Robot-delivered pipe-strengthening technology to tackle aging water infrastructure

When urban water pipes leak, the traditional solution is to dig up the ground and replace the broken pipes.

Sault Ste. PUC Services Inc. of Marie, Ontario, uses technology to address the age old problem.

A new robot-assisted pipe reinforcement technology is used to reinforce and rehabilitate failed water pipes. It could add 50 years to the life of a pipe and save the community tens of millions of dollars.

The technology developed by the British company Resimac makes the pipe more resistant by inserting a polymer into the pipe as a lining.

“Traditional methods of replacing this infrastructure can be very expensive, time-consuming and disruptive for the affected neighborhoods,” said Robert Brewer, President and CEO of PUC Services. “That is why we were curious about innovations and technological advances and discovered this exciting and innovative solution during our research.”

The technology coats the inside of the pipe with a spray-in-place polymer (SIPP) liner known as Resiline 320 so that it has a clean surface.

“Recently,” says Brewer, “we’ve moved on to reinforce the pipe in the ground by adding a polymer lining to the inside. This process coats the pipe so we get a very clean surface, improve water quality and flow, and give the pipe structural integrity. “

SIPP is a growing technology that offers a new way to repair corroded, leaky, or damaged piping. A robot makes its way through a defective pipe and injects a new line over the entire length.

The head of the device rotates as it sprays the material onto the original pipe surface. When the new inner pipe dries and hardens in the pipe, it forms a new pipe.

The process will allow the PUC to rehabilitate aging water pipes without the time, cost, and inconvenience for the customer to completely dig up the road, Brewer says.

“With SIPP we can extend the service life of the pipe by up to 50 years. It also allows us to repair a water pipe in the same day. Up until now it could take up to several months to replace the water pipes with traditional open-cast mining methods. This process enables us to achieve the same results, namely the safe extension of the service life of the water pipe in a significantly shorter time frame and the reduction of the impact on our customers. “

At work, the water is turned off and a cleaner is run through the water pipe to remove loose metals. The polymer is then passed through the pipe and the water is turned on that same evening.

“This project will save PUC Services tens of millions of dollars over the next two decades as we meet our own infrastructure needs,” says Brewer. “As a community organization, our goal is to find innovative ways to do everything we can to minimize costs for our water customers.”

The PUC recently tested it on 240 meters of pipe in the city and was impressed with the result. The work was completed in three days at a lower cost than comparable methods and disruption to customers was reduced.

“The test was successful in that it confirmed our estimated schedules and procedures and visibly confirmed the expected lining quality,” says Brewer.

PUC Services is currently awaiting final lined pipe test results from the University of Waterloo’s Center for Advanced Trenchless Technologies to quantify the structural integrity benefit. The PUC intends to set up a subsidiary to deliver new pipe reinforcement technology across the province as other municipalities face the same situation and need to replace water pipes.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from water system owners and operators across the province,” says Brewer.

PUC is currently developing agreements with Resimac and its Canadian distributor, Canadian Induracoat Corp. from Victoria, BC. The utility is expecting some smaller pilot projects this summer.

In the years to come, the PUC hopes to help other municipal water system owners solve some of their water pipeline challenges with SIPP.

“We know from multiple industry reports and consultations with our colleagues across Ontario that aging water infrastructure is a major problem across the province and across North America,” says Brewer.

The polymers used in the liner are safe and approved by Public Health and the Ministry of the Environment and Conservation Parks.

“The water treatment and drinking industries are very regulated and these products are rigorously tested,” notes Brewer. “We are using polymers in our systems as new water pipes. Safe polymers are used extensively throughout the drinking water industry. This is just another example of a safe one. “

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