilometre, which records the reflection of the wave as it passes each fitting.

The wave speed slows down when sections of the pipeline are corroded or the wall thickness is reduced – it is able to determine and analyse the change in thickness down to about 0.2mm.

P-CAT breaks up the data collection phase into multiple short stages to retrieve highly accurate information and collates a total of about 3-5km of data per day.

The results are then analysed and the identity of faulty sections of pipeline are determined.

Business Development Manager Kevin Jamie said P-CAT could save clients millions in replacement costs.

“The primary benefit of P-CAT is determining pipe wall thickness,” he said.

“It is a very common practice worldwide for water utilities that pipes have an internal cement lining – an erosion prevention lining – we will determine if there are any air or gas pockets in the internal lining.

“That’s important because an air pocket is not only a partial blockage or restriction, but you will find air or gas pockets will increase the corrosion rates.

“We could save clients replacing the whole pipeline, when they actually only need to replace a small section of it.”

Detection services have successfully tested more than 600km of pipeline around Australia and New Zealand using P-CAT.

Jamie said the company was also in talks to export the technology to the United States, China, India, Singapore and Europe in 2017.

Last month Detection Services was awarded the TRILITY Planning & Delivery Award for its pipeline condition assessment technology at the 2016 Smart Water Awards in South Australia’s capital Adelaide.

South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders UniversityUniversity of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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