Morrison Utility Services (soon to be renamed Morrison Water Services) is the largest utility service provider in the UK. We work with all the major water supply companies in the regulated utility sector to keep the taps flowing. Domestic and industrial properties in the UK are supplied with drinking-quality water through a network that is over 100 years old in places. We are currently working with Yorkshire Water, whose network of 62,000 miles of pipework provide 1.24 billion litres of drinking water every single day across one of England's biggest counties, to find new innovations that will transform the water network of the future.
Our client Morrison Utility Services are looking for innovative technologies and new methods of working for repair and maintenance of a clean water network. With so much of the water distribution network reliant on old, metallic underground pipes, corrosion, cracking and deterioration of these pipes, compounded by ground movement, causes leakage and bursts. Loss of water between the treatment works and the end customer results in reduced water pressure, potential contamination, a need to source and treat even more water and, in some cases, a loss of water supply completely. Water companies are required by legislation enforced by the industry regulator (OFWAT) to maintain a constant water supply at customers’ taps, in line with pressure and drinking quality standards. Penalties for any failures are significant, so there is a huge amount of focus on finding and fixing any leaks or bursts in short order. To give an idea of the importance attached to this obligation, water companies must report the time that customers suffer without water in minutes (Customer Minutes Lost).
Traditional methods of repairing and maintaining this network of underground pipes and associated assets can be costly and disruptive. There are generally 3 ways of finding leaks:
- A customer notices a patch of water in the road or footway,
- Listening for the sound of escaping water using leak noise correlator on network access points,
- Analysis of pressure and acoustic logging data - some organisations are building virtual models (aka Digital Twins) of the network.
Once a potential leak has been identified, an excavation is made to expose a section of pipework in the vicinity of the suspected leak. If the leak can be found, the pipe is typically repaired using a suitable collar or clamp, before the hole is backfilled and the road or other surface is reinstated. This process of excavation can be noisy and disruptive to anyone living or travelling through the area.
We are therefore looking for innovations that can transform any aspect of the process summarised above. The innovations should be able to offer transformative outcomes in the end to end repair and maintenance process using non-conventional techniques.
Solutions should be at or approaching Technology Readiness Level 8 or 9 (TRL) (i.e. proven in an operational environment). Consideration may be given to credible solutions that are approaching market readiness and have credible plans to achieve within a 12-24-month (i.e. TRLs 6 and 7).
We expect solutions to address one or more of the following, but other innovations will also be considered:
- Leak prediction, detection and triage (including both hardware and software aspects, and potentially service aspects)
- Dig improvement - such as use of key hole techniques/no-dig approaches, use of long handled tools, suction excavation, pipe pulling, use of sustainable aggregates, etc.
- Dig avoidance - such as in-pipe repair, repair and renewal of communication/supply pipes, self-repairing materials, 3D printing, robotic/internal drone detection and repair.
- Technology led condition assessment and network maintenance.
What's in it for you?
A successful collaboration could result in the introduction of the innovation and a joint deployment of the solution with Morrison Utility Services on Yorkshire Water’s clean water network.
Thereafter, Morrison Utility Services would introduce the solution to every other water company across the UK. Deployment is expected to be facilitated by MUS staff, working jointly with the innovator for mutual commercial benefit.