Pipe Tapping Procedures: How Does It Really Work?

January 15, 2018

There's a problem with field-cutting iron pipes. We won't dance around the subject, not when there's so much at stake. Let's just say active pressurized pipes are about to be cut. If the 'tapping' team is to address this potentially hazardous operation, extreme caution is warranted. With that cautionary statement duly issued, just what is a pipe tapping procedure? It all sounds a little vague, although the work obviously involves pipes.

Coupling Pipes in Trenches: Pressurized Tapping

As stated, the uncovered pipe laying at the bottom of the trench is active. In theory, the water could be turned off, but that would mean interrupting the service throughout the area. Pipe tapping procedures sidestep this service obstacle. It all starts with a machine, a very special piece of apparatus. This is the tapping equipment. Watch as it's mounted on the water mains pipe. Anchored in place, a special 'hot' tapping assembly cuts into the pipe. But this isn't a plain drill hole. No, this is an auger attachment, a drill-like cutting implement that threads the opening. Meanwhile, as this cutting operation is taking place, a mechanical seal is preventing the energetic water stream from breaching the pipe. Remember these are dangerously high pressures, so the pipe tapping procedure must be diligently managed.

The Slow-and-Steady Method

Employed on iron, on PVC, or on some metal/plastic pipe composite, a lubricant is applied as the core cutter goes to work. The hole is cut, the threads are added to the opening, and a service connection is coupled. With that connection in place and closed, the still active fluid line can now be hooked to a system branch, perhaps one that supplies water to a new housing complex. By the way, we've been talking about mains water lines, but this procedure can be scaled to work on many pipelines. An individual home, just constructed, requires pipe tapping, as does a large industrial facility. And by fluid, we're not just talking about water. Natural gas lines cannot be allowed to leak, nor can they be turned off, not when there's another option available. Gas tapping procedures mimic our water tapping strategy, although there are obviously more risks at play, so additional safety guidelines are mandated.

When modifications are made to existing fluid distribution lines, we opt for this procedure. Trained and seasoned team members mount the tapping apparatus, so the water or gas keeps right on flowing in the primary channel. Then, when the pressure-sealed tapping and threading operation is concluded, it's time to safely stopper the opening, which usually amounts to the installation of a service connection, something that's referred to as a corporation stop on those mains line connections.

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