Currently, the majority of repairs to pipelines require long water shutdowns, overnight curing, and huge trenches to be dug in the road. Costs can be enormous, representing a sizeable part of the £3BN which roadworks cost the UK every year.

Now, new British-developed technology has been launched by Pipeline Polymers Ltd which can reline pipes in a total of just a few hours, with no digging up of any pipes, and with no side effect worse than a couple of small holes with an average 150 metres between them.

Until very recently there have been three traditional ways to solve water pipe problems, none of them totally satisfactory.

‘Pipe bursting’ splits cast iron pipes, the broken bits of which are left in the ground with completely new pipes inserted in their place. This requires the roads concerned to be dug up, severely disrupting traffic and local services.

Environmental impacts

When replacement plastic pipes are connected, one hole must be dug for every household or business to re-establish the ‘service connection’ – disruption in a major city street is enormous. The method has been known to cause gas leaks and electricity problems. Environmentally, the process is not acceptable, but is generally used as an ‘easy fix’.

Another method is ‘slip lining’, where new plastic pipes are inserted into the old ones. This doesn’t require the destruction of pipes, but still requires that every individual service connection be reconnected.

In ‘thin wall lining’, pipes considered structurally sound have thin plastic pipes inserted into them. Again, every individual service connection must be reconnected to the new plastic pipe.

Pipeline Polymers has developed a polymeric material – Copon Hycote 169 – for ‘trenchless technology’ or ‘rapid relining’. A lining machine automatically moves through an existing pipe and sprays the inside with the new material so making the pipe stronger and clean.

Hycote 169 dries in just a few minutes, unlike the 16-hour drying time of traditional cement polymers, and pipes sprayed with it can be back in service in 30 minutes, cutting service shutdowns to an absolute minimum.

Fast track repairs

Current cement and epoxy linings can leave homes without water for a whole day/night or longer – they also leave trenches in the road for longer than a day. On the other hand, repairs with the new technology can begin after the morning rush hour and be finished well before people leave work in the evening.

In addition, whereas lining with epoxy resin is limited to pipes up to 24-inch dia, the new material can handle up to 33-inch dia.

Utilities positive

As contractors line up for accreditation to use the new technology, UK utilities such as Yorkshire Water, Severn Trent, Thames and South West Water have all used it successfully. Final approval of the product is imminent from the UK’s Drinking Water Inspectorate and is awaiting approval in the USA.

Mr Tony Poole, managing director of Pipeline Polymers said, ‘The reaction from the water utilities has been overwhelmingly positive since the new polymer is giving them a one-day return-to-service. This enables them to improve productivity, cut costs and minimises disturbance to customers.’

The new technology has global implications, especially in developing countries where decaying pipe systems, leakage and low water quality are particularly serious.

Pipeline Polymers is currently developing a new ‘structural grade’ of Copon Hycote 169. This thicker lining material will be able to substantially strengthen weaker pipes, cover up cracks and eliminate leakage altogether, significantly cutting the cost of pipeline rehabilitation.

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