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Case Study

Mancomunidad Comarca de Pamplona (MCP), Spain

In March 2014, Pure Technologies completed a successful leak detection survey on behalf of Mancomunidad Comarca de Pamplona (MCP). The inspected pipeline is part of the MCP’s water supply network, was constructed 20 years ago, and traverses from Olaz – El Cano Pump Station to the Gorraiz Reservoir for 2.4 kilometers.

The main’s purpose is to keep water supply to the town of Egües, which features a hotel and golf course. The pipeline has an operating pressure of 12 bar and is pump operated with 50 litres per second during winter months and 100 litres per second during summer season because of increased demand. The inspection was performed in two runs to proactively address water loss on the transmission main.

Project Details

SmartBall® Leak and Gas Pocket Detection
March 2014
Pipe Material
Ductile Iron
Inspection Length
2.4 km (1.5 miles)
400mm (16-inch)
Transmission Type

Project Highlights

SmartBall® leak detection located 4 leaks in 1.49 miles (2.4 kms) of inspection

3 of 4 leaks have been verified and repaired by MCP

Leaks as small as 1 litre per minute identified by SmartBall technology

MCP is very dedicated to controlling water loss and completing regular leak detection; they have a permanent internal group with the unique mandate of finding leaks. Typically, they use an advanced SCADA system to identify an area with a leak and then experienced technicians use geophones to establish the exact location of the leak. Using this procedure, MCP has reached a Non-Revenue Water (NRW) level of roughly 10 percent of in their entire network. However, the Impulsión de Gorraiz had a known leak that could not be pinpointed precisely. MCP knew its elevation coordinates but couldn’t identify its exact location using traditional methods.

With a philosophy of continuous improvement, MCP used Pure’s services to perform a leak detection survey with SmartBall. To supplement its internal leak detection team and SCADA system, MCP wanted to test the validity of an inline leak detection tool and locate the known leak on this pipeline. MCP places equal importance on identifying large leaks and small leaks.

While large leaks leak at a much higher rate, identifying them only eliminates a leak at the tail end of its life. In terms of reducing NRW, locating small leaks may actually represent the best opportunity for long-term water loss reduction. Catching a leak while it is very small prevents the decades of sustained water loss that would occur as it grows into a large leak. While large leaks are important to locate, using technology that can find small leaks on large-diameter pipelines can prevent the development of large leaks and play a vital role in the safe management of a pipeline network.

MCP used SmartBall® leak detection for the inspections. The tool is a free-swimming leak detection platform that operates while the pipeline remains in service. It is capable of completing long inspections in a single deployment and is equipped with an acoustic sensor that identifies acoustic anomalies associated with leaks; the acoustic signature is then analyzed to determine if it is a leak, air pocket, or an external noise.

To track the tool as it traverses the pipeline, SmartBall receivers (SBR) are placed strategically throughout the planned inspection route. As the tool traverses, it makes a sound that is recorded by the receivers to determine its position on the pipeline; this system allows leak locations to be estimated typically within 1.5- meters (6-feet) of the actual leak location.

Due to a 12 bar pressure at the pump station, a new high pressure insertion cap was designed and fabricated to assist with insertion procedure together with a pulley system that allowed the SmartBall insertion claw to be pushed into the pipeline. In order to ensure the highest level of accuracy, additional SBR points were mounted to track the tool closely and a mobile SBR unit was also used. At the reservoir, a small-diameter net was used to retrieve the tool after the inspection was completed.

Upon completion of the inspection, data analysis revealed four acoustic anomalies resembling leaks despite MCP expecting only one leak along the main. Using updated client estimates and the SmartBall tool’s joint detection feature, Pure identified the exact location of three of the four leaks with an accuracy of less than 0.5 meters, including the known leak. The fourth leak verification has been deferred by MCP until a later date. The close location accuracy was confirmed after MCP excavated the leak locations for repair. In addition to the accuracy, the inspection was also successful in identifying small leaks. The leaks confirmed through excavation were as small as ~0.1 liters per minute.

Based on the inspection, MCP was very satisfied with the technology and information that will be used for future management of their network.