IVL Flow Control solutions aim to help water utilities build autonomous distribution systems that limit losses and ensure reliable supply.
Flow and pressure control are two of the biggest challenges in operating a water distribution system. Inadequate pressure means substandard service and possibly compromised firefighting capability. Excessive pressure, on the other hand, can accelerate leakage and cause pipe bursts.
The key to an efficient distribution system is balancing flow and pressure throughout the system. IVL Flow Control, a unit of Ham Baker Adams Group, offers an innovative approach based on strategic deployment of hydraulic control valves and air valves.
The company helps utilities create autonomous smart networks that provide a reliable water supply and high-quality customer service at minimal cost. Such a system does not require telemetry control, although linking to telemetry can enable more advanced network control. The flow and pressure management solution can be combined with active leak detection to help reduce water losses. Craig Stanners, an IVL Flow Control director, talked about the offering in an interview with Municipal Sewer & Water.
What is the basic concept behind IVL Flow Control?
Stanners: We understand water networks and how they are designed, from the source to the end user and everything in between. We work from knowledge of the network’s hydraulics to develop a system of smart valves that can be set up to work on their own, or can be adapted to work with modern-day communications.
What experience does your company have in deploying this solution?
Stanners: We’ve worked with water companies in the U.K., including that country’s oldest, Thames Water. We’ve also worked elsewhere in Europe with smaller municipalities. We have helped African countries that are implementing new water systems or connecting villages that have never had water service. And we have worked on larger systems in the Middle East such as Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are planning very fast infrastructure changes.
In the largest sense, what does your solution do for water utilities?
Stanners: Basically, it deals with pressure management, leak reduction and transient issues like water hammer. If, for example, the system includes aging pipes nearing end of life, our solution will provide longevity by eliminating sharp bursts of pressure in the system. It creates a smooth flow all the way from the treatment works or reservoir to the end client. By balancing the system we can also reduce the electrical cost to operate it.
Please describe the equipment you deploy in the field to implement this solution.
Stanners: We deploy a range of hydraulic control valves, including demand control valves as well as pressure-reducing valves, altitude valves, and in general all the types of valves commonly used in water systems. The advantage of our valves is that they operate from zero flow. That means the valves don’t become unstable when the pressure drops to a bare minimum. We also have an extensive range of air valves that are built to deal with transient issues, such as rapid pressure surges. So if a utility needs to charge a main very quickly, these valves will allow that to happen without causing bursts in the system.
What is unique about the valves you deploy?
Stanners: Our control valves are pilot-driven valves. As water pulses through the valve, there is fine control by way of the seat coming from the top cover down to the bottom sealing surface. Our valves provide a positive seating closure, which provides the ultimate flow control. They also have a large belly that allows very high volumes to flow through. The openings range from as small as one inch up to 52 inches. The valves are manufactured of ductile iron graded to at least 25 bar pressure. They have stainless steel internal and external components. The sealing parts of the valve are EPDM rubber.
How are all these valves controlled, connected, monitored, operated?
Stanners: We try to establish an autonomous system, where the valves automatically notice and adjust to changes in pressure in the system. Demand control valves are intelligent valves that use the pipeline network itself as the medium to transfer information. Each valve senses whether water is available upstream and whether water is required downstream. If both conditions are met, the valve will operate and deliver water. It’s purely a hydraulic transfer. But if a client wants the capability to override and force those valves to do different things at different times of day or night, depending on what is happening at given points in the network, we have adaptions that allow for PLC, telemetry and SCADA-driven control technology.
What is the first step in deploying this solution?
Stanners: We start by asking the water company what they want to achieve in the problematic areas of their network — and every utility has such areas. What are they experiencing? Are they having high burst rates because they’re modulating or because of the way the system is being run? We find out about the historical problems in the network and gather general information: What are the pipe materials? How old are the pipes? What are the flows and pressures? If need be, we can send in a team to conduct a full system survey.
Once basic data is in hand, what is the next step?
Stanners: We construct a hydraulic design model that enables us to predict what savings the client can expect if we deploy our system within their network. They can then decide whether to make an investment to achieve the savings that would continue for 30 years or more.
These significant savings can be achieved solely with valve technology and without extensive computerization?
Stanners: We tend to think that innovation is software, but software is only as good as the network itself. If a water network is failing because of its design and the materials in it, the best software in the world won’t be able to help that system. You’ll still have leaks, you’ll still have bursts and you’ll still have low-pressure and high-pressure situations. If you have a perfect network, yes, that can benefit from software. At the end of the day, what you need is accurate control of the water that’s passing through the system.