Utilities around the world are under pressure to protect the environment, while also reducing costs. A new invention, Clean Pig, promises to help them do both.
In a move that could save water utilities millions of pounds, Clean Pig is a robot that can be used to clean and test water pipelines without the need to use large amounts of water or chlorine.
The brainchild of Innovolo Technical Director, Arthur Pallister, Clean Pig has been designed specifically with water pipelines in mind. It works by using a combination of high pressure and suction to remove debris from the pipeline, as well as testing for leaks.
Water pipelines typically have to be cleaned and tested every five to seven years, a process that traditionally requires the use of large amounts of water and chlorine.
However, Clean Pig uses no wasted water or chlorine, meaning that it is not only more environmentally friendly but also more cost-effective.
Pallister says that the development of Clean Pig is a response to the increasing pressure on utilities to reduce their environmental impact.
"We are seeing a real shift in attitude from water utilities towards environmental issues," he says. "They are under pressure from regulators to reduce the amount of water they use, as well as the amount of chlorine they discharge into the environment."
Anglian Water, approached Innovolo in September 2018 with a Call for Innovation to save water and reduce environmental impact in a particular infrastructure project that will see approximately 545km of pipeline installed at commissioned/ Once in operation this pipeline will form part of a national critical infrastructure smart network across the region, and improve network performance by means of a digital twin. This digital twin is a digital replica of the network which helps Anglian Water test, plan, anticipate and resolve real-life issues in a virtual environment.
Water is a limited resource and in the case of such a long pipeline, traditional testing and commissioning would require a vast quantity of water. Assuming an average diameter of 800mm, around 2.7 billion litres of water would be needed using the conventional approach with each flush. There would be between three-five flushes.
The discharge of this water and its environmental impact must be managed appropriately. Newly laid pipelines are pressure tested to ensure integrity, then swabbed and disinfected to ensure they are clean, and free from organics, solids, or contaminants.
Existing methods of installing and commissioning potable water supply pipelines mean excessive water use, water waste, heavy chemical use and excessive disposal costs and danger to the environment. The Clean Pig project seeks to establish and verify alternative testing and commissioning methods with a smaller water footprint.
Existing methods mean excessive water use, water waste, heavy chemical use and excessive disposal costs and danger to the environment. Clean Pig means 100% elimination of water waste, 100% elimination of expensive site water retention lagoon building for chemical disposal and 100% elimination of heavy chlorine swabbing, flushing and disposal, thereby 100% benefit to the environment with linear real-time non-chemical cleaning and pressure testing with energy and time savings.
This combination of technologies uses existing known processes to achieve a massive reduction in environmental impact when laying new pipelines. Traditionally, water utility companies need to lay complete sections of the project or all of it before testing and handover.
- Pressure testing (fill the pipe with water and increase pressure to test, and dispose of water)
- Swabbing (force a chlorinated swab through using water, dispose of water, swab and chlorine)
- Disinfecting (heavy concentrate chlorine by filling with water and disposal)
Clean Pig combines all three tasks in a robotic machine (patent applied for) so that when the first pipe section is laid, Clean Pig is inserted and advances undertaking all three tasks. In short, as Clean Pig moves forward it automatically cleans the pipe, stops at joints, tests the pressure, and lastly clinically sterilises ready for public use. Clean Pig uses only one small recycled tank of water for cleaning, testing, and sterilising the whole pipeline.
Without Clean Pig, utilities need to pressure test, swab and chlorinate the whole pipeline by filling it with water several times.
In just one client’s current £800m 450km new water pipeline project, Clean Pig is estimated to save circa £40m. This saving in time and money is due to the fact that currently 1.5 billion litres of water is used for each pressure test or clean flush (usually 3 or 4 flushes required), large amounts of concentrated chlorine are used which must be disposed of by building chlorine disposal lagoons costing £ millions, in order to avoid harming the environment. Clean Pig uses no wasted water or chlorine.
The current way of pressure testing, swabbing and chlorinating new water pipelines are hugely wasteful of water and chlorine. Clean Pig is a game-changer as it enables these tasks to be carried out using recycled water and without the need for chlorine. This has massive benefits for the environment as well as saving time and money.
If you are interested in learning more about Clean Pig or investing in the project, please get in touch with the inventor, Arthur Pallister.