Skolkovo startup wows Chelyabinsk region officials with technology for transforming pipelines

A Skolkovo resident startup has impressed the government of Russia’s Chelyabinsk region with its technology for the maintenance of water and heating pipes without having to dig trenches and replace sections of piping.

The Mayak Urals Factory of Polymer Technologies has developed the Smart Sleeve, a plastic tube made of complex modified polymers. The sleeve can be inserted into the pipeline directly from the ground, and when heated with steam up to the temperature required for plasticisation (about 140 degrees Celsius), expands to coat the walls of the pipe, creating an interior that is highly resistant to chemicals and temperatures and can prolong the pipe’s life by up to 50 years by making it resistant to corrosion and buildups.

The Smart Sleeve can be inserted into a pipeline without the need to dig up the road. Photo: http://pravmin74.ru.

The startup, a resident of Skolkovo’s energy-efficient technologies cluster, demonstrated its technology to local officials on a 20-metre section of a water pipe on the grounds of a hospital in the Chelyabinsk region earlier this summer. It also completed a new pilot project this week to restore an 18-metre section of a water main in Ozyorsk, the Chelyabinsk region closed city (and birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme) where Mayak is based.

“If the housing and utilities services adopt this new technology, it will make it possible to solve the problem of renewing heating and water supply networks in both the city and region, and to save budget funds allocated for this purpose,” the region’s economic development minister Sergei Smolnikov was quoted as saying of the hospital test project on his ministry’s website, which reported that the initiative to test Mayak’s Smart Sleeve system had come from the minister.

Mayak’s technology costs considerably less than replacing pipes or carrying out major repair work to them after digging up the surrounding area and then having to resurface it again. It does not require the use of excavators or many workers, the company says. 

The Smart Sleeve expands to coat the inside of the pipe when heated up using steam, strengthening the pipeline. Photo: http://pravmin74.ru.

“We saw that there was no need to dig a trench in the process of renewing the water supply networks, which made it possible to save the blue spruces growing at the site,” said Sergei Kazakov, director of the Chelyabinsk region’s Foundation for Industrial Development, the regional ministry for economic development reported.

More than 65 percent of pipes in the housing and utilities sector and 45 percent of oil and gas pipelines are in critical condition and require urgent repairs, according to the Mayak Urals Factory of Polymer Technologies. General wear and tear combined with overdue repairs can lead to serious emergencies, and in addition, pipes in poor condition have reduced transmission, leading to increased heat loss and a worsening of the chemical composition of the water that they carry.

Once treated with the Smart Sleeve, the pipes become resistant to chemicals and temperatures of up to 150 degrees, meaning it can be used for hot water pipes and also for pipelines transporting oil, oil products and chemicals.

“The new technology and the completely innovative material of the Smart Sleeve were created in the South Urals thanks to the professional and scientific skills of Ozyorsk scientists,” Ruslan Gattarov, deputy governor of the Chelyabinsk region, was cited as saying on the regional government’s website.

“According to an evaluation by Skolkovo experts, there are analogous technologies, but this is superior to all of them, anywhere in the world. Therefore this product could be in demand not only in our region and country, but also abroad,” he said.

The Chelyabinsk regional governer Boris Dubrovsky has called for the promotion of innovative projects, and at his initiative, a working group was set up to introduce new technologies and test them in real conditions, the regional government reported on its website.