Improvements Paving Way For Growth In Pressure Pipe Rehab
As pipeline system owners – whether it be a municipality, utility or private entity – become more cognizant of the need to repair their aging and deteriorating systems, the trenchless pipe relining industry is there to greet them with open arms.
Pipe relining, in all of its forms, offers a less disruptive method for pipeline rehabilitation and there are several options available falling under the trenchless umbrella. The most popular relining method is of the cured-in-place variety.
The Need for Rehab
This method, through various innovations over the years, gives the asset owners the biggest bang-for-the buck, an important factor in this age of decreased funding and increased regulatory enforcement and EPA mandated consent decrees.
“There are many methods of trenchless pipe rehabilitation, and while CIPP may be the leading method, it’s not the only game in town. Pipe bursting and grouting can be excellent choices for some projects,” says Gil Carroll, marketing director for Applied Felts and Maxliner. “The best way to ensure the right method is chosen for a particular job is to conduct a solid, PACP-based inspection, evaluate the results, and determine the best technology to use for a particular project. Doing the work right for each unique application is what will encourage system owners to consider relining as a viable alternative.”
According to Lynn Osborn, technical director NASSCO and owner of LEO Consulting, there are still city engineers and directors of public works or those in similar positions who still prefer traditional open-cut projects. But this number is decreasing as organizations like NASSCO, NASTT and others push to educate on the latest innovations in trenchless pipeline rehabilitation methods.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card 2017, the United States wastewater systems are rated at a D+ (up from D- in 2015) and water systems held steady with a D. According to ASCE’s “Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future,” the total needs in water/wastewater infrastructure from 2016-20125 is $150 billion, with estimated funding at $45 billion, leaving the country with a $105 billion funding gap.
In Canada, it is much of the same. One third of Canada’s municipal infrastructure is at risk of rapid deterioration: that is the key finding of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card (CIRC). According to the CIRC 23 percent of storm water, 29 percent of potable water and 35 percent of wastewater systems are in fair to very poor condition.
With data like that, it’s hard to say that pipe relining market has hit its peak. Quite the opposite is true, the industry will continue to grow.
“When I started in the industry, total revenue from pipe relining with cured-in-place was approximately $40 million to $50 million per year,” Osborn says. “Today, cured-in-place alone is a multi-billion-dollar market.”
One of the reasons for the dramatic growth, and a trend that continues today and will lead to the continued growth, is the increased capabilities of the market. Whereas the early growth years and the boom in the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s was focused on gravity sewers, today the greater growth is on the pressure side.
According to Dr. John Matthews, executive director of the Trenchless Technology Center at Louisiana Tech University, the most growth in the last decade is on the water main relining side.
“The technical envelope for water main relining continues to expend in terms of increased diameter, higher pressure capability, and longer stretches. Costs are beginning to come down in some markets,” Matthews says. “Increased applicability allows rehabilitation to be considered on more pipes. As the costs come down and more contractors become trained on the newer techniques, rehab will become more widespread.”
Osborn agrees, noting that CIPP improvements in both the resins and the tubes have helped the market grow leading to the largest percentage of growth being on the pressure pipe side. As the materials improved, other offerings also entered the market in the form of spray-applied, spiral-wound, folded pipe, grout-in-place and spot repairs.
“Cured-in-place improved in quality plus there are a lot of other competitors to cured–in-place, and because of those drivers, the offerings improved,” Osborn says. “Better products, and more products, lead to more installers and more installers mean more proponents of the relining industry.”
One of those early proponents of the industry, and who was there for the dramatic growth in the 1990s, is Carroll, who recalls that at that time addressing the repairs were mainly dig and replace. Those in the industry spent the bulk of their time educating municipalities and engineers about the benefits of trenchless relining alternatives. Today, there is a 180-degree difference with relining, particularly CIPP, being accepted and trenchless technologies becoming a preferred method of repair.
“Comparing the Applied Felts of the mid 90’s to today shows major developments and improvements in the manufacture of quality liners, in both the raw materials used as well as the manufacturing and testing processes we employ,” Carroll says. “But in my view, one of the most significant improvements to relining has been the outstanding advancement of the reliability and performance of the resins used with our liners. With the dramatic growth of the CIPP market, manufacturers are now more focused on developing liners and resins specifically for CIPP to perform exceptionally well in all phases of applications, during the entire process from impregnation to installation to cure.”
With the growth and wider acceptance of CIPP lining, some might wonder if the industry has reached its peak. Osborn, Carroll, Matthews and Kaleel Rahaim, manager pipeline rehabilitation polymers for resin manufacturer Interplastic Corp. all agree that there is still plenty of room for growth especially as rehab costs come down.
“From the gravity pipeline standpoint, we have not plateaued in that market but the growth rate is smaller than it was back in 2000. We will continue to see growth over time because there are a lot of municipalities that have only begun to embrace CIPP as a renovation method and there is an awful lot of gravity pipelines underground that are failing, or will fail, in the next five years,” Rahaim says. “The availability of lining pressure pipes will cause the CIPP market to boom and grow significantly over the next three to four years as the technology improves and owners become more receptive to relining water and other pressure pipe systems.”
On the pressure pipe side, Rahaim sees the biggest growth potential in the drinking water segment adding that the potential is there for that segment to get to where the gravity sewer segment is today. “Using CIPP lining to reline both transmission and street water lines will open up the pipe relining market considerably,” he says.
On the resins side, companies now manufacture styrene-free, low volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) free products.
“Styrene-free, non-VOC and no HAP resins the industry has developed are an excellent alternative to municipalities and engineering firms,” Rahaim says. “It offers an alternative to the CIPP process that allows liners to go in with no risk of noxious odors being admitted from the process and no VOCs being emitted.”
In addition to the resin improvements, Rahaim adds that the liners have also improved accordingly.
“Both resin producers and bag producers have done an extremely good job in taking the market forward with new developments in resins and bag technology and construction we are able to line larger diameter thicker bags for more application,” he says. “With the advent of reinforcing media incorporated into the bag construction we are able to use these larger bags with less resins and materials and not constricting the cross-sectional area as much.”
“The industry is diversifying. Experience in developing liners for traditional gravity sewer repair has led us to the introduction of glass reinforcement for applications including very large diameter gravity sewers and pressure pipes such as force mains as well as other potable and non-potable applications,” Carroll says.
Other improvements that have helped pave the way for continued growth include new innovations in pipe cleaning, inspection and assessment technologies and system owners adopting a clean, inspect, assess and repair mentality. There have also been new developments in spot repairs – both mechanical and cured-in-place, improved hydrophilic rubber seals and new polymer sprays for pressure pipes.
Osborn sees another area where growth is possible and that’s with increased industry involvement. Much like other sectors of the construction industry, the pipeline rehabilitation industry needs people to do the work and the trenchless rehabilitation industry as a whole needs an influx of younger people.
“I see a need for young people in the trade associations like NASTT and NASSCO and UESI Pipelines where you attend committee meetings and there are not a lot of young people involved,” Osborn says. “I know it is harder today for people to travel and volunteer than it was 30 years ago because the organizations are so lean and mean that there is no time. I am hoping this is an area that will work itself out.”