Pure Technologies

Pure Technologies at Forefront of Infrastructure Management

Pure Technologies Like everything else on this Earth, underground infrastructure is not immune to deterioration and municipalities and utility owners are becoming more aware of the importance of being proactive rather than reactive when dealing with the buried infrastructure.

Think about it for a moment — pretend you are a city manager and you notice the paint on city hall is peeling. Do you wait for all the paint to flake off making the building look like an eyesore? No, you would likely find the money in your budget to restore the paint. Unfortunately, that approach is more challenging with buried infrastructure because it is out of sight.

Potable water and sewer pipes, for instance, have historically been managed with a “bury and forget” mentality.

This scenario is something that Calgary-based Pure Technologies sees falling by the wayside as more and more utility owners and municipalities adopt asset management programs.

Brothers James E. and Peter O. Paulson formed Pure in 1993 with a focus on the structural assessment of buildings and bridges using its patented SoundPrint technology, which Peter O. Paulson invented.

Since that time, through strategic growth and acquisitions of companies including, Openaka Corp., Pipe Eye International, Pressure Pipe Inspection Co. and, most recently, Wachs Water Services, Pure has grown into a global leader in pipeline infrastructure inspection, monitoring and management.

Pure Technologies

Pure Technologies offers a variety of state-of-the-art solutions to help municipalities and utility owners understand the condition of their buried infrastructure, which leads to more cost-effective management and operation.

Pure has grown from a company of about 30 employees in 2004 to almost 500 employees stretched across four continents and in the last five years, it has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 39 percent. According to the company’s most recent investor fact sheet, Pure’s geographic diversification by revenue is 52 percent in the United States, 25 percent in other countries and the remaining 23 in Canada.

Always Innovating

“Pure was founded and has always been focused on developing innovative technologies and solutions to better manage infrastructure as a whole,” says Mike Higgins, Pure senior vice president for North America. “We started out with buildings and bridges and have expanded it to different markets over the years.”

The tie that binds the bridges and buildings to Pure’s first foray into water and wastewater market in 1997 — when the company adapted its SoundPrint technology to monitor a large diameter pipelines — is high-strength steel wire. The material is a key structural component of concrete building infrastructure including prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP), a common pipe for large diameter potable water mains.

“Concrete pipe owners in the late 1990s started to have some significant high profile failures of PCCP,” says Higgins, who joined the company in 2001. “In their efforts to determine the condition of these pipelines, they asked Pure to use its technologies on concrete pipelines to better understand the condition of those assets.”

It was the deterioration of those PCCP mains — the backbone of many large water systems — where the condition assessment industry got its start, which has now grown to all forms of pipelines.

The jump to water and wastewater systems was so successful that 90 percent of Pure’s business now comes from that sector, with oil and gas accounting for 8 percent and bridges, buildings and structures accounting for the remaining 2, according to the latest Pure Technologies investor fact sheet. In total, Pure has inspected more than 12,000 km of pressure pipe.

Founded in 1993, Calgary-based Pure Technologies

Founded in 1993, Calgary-based Pure Technologies has grown to become
a global leader in infrastructure inspection, monitoring and management.

System-wide Applications

“In Canada, we deal predominantly with municipalities that own the buried infrastructure and use it to distribute potable water and pump wastewater,” says Reid McDougall, Pure Canadian region vice president. “We have seen a shift over the last couple of years in our customers’ approach and it has been a great shift. Historically, we were brought in to look at the most critical lines that kept them up at night. Over the last few years, we’ve really seen utilities incorporating inspection and condition assessment of their buried infrastructure into their long-term planning.”

It is that shift that McDougall and Higgins are most happy to see, as the municipalities and utility owners take what they learned from one line and apply it across entire systems. That is where Pure comes into play. Backed by an array of technologies — like SoundPrint AFO, SmartBall, Sahara and PureRobotics, to name a few — and engineering expertise, Pure is able to show the utilities and municipalities where the critical problems are and how they can use that data across the entire system.

Looking ahead, Higgins says the company will turn some of its focus to lower resolution assessment tools geared to lower-risk pipelines. Low risk pipelines, like 6- to 8-in. mains, do not justify the cost investment of a high-resolution tool.
“Responding to industry needs, Pure invests about $4 million a year for research and development. Very few firms in our industry fund a robust internal R&D program,” Higgins says. “We carefully listen to where the industry is going and what the utility’s and industry’s needs are and we develop our R&D program based on those needs.”

More Than Age

A common industry belief is that the age of the pipe is the primary indicator of infrastructure failures; however, Higgins would like to see this conversation shift because age is not always a good indicator of condition or a system’s likelihood to fail. That is where Pure’s Assess and Address solutions are beneficial.

“What we are doing at Pure Technologies is trying to optimize capital and remaining useful life for infrastructure owners as they seek to more efficiently manage their assets. Our technologies help owners determine remaining useful life, prioritize and target capital spending, while avoiding failures,” Higgins says.

As with most technologies, Pure’s offerings took time to gain broad acceptance and in Higgins first few years at Pure, the company was “pushing” its services to the industry. With the much talked about infrastructure funding gap and the acceptance of condition assessment technologies, Higgins sees more pulling of Pure’s offerings into the industry.

The funding gap, heavily studied and reported by the likes of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Society of Civil engineers (ASCE) and in Canada, specifically with the first Canadian Infrastructure Report Card in 2012, is measured in the trillions of dollars. Higgins foresees a shift in budgets in the near future, as municipalities and utility owners shift their capital spending from aboveground infrastructure to the underground infrastructure
“The funding gap has been the driver for our business. The infrastructure is getting older, starting to decay and pipes are failing. Failures are so commonplace, that utility operators in North America have crews dedicated to fixing pipe failures,” Higgins says. “However, main breaks represent the failure of our infrastructure and their impacts can be significant.  With proactive pipeline management, the number of failures and consequence of failures can be significantly reduced.”

Those failure rates drive Pure’s business as municipalities and utilities try to get a handle on their large diameter pressure pipe failures, which are the most costly to repair and create difficulties in meeting customers’ demand.

Assess and Address

McDougall sees many Canadian municipalities and utilities embracing the change because replacement as a whole is too big of a hurdle, using condition assessment, and starting a condition assessment program allows the utility owners and operators to best target their dollars where the money is best served.

“We have a variety of technological approaches we can use. We work with our clients to try to match the level of resolution of the approach to the overall risk of their line. The idea is to put your highest resolution technologies on the most critical lines,” McDougall says. “Our technologies are designed to identify and locate the areas that need rehab or repair as opposed to wholesale replacement of those lines.”

Pure estimates that a utility owner can proactively manage a pipeline for 5 to 15 percent of the capital replacement cost.
“The approach we like to offer is to assess the pipe to implement isolated repairs and restore the reliability of the existing main to almost that of a new main,” Higgins says. “Then, the money that you save can be invested to fix other parts of the system. You can actually manage the system and the overall risk is significantly reduced for far less than replacing an entire pipeline in many cases.”

Pure’s approach looks at the inspection data and other inputs from the system and turns those data points into actionable information that its clients can use to make decisions. From beginning to end of the process, Pure’s goal is to help customers interpret the data and turn it into decisions about how they operate, repair or replace the components in their system.

Making this data accessible is crucial, Higgins says. “In our world of condition assessment, we collect a lot of data about the condition of a pipeline. Traditionally it sits on people’s shelves in thick reports. That is not a very useful way to store data in the modern era. We can now store and house all this data in a geo-referenced database making it much more accessible.”

This accessibility equates to a utility owner or municipality easily being able to go back to a pipeline, finding out what condition it was in, comparing that to the current assessment data, thus offering a powerful tool to managing systems and tracking performance to better target the ever-dwindling capital improvement dollars.

“We’re working more and more with clients on managing their networks as opposed to only their critical lines. In Canada, we are fortunate because we have some proactive clients that are getting ahead of the curve and are thinking about managing their systems,” McDougall says. “That’s really heartening because municipalities are getting ahead of those funding gaps that have been identified by ASCE and AWWA and the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card. They are getting ahead of those gaps and putting preventive maintenance and inspection programs in place to help close that gap. We think Pure drives a lot of value in the process for utilities and municipalities in Canada.”
Pure Technologies’ Milestones

1994 – Pure installs its first full-scale SoundPrint acoustic monitoring system on an office building in Calgary and the system is still in operation

2000 – The Man Made River Project (MRP) in Libya, one of the world’s largest pipeline networks, signs its first contract with Pure to monitor prestressed concrete cylinder pipe (PCCP)

2005 – Pure develops the revolutionary SmartBall technology to address the need for leak detection of large-diameter pipelines

2008 – Pure and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) partner to manage WSSC’s large-diameter PCCP in one of the largest pipeline management programs in North America

2014 – Pure completed installation of the 1,000th km of AFO monitoring on a combined 82 systems worldwide

Mike Kezdi is assistant editor of Trenchless Technology Canada.
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