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Online Exclusive: Jeremy Llewellyn, Blue Gold Tech

What are the latest products available in the leak detection market?

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Jeremy Llewellyn, CEO of Dubai-based Blue Gold Technology FZC, offers his thoughts on the latest products available in the local leak detection market.

What have been the recent trends in (water) pipeline leak detection?
There are three primary systems that have been used and developed by manufacturers of leak detection systems for the past 15 years:

  • Listening Sticks/Ground Microphones
  • Digital Correlators
  • Fixed network leak sensors

Each of these categories of leak detection have improved significantly to the point where the physics of the systems have reached boundaries of sensitivity and digital filtering of noise profiles. Improvements now tend to focus on size and software/ user interface to maintain competitive advantages and refresh the product lines.

Fixed network sensors such as the Gutermann Zonescan loggers have moved one step further to the advanced stage of unmanned leak detection, utilising radio, GSM and Wi-Fi for remote monitoring of leaks via web access. Using this type of system the utility can view all leaks that have appeared on its network and even pinpoint the leak remotely using sound correlation. This is the top of the range system in terms of leak monitoring. It is deployed by the utilities that have both the budget and the long-term strategy for leakage reduction.

Where, in your experience, are leaks most likely to occur?
The basic answer is that they are more prevalent in older pipes (typically, above five years), although it has been known for leaks to appear within one hour of pipes being commissioned. This is when poor (or sub-standard) installation and commissioning techniques have been applied, not only with the pipes themselves, but also for valves, fittings and connections.

Areas of excessive pressure, frequent changes in pressure (surge or hammer effect), ground movement (heavy traffic areas), construction areas, points of illegal access connections (often very poorly connected) and areas of aggressive or corrosive soil conditions can all affect likelihood of leakage in an area.

The fact that there are so many reasons a leak can occur makes the process of identifying and repairing leakage a very difficult process for the water utility.

What are the challenges associated with preventing leaks?
The main challenge facing companies is first establishing the current rate of leakage in order to formulate an appropriate and effective leakage reduction programme.

The principle of tackling ‘Non Revenue Water’ (NRW) has evolved significantly over the past few years with detailed studies and methodologies now available for correctly determining the split of non revenue water between the different constituents, one of which being leakage. Basically the difference between production and revenue is the lost water in the system. Once a professional analysis or Water Balance calculation has been undertaken the level of leakage, cost and appropriate economic action can be formulated.

This study should be undertaken periodically to assess the effectiveness of leak reduction programmes and adjust the strategy accordingly.

What general advice could you give to regional companies to manage this key issue?
Firstly is to know what you are actually dealing with. Leakage is only one element of NRW and is sometimes mistaken for the whole reason for loss of revenue.

Advances in NRW analysis and auditing have provided tools to better determine the difference between actual and apparent water loss in a network. This is the first stage of tackling leakage in any utility.

Secondly, it must be understood that 90% of leaks do not surface immediately so having the correct equipment is also essential for an effective leakage reduction programme. Without this, the re-occurrence rate within a system could negate the efforts of the repair programme.

What are the latest technologies available to Middle Eastern utilities?
I’m working with a number of innovative new products on the market place at present. The Zonescan Alpha from Gutermann is a fully remote leak pinpointing system that once deployed will find leaks as soon as they appear. This has already been trialled and installed in the UAE, China and France.

Also flowmeters such as the ‘Incertameter’ can be used to determine night line useage levels. This provides a quick and effective system for identifying leakage occurrence within a network. Pinpointing the leak would then require a more sophisticated acoustic leak detector such as the Aquascan610.

District metered areas (DMAs) are a strategy used extensively in the UK and Europe to split a water network down into more manageable areas where inputs and outputs can be balanced and the level of leakage more accurately determined area by area. This will allow the water utility to direct its resources to the areas of concern.

Pressure management is also an effective tool in the reduction of water loss due to leaks in a system. This does not identify or fix the problem but will provide water loss savings by reducing the pressure in the system.

Who are your major clients?
I work with many of the regions utilities either directly or through contractors. The level of expertise and knowledge in the Middle East has improved dramatically to the extent that many utilities are now in advanced stages of their water leakage (or NRW) programmes.

Are there any particular products you think would be of interest to regional firms?
The most interesting development is the Gutermann Zonescan Alpha system that actually correlates leakages remotely and sends back to a dedicated website for action by the leakage teams. This is really for the utility that now requires an active leak notification system to get to the next level of leakage control.
 

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