The acquisition of trenchless technology specialist Tuboseal by Esor is set to unlock a wealth of future business opportunities for the construction and civil engineering contractor.
Since its founding by local pioneer Jean-Louis Frey in 1987, Esor Tuboseal has established itself as a past master in a highly specialised discipline which enables pipes to be cleaned, rehabilitated or repaired almost completely underground without disturbing the surface area over the length of the line.
Through sheer drive and belief along with proven techniques and delivery, it created the Cured In Place Pipe (CIPP) market with customers and contractors in the Western Cape and a number of other provinces, before expanding its footprint as far north as Bulawayo.
Esor CEO Wessel van Zyl regards the development as a strategic diversification into the burgeoning market of infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation, with a major focus on pipelines.
Essential to the preservation of infrastructure
Using advanced trenchless techniques to replace pipelines in fragile and complex environments, Esor Tuboseal gained a reputation for successfully completing jobs its rivals chose to avoid. A byproduct of this process was the establishment of a solid track record among municipal authorities and major players in the construction industry. It remains a key objective of Esor Tuboseal to build and retain the credibility of trenchless technology, for the greater good.
“We’ve reached a point where several municipalities and some businesses are piping water and sewage in lines that are 50 years old – and in some cases well beyond that,” says Van Zyl, making the point that what was constructed on the surface when the pipes were originally laid has often changed beyond all recognition.
“Pipelines will inevitably have to be replaced or rehabilitated, but in busy urban areas or major industrial installations, gaining access by digging is simply not an option.
“Safety is the first consideration. Many lines were laid at depths of between 4 and 15 metres, which would entail highly disruptive excavations to create a safe working area with adequate support to protect the crew. In any event, the likelihood of the presence of other utility lines like power cables would make this impossible,” he says.
Van Zyl also makes the point that to restore the integrity and efficiency of pipelines installed under or alongside major freeways and link roads (he cites the William Nicol Highway as an example), would cause unacceptable disruptions to traffic flows. If this was not bad enough, resurfaced areas would be a fertile breeding ground for the South African motorist’s biggest bug bear – the pothole.
Successfully meeting technical challenges
Esor Tuboseal’s research and development technical solutions specialist, Daniel Bruwer, describes two recent projects in which trenchless technology was applied to mitigate some serious consequences.
“The first concerned the discovery of a damaged underground pipe at Eskom’s Kusile power station, which required repairs to a crack at a depth of 17 metres. The pipeline was impossible to excavate as it lies beneath permanent structures.
“Having established the exact location of the damaged section, we designed and installed a CIPP liner capable of withstanding ground water pressure and soil loads at a depth of 17 metres, thereby reinforcing and sealing the damaged pipe for a full design life of 50 years. The repair took less than 8 hours and was carried out without any disruption to services on site,” says Bruwer.
The second development is the rehabilitation of the BlackMac bulk sewage pipeline, a key conduit between the Cape Town suburbs of Blackheath and Macassar.
“The City of Cape Town approached us in 2013 to investigate the possibility of rehabilitating the pipeline and utilising its much needed capacity after many years of being degraded beyond use.”
A CCTV inspection was the first and vital step in the rehabilitation process that ensued. The city conducted several viability studies and finally appointed Aurecon Consulting Engineers to manage the trenchless rehabilitation project, comprising the CIPP lining of more than 3,300 metres of bulk sewer pipes ranging from 800mm to 1200mm in diametre , crossing underneath the N2 freeway and Baden Powell Drive.
Esor Tuboseal was awarded the project at a competitive rate and immediately began the careful logistical planning required in an environmentally sensitive and often inaccessible area.
The construction programme was expedited to ensure cleaning, final design, material manufacturing, shipping lead times and installation happened concurrently. The dovetail effect of these activities placed the project firmly on track for completion well ahead of the programme and the (hopefully) rainy Cape Town winter.
Preserving environmental integrity
The work itself was not without its challenges, but it did vindicate the depth of professionalism demonstrated by Esor Tuboseal and its commitment to preserving the natural environment.
“The rehabilitated pipeline runs alongside an ecologically sensitive wetland and the use of trenchless technology ensures that the ecological impact of the project is negilable. Already 40% complete, we are on track to complete 3,300 metres of pipeline renewal without any significant excavations required.”
Esor Tuboseal also adapted its hot water curing process to incorporate a high performance water cooling system, which enables the recycling of process water and a saving of more than three million litres of drinking water amid critical water shortages in the Western Cape.
Apart from delivering a world class product on this project, Esor Tuboseal set some audasious goals of ‘safety first’, ‘first time right’ and an unwaivering resolve to maintain integrity with all stakeholders.
On the horizon
Research and development is a strategic priority at Esor Tuboseal and 2018 is, quite literally, expected to be a watershed year. It will be introducing new high pressure CIPP products using specially developed resins and composite materials compatible for safe use in potable water systems and capable of withstanding pressures of up to 40 bar. Municipalities and other high volume users of water for domestic consumption can now have ageing pipe systems rehabilitated ensuring a clean, safe and efficient flow of drinking water to households and individuals.
“Esor Tuboseal’s ability to offer a one-stop shop of tailored products and services is what sets it apart in the marketplace,” says Van Zyl.
Best in the business
“With services as varied as CCTV inspection, pipe cracking, pipe cleaning, patch lining, CIPP and robotic cutting, we can provide a range of options and methodologies under each of these categories. Esor Tuboseal also possesses the skills and expertise of arguably the best technical team in the business.
“Esor Tuboseal and Esor can think out 80% of the solution, but these are the people who provide the all-important 20% which is what makes things happen; and they have done so over the past three decades.”
Invaluable components of the Esor Tuboseal value chain are several overseas manufacturers of lining materials and associated equipment with which the company has built sound relationships over several years.
A valuable byproduct from these collaborations has been the refinement of CIPP technology for the local market, which Van Zyl rates as being the obvious way forward in meeting rugged African conditions.