Machine to the Rescue

Aug. 10, 2018
Pipe fusion equipment helps prevent a medical building shutdown

Sometimes, it is a race against the clock to help customers avert a potential disaster. When time is limited and the needs are great, reliable pipe and fusion equipment, along with the dedicated manpower and expertise necessary to install it, can save the day. The perfect example is a university in Florida where medical buildings were nearly shut down because of a ruptured chilled-water pipe.

The problem

W.W. Gay Mechanical was hired by the university to install a temporary pipeline to patch up what was at that point a leaky 30-in. steel pipe at a chilled water plant. It turned to Ferguson to purchase 740 ft of 14-in. Aquatherm Blue Pipe, fittings and machinery. Arrangements were then made for a speedy delivery to the jobsite.

But when the pipe ruptured the night before the job, the university was forced to shut down the system that powered the veterinary medicine and dental science buildings’ air-conditioning units.

All the material was there when Ferguson arrived in the morning, but it learned that the three-day job had to be completed by 7 a.m. the next day to avoid the closure of the two buildings. Originally, Ferguson was going to train the company how to operate McElroy fusion machines, but that was no longer an option.

So Ferguson, a distributor of McElroy fusion machines for polypropylene pipe, stepped up to the plate and stayed at the jobsite the entire time.

The solution

Aquatherm Blue Pipe, like other thermoplastic pipe, is joined through the process of butt fusion, which occurs by heating two pipe ends to a designated temperature and then pressing them together with sufficient force, causing the pipe and fitting to become one solid piece with no leak path.

McElroy of Tulsa, Okla., has been in the business of designing and manufacturing the most extensive line of machines for thermoplastic pipe fusion for the past 60 years. Ferguson operated a McElroy TracStar 500 machine, which has fusion capability for 12- to 20-in. polypropylene pipe. The machine is robust but self-propelled and track-mounted, making it easy to maneuver. It features a strong hydraulic facer for fast and efficient facing of the pipe ends. The onboard engine and generator powers the hydraulics and the heater.

The results

Ferguson completed 25 fusions and 10 elbow joints in less than 18 hours. Ferguson also had its Lakeland, Fla., branch fabricate 10 additional 14-in. elbows and rush them to the jobsite within hours.

When the system started back up at 7 a.m., it was 100% leak-free.

“Officials from the university and a local engineering firm were thoroughly impressed with Aquatherm and how quickly the job was completed with so little manpower,” said Glen Drummond, product manager for Ferguson. “If steel pipe was used on this project, W.W. Gay told us it would have taken more than 15 welders to do the work in that time period. The university is now strongly considering Aquatherm to be their permanent solution.”

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