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Water Authority commissions longest AFO cable in Canada

Staff members behind an open pipe

When you’re a regional water authority with a sound way to identify problems with your aging water pipeline before the problems get bigger, it’s cause for a celebration, highlighted with speeches, live demonstrations and cake included in the ceremony.

In late November 2016, a delegation of government officials, special guests and educators gathered in London, Ontario Canada  to celebrate the successful funding, installation and commissioning of a 60 km (37 miles) Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) system installed on the Lake Huron Water System’s water transmission pipeline.

Map with pipeline location

Pipeline draws water from near Grand Bend to terminal reservoir north of London

The pipeline, which supplies drinking water to more than 500,000 people in southwestern Ontario, draws water from the Lake Huron water treatment plant near Grand Bend to the terminal reservoir just north of London. Constructed of 1200mm (48-inch) prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP), the Lake Huron-to-London pipeline has ruptured four times, most recently in 2012.

To mitigate the chance of a future catastrophic failure on such a critical line, the water authority for the Lake Huron Primary Water Supply System collaborated with Pure Technologies (Pure) to install an acoustic-based monitoring system, designed to ensure the success of the Region’s long-term comprehensive pipeline management program.

The $7.5 million upgrade to the Lake Huron-to London water line is part of $179.1 million in water safety infrastructure investments across Southwestern Ontario.

SoundPrint® AFO Fiber Optic wire

SoundPrint Acoustic Fiber Optic technology tracks and records pipeline deterioration

Pure’s SoundPrint Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) monitoring technology is an industry-leading system that that listens, identifies and locates pipeline deterioration in real time. Once installed on a pipeline, the SoundPrint AFO system remotely detects the acoustic signature of wire breaks or “pings” in prestressed concrete cylinder pipe, and records their specific pipe location. If break activity increases, utility staff are alerted and can intervene on the deteriorating pipe in advance of failure.

Under the new system, “We will get an email to say a section of pipe has a break, and they even give us the map location of where it happens,”

John Walker

Operations Manager, Lake Huron and Elgin Area Primary Water Supply

The AFO system remotely detects the acoustic signature of breaks in the pipeline structural reinforcement and records the specific pipe location of the deterioration, alerting operating staff who can intervene in advance of a catastrophic failure of this regionally significant water transmission pipeline.

“A snapping wire or two won’t sound an alarm bell,” says Heather Edwards, project manager at Pure. “But when our monitoring team listens and identifies a large number of pings from wires breaking in a concentrated location, that’s when we focus attention on the acoustic anomalies to determine whether remedial action needs to take place.”

By managing their pipelines with innovative technologies, utilities can save millions of dollars

The project was special for Pure as it showcased the innovative SountPrint AFO technology upon which the company was founded more than 20 years ago.

“We love partnering with forward-thinking utilities like London Region to save money by using innovative technologies like the AFO system,” said Mike Wrigglesworth, senior vice-president of Pure Technologies, who spoke at the ceremony. “Instead of budgeting for an expensive replacement program or dealing with disruptive bursts, London Region has saved millions of dollars by actually managing their pipeline.”

Pure surpasses 700 miles (1,100 km) AFO monitoring milestone

Globally, Pure has surpassed 700 miles (1,100 km) of active AFO monitoring. Currently within North America and China, Pure monitors 56 mains from a combined total of 17 clients, including London Region. Pure’s active AFO system has recorded more than 43,600 wire breaks from its managed roster of pipelines located in North America and China alone.

With the installation of AFO technology in place, the London Region utility ensures active management of their most valuable buried assets, for the life of the asset.

That’s a comforting thought, well worth celebrating.