By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
Around the world and in Israel in particular, conserving water has become paramount. As fresh water resources dry up, it becomes imperative to ensure that as little as possible goes to waste.
One of the major waste points is water loss from dripping pipes. While major ruptures and leaks can be detected using existing equipment, pinhole leaks continually drip precious fresh water into the ground. Now, one Israeli start-up, Curapipe Systems, has developed a composite to seal those holes.
"In Israel, water loss rates are generally around 10 percent of the water in a municipal system," Curapipe CEO Peter Paz told The Jerusalem Post during the WATEC exhibition last week. "Of that amount, 30% can be detected using conventional systems. However, 70% flows under the radar of detection devices. They are minuscule holes and cracks generally around pipeline joints and fixtures and service connections."
The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's NEWTech division invited Curapipe to set up a booth in the "Innovations" pavilion at the exhibition. NEWTech promotes Israel's water technology industry year round, throughout the world.
Curapipe has spent the past four years developing a composite seal that can be delivered through basically structurally sound pipes to seal the tiny holes and cracks in water, oil and gas pipelines. The solution is not designed to repair catastrophic leaks, only holes measured in millimeters.
The composite is delivered via a "pig" - a device that travels the pipes through water pressure. The pig with the composite on board is introduced at a certain upstream point and travels downstream, plugging the leaks as it goes.
This means the pipe doesn't have to be dug up, since the composite can be applied from the inside. As such, Curapipe's system costs "less than 10% of what [digging up and] replacing a pipe would cost," according to Paz.
The composite lasts for more than 20 years, making it a long-term solution rather than an interim one. Curapipe is marketing its system as a preventive measure to reduce water loss and potentially increase the longevity of the pipes.
The solution is also applicable in the domestic market, according to Paz, since the water pipes are generally structurally sound. One study last year put water loss from pipes at 30 million cubic meters per year. That's the equivalent of the Palmahim desalination plant.
Right now, Curapipe is testing its product with the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline and anticipates further utility trials in 2010. Paz said the company was aiming to be market-ready in 2011.
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