Any entity in charge of managing raw water supply networks is aware of and has to deal with issues related to the detection and location of leaks and anomalies in large size pipes.
The most widely used technique to detect leaks in water networks is acoustic detection from the surface. This method is very advanced to effectively detect, locate and digitally report leaks and anomalies in distribution networks and smaller diameter pipes. The problem comes in primary feeders or large diameter water mains where several factors hinder the detection of leaks and anomalies from the outside. The main obstacles found are: the depth at which the pipe is buried, the material it is made of, its large diameter, or not knowing exactly the layout of the pipeline, which impedes monitoring it from the outside.
As a company specialised in leaks, in 2016 AGANOVA faced the challenge of developing a system that could provide a solution to this problem, and this way, support the water sector with a solution that can reduce water losses in large diameter pipeline networks: the Nautilus System.
With the Nautilus System, Aganova wants to make available in the market an in-line tool for pipeline inspection with a recurring use model that contributes substantially to reducing non-revenue water in the world.
What is it?
Nautilus is a sphere that is introduced in the pipeline and moves freely driven by water flow. As it travels, this device collects acoustic information, and when it is removed all the data are filtered and analysed with a specific software. As a result, the system is able to offer a complete assessment that includes any existing leaks, air pockets and anomalies in the stretch inspected, and their exact location.
AGANOVA faced the challenge of developing a system that could provide a solution to this problem, and this way, support the water sector with a solution that can reduce water losses in large diameter pipeline networks: the Nautilus System
The system comprises all the elements necessary to insert and extract the sphere without interrupting the service, making use of existing network elements. In addition, to ensure the maximum precision of results, the working methodology includes synchronisation points to locate the leaks with the least margin of error.
- Insertion: The sphere is introduced in the pipeline with an insertion system and a pressure chamber. This process is done through an operating gate valve.
- Synchronisation and detecting passage: The synchronisers and passage detectors are located along the pipeline at any accessible point (a valve, drain, irrigation point, etc.). The synchronisers are used to ensure the maximum precision when locating leaks, air pockets and anomalies. Passage detectors are used to confirm the sphere has passed by a certain point).
- Extraction: The sphere is captured and extracted at the end of the pipeline with a net, which is inserted in the pipeline through a gate valve. The extraction system is expandable and comprises exchangeable strips which can be adapted to the diameter of the pipe. The system is equipped with a camera that ensures the device is correctly positioned.
- Results: The information collected by the sphere as it travels is analysed after the inspection, considering all the parameters and data collected, to ensure the exact location of any anomalies is pinpointed.
The synchronisers are used to ensure maximum precision when locating leaks, air pockets and anomalies. These synchronisers emit a signal that is registered by Nautilus. On one hand, Nautilus detects the noise coming from the leak, air pocket, or anomaly, and, on the other hand, the signal emitted by the synchroniser. As a result, Nautilus can locate the leak with great precision, reducing the possibilities of human error to a minimum. The results of the inspection and the issues detected are described in the final report, which identifies any leaks, air pockets, air bubbles and unidentified anomalies.
The final report includes information on the frequency, the exact location, the type of issue, colorimetry, audio file with the sounds of the observations detected, as well as other observations and recommendations.
The NEMO platform has been developed by Aganova to cover several important aspects of leak detection projects with Nautilus. Primarily, it allows managing the campaigns from a digital environment. This working environment enables overall technical management of the project through all phases:
- PLANNING: data collection prior to the inspection and the set-up of the project: KMZ of the pipeline, information about water velocity, pipe diameter, pressure, key points to be used (for insertion, synchronisers, passage detectors, extraction), with images of all the points listed and their particularities.
- FIELD INSPECTION: While the Nautilus sphere is travelling through the pipeline, it is possible to adapt the information in NEMO if changes are made during the field inspection (changes in the valves used, information about passage detectors, additional information provided by the client, etc.)
- RESULTS: the audio files are uploaded to the platform which filters the points of interest (leaks, anomalies, air pockets, etc.) and places the anomalies in the KMZ.
With the Nautilus System, Aganova wants to make available in the market an in-line tool for pipeline inspection with a recurring use model that contributes substantially to reducing non-revenue water in the world
With Nemo the client has direct access to global information on the inspections done with Nautilus during the campaign to detect leaks in its network: the total number of inspections carried out, the total number of kilometres checked, and any leaks, anomalies and air pockets found.
The main advantages Nautilus offers for the systematic assessment of large diameter networks are:
- The methods to insert and extract the sphere are designed to work while the pipe is pressurised, with a minimum or no impact on the water supply service.
- It can check stretches of up to 35 kilometres in length with just a single insertion.
- The pipe’s material does not affect its ability to detect even the smallest of leaks.
- Thanks to its neutral buoyancy it can be used to check pipelines buried at different depths and travel through any type of line: it can go vertically, cross butterfly valves and go through elbows with no impact on operations or on results.
- Pipelines can be inspected even if the speed of the water is very low.
- Maximum precision: Nautilus can detect leaks starting from 0,005 litres per second.
- The preparation, implementation and results are shared with the client through the Nemo Platform, a work environment that enables constant digitisation of information and transferring it to the client's own systems.
Experience and evolution of the Nautilus System
Since it was launched to the market until today, Nautilus has travelled through more than 1,500 kilometres of pipelines across the world. During this time, Aganova has devoted most of its efforts to, on one hand, increase the system's usability in order to expand the pressure and speed ranges as well as the type of layouts in which it can operate. On the other hand, constant improvement of insertion and extraction systems allow more autonomy during field operations. This point is essential to enable the expansion strategy, so that partners and collaborators are able to operate the system after some brief training, thus minimising international travel. Finally, another challenge addressed is the digital transformation of processes and results of the Nautilus methodology through the Nemo platform. The purpose of the platform, designed and developed by Aganova, is to use the information obtained, ensure its continuity and offer the client information about the evolution of the network.
With Nemo the client has direct access to global information on the inspections done with Nautilus during the campaign to detect leaks in its network
Thanks to Nautilus, Aganova, a company that was born to offer services at the national level, has become a company with a technological base now geared mainly to the international market. Currently, a network of 27 international partners allows us to provide commercial and technical services in more than 60 countries in the five continents.
At the moment, Aganova's main projects are in the Middle East, Asia and the United States. Logically, Nautilus is widely used in Spain as it is the country the technology originates from.
Preventive asset management
One of the key values of Aganova is the company's commitment to raise awareness about the importance of prevention in asset management. Difficult access to information for large diameter networks has meant that, for any water company, undertaking assessments and repairs has always entailed a costly and technically complex project. However, Nautilus offers an effective solution to obtain crucial information about the condition of water mains, and, therefore, to carry out efficient network maintenance, as it allows analysing and prioritising repairs and replacements based on the actual condition of the pipelines.