Australian Researchers Get Proactive On Water Network Infrastructure

We often read or hear in the media about rural and city structures such as bridges and overpasses and infrastructures like sewer systems and gas and water delivery networks getting old and starting to cause potentially disastrous problems. In some cases, it actually takes a catastrophe like a natural gas explosion or a flood from a burst pipe before officials decide it’s time to repair and finally upgrade the system. Sometimes it takes a major event, but either way the decision to address aging and crumbling systems more often than not comes after the damages.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia, with the aid of funding from Detection Services water-management company, are focusing on water pipelines. They have developed a pipeline-assessment tool they claim can detect leaks, imperfections, and weak spots in water-network pipes. Obviously, the ability to proactively detect flaws and weak spots will enable early correction before pipes burst. Equally obvious is the elimination of property damage costs, injuries, lawsuits, and overtime costs when the damages far exceed the estimates.

The researchers have created what they call P-CAT, essentially a condition-assessment technology that allows pipeline owners to identify defects and develop cost-effective solutions before problems occur. Martin Lambert, a co-developer of the technology, claims P-CAT relies on looking at reflections from small pressure waves in a pipe. Waves of water flow through the pipe and when they traverse a change in the pipe, such as a leak spot, deterioration, or a change in wall thickness, etc., reflections travel back to an array of sensors. From there, it can be determined where the leak or defect is.

More precisely put, P-CAT sends a small pressure transient into the pipeline that can run up to 2 km. Sensors residing along the pipeline at intervals of approximately 1 km detect the reflection of the waves as water passes by. If water flow slows down, it could be indicative of a corroded pipeline or reduced pipe-wall thickness. According to the researchers, P-CAT is able to detect and analyze a change in thickness down to approximately 0.2 mm.

It then divides the data collection phase into several short stages for data retrieval and collation. The system can retrieve and collate 3- to 5-km worth of data per day. Finally, the data is analyzed and any faults are determined. Next, if necessary, call in the repair crew.

For a vote of confidence, 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.  To view a P-CAT demo, CLICK HERE.

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