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Electro Scan wins 14th patent for leak detection technology

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World Trenchless,

California-based cleantech leader, Electro Scan Inc. (Electro Scan), has announced its 14th international patent for its multi-sensor technology that accurately locates and measures water leaks.

While traditional solutions 'listen' for a leak or rely on cameras to 'see' a leak, Electro Scan's machine-intelligent probe automatically measures leaks by locating actual cracks and holes that go through the pipe wall, measuring the size of each opening using harmless low voltage electric current.

The technology also evaluates pipe wall thicknesses, particularly in Asbestos Cement (AC) pipes that tend to burst, collapse, or lead to catastrophic failure without warning.

The company's award-winning cloud application reports leak locations in minutes – to the closest cm – and quantifies severity expressed in industry standard gal/min.

Announcement of the new patent is timely, especially as New Zealand is in the midst of a water crisis where the government recently created a new regulator, Taumara Arowai, proposing to take control of water from 67 councils to be reorganised into several publicly-owned regional water authorities.

New Zealand's summer has already seen a record number of towns issuing ‘boil water’ notices, including Naseby, Pateroa, Te Horo, Otematata, Duntroon, Tokarahi, Awamoko, Cannington, Motukaika, Featherston, Martinborough, Coromandel Town, and Mt Pleasant in Christchurch.

Worldwide, ageing infrastructure has resulted in hundreds of millions of miles of underground water and sewer pipes with cracks and holes. But the use of traditional acoustic listening sensors in pressurised water mains and long-time use of CCTV cameras in gravity sewer pipes, have been unable to reliably locate or quantify leak locations or their size.

In water pipes, when pressure drops below acceptable levels, cracks and holes allow groundwater to seep back into potable systems. Some of that groundwater can carry harmful bacteria that can only be eliminated by boiling the water. Because leak sounds occur as turbulence is created at a leak location when the inside and outside pressures are trying to equalise, if leaks are surrounded by groundwater, when contamination risks are highest, the ability to hear a leak is actually at its lowest, regardless of pipe material.

In sewer pipes, contractors have successfully fought to keep using CCTV cameras to approve pipes as watertight, despite the inability to tell if cracks go through a pipe wall or if pipe joints have hidden pathways through narrow bell and spigots that allow unseen sewage to seep out of a pipe.

Most ratepayers are surprised to learn that most pipe acceptance standards allow new and rehabilitated pipes to leak; oftentimes allowing only ‘visual inspection’ to accept pipes assumed to have 50-year useful lives. As a result, acoustic, data correlators, ground penetrating radar, lasers, LIDAR, satellite, and sonar, have been ineffective in locating or quantifying leaks.

Recent studies of Cured-In-Place Pipe (CIPP) – a more than US$10 billion business, worldwide – have found leaks can be worse after CIPP, especially if liner bags have not been properly inflated or 'cooked' and customer service locations improperly cut.

Since the CIPP process temporarily closes customer tap openings for water and sewer delivered to homes and businesses, precision based rotating blades must cut through the newly lined pipe. If not exact in their cutting, original host pipes may be damaged causing large leaks to be unnoticed by CCTV cameras or simply unreported as most inspections are completed by the same company installing the CIPP.

The problem, years in the making, is only solved by new technologies such as the company's patented solutions that can deliver unambiguous, unbiased, and unprecedented data, minutes after surveys are completed. A major field trial of the company's sewer leak detection products were completed by Sydney Water Corporation in December 2019.

To coax reluctant New Zealand councils to fix their pipes, ministers came up with an additional NZ$761 million to help replace leaky pipe networks and other deteriorating assets. Using legacy acoustic and camera-based technologies risk correct location and prioritisation of pipes to be repaired.

In total, New Zealand councils have allocated NZ$17.2 billion for water infrastructure spending over the next decade and overall face a NZ$30 - 50 billion dollar infrastructure deficit.

Earlier in February 2021, New Zealand's Intellectual Property Office granted Patent Number 713053 for Electro Scan's 'Multi-Sensor Inspection for Identification of Pressurised Pipe Defects That Leak’, filed in 2015.

Electro Scan's new technology is 80 - 100 times more effective than leaks found by listening (acoustic sensors), seeing (cameras), and smelling (helium tracers and water sniffing dogs). The technology is already included as part of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Water Supply Standard, M77 Water Main Condition Assessment, and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F2550-13 (2018).

In January 2021, Electro Scan was selected ‘Water Leak Detection Solution of the Year’ for 2021 by IoT Breakthrough. The company was also chosen winner of the November 2020 UK Water Dragons Competition sponsored by UK-based Future Water Association.

As governments look to stimulate their economies during the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery, adoption of innovative technologies that allow communities to 'Build Back Better' and 'Find Leaks Before Breaks' are good first steps. Besides, studies find that every US$1 invested in safe water and sanitation yields US$5 - 28 due to increased economic activity and reduced health care costs.

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