Industry Marker Tape Analysis
Excavation Alert Systems, LLC performed an analysis on fourteen different marker tapes from six different manufacturers. The analysis consisted of six digs, two of each at 90, 45 & 180 degree angles of approach using a standard 30" bucket (pictured to the right). Underground Marker Tapes tested were all 6" width. All tapes were installed ~12" below grade, covered, and mechanically compacted under the weight of the track hoe.
Premium Tapes Tested by Company: Brady, Mutual Industries, Presco, Reef Industries, Stranco & Terram. Video of complete test digs archived below. Digs were performed in an effort to maximize visibility of the marker tape. Each dig was stopped once visible indication of marker tape was confirmed by the equipment operator/spotter or when it was determined the tape was struck and no visible indication was provided.
Disclaimer: The videos below are for informational purposes only. Excavation Alert Systems, LLC makes no assertions regarding the performance of any of the marker tapes included.
Industry Sample of Marker Tapes
Detectable: Includes some means of being detected from the surface (i.e. aluminum foil layer or conductive tracer wire)
Non-Detectable: No means of locating the tape once buried
Reinforced: Tensile strength of tape increased by some means
Core Material Analysis
2015 CGA DIRT Damage Cause Analysis
Despite laws requiring excavation crews to call 811 or other locating services, excavation damage is the leading cause of significant pipeline incidents; 57% of which are the direct result of failure to call a locating service (32%), or of the locating service to adequately mark the buried utility (25%). In the five years from 2007 through 2011, there were 318 significant incidents caused by excavation. These 318 excavation damage incidents resulted in 27 fatalities, 114 serious injuries and over $1.9 billion in direct and indirect costs.
Current Marker Tape systems do not effectively mitigate risk to underground infrastructure excavation damage. The Pipeline & Hazardous Material Safety Administrations (PHMSA) reportable incident data showed there were 1,630 pipeline incidents caused by third-party excavation damage from 1993 to 2012. These incidents resulted in 141 deaths, 440 injuries, and approximately $369,736,529 in property damage.
According to the 2015 Common Ground Alliance DIRT Damage Cause Analysis, over 50% of all reported incidents were caused by a backhoe/trencher. Natural Gas was the most impacted with over 24k incidents reported.
Approximately 3,000 pipeline companies operate over 500,000 miles of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines and 2.1 million miles of natural gas distribution pipelines in the United States. This extensive network of pipeline infrastructure will grow at an estimated 4% to 6% per year. A projected $187 billion investment in pipeline infrastructure over the next 25 years is required to meet increasing energy demands and facilitate the production of shale oil and natural gas in new locations across the country.
Currently there are three classes of systems in use that attempt to protect underground utilities from excavation damage: 1. Systems and products that require a proactive excavation crew: 811, maps, frequency detectors, RFID and ground penetrating radar. 2. Passive visual indicators: posted signs and markers, buried marker tape and colored dirt. 3. Monitored video and sensor systems designed to detect excavation / excavation equipment: Video surveillance, aircraft/balloon/satellite monitoring, buried fiber optic, geophone, seismic, and acoustic sensor systems. SignalTape was specifically designed to address the weaknesses of each technology classification by providing an obvious warning signal to the excavation crew before any damage has been done to the buried utility; without requiring any additional proactivity on behalf of the excavation crew.
Innovation is part of the culture at Excavation Alert Systems. We are constantly evaluating potential improvements for Signaltape product integration. This is an example of one of our test runs between potential core materials. These results are used to down-select for field trials.
Signaltape Core Material Quality Control
Signaltape was specifically designed to solve the problem of excavation related damage to underground facilities (outlined in the Market Analysis above). Excavation Alert Systems is committed to providing the highest quality product and in addition to our field trials, we rigorously test all potential core samples in our fixture (below). All incoming core material is lot managed and randomly sampled as part of our incoming inspection process for quality control.
Signaltape Test Fixture
Additional Research & Useful Links
Study on the Impact of Excavation Damage on Pipeline Safety – Prepared for the United States Senate by Secretary of Transportation, Oct. 19, 2014.