Pipe Relining Overview: CIPP Still the Market Leader

By Mike Kezdi

As pipe system owners – be they a municipality, utility company or private business – become increasingly aware of the need to repair their aging and deteriorating systems, the trenchless pipe relining industry is welcoming them with open arms.

Pipe relining, in all its forms, is a less disruptive method of pipe rehabilitation and there are several options available that fall under the trenchless umbrella. The most popular relining method is the cured-in-place variety.

The need for rehab

Through various innovations over the years, this method provides asset owners with the greatest possible value for money, an important factor in times of reduced funding and increasing enforcement of regulations and consent decrees mandated by the EPA.

“There are many methods of trenchless pipe rehabilitation, and although CIPP is the leading method, it is not the only option. Pipe bursting and grouting can be an excellent choice for some projects, says Gil Carroll, marketing manager for Applied Felts and Maxliner. “The best way to ensure that the right method is selected for a given task is to conduct a robust PACP-based inspection, evaluate the results, and determine the best technology for a particular project. Completing the work correctly for each individual application will encourage system owners to consider relining as a viable alternative.”

According to Lynn Osborn, NASSCO technical director and owner of LEO Consulting, there are still city engineers and public works directors or those in similar positions who still prefer traditional open-plan projects. However, this number is decreasing as organizations like NASSCO, NASTT and others push to educate on the latest innovations in trenchless pipeline rehabilitation methods.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the United States' wastewater systems are rated D+ (up from D- in 2013) and water systems are maintained stable at D. According to ASCE's “Failure to Act: Closing” “The Infrastructure Investment Gap for America's Economic Future,” total water/wastewater infrastructure needs from 2016 to 20125 are $150 billion, with estimated funding at $45 billion, leaving the country with a funding gap of $105 billion.

In Canada it is largely the same. A third of Canada's municipal infrastructure is at risk of rapid decline: This is the key finding of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card (CIRC). According to CIRC, 23 percent of stormwater, 29 percent of drinking water and 35 percent of wastewater systems are in fair to very poor condition.
Given this data, it is difficult to say that the pipe relining market has peaked. Quite the opposite: the industry will continue to grow.

Industry Improvements

“When I started in the industry, total pipe relining revenue from cured-in-place pipe was about $40 million to $50 million per year,” Osborn says. “Today, curing-in-place alone is a multibillion-dollar market.”

One of the reasons for the dramatic growth and a trend that continues today and will lead to further growth is the increased performance of the market. While the early years of growth and boom in the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s focused on gravity channels, today the greater growth is on the pressure side.

According to Dr. According to John Matthews, executive director of the Trenchless Technology Center at Louisiana Tech University, the strongest growth in the last decade has been on the water pipe relining side.
“The technical framework for relining water pipes is becoming ever larger in terms of larger diameters, higher pressure capacities and longer routes. In some markets, costs are starting to come down,” says Matthews. “The increased applicability means that the rehabilitation of more pipes can be considered. As costs come down and more contractors become trained in the newer techniques, rehab will become more widespread.”

Osborn agrees, noting that CIPP improvements in both resins and tubing have contributed to market growth, so the largest percentage of growth has been on the pressure tubing side. As materials improved, other offerings also came onto the market in the form of spray-on, spiral-wound, folded pipe, in-place mortar, and spot repairs.

“The quality of cured-in-place products has improved, and there are many other competitors to cured-in-place products, and thanks to these drivers, the offerings have improved,” says Osborn. “Better products and more products mean more installers and more installers means more advocates for the renovation industry.”

One of those early proponents of the industry who witnessed the dramatic growth in the 1990s is Carroll, who remembers that repairs back then consisted mostly of digging and replacing. The industry spent most of its time educating municipalities and engineers about the benefits of trenchless rehabilitation alternatives. Today there is a 180 degree difference in that relining, particularly CIPP, is being accepted and trenchless technologies are becoming a preferred method of repair.

“Comparing the Applied Felts of the mid-90s with those of today shows great developments and improvements in the production of high-quality liners, both in the raw materials used and in the manufacturing and testing methods we use,” says Carroll. “But in my opinion one of the most significant improvements in relining has been the outstanding improvement in the reliability and performance of the resins used in our liners. With the dramatic growth of the CIPP market, manufacturers are now focusing more on developing liners and resins specifically for CIPP to deliver exceptional performance at all stages of application, throughout the process from waterproofing to installation to curing to provide.”

Continuous growth

Given the growth and wider acceptance of CIPP lining, some may wonder whether the industry has peaked. Osborn, Carroll, Matthews and Kaleel Rahaim, manager of pipeline rehabilitation polymers at resin maker Interplastic Corp. Everyone agrees there is still plenty of room for growth, especially as rehab costs come down.

“From a gravity pipeline perspective, we have not plateaued in this market, but the growth rate is lower than in 2000. We will continue to see growth over time as there are many municipalities that have just begun to accept CIPP.” It is a rehabilitation method and there are a lot of underground gravity pipelines that are failing or will fail in the next five years,” says Rahaim. “The availability of pressure pipe linings will see the CIPP market boom and grow significantly over the next three to four years as technology improves and owners become more receptive to relining water and other pressure pipe systems.”

On the penstock side, Rahaim sees the greatest growth potential in the drinking water segment, adding that there is potential for this segment to get to where the gravity sewer segment is today. “The use of CIPP lining to reline transmission and road water pipes will significantly open the pipe relining market,” he says.

On the resin side, companies are now producing products that are free of styrene, low volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAP).

“Styrene-free, VOC-free and HAP-free resins that the industry has developed are an excellent alternative for municipalities and engineering firms,” says Rahaim. “It represents an alternative to the CIPP process, allowing the use of liners without the risk of noxious odors ingress from the process and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being emitted.”
In addition to the resin improvements, Rahaim adds that the liners have also been improved accordingly.

“Both resin manufacturers and bag manufacturers have done an outstanding job advancing the market with new developments in resin and bag technology and construction. We are able to line larger diameter bags and thicker bags for more applications,” he says. “With the introduction of reinforcing media into bag construction, we are able to use these larger bags with fewer resins and materials and not limit the cross-sectional area as much.”

“The industry is diversifying. Experience in developing liners for traditional gravity sewer repair has led us to introduce glass reinforcements for applications including very large diameter gravity sewers and pressure pipes such as penstocks, as well as other potable and non-potable water applications,” says Carroll.

Further improvements

Other improvements that have helped pave the way for further growth include new innovations in pipe cleaning, inspection and assessment technologies, and the adoption of a clean, inspect, assess and repair mentality by system owners. There were also new developments in spot repair – both mechanical and cure-in-place, improved hydrophilic rubber seals and new polymer sprays for pressure pipes.

Osborn sees another area where growth is possible and that is through greater industry participation. Similar to other sectors of the construction industry, the pipeline rehabilitation industry needs people to do the work, and the trenchless rehabilitation industry as a whole needs an influx of young people.

“I see a need for young people in the trade associations like NASTT and NASSCO and UESI Pipelines, where you attend committee meetings and there aren't a lot of young people,” Osborn says. “I know it's harder for people to travel and volunteer today than it was 30 years ago because organizations are so lean and don't have the time. I hope this is an area that works on its own.”

Mike Kezdi is co-editor of Trenchless Technology, a sister publication of Water Finance & Management covering trenchless new construction and renovations in the water, wastewater and other markets. This story previously appeared in Trenchless Technology's annual Pipe Relining Guide, published in September.

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