Sweetwater Authority Inspect Steel Pipeline Leaks Gas Pockets

In order to proactively address water loss on its water transmission mains, Sweetwater Authority completed a SmartBall® leak detection survey in January 2013 on over 5 miles of a 36-inch steel water transmission main to locate leaks and gas pockets. The tool located two acoustic anomalies indicating small and medium sized leaks on the pipeline. No pockets of trapped gas were located.

The two locations were reviewed by Sweetwater Authority staff and it was determined that one of the leaks was located at an existing valve to an adjacent pipeline. This valve is used for isolation between the two pipelines so there was no water coming from the pipe into the surrounding environment. However, the other leak, which was the small leak, was validated through excavation by Sweetwater. It was quickly repaired and this critical pipeline was placed back into service.

The SmartBall platform is a non-destructive, free-swimming tool that measures the acoustic activity associated with leaks and gas pockets in pressurized pipelines. When acoustic anomalies are present, the data is analyzed to determine if it is a leak, gas pocket, or just an external sound. The tool is tracked using receivers that are mounted along the pipeline at strategic locations; Sweetwater and Pure tracked the tool successfully at all six receivers during this inspection.

Insertion Site
Extraction Site

Regular leak detection surveys can help utilities identify leaks that may not be visible at the surface. By repairing leaks utilities can reduce their Non-Revenue Water and prevent pipeline failures, as leaks are often a preliminary indication that a pipeline will eventually fail.

Location and elimination of gas pockets is also beneficial as it reduces pressure on pumps that are attempting to pump water past a gas pocket. As these pockets grow in size, they can significantly reduce the flow and capacity in a pipeline if they are not released.

In addition to reducing water loss in the pipeline, the leak detection survey will provide valuable condition data that could be used in future condition assessment projects.


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