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Prevents Ground Rot in Timber Fence Posts
Prevents Ground Rot in Timber Utility Poles
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More recent changes in legislation affecting wood preservatives and shorter lifespan in tropical locations have led many utilities to look at potentiality longer lasting alternative materials such as reinforced concrete, galvanised steel and composites. But do these materials really give a longer lifespan than wooden poles?
First a brief look at the pros and cons of each material
Uniform appearance Very heavy difficult to handle,
Strong Higher cost than wooden pole,
Rot Proof Can be difficult to fix to
Termite Proof Reinforcing corrodes resulting in failure
Fire resistance Uses large quantities of energy
Dangerous at roadside when struck by vehicles
Uniform appearance Conducts electricity
Strong Higher cost than wooden pole,
Rot Proof Can be difficult to fix to
Termite Proof Corrosion causes failure
Generally good roadside
Composites, Fibre Glass etc
Uniform appearance Poor fire resistance
Strong Much higher cost than wooden pole,
Rot Proof Large quantities of energy in production
Termite Proof osmosis can reduce strength over time
Readily available Prone to decay when poorly protected
Strong Prone to termite attack when poorly protected
Low weight Fire resistance limitations when not protected
Low unit cost
Known and proven
Environmentally friendly, grows on trees
Good failure mode when struck by vehicles
From the above we can see that all materials have different failure modes that mean regular inspection is required after the initial 10 to 15 years if pole failure is to be avoided with timely replacement.
For any utility lifetime cost is the key deciding factor when looking at alternative pole materials and this cost is generally calculated based on initial cost and projected lifespan for a given material. The challenge here is in knowing the lifespan for poles made from each of the different materials and this is where things become more challenging with a lack of published data offset by manufacturers claims for lifespan.
A study undertaken in Australia gives data on expected lifespan based on real life experience over many years. The graph below shows the results.
Source; Pole Service Life – An Analysis of Country Energy Data (Australia)
Nathan Spencer Koppers Wood Products Pty. Ltd., Sydney, Australia firstname.lastname@example.org
Leith Elder Country Energy, Goulburn, Australia email@example.com
In concrete poles the typical failure mode is corrosion of the reinforcing bars, for steel poles ground line corrosion is common over time and for wood ground line decay and termite attack are the common failure modes.
The results clearly show that standard treated wooden poles whilst generally outperforming concrete lag behind steel poles. But when taking account of initial cost it is clear that wood is still a good all round choice, It is readily available, low in cost, lightweight, easy to handle and work and available in a wide range of sizes to suit pretty much all needs.
In the last 20 years there has been a growing adoption and use of technology to overcome woods greatest weakness which is decay and termite attack at the vulnerable ground line section of the pole. It is at this part of the pole that conditions are perfect for wood decay and termite attack, the section of pole deeper in the ground and above ground often having a service life 3 or 4 times longer than the ground line section.
To prevent degradation and failure at this point composite heat applied sleeve products such as Polesaver offer an excellent solution, they isolate the wood from all the factors necessary for ground rot and termite attack including moisture thus dramatically extending the pole life at low unit cost. With a typical expected pole service life similar to that of steel poles the use of ground line sleeves have given wood another lease of life as the material of choice for utility poles.
Polesaver launches new Creosote Bleed Protection kit. It is well known that Creosoted wooden utility poles can bleed creosote to the surface in warm weather. This kit covers the pole surface with an impermeable barrier to contain creosote bleed, whilst any creosote running down the pole is directed behind the impermeable barrier by a unique spacer system.
Find more information here: Polesaver Creosote Bleed Protection Kit
To safeguard against this, in 2017, Lehighton Light and Power began using Polesaver barrier sleeves which are designed to prevent wooden poles from ground-line rot. When applied to the wooden pole, the Polesaver dual layer barrier sleeve forms an airtight and watertight seal - elements that are necessary for decay to occur. With the ground-line section of the pole isolated from the causes of decay, the wooden pole will maintain 100% of its strength over the duration of its service life.
Lonny Armbruster, Lehighton Light and Power’s Superintendent, said he was excited to have been made aware of a solution to prevent ground-line decay from a company based in the United Kingdom. He said that Polesaver has been manufacturing products that have been safeguarding in-ground posts and poles from decay, since 1994.
“The technology has a proven in-service track record with more than 8 million barrier sleeves sold worldwide over 25 years and this, coupled with extensive independent test data from prominent European and USA testing establishments, made the decision to invest in Polesaver very easy” said Mr Armbruster. “Polesaver is a tried and test product with an excellent reputation.
The sleeves are sent to us directly from the United Kingdom and our people apply them quickly and easily to the new poles in our pole yard. The Polesaver protected poles are then transported to site and erected.”
Richard George, Polesaver’s CEO, said he was pleased that Lehighton Light and Power were now an established customer of Polesaver UK and he looked forward to supplying the barrier sleeves for many years to come.
50 installation engineers attended a 2 day training session organized my Umeme at its headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. The purpose of the training was to demonstrate the benefits of applying a Polesaver sleeve to wooden utility poles.
Peter Williams, Director of Global Business Development for Polesaver UK, commenced the two day event with a formal presentation which educated the delegates about the threats of ground-line decay on wooden poles, and how this threat can be prevented. Simply by applying a Polesaver sleeve to the pole at the correct place, ground-rot and core-rot can be eliminated, resulting in the pole having a significantly extended service life.
The classroom session ended with an informative questions and answers session.
The following day, all of the installation engineers took part in a practical exercise of applying the sleeves to poles in Umeme’s pole yard.
They were taught the safety principles of working with LPG gas bottles and the safe use of gas torches. This was followed by a practical demonstration on how to correctly apply Polesaver sleeves to poles. During the course of the day, each delegate was given the opportunity of applying several sleeves to poles.
Polesaver’s Director Peter Williams assessed their level of competence. At the end of the day, everyone, without exception had achieved the standard necessary to apply Polesaver sleeves correctly.
Certificates of competence were presented to each participant.
Umeme’s project manager, Mr Dan Tumuhimbise, announced to the team that he was delighted with the level of success they had achieved after only one day’s training.
He said, that by using Polesaver sleeves, it aligned extremely well with Umeme’s core values of Safety, Customer Service and Innovation.
Furthermore, he said that Umeme were always looking for better ways to do things, and, by adopting Polesaver sleeves, this clearly shows that Umeme are embracing new technology. Poles, with Polesaver applied, will be safer and the electrical networks they support will be more reliable, thus leading to greater customer service.
Mr. PJ McGarrigle, Umeme’s Network Asset Manager, addressed the engineers at the end of the day. He explained that, currently, some poles in Uganda are lasting only a very short time (typically, between 2 and 5 years). He said that this was unsustainable and, therefore, something had to be done.
By adopting Polesaver as standard on all future pole installations, it will ensure that Umeme’s wooden pole network will last for many, many years and thus prove to be excellent value for money, as well as offering a safer and more reliable network.
Mr. Kevin Bwire, Network Asset Information Manager, said that the RFID technology incorporated into the Polesaver sleeves, would enable Umeme to map out and manage its pole network successfully.
The RFID technology enables companies to identify the exact GPS location of each pole in its network. Also, additional information can be assigned to the company’s database, for example, date of installation, who supplied the pole, type of preservative used and schedule of future inspections.
Photographs of the pole can also be uploaded to the company’s asset tracking database, to enable engineers to track the condition of each pole in its network.
Mr Dan Tumuhimbise said that Umeme intended to start the national roll out of Polesaver with effect from 26th June 2017. From this date onward, all poles erected by Umeme will have a Polesaver sleeve applied.
Peter Williams of Polesaver, added that he was impressed with the overall enthusiasm, dedication and pride the Umeme installation team had demonstrated during the two day training programme.
To help reduce the environmental impact a number of Northern European and African utilities are now using Polesaver sleeves to reduce Creosote loss to the ground as well as giving extra protection to the ground line section of the pole especially to prevent early pole failures due to core rot. Wood preservative generally provides no protection from core rot..
As I boarded the O.A bus from Bolgatanga to Accra, I gave a sigh of relief from the mighty harmattan which had wrestled me throughout my entire stay during the Christmas holidays. Little did I know that the grass along both sides of the road had had their own share of pain from the devastating twin brother (fire) of the harmattan. As flood washes away structures elsewhere in the capital, fire swoops the entire grassland in the Savanna belt of Ghana.What a pity!!!
Throughout the journey, the electrical engineer in me could not help but take into account the effects of these fires to the electrical poles erected in the grassland or similar conditions. Putting cost to the replacement of these poles and the loss of electricity supply made me cringe inside. For a moment, I was excited that this problem was outside the boundaries of ECG and my company was insured. Then I had an electrical epiphany, I remembered that this phenomenon of pole burning is not limited to NEDCo (Distribution Company for Northern Ghana) because several of ECG’s districts have poles planted in bushfire prone areas.
After taking my shower when I arrived in Accra, I started to think through as to what solution could be suitable in addressing this pole burning phenomenon with the least cost. As an R&D Engineer, the only convincing answer that came to mind was the use of steel poles which ECG is already employing. However, the cost of replacing all wooden poles in bush fire prone areas is unconceivable. Mind you the cost of steel poles is almost twice as much as the wooden poles. “How economical is changing all wooden poles that are likely to burn due to intermittent bush fires with steel ones? There must be a way out,” I thought to myself.
Upon resumption of work, I had discussions with my boss nicknamed Dr. Ferroresonnance (I pray he does not read this article), he made me aware of a proposed solution to the pole burning phenomenon with the use of a fire protection fabric. “Fabric!!!” I exclaimed unbelievably and in a state of shock. “What type of fabric can save a pole from bush fire?” I queried. I was giving a brochure and manual about the product to help my ignorance and engage my curiosity.
A pilot project was proposed for 5 ECG regions with a total of 2000 poles considered. The fire protection fabric was wrapped around the base of the pole up to about 6feet.
My visit to the pilot project site revealed that 50% of the project sites had experienced bush fires after the fire protection fabric was installed. To my surprise, not a single pole with the fire protection fabric got burnt. The evidence became clear when it was observed that other poles without the fabric within the same vicinity were burnt. (There are pictures attached to this article that verifies my claim). Still not convinced, I decided to gather a number of the dry grass/weeds under one pole protected by the fabric and then set it on fire. This happened at a cleared piece of land in a village next to Otuam, the hometown of the former president of Ghana, the late J.E.A. Mills.
The farmers and my entire team at the site watched the demonstration in awe as the fire had no effect on the pole under investigation. After five minutes under that intense flame, we quenched the fire after a successful demonstration. The fabric itself had not damaged only the sooth from the fire, that had settled on the surface but it was washed away by water. I remembered that famous quote from the Good Book “for lack of knowledge my people perish”.
As a child finding solutions to problems has been my passion and this drove me to pursue an engineering career. I felt fulfilled when feedback from all the districts which the pilot exercise was carried out was extremely positive. The project is expected to be rolled over to all poles under ECG jurisdiction. Finally, an economical solution has been found for the burning poles, Oh pole protection fabric, thou art a Pole Saver. My job as a researcher still continues……….
Kingsford J.A. Atanga (AEE) - Research and Development Division -ECG
Original article can be found here
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