Sunday, January 10, 2010

Plugging those Leaks in Water Pipes

With an ever increasing demand for water around the world, a new Israeli invention may save up to 30 percent of the 88 billion liters of water lost to pinhole leaks in pipes all over the world, every day. So reports Israel 21C

The solution is designed to seal leaks fast, with little inconvenience to the customer.

Most kids know that some little pigs ate roast beef, some stayed home and some had none. Today, some new little pigs from Israel are going out to fix pipes - tackling a billion dollar problem in the world's water, gas and oil industry.

Curapipe, on Israel's southern coast in Ashkelon, has a new solution that can detect and repair a problem that hides below the radar of the water and gas industries. Tiny pinhole, almost undetectable leaks emit water, oil and natural gas, costing the taxpayer money and causing unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions to enter our atmosphere.

Water is energy, yet the background leakage in city water pipes is so extensive that the World Bank estimates that about 88 billion liters of water is lost through urban pipes every day - in both rich countries like America and poorer ones where every drop counts.

Rather than overhaul existing infrastructure to replace new pipes, water management bodies accept this as unavoidable loss, and deal with tiny cracks in the pipes by reducing water pressure. At some point, however, this approach won't work anymore, and expensive repairs will need to be done. Curapipe's cost-effective solution can seal leaks fast, with little inconvenience to the customer.

The company has developed a solution based on an existing method to clean water mains: Small spongy objects referred to as 'pigs.' Water maintenance teams suspend the water supply for a couple of hours while the 'pig' is pushed through the system using water pressure. As the pigs are propelled through the pipes they remove scale and other types of unwanted buildup. The pigs can do their work in pipes made of lead, cast iron and even concrete.

Piggybacking on the pigs

Curapipe has found a way to "piggyback" on this system. It has developed a device that employs two pigs with a sealant material held between them. Pushed through the water pipes in the normal way, when the pigs encounter a crack or a leak, a composite material is squirted out to fill it in. The material then hardens in place. Once the pipe has been flushed with water to clean it, it returns to normal usage.

Curapipe is based in one of the many incubator around the country, with funding from the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel, the company is looking for a $2 million investment to take their little pigs to market. The pigs will be ready for action in mid-2010 and by 2011 they should be on the market in the US and other countries.

Curapipe is now working with the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, Israel's major oil pipeline company, to test the pigs in both water pipes and oil pipes. The solution could also prevent devastating leaks and oil spills in nature.

A solution for oil leaks will have to wait awhile, because of the "crucial situation in the water industry," says the CEO, but thanks to Curapipe's pigs you can expect fewer neighborhood streets to be dug up in the meantime.

1 comment:

Roxanne Questi said...

Haifa needs this so badly! The hills are riddled with wet spots because the iron pipes have decayed. I see so many leaks within a few blocks of my house, I imagine the loss is enormous.