TraceSafe - Water Blocking Tracer Wire

Operations Technology Development Puts Tracer Wires to the Test

A new study from Operations Technology Development (OTD), a natural gas industry trade association, has ranked the performance of a variety of leading tracer wires in the lab and in the field for their suitability in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) applications. OTD tasked the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) with conducting the research on the 18 different products, in what amounts to the most comprehensive lab and field testing of tracer wires to date. One product stood out dramatically from the others in its performance: Trace-Safe’s.

The OTD report, “Tracer Wire for HDD Applications,” examined the properties and performance of different types of tracer wire from six different vendors: Agave Wire, Ltd.; Copperhead Industries, LLC; Kris-Tech Wire; NEPTCO/Trace-Safe; Paige Electric Company, LLP; and Pro-Line Safety Products Company. The types of wire (in various gauges) included: solid copper, hard-drawn solid copper, copper-clad steel, hard-drawn copper-clad steel, fully annealed copper-clad steel, stress relieved copper-clad steel, super-flex copper-clad steel, high-strength copper-clad steel, extra high-strength copper-clad steel, dead soft annealed copper-clad steel, stress relieved copper-clad steel, high-flex copper-clad steel, HDD copper-clad steel, and fiber and copper.

The purpose of the testing, according to OTD, was to develop data that could be used by the gas industry and its contractors to enhance the efficiency and success of installing and locating plastic pipelines used to transport natural gas. The project’s scope included: product review and test protocol development, laboratory testing, field testing, and development of recommendations.

In laboratory tests, the report notes that: “One company’s product exhibited a significantly high tensile load (approx. 1,800 lb), attributed to the polymer fibers which provide the strength. This wire also exhibited the similar high tensile load when it was tested with a kink.” In abrasion and scrape-resistance testing, “one company’s insulation (containing polymer fiber and HDPE coating) was significantly higher than the traditional HDPE and LDPE coating.” And after completing field tests, the OTD recommended that “users and wire manufacturers should take into account the selection of high-performance insulation materials that have higher abrasion and scrape resistance in order to prevent wire insulation damage during HDD installations.”

The OTD concluded: “In all, one company’s wire outperformed the other wires based on its rating for the various performance properties evaluated. This wire was also tested in the two field test trials by HDD installation and did not show significant damage on the wire insulation. Furthermore, the continuity of this wire conductor was not affected after a 2,000-hour corrosion test.”

The full 81-page report is available through OTD’s website. We think their test results speak volumes.

Con Ed Puts in a Good Word for Us

Everyone likes to hear good things said about them, and we’re no different. Recently, Consolidated Edison Company of New York published an article on its corporate website about the use of tracer wire in underground utility locating. The article was written by Natalino Giraldi, a Senior Environmental Health and Safety Specialist in Con Ed’s Central Gas Operations. We think Mr. Giraldi has successfully framed the argument for using state-of-the-art tracer wire in all future trenchless technology installations using HDPE plastic pipes, especially in regard to long-term economic benefits. And he points to one firm standing out as the provider of the most-advanced tracer wire available on the market: NEPTCO. Mr. Giraldi came to his own conclusions, without solicitation from us. So we’ll let Mr. Giraldi speak for himself.

Here are a few excerpts from what he had to say:

  • ‘The current tracer wire used industry-wide is a 12 or 14 gauge copper wire with nylon PVC coating. Over time, this wire can deteriorate due to moisture and ground elements, ultimately exposing the copper. When this happens, the locate signal is lost, resulting in mismarks by one call or no trace whatsoever.’
  • ‘In my experience, it has been virtually impossible to install tracer wire due to the magnitude of force needed for the installation of HDPE (high-density polyurethane) plastic via trenchless technology. This is due to the pulling force ranging from 50 to 65 tons. It is in these instances that the tracer wire is sheared off, making it difficult to perform a mark out of the utility installed.’
  • ‘Recognizing the industry growth of trenchless technology methods due to the cost savings associated with it, the methodology of utilizing NEPTCO’s Trace -Safe wire gave birth to a process which has proven to be successful. The Trace-Safe wire (19 gauge) after installation provided a 720-kHz reading. The traditional 12-14 gauge wire provided a reading of 415 kHz to 435 kHz.’
  • ‘Consolidated Edison successfully completed installations of HDPE via trenchless methods such as Consplit, PIM, Hole Hogging and Directional Boring utilizing Trace-Safe. The application method was applied in various locations consisting of many different types of ground elements such as rock, clay soil, sand, and a mixture of dirt and rocky conditions. The Trace-Safe wire performed to expectations. Trenchless main installations of HDPE utilizing existing steel and cast iron pipes ranging from 350 feet to 500 feet were performed. The Trace-Safe wire was permanently attached to the HDPE and pulled in simultaneously with the carry pipe. This provided us with the capability of precise mark out locations, therefore positively reinforcing our mains mapping system.
  • ‘Trace-Safe tracer wire will improve the methodology and provide needed measures that can more  precisely identify underground high-density polyurethane plastic safely, efficiently and economically.’

Naturally, we think Mr. Giraldi has made a strong case for choosing the most sophisticated tracer wire available for your next gas, water, sewer, electric or other utility installs using HDPE. We politely recommend you consider his advice.

(For the full text, please see the article “Consolidated Edison Company of New York Takes Pipe Safety to a New Dimension.”)

Smarter Planning for the Roadways of the Future

Across the United States, urban planners and engineers have been struggling with the problem of improving highway systems in congested areas amid acute shortfalls in state budgets for infrastructure projects. The solution that many transportation departments have found lies in building roadways that are not bigger but are smarter. Following an initiative that has been around since the 1990s, these state DOTs have been using the latest technical wizardry to manage the flow of traffic and squeeze additional capacity out of existing facilities. Claiming a heritage from the space program, the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) offers a blueprint for using integrated software and hardware tools that enable administrators to optimize traffic on the fly.

A transportation engineer we checked with recently called ITS a retro-fit application.“The highway or arterial is instrumented with wireless or fiber-linked sensors and closed-circuit cameras,” noted Mike Pietrzyk, a highway planning consultant in Houston. Information Transportation System“This information is typically sent back in real-time fashion to a traffic management center for proactive decision-making and responsiveness. The ultimate value of ITS is reduced delay, reduced fuel consumption and reduced injuries or fatalities.”

The national ITS program was originally initiated for several reasons: available right-of-way for facility expansion became very limited and extremely expensive; it afforded another way to improve safety and add capacity without building more; and it provided an outlet for defense contractors to re-engineer and re-market their technologies into the transportation industry when the Cold War ended.

The heyday for new development and deployment of ITS was the early 1990s through the mid-2000s. The vast majority of deployment was focused on the Interstate system and some transit and commercial vehicle applications. Now, most of the activity is centered on the arterial roadway networks and upgrading or replacing the original systems that were installed decades ago. Federal and state funding for these activities has diminished; but for many state DOTs, ITS is not a separate line item. It’s become a part of any transportation improvement option. However, integration and upgrade can become an issue with unsophisticated operators.

For more on what the separate states are doing with ITS, please visit the ITS America website, which provides the latest information on ongoing programs and activities.

Of special interest to us at Trace-Safe in all this is the opportunity to work with state DOTs on construction projects. Upgrading existing roadways involves extensive analysis of underground infrastructure. Properly locating gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and power lines before ground is broken is essential to the success of any ITS venture. And ensuring that new infrastructure will be easily locatable for maintenance work is equally important going forward. That’s how we see ourselves playing a part in building the smarter roadways of the future.

Benefits of Tracer Wire Technology in Water/Wastewater Systems: Part 2

Problems with wastewater (or sewer) systems pose slightly different challenges to the integrity of our water delivery infrastructure than clean-water systems.

The same study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that we mentioned in Part 1 last time also found that 1.2 trillion gallons of water overflows every year from sewer systems, commingling storm water and wastewater, polluting public lands and waterways, as well as private property. Building and repairing these wastewater lines costs the American public between $13.0 billion and $20.9 billion a year. These sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) are expensive and unsanitary. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), SSOs are primarily caused by broken pipes, equipment failure or system overload. The EPA estimates that as many as 40,000 SSOs occur per year. And the task of preventing these sewer spills falls on municipalities and local governments.

“Cities estimate that 60 percent of SSOs come from leaking service lines, and monitoring and maintenance programs are a key component in preventing them,” the EPA suggested.

That points to another factor to consider in thinking of a tracer wire provider for your underground water/wastewater construction needs. Local municipalities across America pretty much have one thing in common: tight budgets. The long-term costs of maintaining a water system are of keen concern to municipalities (because we all need water for a variety of purposes). Part of the total cost of ownership of a water system is that previously mentioned repair bill for leaking lines. A typical underground water or sewer installation is expected to last up to 30 years. Using a cheap tracer wire, such as THHN, for locate purposes almost ensures that this wire will need to be replaced before the lifespan of the pipeline comes about. That won’t happen with a Trace-Safe-equipped installation. The money you’ll save in the long run will be up-front money well spent by your municipal water authority.

Just ask some of our customers: such as Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer, Illinois American Water, and Aqua America, a leading provider of drinking water and wastewater services for nearly 3 million people in 13 states. They’ll tell you that they saw the benefits of Trace-Safe.

Benefits of Tracer Wire Technology in Water/Wastewater Systems: Part 1

We follow up on our last blog, on the “Benefits of Tracer Wire Technology in the Natural Gas Industry,” with a look at how Trace-Safe can help folks in the water and wastewater field. First, we’ll discuss underground water-supply infrastructure.

Here’s an interesting fact. Did you know that more cost is incurred from leaking water lines than from broken gas lines? The discrepancy in public perception is that a ruptured gas main can cause an instant calamity, such as a dramatic explosion, possibly resulting in property damage, personal injury or loss of life; whereas a damaged water line, while far less newsworthy, represents a slow-motion process that has serious repercussions for all of us. Like the proverbial drop in the bucket, these water line breakages just slowly but steadily squander a valuable resource over time.

A study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that as much as one-fifth of the drinking water in the United States is lost to leaky lines. You may think, “Well, it’s only water, how much could that cost?” The truth is that water costs a lot. The same CBO report put the annual capital cost of investment in water systems for the years 2000 to 2019 on average at between $11.6 billion and $20.1 billion for drinking water systems. So a 20 percent “spoilage” loss is a significantly costly problem.

The leakage that occurs on a regular basis in the nation’s water systems is partially the result of damaged underground pipelines. Locating these pipes can be a complicated and difficult process. Some of the difficulty can be reduced by the use of tracer wire in the laying (and troubleshooting) of pipeline systems. Naturally, when you consider the unique characteristics of using tracer wire in an underground setting in which liquids are being transported, the first hazard that comes to mind is deterioration from corrosion. In the case of Trace-Safe, this problem is eliminated at the very start of construction through to the lifespan of the utility line. Trace-Safe is a “Water Blocking Tracer Wire System” that is guaranteed to prevent corrosion. As we mentioned in our last post, Trace-Safe wire has been subjected to a 2000-hour corrosion test, and it passed with flying colors.

So one step in helping to stem the flow of our leaky water-supply infrastructure is to keep it properly maintained and repair it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Benefits of Tracer Wire Technology in the Natural Gas Industry

The natural gas industry spends a great deal of money each year locating pre-existing underground pipelines for new projects and, in some instances, emergency repairs of extant infrastructure. This is a critical investment and should be considered an essential component of pipeline management. The real cost of ignoring best practices or skimping on safety precautions in this industry can obviously become catastrophic, in terms of money, property and even human life.

There are more than 210 natural gas pipeline systems in the United States, operating some 305,000 miles of pipe, of which 180,000 miles consist of interstate pipelines. This pipeline capacity is capable of transporting about 150 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

So, one can readily see that monitoring such a large network for routine maintenance or repair work is a monumental task. Modernizing the job with the latest in technology should obviously then be on the minds of industry executives and government regulators (especially at the state and local level). One proven technique for locating underground lines is the use of tracer wire, which enables electronic location devices to readily find faults in ruptured gas lines. And the latest technology upgrade to tracer wire is Neptco’s Trace-Safe, the Water Blocking Tracer Wire System.

When we asked the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) to field test Trace-Safe, they ran an exhaustive battery of standardized tests to measure its performance characteristics and issued a 78-page report on their findings. Some of the salient findings by the GTI include:

  • Strength-to-weight ratio: utilizes a woven polyester core with an internal insulated wire, resulting in a significantly higher tensile load, even when kinked.
  • Scrape resistance: significantly higher than traditional HDPE and LDPE insulation.
  • Corrosion resistance: continuity was not affected after the 2000-hour corrosion test.

“In all, Trace-Safe wire outperformed the other traditional wires based on its rating for the above properties,” the GTI report stated.
In separate tests, Trace-Safe was checked for both signal strength and the effects of lightning on a metallic conductor. Mike Parilac, of Staking University in Monteno, Ill., put Trace-Safe through its paces in the field and found that it delivered higher signal strength and achieved superior locating results versus 12-gauge copper. And Lightning Technologies Inc., of Pittsfield, Mass., ran a lightning strike simulation in their lab and found that Trace-Safe did not conduct an electrical current when struck by artificial lightning, which is extremely important in its use in gas pipeline applications.

Overall, adoption of a next-generation tracer wire system such as Trace-Safe has physical advantages in the field that gas pipeline managers and planners should consider going forward. The real cost of deploying such a locating resource should be considered negligible when taken in full context.

Trace-Safe Offers Next-Generation Benefits to Pipeline Maintenance

One of the most commonly heard refrains in America these days is that “we must do more to repair our crumbling infrastructure.” That is nowhere more apt than in the state of the nation’s aging underground gas, oil, water, sewer, and telecom lines.

Consider the following examples:

  • On February 27 of this year, as a work crew replaced pipelines dating to 1929 in Royal Oak, Mich., a natural-gas explosion killed a man, leveled his house and damaged 30 other homes.
  • On March 29, a rupture in a pipeline operated by ExxonMobil spilled 157,000 gallons of crude oil into a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark., sending 20 families from their homes.
  • In Kansas City on February 19, a contractor laying fiber-optic cable hit a gas line with a boring machine, which soon set off a blast that destroyed a restaurant, killing one and injuring 15.
  • A large crack in an 83-year-old, cast-iron gas main caused a February 9, 2011, explosion in Allentown, Pa., that killed five and damaged nearly 50 homes.

And the list goes on and on.

Part of solving the problem of fixing old lines is proper monitoring and maintenance of complex underground systems, locating cracks and leaks in them when they first occur. Location technology has improved to the point that field technicians have gotten much better at preventative maintenance, but there is still much room for improvement.

Trace-Safe from NEPTCO is an improved version of tracer wire for use in locating buried utility lines. It offers enhanced corrosion resistance and a unique locate clip that eliminates water penetration. Today’s locating technology means using a smaller gauge conductor for better signal control and a more accurate locate. Reduced signal bleed over onto other utilities provides a more accurate understanding of what you are trying to find. In addition, NEPTCO has developed a connector for Trace-Safe that does not require stripping the conductor insulation. Simply insert Trace-Safe and clamp the connector with a pair of pliers. The connection is completed in seconds. Plus, Trace-Safe will not carry a current caused by a lightning strike. And Trace-Safe is more cost effective than standard copper tracer wire.

The bottom line with Trace-Safe is greater peace of mind, savings and accurate location.

To learn more about Trace-Safe, please visit our products page. Then give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you.

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Are all tracer wires created equal? The answer is unequivocally “No!”

Schematic_Trace-Safe tracer wire cableFor many years there has been no significant change or advancement in tracer wire. It was often thought of as a simple, commoditized product. Your choices typically included standard, solid copper tracer wire and for additional strength (and a higher price tag) —  (CCS) copper coated steel. However, Trace-Safe has changed the landscape and the tracer wire category as a whole. People are paying more attention to its unique characteristics including its ability to block water. Trace-Safe is the only product available that possesses water blocking capability. It has greater tensile strength, excellent break strength and superior accuracy. And it’s all due to engineered polymer science, a unique layered construction, as well as NEPTCO’s extensive knowledge concerning the underground utility environment. Extensive field tests conducted by industry experts agree. Learn more by clicking on the testing and data tab of our web site

Would your tracer wire withstand a trench collapse? How about a hit from a backhoe or a nick from a shovel?

backhoeDuring trenching, soil collapse is something that cannot be ignored. You not only have to be aware of the type of soil you’re working with and implement techniques to keep your workers and pipelines safe, but you also need to consider what could happen to your tracer wire if the unexpected occurs. If a collapse does occur and tons of soil and rock come smashing down into the trench, will your tracer wire be able to withstand the load? If it is hit by a backhoe or even nicked by a shovel, will it stay intact or become compromised, leaving it vulnerable to water penetration and corrosion? We’ve given great consideration to these scenarios during our design and development of Trace-Safe. We’re confident in its tensile strength, break strength and water blocking capability. Learn more about trench safety in this article on how trenches collapse from Underground Focus magazine.

Tips on using the Trace-Safe water blocking system for HDD

image007Check out the most recent video for helpful tips about using the Trace-Safe water blocking system for horizontal directional drilling. Hear what Mike Parilac from Staking University has to say after the second field test using Trace-Safe.

Do you have any helpful tips, challenges or a story to share on HDD? We’d love to hear from you.