The folks at SABAS Ltd. say the company is a product of the old adage: Necessityis the mother of all invention.
Seven years ago, engineers with a successful U.K. engineeringconsultancy jumped on the opportunity to address a need to rehabilitate largediameter sewers in a cost-effective way. Today, they are reaping the rewards offinding that solution and bringing it to market.
Lee Skinner, Alan Birch, Graham Towers and Ajay Talwar are theco-founders of SABAS Ltd., manufacturers of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP)composite systems that can be used in the lining larger sewers and culverts —for both circular and non-circular pipes. The SABAS team has an extensivebackground in the municipal market, in particular the water and wastewatersectors, as well as with trenchless technologies and the needs of themarket.
The company was created in 2001, setting up its headquarters inLondon. SABAS has come along slowly; it applied for its first patents for itsGRP composite lining system in 2000, which they were awarded in 2004. From thebeginning, the makeup of the company had a global dynamic: the idea for thecompany originated because of the condition of India’s infrastructure; thecompany is headquartered in the United Kingdom; its manufacturing facility is inthe Middle East and company officials recently finalized a partnership withU.S.-based contractor Reynolds Inc. through their Inliner trenchless technologygroup to bring the GRP product to America’s shores.
“Our new composite sewer lining products have been trialed asearly as 2000 and have continued to be used on a small scale in Europe andAsia,” says Skinner, CEO of SABAS. “The last few years it’s really been aboutdeveloping the technology and refining and building the intellectual propertyrights and taking the appropriate routes to market.”
Today, as interest in the SABAS technology steadily makes gains,plans have been finalized to set up a North American base of operations througha partnership with Inliner, which is headquartered in Indiana. The new company —SABAS Technologies — is committed to having a manufacturing facility up andrunning in the United States within two years, catering to the needs of thelarge diameter sewers across the country.
As SABAS moves forward, the goal is to begin building an extensivenetwork of GRP installers.
The SABASteam is no stranger to the water and wastewater utilities industry; both Skinnerand Birch have spent their engineering careers working in the public and privatemunicipal sector in these areas. It was while working for U.K.-based WERM Ltd.,an engineering consultant firm that specialized in the water and sewerrenovation markets, that they came upon the need for the SABAS company.
Prior to coming to WERM, Skinner worked in local government andwater utility engineering. After working in the private sector in the UnitedKingdom as a consultant with Thames Water, he undertook commission in variousparts of the world. In Lagos, Nigeria, he was an adviser to the Nigeriangovernment on a major water infrastructure project, and in Turkey, he was aconsultant on a water infrastructure project in conjunction with Thames Water.In New Delhi, he worked with the Ministry of the Environment and Forest toassist the Delhi Water Authority on sewer rehabilitation policy andplanning.
Birch similarly has a strong utility background as a charteredengineer. He has a management background in local government, large nationalwaste management operators, water utility professional services and has workedin local government as a senior manager, as a regional design manager for ThamesWater and a major national waste management company as its civil engineermanager.
In 1999, WERM Ltd. formed a joint venture with an Indianconstruction company to offer design and build capacity to the South Asian sewerrehabilitation market. When Skinner and Birch traveled to India to look intosome potential work in conjunction with the joint venture, they met with Talwar,an Indian contractor with 20 years of experience in pipeline rehabilitation. Itwas through the joint venture work that the three realized the need for a newtype of composite material. Towers, a U.K. specialist who has worked in pipelinerehab for more than 18 years, was brought in at this point for his knowledge andpractice of polymer sewer lining materials.
“The problem in India is that government engineers are now facinga legacy of years of neglect against a background of tremendous urban populationincrease. At times sewers are in such a poor condition or so below capacity thatthey cannot be rehabilitated and new parallel lines need to be driven,” Skinnersays. “However, for the most part, best value and lower disruption in denselypopulated areas can be achieved through the trenchless renovation of the trunksewer network through the utilization of trenchless technology. The municipalauthorities are beginning to fully utilize these techniques especially in theurban centers of New Delhi and Mumbai with other major cities looking to followsuit.
“The larger diameter of the sewers under consideration [in India],were more than 60 in., had high groundwater tables and poor structural conditionthat demanded the use of a lining system with extremely high-performancecharacteristics,” Skinner says. “These facts, along with the need to mitigatethe risk of installation failure in a difficult working environment, set a clearpath toward the application of glass-reinforced plastic composite liningmaterials.”
It was with that thought that the management team realized theycould fill a need in the market.
“SABAS was thus created to exploit the perceived opportunity for anew and high-quality composite process to serve the industry,” Skinner says. “Inthe search for this, the innovators at SABAS focused on a particular type ofsandwich composite lining material and began an exhaustive review of alltraditional manufacturing processes to identify a suitable approach.”
The search to find a suitable way of providing the requiredcomposite material using traditional processes was not successful. This led tothe development of a new and innovative closed-molding process to provide thematerial. The specific material identified was a glass-reinforced sandwichcomposite comprised of a polymer mortar core. This type of material providesexcellent stiffness and strength characteristics derived from the most economicuse of materials, Skinner says.
What Is It?
The SABAS GRPlining system for man-entry sewers — with diameters typically exceeding 48 in. —falls into two general methodologies: with one-piece pipe segments ormulti-piece panels. One-piece pipe segments, with lengths generally 4 to 8 ft,are inserted into the host pipe. Segments can be jacked into the line from asingle access shaft or manhole or carried into the line to then be jointed andblocked in place. In the case of the panel system, the panels are takenunderground and assembled to form the whole lining segments. Once the liner isconstructed, through either the segmental or panel approach, the annulus spaceis grouted and the laterals are tied-in, leaving the structure in a fullyrenovated condition.
Skinner says a few factors make SABAS different from theircompetitors, such as having the option of a one-piece liner or multi-panels, thelatter which allows for non-circular pipes and individual arcs to be formed intopipe segments. “Traditionally in the pipe industry, they just have one piece[liners]. There were previous players in the market that had panel liners,” hesays. “Perhaps the difference is that we offer both and our panel system isbacked with fully engineered and strength-tested joints.”
SABAS is headquartered in the United Kingdom but has operations inthe Middle East, Asia and now in the United States and Canada. Its manufacturingfacility is located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The UAE is a place that is really set up to do business. It hasgreat transit routes to the Far East, Europe and North America, allowing us toprovide a central manufacturing hub to support our growing global businessopportunities and operations,” Skinner says.
“Geographically, [the UAE] is about in the middle of the world,”he continues. “Because of the nature of the environment, there is an awful lotof use of GRP in buried infrastructure in the region. Due to the saline natureof the desert soils of much of that region, there is a great availability of rawmaterials and skilled labor and trained professionals. Originally the plant wasin India but we moved it to the UAE to take advantage of the business climateand the transit routes.”
The company’s customers to date have been in Asia, India and theUnited Kingdom. With SABAS’ recent partnership with Reynolds, the company islooking to the North American market as a viable conduit for its product.
Skinner says that with the new partnership with Reynolds Inliner,plans call for a new manufacturing facility to be built somewhere in the UnitedStates. “It is our aim to establish manufacturing capacity in the United Statesat the earliest opportunity,” he says, with a goal of having the plant builtduring the next two years.
Skinner says that talks between SABAS and Reynolds Inlinerbegan in 2001 when Skinner and Birch met with Reynolds’ representatives who werein Europe looking at new technologies to bring into their fold. The twocompanies stayed in contact over the next few years before talking in earnestabout a partnership two years ago.
The partnership was finalized in March 2006 and the two companiesformed SABAS Technologies. “SABAS provides Reynolds Inliner with new technology,presenting them with a further opportunity to grow the success of theirbusiness,” Skinner explains. “We judge that Reynolds Inliner presents SABAS withthe best route to market in the United States, while providing the addedresources we need to grow the success of our business in the U.S. trenchlessmarketplace.”
Reynolds, with a long history in the construction industry, becameinvolved in the trenchless marketplace as a cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) installerin the 1980s. The success of that experience led the company to take a greaterinterest in the technology and industry, ultimately resulting in the acquisitionof technology rights and the formation of Inliner Technologies.
According president Jeff Reynolds, the Inliner acquisition allowedReynolds to re-direct its market position in the trenchless field from that ofan installer-contractor to a full-service technology provider, covering NorthAmerica through a network of licensed CIPP installers. Inliner Technologiesoffers lining systems that accommodate the renewal pipe in diameters of 4 to 96in.
What does SABAS offer Reynolds and whatled to this partnership?
“We have recognized for sometime that thereis no one single technology solution for pipeline renovation,” Reynolds says.“Our CIPP technology is well proven and flexible. It has been and continues tobe successfully used for the repair of large diameter sewers and culverts. Thesystem is also applied in the rehabilitation of elliptical and non-circularsewers. However, it is well known within the industry that for larger diametersand especially man-entry, non-circular applications, there is a raisedinstallation risk.”
According to Reynolds, independent market research estimates thatthere are more than 40 million lf of sewer in the United States greater than 72in. in diameter, many of which constitute some of the oldest and most criticalinfrastructure within major metropolitan areas. Up until now, Reynolds says,there have been limited long-term and economic solutions to the repair andrenewal of these large pipes, especially those of non-circular shape.
“We quite simply believe that SABAS, through its patentedtechnology and products, allows us to offer an economic and technically superiorsolution for large pipe rehabilitation,” he says.
Where the manufacturing facility will be located in the UnitedStates is still being decided, with Skinner saying the decision will bemarket-driven. “Our presumption is that we are going to be starting off in theMidwest, perhaps Indiana or Ohio, just because of the central location,” Skinnersays. “However, if we have significant market opportunities that mature in theWest first, such as Los Angeles, then we’ll build there first to be closer tothose opportunities.”
Skinner says SABAS is excited about bringing its lineup ofproducts to the market and sees the use of GRP products increasing in the comingyears as the needs of the larger diameter sewers are addressed.
“The social and environmental needs for infrastructure renewal arewell documented,” he says. “The socio-economic benefits of trenchless solutionswill lead to market growth and this growth will be accelerated by theintroduction of new technology, such as SABAS, within the industry to providecustomers with more effective tools.”
Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless TechnologyInternational.