Vienna. For the last twenty years, the PRAGMA® range of pipe systems has appeared upon an ever-growing list of major projects throughout Europe. This popularity with European networks of the sewer and drainage variety was developed gradually. As ever, people behind the idea set the scene…
In 1988, the tough polypropylene sewer range was merely a sparkle in the mind of Kurt Per Maute, the technical director at Mabo, the forerunner of Pipelife in the Nordic region. His inventive mind had scanned the various technical requirements for non-pressure plastic pipes. Whereas his faith in existing systems was unshakeable, he still felt that a more complete assortment of benefits could be achieved. But how?
Jens Martin Storheil is the manager for Standardization and Certification. He worked more than 25 years with the Norwegian inventor and continues the story: “Kurt was always immersed in technical minutia. But he was not like the usual technocratic stereotype – introvert and distant. Quite the contrary! He had a rare and amazing enquiring mind.”
“In the late eighties, polypropylene was a new material that promised new technical features. Kurt was fascinated by the polymer. At the office and at home, this obsession produced endless calculations and designs. Finally he found a way to translate these technical properties into commercial benefits.”
Drains for the rains
The first polypropylene pipes were smooth and destined for Iceland. The country wanted a pipe that was resistant to the high temperature of Icelandic water. The polypropylene pipes that emerged from the plant in Ljung, Sweden were not unlike those of today. They are co-extruded from top quality PP-b block copolymer polypropylene to form a red-brown outside corrugated wall and a smooth white inner wall. Pipe lengths comprise a pipe with a sealing ring at one end and a spin-welded socket at the other. Small diameters of 160 mm were first produced.
Once the pipedream really had come true, a name was needed to distinguish this rather versatile product. The word PRAGMA® sprang to mind. To the ancient Greeks, the word ‘pragma’ had a clearly practical meaning. To modern Europeans, it was a word that could be easily pronounced.
Norwegian and Swedish civil engineers who design storm water systems were quick to place their orders. “PRAGMA® was an instant success in Norway and Sweden and then in the rest of Scandinavia,” Storheil explains. “The tough corrugated outer pipe wall can withstand all the loads during handling above the ground and the soil movements below the ground. Inside, the smooth wall provides superb flow properties that accelerate run-off. This is important when heavy rainfall needs to be moved quickly to mitigate flooding.”
But there are other advantages. “The pipes are heat resistant all the way to 60° C. for constant flow and up to 100° C for intermittent flow for the transport of sewage. And then they are also chemical resistant even in aggressive situations. At the other end of the thermometer, their impact resistance is equally very good and they can accommodate low temperatures to withstand the chilly Scandinavian tundra. And compared to non-plastic pipe systems, they really are maintenance free.”
For Storheil, the perceived benefits of practicality strike the most immediate note. “As their name suggests, they are easy to work with. Expensive heavy lifting equipment and tackle are just not required. Two men can easily lift the sections (six meters) and components. Absolutely everything can be done by hand and installation is easy. Flexibility means that everything fits.”
All these benefits were eventually recognized by engineers that foresaw applications in household and industrial sewer systems, drainage for road, storage yards and waste dumps. More recently, they have been used by telecommunication engineers to protect their fiber-optic networks.
‘What goes around’
The PRAGMA® range has therefore grown over the last twenty years. Other diameters from 160 mm to 800 mm have been added. And to complete the system, these pipes are accompanied for the larger diameters by hand-made fittings such as inspection chambers, bends, reducers and branches. Even special adapters have been launched to allow for smart connections with PVC pipe networks.
One major addition to the system has been PRAGMA® inspection chambers in 400mm and Pro chambers in 630, 800 and 1000 mm diameter. They are adaptable to any site requirements and to any other pipe systems.
Eastern Europe has become enchanted by the product of Kurt’s inventive imagination. During the late nineties, Pipelife in Poland and Finland decided to start their own production. And from 2007, Estonia started it own production and Pipelife’s Russian factory in Zhukov near Moscow made its first lengths of large diameter PRAGMA®. It is the eleventh production line to make the pipes and this facility will eventually produce larger diameters up to 1000 mm.
Although a first for Pipelife in Russia, it has to be said that the system was no newcomer. It had already been used in St. Petersburg for modernizing the sewer network of its ancient XVIII century palace, named after Constantine.
According to Storheil, PRAGMA® has been used for major sewer projects in many of Europe’s main cities. Countless overseas development projects have also relied on PRAGMA® because its networks are so easy to install. A more recent example is a major project for a sewer outfall in Accra, Ghana.
PRAGMA® also scores high on the environmental front. For example, all scrap waste from its manufacturing process is re-used to make the same product. “Our technicians claim that the recyclate is as good as the virgin material. We also feel quite confident in projecting a lifetime expectancy for PRAGMA® of at least 100 years,” comments Storheil. “That is if all recommendations such as the right jointing and the correct backfill material are adhered to during installation process. Its real contribution to the environment is that it does not leak. Unlike non-plastic pipes systems, it does not crack and release its contents. Instead, it performs for a very long time.”
Pipelife has so far produced many thousands of kilometers of these pipes. Mats Thoren, Swedish Marketing Manager notes: “Signs are that PRAGMA® has still a long way to go on its product cycle. Its future is bright. Over the last four years, we have witnessed a surge in orders and we are investing significantly in its future development and manufacturing. We can therefore expect larger diameters, more fittings, new chambers and more capacity to accommodate larger markets.”
“Plastics conversion has become a reality and PRAGMA® fulfills the requirements for modern sewer and drainage perfectly. We are delighted to have shared a partnership with so many customers over the last 20 years. We look forward to one hundred years of association. Because PRAGMA® partnerships are so endurable...”
If you would like to know more about PRAGMA®, please download our catalog by clicking here (4.5MB).