Energy Considerations for Pipe Replacement in Water Distribution Systems

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Prosser, Monica
Sustainability , Life-Cycle Energy Analysis , Water Distribution , Sensitivity Analysis , Energy
Water utilities are facing pressure to continue to provide high-quality potable water in an increasingly energy constrained world; managing the ageing infrastructure that exists in many countries is a challenge in and of itself, but recently this has been coupled with political and public attention to the environmental impacts of the distribution system. Utility managers need to take a holistic approach to decision-making in order to determine all of the impacts of their plans. The intention of this thesis is to present a set of considerations for utility planners and managers to provide clarity to the trade-offs associated with any pipe replacement decision. This research has examined the energy relationships between operational energy reduction and the embodied energy tied to replacing deteriorated pipes in water distribution networks. These relationships were investigated through the development and application of a life-cycle energy analysis (LCEA) for three different pipe replacement schedules developed with the intent to reduce leakage in the system. The results showed that the embodied energy for pipe replacement is significant even when compared against the large amount of energy required to operate a large-scale water utility. The annual operational energy savings of between 8.9 and 9.6 million kWh achieved by 2070 through pipe replacement comes at a cost; 0.88-2.05 million kWh/mile for replacement with ductile iron pipes with diameters of 6” to 16” respectively. This imbalance resulted in a maximum energy payback period of 17.6 years for the most aggressive replacement plan in the first decade. Some of the assumptions that were used to complete the LCEA were investigated through a sensitivity analysis; specific factors that were numerically queried in this chapter include the break rate forecasting method, pumping efficiency, the leakage duration and the flow rate per leakage event. Accurate accounting of energy requirements for pipe replacement will become even more important as energy and financial constraints continue to increase for most water utilities, this thesis provides guidance on some of the complex relationships that need to be considered.
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