Texas A&M uses polyethylene pipe for hot water lines
Like many communities, municipalities and utilities across the country, Texas A&M University used carbon steel pipe and fittings for its water supply systems. However, these lines decayed in the ground causing extreme leak rates of up to 50 gal per minute (gpm) in some areas on campus. Starting in 2008, the University started to use high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe to provide a leak-free system for its cold water lines. In 2017, while building the University’s new RELLIS Campus in Bryan, Texas, the use of polyethylene pipe was expanded to include a new grade of pipe made from polyethylene of raised temperature resistance (PE-RT) for its hot water lines.
The RELLIS Academic Complex, expected to be completed in June 2019, includes a $42 million, 68,000 sq ft building that houses classrooms, group learning and collaboration spaces, modern allied health teaching laboratories, upper division science laboratories and more than 40 faculty offices. The entire 112,460 sq ft complex will accommodate 2,500 upper-division students.
The project was named Project of the Year for the Energy Piping Systems Division (EPSD) of the Plastics Pipe Institute Inc. (PPI) and won the award for the piping systems provider, ISCO Ind. Inc. and the pipe manufacturer, Performance Pipe. Both are member companies of PPI, which hosts Projects of the Year annually.
“We’re seeing more and more expansion of the use of polyethylene pipe,” said Tony Radoszewski, CAE, president of PPI. “And there are new grades of the resin being created to meet demand for high-temperature applications. For example, at Texas A&M, they faced a severe water loss problem, which they have been correcting during the past 10 years and didn’t want to be faced with the same situation for its new state-of-the art campus. Using HDPE and PE-RT pipe is providing the solution.”
Texas A&M has now become a leader in the water utility industry following the award. Other universities have inquired about its system to find out how they can make the change on their own campus, according to Radoszewski.
“There’s no denying the amount of water saved, and that fact alone is convincing others to make the switch to HDPE and PE-RT pipe,” Radoszewski said. “This project has become a template for other projects needing a leak-free solution that will last them for decades to come. It is very deserving of our industry’s highest honor of being named Project of the Year.”
Nearly 10 years ago, the school decided to start replacing problem areas with polyethylene pipe.
“We started on the domestic water system,” said Reuben Bernal, the supervisor for water distribution at the school. “The switch was so successful that now essentially all steel pipe on campus has been replaced, and all new construction projects utilize polyethylene pipe. For years, we always used carbon steel pipe and mechanical joints. But just like anything else, it decayed in the ground.”
The team faced high leak rates and dealt with frequent interruptions to service on campus.
“On a normal day, we were losing up to 40 to 50 gpm,” Bernal said.
While designing the University’s new Education and Research Campus, engineers once again specified polyethylene. SCO Ind. provided 10,000 ft of 24-in.-diameter DR 17, PE 4710 HDPE pipe for chilled water lines and nearly 10,000 ft of 12-in.-diameter DR11 PlatinumStripe 1800 PE-RT pipe manufactured by Performance Pipe for the hot water lines.
For the hot water system, the 12-in.-diameter PE-RT was installed with Gilsulate insulation as backfill in one section, while in another area, re-
insulated PE-RT was used. ACS Mechanical LLC did the installation, which took four months.
“With the addition of PE-RT, it’s now feasible for any building or complex to switch their systems to polyethylene pipe,” said Randy Knapp, Ph.D., engineering director of the Energy Piping Systems Division of PPI. “PE-RT significantly expands the operation window for polyethylene pipe with pressure ratings up to 180°F. It also allows intermittent operating temperatures up to 203°F. PE-RT pipe also can be used in many types of harsh environments, including mining, pulp and paper mills, oil and gas gathering, plus nuclear facilities. It has the same inherent benefits as HDPE pipe including fusible, leak-free joints, it’s non-tubular and will not corrode or decay.”
The complex master plan calls for the campus to be a new paradigm for the future of basic and applied research, technology, development and education. Without reliable water service, this would not be possible.
“If we’re out here having to cut service off to make repairs and there’s no water for a few days, an hour or 15 minutes, that’s a big thing,” Bernal said.
The school’s move to a total polyethylene pipe system is one way to prevent that from happening