In recent years the infrastructure of gas and water pipes has rapidly declined, creating a need for new innovative pipe pulling technology designed to restore pipes up to 100 years old.
In the UK, for example, the original infrastructure of gas pipes was primarily galvanised steel, which is known to be prone to corrosion, therefore needing to be replaced.
The challenges being faced by pipe replacement contractors come from a variety of factors. Starting with assessing the actual scale of the replacement project. In the UK alone, there are estimated to be over 275,000 km of gas mains, which is being replaced at approximately 4,500 km/year.
Furthermore, the time it takes to complete a replacement job and how utility companies can reduce this time in order to keep a variety of knock-on effect factors to a minimum, is vitally important, including costs and impact on the public. A significant advance in trenchless technology has become a widely used solution to this factor, pipe pulling.
Other important challenges faced by pipe replacement projects is the prospect of utility strikes when working with gas and water pipes. The risk of damage to other piping networks can be high. Pipe pulling reduces this utility strike risk factor, keeping local residents and workers safe, and disruption to a minimum.
Aiming to keep disruption to a minimum for homeowners and the public is necessary during pipe replacement. By digging up an original ground surface it can take extended amounts of time and is non-economical when restoring the ground to its original state after pipe replacement. This can mean that fewer homeowners are willing to let gas and water companies replace pipes due to the disruption, therefore leading to further deterioration of outdated pipelines.
Keeping the safety of workers and the public in mind during pipe replacement is imperative with contractors working in public places, turning them into potentially dangerous construction sites with gaping holes left during the initial dig phase. This danger aspect is particularly reduced by the innovative use of trenchless technology making the replacement much safer for everyone involved.
Reinstatement of property in a public area, once pipe replacement has finished, is also time-consuming and costly. For example, public crossings follow a specific set of material guidelines that in turn need to be followed during reinstatement. Reinstatement involves returning the ground to its original condition and this can vary for each project. It also depends on the size of the excavation taking place to how long and costly it will be to fill and completely reinstate once work is completed. Another bonus of pipe pulling is that it requires very little excavation, therefore is usually more economical to reinstate.
Moreover, ground conditions can never be guaranteed to be optimal for each pipe replacement project. The success of moling or drilling depends largely on the operator. However, the softness and hardness of the surface ground also plays a factor in carrying the weight of any moling or drilling equipment and in what direction it enters the ground. This technique helps alleviate the chance of losing pipes while pulling, avoiding more disruption to the ground surface.
For pipe replacement contractors, keeping construction machinery safe and useable also ties in with keeping a pipe replacement project economical. Pipe pulling machinery can be costly, especially to repair. To keep costs down, contractors want to maximise the cost life of their machinery. However, the cost of the machinery rises considerably in correlation to the size of the equipment itself. Therefore, by using a smaller more efficient machine such as the KPP300 or KPP400, contractors can minimise costs. Smaller machines also take less workers to operate them due to the small size.
Finally, old decommissioned pipes that are left in the ground after new pipes are installed by other means and can be a hazard and potential contamination factor to the ground below. They are also considered environmental waste. Due to this the old pipes need to be disposed of correctly. Pipe pulling extracts the old pipe in the same procedure as inserting the new one, therefore eliminating any chance of decommissioned pipes being left to contaminate the ground.
So, the idea of pipe pulling offers several advantages in the right circumstances including cost effectiveness, minimal environmental impact, safety and public acceptability.