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A non-disruptive solution to healthcare plumbing

By Eamonn Ryan

Helen Joseph Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, was built in 1967. Fifty-two years on, following a series of blockages on its old earthenware pipeline, especially beneath the main kitchen, Nu Flow was called in to conduct a CCTV pipeline inspection.

 “A CCTV camera inspection survey allows our technician to video inspect the inside of any kind of pipe, including drain and sewer pipes. As they inspect, the equipment allows them to record the inside of the pipes for reporting purposes. Using these cameras enables us to identify problem areas like corroded pipes, cracks, breaks and blockages without damaging either the pipe or floor/wall. The camera is inserted through manholes, inspection eyes and other available access points,” says Deon Pohorille, managing director of Nu Flow (Pty) Ltd.

Prior to 1997, it was known as the J.G. Strijdom Hospital, and as a teaching hospital it is affiliated to the University of Witwatersrand’s Medical School. As a multi-campus facility, it sprawls over a huge area.

Nu Flow has been appointed agent for a UV pipe repair technology manufactured by German company Pro-Kanal. Nu Flow launched the new product last year at the plumbing part of the IFAT show, with Pohorille explaining the firm had “upgraded its own system to the Pro Kanal offering, which we found after extensive research to be the best in the world.”

Inversion fun. Credit: Nu Flow.

Pro-Kanal Dieter Meier has been involved in pipelining and repair longer than most in the world and was the original inventor of the patented pull-in-place Nu Flow process more than 30 years ago. He has since been honing and refining the process and has now come up with the latest iteration. The system he has developed, according to Pohorille, has a number of variants around the world. He researched them all and found Pro-Kanal’s to be the best fit for the African environment.

The UV technology is ideally suited to a hospital project which cannot be closed for any period of time. The UV process enables pipelining to cure in an average of 20 minutes what traditionally could take anywhere from four hours to a full day. The shorter duration consequently does not affect the operations of the healthcare facility.

For this reason, Nu Flow specialises in hospitals with Helen Joseph simply being the latest. “In a hospital, you have to work cleanly and be in and out quickly. The pipes are under constant and heavy use and cannot stop for any length of time. This gives you very limited hours and you have to complete the job according to their hours. We accomplish this through pre-impregnation of the resin into the liner before taking it to the hospital which takes on average six hours out of the set-up process.”

ultraviolet curing in progress. Credit: Nu Flow.The company also has custom-designed vehicles to transport the pre-impregnated liner to site. “The UV light is the catalyst. This has changed everything for us because we now have control over the entire process – no reliance on weather conditions and temperature.”

Nu Flow is not a firm of plumbers, but rather installers of its technology. It is increasingly forming partnerships with plumbing firms – to supply them with a system, leaving Pohorille to focus on the training of plumbers on its system as a supplier.

The findings

Before any inspection could be done Nu Flow had to jet clean the pipes and send through an inspection camera. This is where Nu Flow’s relining system comes into its own, because to fix the pipes in any other manner would require the virtual closing of the hospital especially as it affected the kitchen. “On site we conducted a CCTV camera survey on the sewer lines and found there to be many defects:

  • Defective piping displaced
  • Bad joints
  • Holes in the pipe
  • Cracked pipelines
  • Major back fails
  • Totally broken fittings
  • Missing sections of pipe, and
  • Redundant junctions

“We consequently recommended that the pipeline be relined and sealed. A combination of systems was used, the UV lining system for the long distances and the Nu Flow epoxy lining system for the shorter sections.”

Damage in pipeline. Credit: Nu Flow.Rectification

“All sections of the pipe required re-lining, and we have so far completed the first section – the most critical one. We encountered a few hurdles in the process but the lining process was a success.”

“We did 80m of rehabilitation in this first phase of the project,” says project manager Gerrie Myburgh, “With another 100m to be rehabilitated within a few weeks, and a further 200m which still requires inspection.” This gives the 50-year old pipes a further 50-year lease on life as this is the minimum lifespan of Nu Flow’s UV lining.

“Now, instead of having a joint every 900mm (the usual length of earthenware pipes, there is continuous piping. Joints and elbows are where problems typically occur, and this weakness is removed because it is now a monolithic unit. The liner can come in sections of 100m and be fused together up to an infinite length.”

The elastic modulus requirement of pipes is usually 1 700 for a normal PVC pipe, but Nu Flow’s new liner goes all the way to 4 000, “Because of the unique weave in the patent of the liner,” says Myburgh.

How it works:

  • When there is a pipe requiring repair, the first step is to clean it with high-pressure water so the liner and resin can adhere to the inside of the pipe. It can be almost any type of pipe.
  • After the cleaning, the length of the pipe is measured and the liner (which is a round hose and calibrated to how thick it has to be) is cut to size.
  • The pre-impregnated liner is placed in the Master Gun.
  • The liner is pulled through and made airtight by blowing it through the damaged pipe.
  • It is inflated to adhere to the sides.
  • As the lining is inserted a UV light train is inserted at the same time through the entire length of the pipe and once the UV light is switched on it cures the entire length simultaneously – explaining the time saving.

Damage in pipeline – collapsed area located (crown of pipe). Credit: Nu Flow.How Pro-Kanal differs from others, Pohorille explains, is that other systems require expensive cooling equipment, which steadily traverses the length, curing as it goes. This takes longer and also introduces both human danger and the risk of the process failing, in which case the lining has to be pulled back out at a considerable cost of time.

“The curing technology whereby ambient air cures the resins is no longer competitive, as it takes on average four hours.” It consequently has three advantages: time-saving; the new system is also slightly cheaper; as well as being safer. Pro-Kanal is so quick because the resin has a UV activated element which means it does not solidify like other resins do because it is not affected by temperature.

“When working with underground pipes anything can happen. The advantage of our system over others is that if something does go wrong, we can pull the pipe out easily because it cannot get hard inside the pipe until the UV light is applied. Other systems do not have this benefit, and it is impossible to simply pull out the lining as it is already hardening.”

The Pro-Kanal cures at a maximum of 60°C over a longer period because it is a permanent light. That eliminates shrinking.

“We’re in the small-diameter pipe space, 15mm up to 450mm diameter – though we can and do inspect pipes up to 1.8m in diameter,” concludes Pohorille.


 


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