Miller Pipeline Helps Bring Keyholing To China

China Lesson
By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11

As China continues to consolidate its position as a political, economic and industrial world power, many of its large cities are experiencing the same infrastructure problems as those in other areas of the world.

And as underground infrastructure requires repair and rehabilitation, Chinese utility providers are turning to the West for solutions that permit necessary construction without major disruptions of traffic and other surface activities.

The city of Guangzhou (formerly Canton) is a center of international trade in south China with a population of more than 12 million, the third largest city in China. About 30-years ago, a gas distribution system was constructed. Originally Guangzhou used mostly manufactured gas, but has completed a transition to natural gas delivered in liquid form from Australia via ships.

During recent overlying surveys, damage to pipe coating was detected, in most instances the result of damage to coating during the installation process. This caused the depletion of the cathodic protection system over time resulting in corrosion where leaks developed.

Excavation in streets to make repairs would be costly and extremely disruptive, so utility managers and planning engineers began to research other options.

Chinese firm Wuhan Engineering and Technology Co., Ltd. is designing plans for renovating the cathodic protection system for Guangzhou Gas. The company's president, Robert Li, had previously visited a keyholing project in northern Indiana where Miller Pipeline Corp. crews were using vacuum excavation equipment to make small diameter, precisely controlled excavations to access repair points of underground pipe. Miller has been using the technology for this type of application for more than 30 years.

Li initiated conversations with personnel at Miller Pipeline headquarters in United States, and the discussions ultimately led to an invitation to Chris Schuler, general manager of Miller's municipal services division, to come to China and demonstrate the keyhole process to Guangzhou Gas personnel and other interested parties.

That demonstration, held on June 11, is believed to be the first use of vacuum excavation technology in China, said Schuler. Specialty tools for anode installation were provided by Miller Pipeline. Wuhan Engineering provided equipment and assisted with installation, and Schuler conducted the demonstration.

"The installation went smoothly and was exceptionally well received," he added.