Smart Leak Detection Pipes - 27657

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

This project will develop an easy to install leak detection system for existing and new water pipes. Based on self-contained
sensor nodes located on the outside of the pipe the system will detect changes in pressure and vibration to indicate the
formation of leaks and their location as they occur. The innovative features of the system include the fact that internal
conditions are monitored from the outside of the pipe using sensors not used before due to their need for a power source,
which now will be supplied by a novel radioisotopic battery lasting the lifetime of the pipes themselves. These features
together develop a low cost, easy to install system which will last the lifetime of the pipes. This will allow these sensors to
be installed along the lengths of pipes such that all water distribution pipes can be monitored in real time, eliminating
location errors & the current delay in identifying leaks due to the need for the leak flow to grow to a size where it can be
identified on a district flow meter.
OFWAT estimated water losses of 3281 Ml/day in the UK in 2010 through leaking pipes. It is estimated that 32 billion cubic
metres are lost every year worldwide (World Bank 2006). This water is lost from the 'blue water cycle'. Not all leaks are
visible and the non visible leaks are initially identified through monitoring flows into discrete areas or via slow and time
consuming surveys along the lengths of pipes. This means that leaks are not identified until they have grown to sufficient
size and this 'awareness time' can amount to several weeks or even months and lead to a large amount of water being lost
before then. Whilst this time can vary, it is generally seen as considerably longer than the time taken to pinpoint and repair
leaks. Eliminating the delay will substantially reduce the water lost - in this country alone by over 1000 Ml/d (~450 Ml/day
for Severn Trent Water, STW, alone, who own ~1/8th of the network). Thus, on a worldwide basis the approach has the
potential to save considerably more than the required 1000 Ml/d. Leakage can have dramatic effects on society. In many
developing countries it is frequently the principal cause of intermittant supplies or the inability to connect more people to the pipes water network. The water has been treated and pumped with substantial embedded energy; therefore reducing
leakage also reduces energy wastage.
Leakage control is a major activity for water utilities in both the UK, where it is a regulatory requirement, and throughout the
world. New methods of identifying leaks which reduce the time taken to identify and locate leaks are needed worldwide.
There is a particular need for systems to manage leakage on plastic pipes due to their poor response to current leakage
detection techniques. This collaborative project is led by Jo Parker of Watershed Associates, who has many years
experience in leakage control and who managed the Technology Strategy Board's VISTA project to successful completion
exemplified by the take up of the research outcomes in Scotland. It includes 2 UK water companies representing the end
user and together supplying 25% of the UK population; STW and United Utilities (UU). The University of Birmingham (UoB)
will lead the research development supported by an SME specialising in developing electronic systems for the
management of leakage, GCR Tech. It also includes a utility contractor, Morrison Utility Services, (MUS) which will develop
a fast, low cost installation technology. Thus, the consortium can develop the product and market it through the
professional networks specialising in leakage management in the UK and worldwide.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries from this research are diverse and include:
1. the commercial private sector (e.g. water companies, contractors)
2. regulators (e.g. Environment Agency, SEPA and Ofwat)
3. UK-based and international academics.
4. the general public who will benefit from a reduction in streetworks as leaks can be more accurately located and thus
repairs targeted.
5. the environment as less water is required to supply the demand
Ultimately, the goal of the sensor system to detect leaks earlier than is currently the case, will save water and hence will
benefit society both economically and environmentally. Overall, the aim is improved leak detection, with the impacts being,
inter alia, reduced leakage, water savings, reductions in abortive operational activity, improved asset management
procedures, improved deployment of resources. In addition, more precise location information on leaks can avoid
unnecessary disruptive holes in roads. Water companies, by implementing this system within their networks, will benefit
from improved information about their asset performance and help them manage their systems more efficiently, becoming
proactive in their operational management and saving time and resources. The technology company (GCR Tech) involved
with the project will ultimately have a product that they can market both in the UK and internationally, and hence this is
good for the nation's wealth creation. Morrison Utility Services will benefit from installing these sensors on the water
networks and they will have the initial market share as they will have developed the capability/methodology to install the
sensors, although other contractors employed by the water companies will ultimately also benefit from the research. The
contractors will further benefit in the longer term by knowing more precisely where leaks are in the future so that this can
save time and money fixing them.
The researchers working on the project will gain enormously by working on a multi-disciplinary project that has a clear,
practical application and requires active interaction with the partner companies on the project on a professional level. This
will undoubtedly make the researchers much more marketable and employable in the future. The academics will benefit by
being involved in such a prestigious, multi-disciplinary project which has the potential to make a real difference in the way
water pipelines are managed in the future. This will help to raise their profiles in the academic community and through the
industrial collaboration, connections will be developed which will be beneficial for future projects.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description ongoing
Field Trials have proven the concept of the FSR sensor with respect to detecting relative pressure changes.
The algorithm proved quite successful for the trial data, but needs to be used on a larger scale network with more FSRs to be proven. This needs industry investment and support.
Exploitation Route This is a TSB funded project and hence the route to market or exploitation is through the industrial partners.
Sectors Construction,Electronics,Environment

 
Description As this is a TSB funded project, the findings to date are confidential within the project team. The findings are used by the industrial lead to develop cheap sensors to locate water leaks in pipes and measure pressure transient leading to a reduction in water lost in the system. A paper has been published now (it was published by the last submission round, but embargoed for commercial reasons) so it was only made public in April 2018.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Construction,Environment,Other
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Pipe Equipment Specialists Ltd. 
Organisation Pipe Equipment Specialists Ltd
PI Contribution We tested the proposed clamp solutions on the test rig at the University of Birmingham and fed back any improvements.
Collaborator Contribution Pipe Equipment Specialists Ltd. took over from Morrisson Utility Solutions to provide advice on the installation of the Smart Pipes FRS sensors through keyhole operations by producing a clamp which could replace the Jubilee Clip used in the research project in order to avoid the need for access around the full circumference of the pipe.
Impact Clamp which is used for the installation of these sensors
Start Year 2016
 
Description TSB Collaboration - Bristol Water 
Organisation Bristol Water plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The university team together with its industrial partners is developing a sensor system that can detect leaks on water distribution pipes.
Collaborator Contribution Bristol water is providing access to test sites and DMAs to test the novel sensor system.
Impact due to confidentiality reasons, there are no outputs at this stage.
Start Year 2013
 
Description TSB Collaboration - MUS 
Organisation Morrison Utility Services
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The university team together with its industrial partners is developing a sensor system that can detect leaks on water distribution pipes.
Collaborator Contribution MUS is a contractor working for the water companies. MUS would be the contractor to install the monitoring system on the pipes. As part of the project they are developing a bespoke attachment system.
Impact due to confidentiality reasons, there are no public outputs at this stage.
Start Year 2013
 
Description TSB Collaboration - STW 
Organisation Severn Trent Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The university team together with its industrial partners is developing a sensor system that can detect leaks on water distribution pipes.
Collaborator Contribution Severn Trent Water is a key partner in the EPSRC/TSB funded project providing access to test sites and DMA.
Impact Any outputs are currently covered by the confidentiality agreement with the aim to commercialise the product by one of the industrial partners.
Start Year 2013
 
Description TSB collaboration - Syrinix 
Organisation Syrinix
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The university team together with its industrial partners is developing a sensor system that can detect leaks on water distribution pipes.
Collaborator Contribution Syrinix are in the business of developing leak detection sensors for water pipes. They currently have a device called TrunkFinder, but there is no sensor currently available that can be used cheaply and easily on distribution water pipes. As part of this project, Syrinix is keen to exploit the research findings.
Impact As part of a TSB project, a confidentiality agreement is in place to ensure the results can be commercially protected and exploited.
Start Year 2013
 
Description ITN Central News Interview on Water Leaks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The interview covered the development of a sinkhole as a result of a leaking pipe on ITV Central News on 11th April 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Keynote Lecture Tongji University China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote Talk given by Prof Chapman at the second International Workshop on Resilience of Urban Tunnels and Pipelines focussing on ensuring resilience of buried pipelines in urban areas. This was given in July 2017. This is resulted in another invite for a keynote presentation in 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Meeting with the UK Water Industry Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As a result of the research work, we were involved in discussion the UK Water Industry Research on their Zero Leaks by 2050 campaign resulting in further proposals to reduce the amount of water leaked from buried pipes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar Presentation at the College of Surveying, Tongji University, Shanghai, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A research presentation was given to 15 postgraduate students as part of a seminar series by Prof David Chapman at the College of Surveying, Tongji University, Shanghai, China in November 2018 covering the latest research on Mapping and Assessing the Underworld, FINDIT, Smart Pipes, the National Buried Infrastructure Facility and gravity surveying all aimed at using sensing technologies to locate and assess the condition of our buried utility assets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018