Solution Provider: Agnova S.L.U

Name of the organisation

Agnova S.L.U

Contact Person


Targeted Markets: Europe

Description of the Solution

Nautilus is a unique system on the market, consisting of a small diameter sphere (60 millimetres), which is inserted into the water distribution system where it travels freely through the pipeline driven by the water flow. The sound generated by a leak will exhibit some characteristic features and Nautilus records this sound from inside the pipeline. When it is extracted, a software program developed by Aganova processes the collected data using a number of mathematical algorithms and derives the precise location of the anomalies. Along the pipeline to be inspected and throughout the entire process, a series of elements are used that comprise the Nautilus system: the insertion system, the synchronisers, the extraction system and the sphere which travels along the inside of the pipeline. The sphere is inserted using an insertion system and pressure chamber. This system is used to ensure insertion in 100 mm diameter valves is performed uniformly. This system consists of a set of elements designed to position the sphere inside of the pipeline to be inspected and check that it has commenced its navigation.

For optimum accuracy, a number of synchronisers are placed in accessible points along the inspection path. The synchronisers serve as a reference for Nautilus as it travels along the inside of the pipeline. Because the position of this synchroniser is known a priori, the error is determined and corrected. The synchronisers are positioned at intervals along the pipeline, using existing access points such as valves, drains, air valves, etc. The synchroniser has a system that indicates exactly when the sphere passes, which enables the user to determine in what sector of the inspected pipeline the sphere is located, confirming that the estimated journey is made. Similar to the insertion method, extraction is done using a net to trap the sphere. The net is passed through an existing air valve, withstanding pressures of up to 25 atmospheres and equipped with a camera to position the net and an alert system activated when the sphere is caught. This technology has been used to detect leaks of 0.04 litres per second and cover 10 kilometres of pipeline inspection in 5 hours. Using the synchronisers, the sphere achieves an error margin of less than 2 meters for every 500 meters.

After interpreting the data captured by the sphere, the final report is drawn up, detailing the following: location, general details, specific points, situational details, results, list of anomalies and leaks, details of leaks and anomalies, records with full information on each anomaly and leak, status, photos and comments.
Nautilus has a series of advantages over other leak detection methods. The continuous recording enables all leaks and anomalies to be located along the entire section of the inspected pipeline. In contrast, the other methods are based on segmented inspections or even on-off location checks, focusing on lengths of pipeline with previous issues such as dampness and ruptures, leaving any other problems that down show clear symptoms outside of the scope.
Since they are based on segmented inspections, conventional acoustic methods can detect only one anomaly per inspection. Nautilus, on the other hand, records sound continuously and, therefore, all leaks can be detected in one single inspection, no matter how close together they are. Nautilus recordings are not dependent on the distance from the surface. All other methods are only appropriate for maximum ditch depths of 3m, since the earth above the pipeline hinders the transmission of sounds and also the tracer gas.
There are other similar systems for detecting leaks from inside the pipeline. With regard to these, Nautilus presents a series of fundamental differences in its operation that make it the most competitive option, both in terms of efficiency and cost. One of the outstanding differences is that Nautilus flows freely along the pipeline and the sphere travels along the centre of the section, where the speed of movement is at its maximum and it doesn’t encounter obstacles. There are other sound recording systems that can perform inspections, also from inside the pipeline, but these either roll around the base of the pipe or travel along it attached to a cable. These systems come across obstacles, such as fluid deposits in the base of the pipe, which can slow down and even stop the movement of the systems. They can encounter obstacles such as rocks or protrusions, and even get blocked up in distribution system elements, such as butterfly valves, meaning that they cannot inspect more than 20 km/day, compared with the 30 km covered by the Nautilus. For all of these reasons these systems can create serious problems for water transport and end up reducing the maximum length of the inspected section and the system’s daily performance.
One of the advantages of the Nautilus is that it can inspect sections of pipeline that cannot be accessed. There is no need to travel along the pipeline, merely access the chosen synchroniser locations. It is, therefore, possible to carry out inspections in inaccessible areas, such a building foundations, roads, unserviced or restricted-access areas, etc.
The Nautilus system is apt for all materials. Conventional sound systems are only appropriate for metal pipelines, obtaining very poor results with plastics, since the sound dissipates quickly. However, the Nautilus records sound from the inside of the pipeline, enabling any sound to be detected. In this regard, compared to systems that roll along the bottom of the pipeline, their movement creates continuous noises and distortions that damage the effectiveness of the recording, leading to greater errors in leak location.
For all of these reasons, the Nautilus presents itself to the market as the most suitable technological solution for an ongoing maintenance plan for large diameter pipelines.

Main Innovative Element:

-Leak detection in transport networks must overcome several very limiting obstacles as are their great lengths and large diameters. Also, accessible and searchable points are far apart and this is a major impediment to the solutions that work from the outside; they can only obtain data in the vicinity of these accessible points. Furthermore, large diameter pipes have large wall thickness, and, considering that most leak detection is based on sound/vibration listening, the hard structural rigidity of these pipes does not let any leak-vibration pass or makes it too small to be detected. Nautilus is able to avoid the above obstacles, because it works from inside the pipe. This has the following advantages: the distance between accessible points does not suppose any problem and the system gets very close to the leaks and thus is able to detect small leaks easily. Other in-pipeline technologies are not able to travel large distances (Nautilus can travel freely up to 30 kilometers in 1 day), cannot detect several leaks during one inspection, are expensive or either have a very high possibility to get obstructed inside the pipeline.

Kinds of Problems

Nautilus creates the possibility to know the actual state of the pipeline and make an assessment of the development of the state of the network. On the one hand, Nautilus is used to know the exact location of a leak when the water company has noticed an increase in consumption not justified. In a sector of 10 kilometers, Nautilus indicates a leak with an accuracy of 1 meter, reviewing the sector in less than 5 hours. Moreover, Nautilus is used to make periodic reviews. With these reviews Nautilus generates a report about the pipe sections particularly damaged (important information during the decision making process on pipe renewal) and also information on the evolution of a leak is obtained relating the information with former reviews, which allows to take preventive decisions.