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Maximize StoryMinimize StoryRapidly deployed multi-sized Vari-Plug pipeline stoppers expand their effectiveness and local cost advantage - June 2014

New ranges of cost-effective Pronal Vari-Plug inflatable pipe stoppers are being introduced to Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd for rapid and safe deployment in testing and maintenance of concrete, steel and cast iron pipes used throughout industry.

The inflatable multi-size Vari-Plug stoppers – each of which can fit several pipe diameters between 45-1200mm - feature flexible and strong vulcanised construction that moulds into the inside circumference of pipelines as the stoppers are pressurised, providing complete tightness and high safety thanks to large contact areas and circumferential rings.

Available without or with bypass so that pipelines can remain functional during maintenance and testing, Vari-Plugs offer wide compatibility with most pipe contents and come in weights and shape that allow rapid deployment for tasks such as:

  • Intervention to prevent leaks
  • Repair of pipeline sections
  • Tests of seals
  • Air tests
  • Downstream repair with continuous flow

Pronal pipe stoppers are being used in testing and maintenance of pipes

The broader and cost-competitive ranges of Vari-Plugs now being introduced to Australia build on the successful application of complementary ranges of Pronal stoppers in this country by national companies concerned about spills of potentially hazardous or harmful liquids. Increasing volumes have reduced costs and increase cost-competitiveness, says Air Springs Supply National Marketing Manager Mr James Maslin.

Pronal stoppers are used for maintenance, testing and emergency tasks in applications as diverse as oil and gas delivery, industrial and municipal water and waste water, and pollution prevention in mining, energy and industrial projects where sealing and testing operations need to be conducted not only with complete safety and environmental security, but also with considerable speed, to maintain flows of liquids and gases.

"The greater volumes now being deployed within Australian industry mean unit costs have reduced with products such as the Vari-Plugs, which are an extensively proven product, says Mr Maslin. "For years, inflatable stoppers have provided professionals in many different industries with the ability to do their jobs both safely and effectively. When water flow needs to be stopped, inflatable stoppers are easily the most efficient solution. By creating an airtight seal within the pipe, they effectively stop the water flow and allow users to resolve the situation.

"In addition to stopping water, they can also be used in testing air and water pressure, locating leaks, and can even allow the injection of chemicals into a pipeline without a hazardous backup," says Mr Maslin.

The Vari-Plug® range is purpose built and designed for multi sized pipe stopper applications, with just four models being required to plug pipes ranging from 200mm to 1200mm, for example. The smallest examples weigh from just half a kilogram with the greater part of the range weighing from .9-19 kg for easy handling and rapid insertion. Even the larger models, fitting pipes up to 1200mm, weigh under 70kg.

With inflation pressure of 2.5 bar and back pressure capability of 1 bar (10m water column equivalent), Vari-Plug® temporarily or definitively stop piping when used for maintenance, containment of pollutants and performance of network sealing tests. In the field of sanitation, Vari-Plug® inflatable stoppers are used to test the water-tightness of pipes and for maintenance operations.

Pronal stoppers – for which Air Springs Supply is exclusive national distributor - were most recently put into service Down Under with national food and beverage, defence manufacturing and chemical processing companies for whom they can be rapidly deployed, easily transported and widely applied in remote, temporary and permanent industrial situations.

The material used in the stoppers and the production method (customised dilatability) means they are extremely versatile. External surfaces are also customised to particular needs, such as exposure to gas or petroleum products or where long term installation is required. Naturally (as with any rubber-based product) direct or prolonged exposure to petroleum-based products is not recommended, but even so they have strong emergency use applications in such industries, where speed of deployment is vital.

Pronal produce a range of inflatable stoppers for varying applications. These include Inspection Stoppers, Joint Testing Stoppers, Anti-Pollution Stoppers, Medium & High Pressure Stoppers for Off-Shore Use and self-contained Stoppers for hazardous and nuclear use.

These light and strong products from Pronal are absolutely top quality," says Mr Maslin. With more than 40 years experience in specialist elastomers, Pronal, is the company that manufactured the massively strong elastomer bags use to lift sections of the ocean liner Titanic from 4km down in the Atlantic Ocean.

Pronal products are based on more than 40 years of producing specialist pneumatic elastomer designs for demanding applications, including government, military, heavy industrial, emergency service, sub-sea and exploration. Australian distributor Air Springs Supply also has more than 30 years specialist experience in applying pneumatic actuation and isolation technologies.

The big advantages of the technology also include simplicity, portability and re-use. Maintenance staffs don't need huge amounts of gear on-site and the stoppers themselves are easy to transport around plants to remote locations, where they can be used, moved on, and used again and again. They are an ideal method by which to achieve compliance with statutory requirements in a cost-effective and efficient manner.


 
 
 
 
ORJ stopper (top) and ORJT stopper with bypass (right), each of which can fit several pipe diameters
ORJ stopper (top) and ORJT stopper with bypass (right), each of which can fit several pipe diameters

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryEnvironmentally effective pipeline stoppers expand their local cost advantage - April 2014

Broader ranges of environmentally cost-effective Pronal pipe stoppers are being introduced to Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd following their successful application in this country by national companies concerned about spills of potentially hazardous or harmful liquids.

Pronal inflatable pipe stoppers are used for maintenance, testing and emergency tasks in applications as diverse as oil and gas delivery, industrial and municipal water and waste water, and pollution prevention in mining, energy and industrial projects where sealing and testing operations need to be conducted not only with complete safety and environmental security, but also with considerable speed, to maintain flows of liquids and gases.

The stoppers - most recently put into service Down Under with national food and beverage, defence manufacturing and chemical processing companies - can be rapidly deployed, easily transported and widely applied in remote, temporary and permanent industrial situations. They are are suitable for all types of pipelines including concrete, cast iron, steel, stainless steel and PVC.

"Their local and global success means that increasing volumes and types are available at even more competitive installation costs than previously. Advantages of scale are also producing a broader range of stock types and sizes to fit pipelines up to 2115m metres inside diameter and custom-produced models over 3000mm," says Air Springs Supply national marketing manager Mr James Maslin.

"The expanded ranges and greater cost-efficiency are particularly timely for Australian industry because of the current focus on preventing industrial spills by both State Environmental Protection organisations and national bodies such as Safe Work Australia, which has introduced its Code of Practice for Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace.

Pipelines are a particularly important component of risk management plans where companies may be handling increased quantities and types of hazardous materials associated with production and process engineering, cleaning, vehicle maintenance and plant upkeep, for example. In addition to potential hazards to people in the workplace, environmental authorities are particularly concerned about possible spillages of contaminated waste water into nearby streams, rivers, seas and groundwater systems.

The common factor with maintenance, testing and emergency situations is that they need stoppers that can be rapidly and securely deployed to provide primary or secondary safety and environmental security as required by both by Safe Work Australia and State Environmental Protection Agencies.

Sometimes stoppers are permanently located in pipelines for instant remote inflation with compressed air or other gas where there is a risk of toxic runoff at different stages of production, or where spillages occur. In other instances, they are used to seal off sections of pipe where leaks are occurring, serving the dual role of enabling pressurisation of that section so leaks can be detected, then protecting the men in the pipeline from any product flows while they work to fix the problem.

They are extremely strong and durable in service, being hot vulcanised in a mould to give outstanding service life. The enormously strong stoppers are the result of the global experience of elastomer products specialists Pronal, the company that produced the inflatable bags used to lift sections of the liner Titanic from nearly four kilometres underwater in the Atlantic Ocean. The material used in the stoppers and the production method (customised dilatability) means they are extremely versatile. External surfaces are also customised to particular needs, such as exposure to gas or petroleum products or where long term installation is required. Naturally (as with any rubber-based product) direct or prolonged exposure to petroleum-based products is not recommended, but even so they have strong emergency use applications in such industries, where speed of deployment is vital.


 
Pronal stopper range
 
a stopper in-situ
One of the Pronal stopper ranges, top, and a stopper in-situ, bottom. High pressure models can withstand a back pressure of 30 bar and are used on onshore, offshore and critical applications including nuclear

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryPipeline safety a prime focus for challenges of the Australian environment - January 2014

As one of the most urbanised and coastal-dwelling nations on Earth, Australia is increasingly sensitive to spills of chemicals, waste and other potentially harmful materials accidentally spilled in workplaces.

With around 90 per cent of our population dwelling in urban centres - well ahead of the US, UK and China, for example, and way above the global average of 52 per cent - Australia's cities are particularly prone to the issues created by hazardous and polluting spills entering the environment through drains and watercourses leading to the sea, or seeping into the ground and contaminate the soil or groundwater.

The problem is also a major one also in our rural and outback areas, with industries ranging from agriculture to mining being heavily dependent on often scant and precious supplies of water where harmful spills are also a major source of concern to both State Environmental Protection organisations and to national bodies such as Safe Work Australia.

In response to such problems, Safe Work Australia has introduced a Code of Practice for Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. The Code says companies must develop good handling procedures for workplaces to minimise the chance of such spills, and also have a spill management protocol in place to make sure spills are safely cleaned up. It stipulates that those conducting businesses or undertakings must manage risks associated with the use, handling, generating or storing of hazardous chemicals in a workplace, including identifying foreseeable hazards and eliminating the risk so far as practicable.

One method of stopping and sealing pipelines that is attracting increasing interest and application in Australasia for maintenance and environmental protection applications involves inflatable pipe stoppers that can be rapidly deployed, easily transported and widely applied in urban, remote, temporary and permanent industrial situations.

"Pipelines are a major component of such a risk management strategy and, while many companies are becoming aware of the issues involved, others have yet to understand them fully," says James Maslin, National Sales Manager for Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, which distributes a broad range of Pronal inflatable stoppers suitable for all types of pipelines including concrete, cast iron, steel, stainless steel and PVC.

"The issues involved in pipeline maintenance and safety are particularly acute during the maintenance season, over Christmas-New Year, when companies may be handling increased quantities and types of hazardous materials associated with cleaning, vehicle maintenance and plant upkeep, for example."

The common factor with maintenance, testing and emergency situations is that they need stoppers that can be rapidly and securely deployed to provide primary or secondary safety and environmental security as required by both by Safe Work Australia and State Environmental Protection Agencies.

"Sometimes such stoppers are permanently located in pipelines for instant remote inflation with compressed air or other gas where there is a risk of toxic runoff at different stages of production, or where spillages occur," says Mr Maslin. "In other instances they are used to seal off sections of pipe where leaks are occurring, serving the dual role of enabling pressurisation of that section so leaks can be detected, then protecting the men in the pipeline from any product flows while they work to fix the problem."

One of the early adopters of this technology was Visy Beverage at Smithfield, Sydney, a company committed to strong environmental management which installed a permanent Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper as a precaution against industrial waste seeping into a stormwater drain passing through its production site.

"What appealed to them was the plug's their simplicity - they are easy to install and the deflated stopper is designed to allow normal non-polluted effluents or water to pass through the pipe when the stopper is uninflated. It helped too that they were a fraction of the price of the gate valve they we were looking at as an alternative," said Mr Maslin.

The custom-fabricated plug was especially shaped to provide the security of protection specified by them. With an overall length of 1.64 metres and an effective sealing length of 1300mm, the plug is positioned within the pipe on a central steel axis located by permanent frame.

The plug, which can be inflated in minutes, is used by Visy to prevent accidental spills from trucks or holding tanks that could ultimately pass from the drain into nearby creeks leading to wetlands in parks and heritage areas.

"For further simplicity and reliability, Visy had the inflation feed to the plug permanently linked into their factory pneumatic system via a low pressure regulator. This arrangement, housed within the production site, is very simple to actuate for scheduled testing and for actual emergency conditions," said Mr Maslin, adding the Visy is committed to environmental management and operating in a sustainable way. Visy operates its manufacturing sites and business units through an integrated approach by combining environmental excellence with strong social and financial principles into its operations and products.

Another application of the Pronal product involved a national organisation serving both government and private customers which had a storm drain extending through a production plant into surrounding bushland leading to a major waterway.

"We were approached by them for an easily actuated large-diameter stopper to be permanently located in their main storm water drain so that, in the event of a chemical pollution spill, the stopper could be quickly and remotely inflated to prevent any pollutants flowing out directly into the neighbouring heritage stream," said Mr Maslin. "The plug had to be able to provide immediate protection in the unlikely event of a spillage, because the customer had a lot of vehicles moving through the plant and lots of drums of materials connected with manufacturing, including liquids, glues, urethanes and so on."

The storm water pipe inside diameter is 900mm and the stopper is permanently fixed to a central steel axis pole with three supporting feet per end, which bolt to the inside wall of the pipe. Supplied with the stopper was a surface-mounted complete control box with valving and control equipment. An air or nitrogen cylinder is installed inside the box for remote inflation when activated by pressing a large red easily visible and easily accessible button.

Actuation of the plug is virtually instantaneous - "After the installation by local plumbers, it was tested and found to be very, very quick. It took only a second or two to provide protection. Then they simply put it back and reset it - it is simplicity itself. These are very rugged multi-use technology designed to withstand extended life in a drain and to function effectively every time they are needed."

Protected by a polyethylene cover to counteract effluents aggression, the extensive range of OFR stoppers is available in standard cylindrical lengths of 950-2200mm - with ovoid, elliptical and other shapes on request.

OFR stoppers complement Air Springs Supply's broader range of Pronal pipe stoppers used for maintenance, testing and emergency tasks in applications as diverse as oil and gas delivery, industrial and municipal water and waste water, and pollution prevention in mining, energy and industrial projects where sealing and testing operations need to be conducted not only with complete safety and environmental security, but also with considerable speed, to maintain flows of liquids and gases.

For smaller diameter pipes, down to 1o0mm, Pronal have developed a complementary product called OPAP Pollu-Plug, which in its uninflated state is permanently mounted flat and conforming to the arc of the top half of a pipe. Once triggered by remote line, it will expand to fill the entire diameter of the pipe.

Ongoing protection against contamination of waterways from spills into water and sewerage lines is provided by Pronal's OPAP and OFR Pollu-Plug stoppers, which are permanently and unobtrusively fitted in water and sewerage lines ready for instantaneous inflation by remote triggering as soon as an emergency arises in industrial, civil and municipal applications.

Different ranges respond to the needs of particular industries and pressure requirement, with ORJ types being used for pressures up to one bar and OPV types for pressures up to 3 bar. Higher pressure stoppers are also available.

"The stoppers are also highly versatile in uses such as testing air, gas and water pressure, locating leaks, and even allowing the injection of chemicals or dies into a pipeline when facilitating cleaning or locating leaks in designated sections between two stoppers. By using the bypass function within the appropriate stopper, chemicals can be introduced then subsequently either diluted for disposal or purged to tanker or reservoir. It's very quick and clean, which is very important when seeking to eliminate risk as required by statutory authorities.

"It is also very secure. Pronal products are based on more than 40 years of producing specialist pneumatic elastomer designs for demanding applications, including government, military, heavy industrial, emergency service, sub-sea and exploration" said Mr Maslin. Air Springs Supply itself has more than 30 years specialist national experience in applying pneumatic actuation and isolation technologies.

"The big advantages of the technology also include simplicity, portability and re-use. Maintenance staff don't need huge amounts of gear on-site and the stoppers themselves are easy to transport around plants to remote locations, where they can be used, moved on, and used again and again. They are an ideal method by which to achieve compliance with statutory requirements in a cost-effective and efficient manner."

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au


 

 
OFR stoppers used in retaining pits
OFR stoppers used in retaining pits

 
The custom fabricated 900mm stopper with three supporting feet per end
The custom fabricated 900mm stopper with three supporting feet per end

 
James Maslin demonstrates a Pollu-Plug
James Maslin demonstrates a Pollu-Plug