Alan lives in Adelaide with his wife of 38 years, having moved from Sydney in 1987. They have two children and three lovely young granddaughters.
“I have a passion for golf but not the talent. I like all sports and am a firm believer that you simply cannot have too many Fox Sports channels,” says Alan.
How long have you been working in the trenchless industry?
It all began in 1980 with the Insituform cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) process.Article continues below…
I was working with concrete pipe company Monier Ltd at the time when I was asked to take over the management of a new technology for the lining of pipes that was called Insituform. Monier had just obtained the exclusive Australian rights for the process that could rehabilitate the entire length of a pipe from existing manhole access.
Alan has shared his 30 years in the trenchless industry equally between the Insituform process, Rib Loc Australia and currently Kembla Watertech Pty Ltd. Cured-in-place pipe
CIPP, as it is now known, was invented and first demonstrated by Eric Wood in London in the early 1970s under the name Insituform. My role in this technique’s ongoing development in Australia was concentrated in two areas. First, we had to make this new process effective in 150 mm diameter sewers and so among a number of initiatives, we developed our own robotic cutters.
Major authorities in Australia have a number of critical sewer mains of oviform shape. While this egg shape has the advantage of providing a self cleaning velocity at low flows, the same shape makes it very difficult to design and install a lining that will restore structural strength to the sewer without loss of flow capacity. Our second development focus became oviform sewers and Australia led the way with the early testing and development of CIPP linings for oviform sewers.
Dec Downey (ISTT Chairman) mentioned Bill Goodman’s name during his keynote address at Trenchless Australasia 2009. Bill Goodman was Sewerage Maintenance Engineer for Sydney Water in the early 1980s and I had the pleasure of working with him on the development of the concept of ‘reinforced’ linings for oviforms. Sydney Water had some major problems with deep oviform sewers and, together with Monier, a full scale timber mock up of a 990 mm x 660 mm oviform pipe was constructed so that we could carry out installation of various lining designs and test them to failure under simulated field loads. Some 25 years on and I am now involved with Kembla’s contract with Sydney Water for the rehabilitation of 3.5 kilometres of various size oviform sewers using the latest CIPP technology.
Spiral wound pipe
Mr SWO (Bill) Menzel, OBE AO was one of the early pioneers in the plastic industry in Australia and was Chairman of Rib Loc Australia until his passing in 2001. Rib Loc is the world leader in spirally wound plastic pipe technology and I was approached by the company in 1987 to develop and market worldwide the use of spiral wound pipe technology for rehabilitation of pipes.
My early days with Rib Loc were spent on the development of the Expanda pipe concept. Bill had come up with the idea of installing a spiral wound pipe into a sewer at a smaller diameter and then expanding it out to the pipe wall. Our job was to make it work in the real world and many different prototypes were trialled. After several years of R&D work with a German associated company, Interflow signed a technology licence with Rib Loc Australia, which meant new developments could now be tested in the field under Australian conditions with immediate feedback. The Expanda pipe system is now used extensively in Australia and also in a number of countries overseas. Of course, in the 150 mm to 300 mm diameter range, Expanda pipe is a direct competitor to Kembla’s Ex method and so every time Kembla’s main competitor is “lucky” enough to win a job against us I get a ribbing that “it’s all your fault”.
Sealing/structural repair of pipe junctions and lining cut outs
For the last ten years I have been with Kembla Watertech as the Engineering and Product Development Manager. Polyurethane chemical grout had been used for a number of years to seal cut-outs in a lining at lateral connections. However, as authorities gained confidence that the sewer pipe lining systems they were now using would last in excess of 50 years; they began to focus on how they could provide a similar 50-year life to the pipe connection reinstatement. Grouting would not achieve such longevity.
One of the major difficulties that theAustralian sewer pipe rehabilitation industry has always faced is that machinery and systems developed overseas are generally not capable of working effectively in our 150 mm diameter sewers, particularly once they have a lining installed. Based on the deficiencies in the current technology we saw the need for a system that could structurally repair and seal branch connections, up to and including the first joint in the branch pipe.
In August 2001, Kembla launched an R&D program for a repair system for branch connections. After workshop development we carried out trials with Brisbane and Sydney Water, which ultimately led to the introduction of the Tiger T system. The development of T seals has added the final touch to pipeline rehabilitation in Australia because it meant that a sewer pipe and its branch connections could now be rehabilitated with a 50-year life expectancy using existing manhole access.
The use of T seals, or similar, for sealing of connections in linings is now specified in almost all pipeline rehabilitation tenders in Australia. One of the ongoing challenges for the trenchless industry is to come up with a similar trenchless option for reinstatement of connections in a rehabilitated pressure pipe. What major changes have you seen in the trenchless industry?
In the last five to ten years the major change I have seen and welcomed is the maturing of trenchless pipeline rehabilitation into an industry that is now evaluated on criteria such as OH&S, environmental management, community relations, methodologies and technical performance as well as price. We now have the situation where rehabilitation companies are often required to be pre-qualified with respect to the above criteria and price can be a factor rated as low as 20 per cent. This has been an important change because when companies such as Kembla commit to the employment of two full-time safety officers, two full-time customer relations personnel and a full-time environmental manager we need to know that such a commitment is valued and assessed as part of any pricing offer.
Which projects do you see as being particularly exciting in your career?
Trenchless Technology has always been exciting because as a relatively new technology we are forever pushing the limits of our particular processes to be the quickest, longest, largest or, in some cases, even the smallest. In the early days of CIPP the excitement re-lay in challenging the ‘construction engineers’ who only wanted to dig up and relay damaged pipes. No one was aware of a No-Dig alternative and I remember one particular visit to the Factory Manager at Carton United Brewery in Melbourne who was faced with the dilemma of closing down the distribution warehouse because of a damaged sewer pipe underneath the floor. After I had explained to him how we could rehabilitate the entire pipe length in a twelve-hour period overnight without any disruption his sigh of relief was audible and I am sure I saw a tear of ’trenchless’ joy roll down his cheek.
The extreme heat associated with projects I worked on in the Middle East resulted in a particular type of excitement as temperatures in excess of 45°Celsius caused normal material properties and human performance to go haywire. I remember setting up a large air conditioner, a generator and large ducting to establish what I believe was the world’s first air-conditioned manhole so that our machine operator could work under the extreme conditions.
Back home in Australia, trenchless lining projects at depths of 20 metres, under interstate rail lines and main highways or around harbour foreshores, all had serious consequences of failure. This is the nature of our business. One has only to take a look at the latest CCTV cameras, robotics and directional drills on display at Trenchless Australasia 2009 to appreciate that our industry uses high-end technology to fix a problem that is generally out of sight and out of mind. Anxiety is always high in our industry but this is compensated by the excitement and satisfaction when the job is successfully completed. Which project was the most rewarding for you to work on?
The most rewarding project for me in recent times has been the export of our Ex pipe lining technology into Singapore. Kembla signed an agreement with a local company providing them with access to our specialised materials, equipment and system processes plus training for local personnel. The result has been the export of over 100 kilometres of Australian made Ex PVC pipe and the design, manufacture and commissioning of six complete lining installation assemblies. The second round of new tenders has now begun and Kembla has already started to ship more Ex material.
This project has confirmed my belief that Australian technology and work practices are second to none, especially relative to the smaller 150 mm size.
What does the future hold for the industry?
As I see it, the future will be one of consolidation and improvement of existing technologies rather than major new discoveries. Our industry will continue to mature as refinements in system materials and equipment increase the efficiency of Trenchless Technology. If the current industry standards for quality and safety are maintained, then Trenchless Technology will continue to be adopted as the most cost effective and least disruptive option for rehabilitation of aging pipe assets.
The Australasian Trenchless Technology industry is held in high esteem by the worldwide trenchless community and this reputation is one we should all be proud of. Our industry has matured and one of the best examples I have heard that confirms this maturity was in a recent comment from a householder. Several days after we had CCTV surveyed, cleaned and then lined a sewer through her backyard the householder simply said “I got your letter telling me about the work, when are you going to start?”
Trenchless Technology at its best.