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Field Demonstration of Innovative Condition Assessment Technologies for Water Mains: Leak Detection and Location (184 pp, 6.16 MB) (March 2012)

Three leak detection/location technologies were demonstrated on a 76-year-old, 2,057-ft-long portion of a cement-lined, 24-in. cast iron water main in Louisville, KY. This activity was part of a series of field demonstrations of innovative leak detection/location and condition assessment technologies sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The main goal of the demonstrations was to acquire a snapshot of the current performance capability and cost of these innovative technologies under real-world pipeline conditions so that technology developers, technology vendors, research-support organizations, and the user community can make more informed decisions about the strengths, weaknesses, and need for further advancement of these technologies.

Leak detection was one part of a comprehensive water pipeline condition assessment demonstration where six inspection companies operated 12 technologies that were at various stages of development and provided different types and levels of leak and/or structural condition data. Technologies were included for wall-thickness screening (i.e., average wall loss over many tens of feet), for detailed mapping of wall thickness, and for leak detection. Both in-line and external inspection technologies were demonstrated. The inspection technologies used visual, mechanical, acoustic, ultrasonic, and electromagnetic methods for acquiring leak and pipe condition data. The inspection results for each technology were compared to the leak rates or dimensions of introduced and naturally occurring anomalies, as well as their location along the pipeline.

This report presents the results from three leak detection technologies: Pressure Pipe Inspection Company’s (PPIC’s) Sahara®, Pure’s SmartBall™, and Echologics’ LeakfinderRT. Simulated leaks using calibrated orifices in combination with natural leaks that already existed in the test pipe were used to evaluate the performance of each leak detection system. The natural leaks were used to assess detection and location capabilities, while the calibrated orifices were used to evaluate the leak rate assessment capabilities for each technology. The combination of natural leaks and simulated leaks provided an assessment of the capability of each leak detection system to detect, locate, and prioritize leak rates. Each company provided a written report on the location and general size of natural leaks detected in the test pipe, as well as leak rate estimates for the simulated leaks. Additional results from the acoustic pipe wall assessment, internal inspection and external inspection technologies will also be made available in a companion report.

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