Innovative Technology to Prevent Underground Pipe Leaks

Innovative technology has been developed to prevent leaks in buried pipes, providing early warnings by detecting the timing and location of damage. The Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science has created a system to prevent damage and detect issues early in buried pipelines, averting failures due to third-party interference (TPI) and other risks.

TPI poses a significant threat to buried pipelines used for transporting various substances like water, petroleum, and gas, leading to environmental pollution and dangers such as explosions, fires, and sinkholes. Detecting TPI in advance remains a challenge for pipeline management.

The Non-Destructive Metrology Group at KRISS has devised a real-time monitoring system that identifies actual damage events before pipelines are harmed. By recognizing critical impacts near pipelines caused by TPI or other risks, the system issues early warnings to prevent incidents.

The core technology relies on precise measurements and analytical models of elastic waves generated upon impact on pipelines. Using pairs of sensors placed several hundred meters apart along the pipeline, the system monitors impact signals in real-time between the sensors.

This enables immediate calculation of the impact’s time and location, akin to seismological centers detecting vibrations and pinpointing the source of earthquakes using seismic wave arrival times.

Sensors can be easily attached to exposed parts of buried pipelines like valve chambers or maintenance holes. Additionally, the system integrates precise analytical algorithms to effectively minimize and filter out extraneous signals such as traffic noise, everyday sounds, and other environmental interferences.

The research team conducted extensive field experiments to validate the system’s practicality on operational buried pipelines spanning several kilometers in South Korea.

Results showed the system successfully detected impacts of around 20 kN with over 95% accuracy. Given that typical forces causing pipeline damage often exceed several hundred kN, the system proves suitable for preventing and alerting about pipeline damage incidents.

Traditional monitoring technologies for buried pipelines typically focus on post-damage leak detection. Therefore, this achievement by KRISS represents the world’s first early detection system for long-distance pipeline damage. The research team transferred the technology to companies in South Korea and filed patent applications in the US and Europe.

The innovative system is applicable to water pipelines, as well as pipelines for oil and gas transportation and heat supply. It can be integrated into intelligent monitoring systems to identify and manage abnormal conditions in buried pipelines online.

Dr. Dong-Jin Yoon, a principal researcher from the Non-Destructive Metrology Group, emphasized the technology’s significance in enhancing public safety and reducing social costs associated with major accidents and loss of life due to pipeline breaks.

Source: KRISS

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