Agribusiness benefits from cost-effective, easily installed and environmentally advantageous inflatable pipeline stoppers

Feb 14, 2016 in February 2016, News 2016
One of the Pronal stopper ranges, left, and a stopper in-situ, right demonstrated by James Maslin. High pressure models can withstand a back pressure of 30 bar and are used on onshore, offshore and critical applications including nuclear

Broader ranges of environmentally cost-effective Pronal pipe stoppers are being introduced to Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd to help food, beverage, primary industry and agribusiness concerned about spills and runoff of potentially hazardous or harmful liquids, fertilizers and nutrients.

Pronal inflatable pipe stoppers are used for rapid and effective blockage of such spills into pipeline systems from which they might enter environmentally sensitive watersheds surrounding businesses ranging from meat, fish, poultry, crop, paper, packaging and processing centres to growing areas for sugarcane, cotton, fruit and vegetables, timber and horticultural products.

“Pollution or cross-contamination of water supplies has become a much bigger issue in recent times as, increasingly, urban and rural areas overlap with population growth. This is placing pressure on agribusiness to ensure that it demonstrates community awareness of shared water resources by ensuring it has anti-pollution planning in place,” says Air Springs Supply National Marketing Manager Mr James Maslin.

“Then too there is the issue of organic and genetically modified crops existing alongside each other, with legal issues arising from maintenance of borders, integrity of watersheds and avoidance of waterborne organic material,” he said.

Pronal plugs from Air Springs Supply are used in Australia and globally for maintenance, testing and emergency tasks in industrial and municipal water and waste water, as well as for pollution prevention in 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 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 Mr Maslin.

Permanently installed Pronal stoppers remain within pipelines (left) until they are inflated for emergency use (right)

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.

“Pipelines are a particularly important component of risk management plans where food, business and agribusiness 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, says Mr Maslin. 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.

Permanently installed Pronal stoppers

Permanently installed Pronal stoppers can be used within pipelines to protect liquid tankage, lagoons, pondage and process liquids

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 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 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.