Medium Resolution Technology For Assessing Metallic Pipe

Metallic pipes have a long history in distribution systems throughout North America, with cast iron and carbon steel making their debut in the early 1800s. In many states, pipelines deploying the early metal are still in service, including the cast iron water main buried in 1831 beneath what is now Greenwich Village.

Risk prioritization as a starting point

Before undertaking any metallic pipe inspection, a utility should first complete a risk prioritization of all their buried assets, factoring in a variety of consequence of failure (COF) and likelihood of failure (LOF) variables to determine the highest/lowest risk pipelines. A distribution pipe buried in a cornfield probably has a lower risk profile than a water main buried under a children’s hospital.

This first step in risk analysis is critical, and can help determine a prioritized strategy. The higher the risk, the more an operator requires reliable information for an action plan to replace, rehabilitate or inspect the pipes further to gather more precise data.

Using asset risk to guide the management strategies, an operator can feel confident about implementing the right approach, at the right time, with the lowest financial impact. Overall, this strategy ensures long-term service, reliability and safe operation.

Match the technology and inspection method with the risk

This initial process also allows operators to choose the most appropriate inspection method based on different pipe material and operational requirements, including lack of redundancy.

If the analysis ranks the mains as medium to high-risk pipes, it makes sense to utilize medium to high-resolution inspection technologies. High risk pipes are probably more expensive and more difficult to replace, and probably affect more people if taken out of service.


Medium Resolution Technology

Pipeline Inspection and Condition Assessment Services


PureEM technology represents a form of non-destructive testing that provides a snapshot of the pipeline`s condition by inducing electric currents/magnetic fields within the pipe to measure an electromagnetic response. By creating these fields, PureEM data identifies specific areas of the pipe wall with large EM anomalies. In the case of metallic pipes, these anomalies typically represent broad areas of corrosion.

Typically, metallic pipes are first assessed with a prescreening tool – including inline leak detection and pipe wall assessment – followed by PureEM testing, using one of three platform tools. This multi-tool approach provides the operator with a variety of condition information that can help inform renewal decisions.

With PureEM manned inspection tools, field technicians have the option enter the pipeline with a PureEM inspection tool (e.g. push cart, bicycle) and traverse the length of the pipeline, inspecting for damage. The tool can be used in dewatered water and wastewater pipelines.

Free-Swimming Pipeline Inspection


When configured with PureEM, the free-swimming PipeDiver tool is an effective medium resolution tool to assess areas of damage along a pipeline that is live or can’t be taken out of service due to a lack of redundancy or operational constraints. It is ideal for metallic pipes with a higher consequence of failure, since the tool operates while the pipeline remains in service.

PureRobotics™ – Pipeline Inspection


Pure`s long range, multi-sensor robotic inspection vehicles are capable of conducting PureEM inspections on steel and ductile iron pipes. The robotic vehicle can be used in depressurized and partially dewatered and wastewater pipelines.

No one solution for every pipeline

Every pipeline has a unique set of conditions, which is why there is no one silver bullet that works across the board.

However, if a utility has a strong understanding of the risk and operational conditions of different areas in their system, an appropriate and defensible inspection plan can be developed. This process allows operators to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for managing their critical buried assets.