Seeing More, Seeing Better

Pipe Eye Video Inspections and Services Ltd. embraces technologies

that its owner believes will revolutionize the pipe maintenance industry

By Rosalie E. Leposky 

Kenneth W. Peligren thinks of himself as leading a revolution in pipe inspection and cleaning. As president of Pipe Eye Video Inspections and Services Ltd. in Nanaimo, B.C., he has used cutting-edge technologies not just for routine inspections but for highly challenging applications no one else could tackle.

 They include inspecting a limited-access underwater pipe more than a mile long for a local sanitary district, inspecting and measuring underground coal-mine voids as part of preparations for new buildings and developments, and checking the condition of pipes at area wood pulp mills.Pipe Eye Video has used technologies such as long-range inspection cameras, laser profiling, sonar pipeline imaging, and inclinometers. Peligren is watching with great interest as even more inspection and condition assessment technologies begin to reach the market.

Pipe Eye Video has used technologies such as long-range inspection cameras, laser profiling, sonar pipeline imaging, and inclinometers. Peligren is watching with great interest as even more inspection and condition assessment technologies begin to reach the market.


The Camera head of an Inuktun Versatrax 150 inspection System

“We’re one of the companies adapting and bringing together a lot of existing technologies,” he says. “Across the industry, a race is going on to apply the new technologies worldwide. Other companies are doing it differently, but we are going to win. We will access our customers’ problems with the new technologies.”

Low-tech beginnings

Peligren’s quest for new technologies began with his first company, Ken’s Contracting, a traditional excavating business he founded in 1984. His world changed with new regional specifications that required newly constructed pipelines to be video inspected.

“In 1994, I hired a video inspection company to inspect a project we completed,” he says. “We had to wait a month for them to inspect our first jobsite, and after they completed the work, I had to wait two additional weeks for their report. That was just too long.”

In 1995, he closed the excavating company and sold his equipment to raise money to buy his first robotic pipe inspection system and launch Pipe Eye Video. In the inspection business, he follows a successful pattern: investigation, research, adaptation and application.

“My research revealed two other video inspection companies on Vancouver Island, one 100 miles away in Victoria, and one in Duncan, about 50 miles from Nanaimo,” says Peligren.

“I researched video inspection software and hardware technology and how to use it, and I researched potential industrial and environmental applications.

Next he researched video inspection equipment. Right in the neighborhood, he found Inuktun Services Ltd., an eight-year-old robotic manufacturing company in Nanaimo.

Building a business

Peligren’s research also identified companies that needed pipe inspection. Those included seven wood pulp mills within 100 miles. He knew he could work in the mills when they weren’t operating if he had his own power source, so he built battery-powered equipment. To contain costs, he transformed a 1993 one-ton Ford van into an inspection vehicle, running the cameras off three, large deep-cycle batteries recharged by a diesel engine.

  Company owner Ken Peligren (left) and technician Jeromie Alderson deploy the Versatrax 300 VLR camera from Inuktun Services, Ld.

Peligren retained his excavation-business contacts with Vancouver Island municipalities and regional district water and sanitary sewer authorities. “Our name and reputation are well-known, and that helps to obtain work for our new services,” he says.

Vancouver Island’s moderate climate makes it a retirement capital. It has very little snow, a strong construction industry, and a good mix of heavy industry. About half of Pipe Eye Video’s business is in new construction. The firm serves 10 municipalities and three regional districts on Vancouver Island, and more than 100 steady commercial and industrial customers.

Pipe Eye provides traditional full-service cleaning and inspection services, such as industrial vacuum, hydroblasting, sanitary sewer `cleaning and root removal, CCTV pipe inspection, utility locating, and storm sewer maintenance. Equipment includes two Vactor combination vacuum and flush trucks and a hydroexcavation truck, all purchased from Empire Equipment Inc. in Orange, Calif.

  James Milward (left) and Jeromie Alderson deploy the 300 VLR system for a 5,000-foot survey of a stormwater outfall line through an inaccessible right-of-way.

Older fleet, newest technology

Cleaner - April 2007 - For Residential, Municipal and Industrial Cleaning ContractorsTo build his inspection fleet, Peligren has purchased older trucks and equipped them with the newest and best technology, primarily products from Inuktun Services, Prototek Corp. and UEMSI. Today the fleet includes two Ford box vans, a 1994 F-350 with a 14-foot box equipped with a Spectrum 60 pan-and-tilt camera from Inuktun; and a 2002 F-450 with a 16-foot box, a Spectrum 60 camera, a Spectrum 90 pan, tilt, and zoom camera, and an LF 2000 locator from Prototek Corp.

Also available are two UEMSI push cameras, a Navigator and a Predator, used to inspect service laterals. “Initially we did a lot of residential work. Now we mostly do larger commercial and industrial pipe work,” says Peligren.

Beginning in 2000, Peligren began to receive inquiries about mine inspections. “That’s a service offered by very few people in our industry,” he says. “We live in what was once a very rich coal-mining community. For five years, our company has worked with local developers to find out what is underground before they build new high-rise developments on top of old mine shafts. We used one of the first Spectrum 100 PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) drop camera systems for a client who drilled a shaft where he suspected there might be an old mining shaft.

“With help from Inuktun, we designed laser technology that gives compass headings and distance finders to establish the size of underground mine voids. One void on Vancouver Island extended under a major roadway and had to be evaluated and filled with non-shrinking slurry concrete before the road started to settle.

“Our clients bore holes into the ground and we send our equipment underground and calculate the size of the void. From the information we collect, our clients figure out how much slurry to pour into the void to set and dry. We come back between slurry dumps and survey the area with our laser compass distance finder to help clients figure out how much additional slurry they need to fill the void.”


Jeromie Alderson at the controls ofthe Versatrax 150 system.

Going long-distance

In 2003, the Nanaimo Regional District on Vancouver Island wanted a video inspection of a 30-year-old sanitary sewer line that runs under the ocean in a concrete pipe 5 feet wide, with minimum ocean access at seasonal tides.

Peligren got the job by agreeing to rent a Versatrax 300 VLR camera from Inuktun. This track-mounted camera system is designed for long-range inspections (up to 6,600 feet) of pipes 10 inches and larger. It provides data using standard codes:

• In Canada and Europe, the Water Research Council (WRc) and North American Association of Pipeline Inspectors (NAAPI) systems.

• In the United States, the Pipeline Assessment and Certification Program (PACP) from the National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO).

To perform the Nanaimo Regional District inspection, Pipe Eye technicians built aluminum floats for the VLR 300 camera. “We removed the tracks from the camera and deployed it from a manhole access point at the British Columbia Ferry Docks on Departure Bay,” Peligren says. “The float system, including camera and cables, went underground about 6,500 feet downstream to the Departure Bay lift station on Kin Beach in Nanaimo.

“The inspection deployment and retrial took 23 hours. We all stayed for the duration, and hired caterers. The system’s umbilical cable was set on a crate beside the inspection van. All the information was routed from the camera through the inspection van, which was equipped with a 300-gigabyte hard drive. We purchase off-the-shelf computer supplies and build our own computers, and purchase computer software as required.”

In August of 2005, Peligren purchased the prototype Versatrax 300 VLR from Inuktun. To help with maintenance and continue adaptations for the 300 VLR, Peligren hired James Milward, a robotics control systems designer who had worked for Inuktun.

International reach

The new technology generated worldwide interest, and Peligren decided it deserved its own international company. So, in 2006, he founded Pipe Eye International Ltd. to provide new technology for difficult situations where underground or underwater pipelines or mine shafts more than 1,000 feet long need inspection.


 The Inktun Versatrax 150 inline system is deployed in a new 18-inch storm line.

New technologies challenge the way things are done. “Special training is required to use the new technologies and the adaptations of older ones,” says Peligren. “For instance, not everyone can use sonar. It takes time to learn how to pick a good sonar unit and learn to use it.

“We have developed a system that combines sonar and video that can go through the pipelines and study all elevations. Sonar will travel farther than a laser distance finder, and it gives us an actual topographic look at the inside of a tunnel or pipe.”

Research and development of new technologies requires hundreds of thousands of dollars, a large investment for a small company. “My vision for my company has been that we would pursue technological advancements well beyond those available to pipe cleaners at the end of the 20th century,” Peligren says.

Future technologies

Milward says Pipe Eye International is researching more advanced technologies for assessing pipelines. “These technologies can be used to characterize the integrity of a pipeline quantitatively,” he explains. “Such data can be used to augment standard CCTV inspection. Non-destructive examination (NDE) and other methods can be used to provide data on wall thickness, internal cracks, and the level of corrosion throughout a pipeline.

“Pipelines are affected by pressure from above that changes their shape, creating pipeline stress. Sags in sections of pipe and ovaling of a pipeline can be imaged to amazing accuracy. We have already begun to receive requests to use these technologies, and we expect fairly quick implementation.”

Pipe Eye is also investigating the use ­of laser profiling to create 3D images of internal pipe profiles accurate to 0.01 inch. The technology can detect pipe deformation and provide other information such as surface deposit volume, profile and section volume, and water level. Laser profiles operate from above the water line. “New laser technology requires extensive research, and suppliers have to be identified,” says Peligren.

Another technology under investigation is ground-penetrating radar (GPR) for imaging rebar in concrete, determining the thickness of concrete, and detecting underground voids outside pipe walls. “Systems are available to do what we want,” says Peligren. “We are looking for those that can be mounted on our VLR 300 system, travel over a mile through a pipe, and successfully transmit back data.” Also promising are:

• Electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) for corrosion and pipeline integrity analysis. “We only recently started researching EMAT products and manufacturers,” says Peligren.

• P-wave, a device that creates a magnetic field and looks for changes in the field caused by deformation or breaks in reinforcement wire in pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipelines.

With these and other technologies, Pipe Eye Video Inspections and Services Ltd. expects to keep itself on the forefront of inspection for the municipal and industrial/commercial markets.


Reaching Farther

Technologies like the Inuktun 300 VLR camera enable Pipe Eye International Ltd. to undertake long-distance pipe inspections and the provide service far from the home base in Nanaimo, B.C. Notable inspections include:

• Alaska: Inspected for weld defects in every foot of 10,000 feet of jet-fuel lines on a military airfield from two locations. The longest single run was 4,700 feet, after passing eight 90-degree bends in a 14-inch pipe.

• Nevada: Inspected more than 12,000 feet of 18-inch potable water lines installed in 1867 in the Carson City area. The water lines run at an elevation of 8,000 feet along a treacherous mountain road that serves Carson City and Virginia City. “The pipelines were at 100 percent flow most of the time as we collected video and sonar data,” says robotics engineer James Milward.

• Colorado: Inspected four 7,000-foot, 36-inch pipelines at a tailings pond for a molybdenum mine at an elevation above 10,000 feet in cold weather. The inspection uncovered multiple problems, and the client decided to decommission the lines.

• Ontario: Inspected 8,000 feet of sewer mains in a busy urban area, using a floatation platform most of the time. The technology enabled work crews collecting video and sonar data to avoid many inconvenient access points in intersections and on inaccessible rights-of-way.

• Alberta: Inspected sewer siphons and provided a sonar report. The pipeline was at 100 percent flow, so the inspection was carried out using only the sonar.

• British Columbia: In a remote mountain location at Clayton Falls in Bella Coola, Pipe Eye inspected for BC Hydro just over 2,000 feet of a 42-inch penstock line with multiple 45-degree bends.

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 April 2007

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