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Morrison Utility Services Designs Bespoke ‘Calm Networks’ Training Rig on Behalf of South West Water

Morrison Utility Services’ (MUS) water technologies team has completed the installation of its largest bespoke ‘calm networks’ training rig on behalf of South West Water (SWW).

The MUS water technologies team designed, built and commissioned the pressure transient valve training rig and associated facilities inside SWW’s production site in Exeter.

The purpose-built training rig is designed to develop understanding of the causes of transient surge in the water distribution network. The facility demonstrates the potentially damaging consequences of transient surge that can occur as a result of network operations or interventions, and how these can be avoided or reduced by operatives, technicians and other non-water industry network users by modifying traditional distribution network valve and hydrant operational practices. 

The 30m x 12m rig is surrounded by 8.5m high, sound insulated partition walls inside the existing process building. The rig consists of a closed 200 metre coil of 90mm diameter polyethylene (PE) pipe fed by a heavy duty pump from a tank reservoir, circulating water around a number of test loops and branches.

Simulating a section of operational main, the rig can be adjusted to produce a range of flow velocities and pressures. The system is also equipped with various valves, hydrants, pressure relief valves (PRV), MSM chamber and other apparatus designed to replicate equivalent network installations, configurations and conditions.

Strategically positioned high speed pressure sensors, capable of measuring pressure variations and pulses as short as 5/1,000ths of a second, are connected to a large graphical display designed to provide trainees with an insight into the pressure conditions and consequences of the correct or incorrect operation of the various valves and other apparatus.

At SWW’s request, the training rig design included additional innovative elements. These included an elevated clear pipe section, which rotates at the flange positions to achieve variable levels of ‘high point’ above mains level, enabling simulation of potential air collection points. With air known to be a cause of service and asset failures, the clear pipe section provides trainees with an opportunity to observe trapped air and its variable conditions.

Steel braces give support to the elevated tee and hydrant which weighs nearly 50kg when filled with pressurised water. Controlled actuated valves were also installed to enable technicians to be trained on their operation and to develop their understanding of how they, too, can generate damaging transient energy in a network. A dedicated rig outstation can also be seen and controlled via the company’s SCADA system.

Mark Hilson, South West Water Director of Networks and Customer Services, commented: “It’s great to see our vision of an industry leading training facility become a reality. The Network Training Centre (NTC) will not only be utilised to train existing staff and partners, but will form an integral part of the learning journey for future apprentice intakes, ensuring we maintain a highly skilled workforce for generations to come. I would like to thank the team at MUS for sharing our vision and working alongside us to deliver the facility to such exacting standards.”

Tony Hanks, technical lead for the MUS water technologies team, commented: “This rig is one of the most complex designs of a series of ten rigs within the clean water sector commissioned to date. It will give South West Water’s trainees and time served engineers, as well as service providers and organisations that interact with the network, a true-to-life experience of managing the effects of transient surge. It will also raise awareness of the key operational good practice that prevents this from happening, and improve network integrity and good customer service in the long run.”

Lawrence Summers, MUS Executive Director, added: “We are delighted to have completed what is our largest bespoke calm networks training rig to date. Transient surge is an ongoing issue for water companies and this purpose-built facility will prove to be a really beneficial investment for South West Water.”