Boreline’s FlexiRiser from Hose Solutions Inc. has emerged as a potential game-changing drop pipe option for submersible pumps.
By Mike Price
A drop pipe option that has been on the market for decades was seen in a whole new light by attendees at Groundwater Week 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Boreline’s FlexiRiser from Hose Solutions Inc. hung from TDH Manufacturing LLC’s 6 × 2 Hybrid Hoist, which featured its new style electrical winch and reel. In doing so, it enabled attendees to see firsthand how they could install their submersible pumps on FlexiRiser.
Available in the United States by Hose Solutions since 2000, the amount of labor needed to install the signature blue FlexiRiser kept some from considering it as a drop pipe alternative for submersible pumps.
However, TDH’s electrical winch and 6000-pound capacity reel seemed to ease the labor dilemma, leading some attendees to say it could revolutionize the pump industry.
“It was a big hit at the show, and we’ve actually sold a couple of units from the show to guys who really like the concept of where that was going,” says Scott Moser, president of TDH and Horizon Hoist LLC in Rhome, Texas, in a NGWA: Industry Connected video interview earlier this year.
Likewise, Nicolas Steverlynck of Hose Solutions spoke with many contractors at his booth, saying there was strong interest from about 25 contractors heading into 2022.
“Contractors are starting to see the benefits,” says Steverlynck, who manages the company with Leila Steverlynck and team of engineers in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Tabbed as a “firehose on steroids” by the company, FlexiRiser is NSF 61 approved for the water well, irrigation, municipal, environmental, and other industries. It is made with circular woven, high-tenacity polyester fibers and then extruded through-the-weave with thermoplastic polyurethane. It is available from 1 inch up to 8 inches.
The fittings are full bodied stainless steel that allows the entire Boreline package to be noncorrosive. A 50-year warranty is offered while the life expectancy is in excess of 100 years.
In the spring of 2021, Jim Blair of Bee Cave Drilling Inc. in Dripping Springs, Texas, and Moser traveled to Scottsdale to see Boreline’s FlexiRiser and tour the Hose Solutions facility.
Hose Solutions, which is one of three flexible hose drop pipe manufacturers in the world, manufactures its FlexiRiser in South Africa. Steverlynck also showed the company’s mobile trailer-mounted hydraulic reel, the Boreline Pump Puller, which was created in 2002 and is available for rent or sale. It was built solely to install and retrieve submersible pumps on FlexiRiser.
“That greatly reduced the labor necessary to install their products,” observes Blair, “and that piqued my interest because anytime you have a chance to reduce labor it’s going to get somebody’s attention, especially in the current labor market.”
Seeing the benefits of FlexiRiser, Blair tasked Moser with designing a winch on the back of a pickup bed truck that could install it. Moser was receptive but pointed out two service trucks would still be needed until he realized there was room on the hoist to add a reel too. This eliminated the need for a second service truck by combining the reel and service truck into one unit.
Moser trained Blair’s crew on how to pull and set pumps in November 2021 upon Bee Cave Drilling taking delivery of the 6 × 2 Hybrid Hoist. The customized electrical winch and reel design on the Hybrid Hoist can handle both the FlexiRiser and rigid drop pipe like galvanized steel or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Blair ordered an additional TDH Hybrid Hoist, a 3 × 2 with the electric winch and reel setup, that gives him eight total pump hoists.
“I need to be able to pull pumps regardless if a truck goes down,” says Blair, who posted a video of the Hybrid Hoist installing the FlexiRiser.
The 6000-pound reel capacity on the 6 × 2 Hybrid Hoist is sufficient, according to Blair, based on FlexiRiser being lightweight (0.94 pound/foot for 4 inch), and that the water will be dropped out of the hose before it gets pulled.
“The biggest pumps we set are 4-inch drop pipe with 2-wire and maybe a 250- to 300-pound pump on the end of it—somewhere around 1500 pounds is all it weighed,” he says.
Blair, a new technology enthusiast who spends half his time conducting research and development on products that might help his customers’ water well systems, foresees FlexiRiser eventually becoming the main drop pipe his company installs. The price of FlexiRiser, as of mid-March according to Blair, was lower than the cost of galvanized steel drop pipe.
“It might take all day on some of these big wells to pull the pump,” Blair says, “where it doesn’t matter the size of the hose or the depth, I can pull and set a pump in an hour. Pretty much any size pump and depth and set it in an hour and that is absolutely incredible. Game changing.”
Seeking a Better Product
Even so, it wasn’t why Blair sought out to use FlexiRiser. Rather, it’s because he strives for a better product.
For drop pipe options in the Texas Hill Country (central and south Texas), that typically means PVC or galvanized steel. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, or poly pipe, isn’t an option based on the depth of wells.
While PVC drop pipe has its depth limitations, Blair half-jokes that the company’s main job over the last 40 years it has been in business is to test those limits. The company routinely sets pumps in the 800-foot range and has gone as deep as 900 feet. The company sets its bigger pumps on galvanized drop pipe.
Like clockwork every three to five years, the company replaces half to three-quarters of its galvanized drop pipe due to corrosion issues. Customers are left with a hefty bill, and despite the replacements leading to company profit, it requires a good amount of labor.
“None of those guys want that job,” Blair says. “When they hear it’s galvanized pipe, they’re all volunteering to do something else.”
With FlexiRiser being noncorrosive, Blair’s crew will be freed up to do other work.
“I believe that in 20 years this [use of Boreline’s FlexiRiser] will be extremely common in our industry,” says Blair, who has been in the water well business since September 1993. “This will be what everybody is doing.
“You’re going to have holdouts and you’re going to have your sections of the country where wells are not deep enough and PVC is fine. But anywhere where someone is going deep at all, I have a feeling there’s going to be a big interest in switching over to something like this.”
Before Blair considered FlexiRiser, he sought input from Facebook’s Water Well Guys group. He learned that the overriding concern from those in the group, including himself, was the twisting of the pump down in the well and possibly causing issues with the wire.
Blair dispelled the theory that the pump doesn’t twist by talking to pump manufacturers that told him it twists regardless of the pipe it hangs on. “Of course, it twists less on steel than it does PVC, but we’re treating it as if it’s going to twist just like we treat the others that twist,” says Blair, who is using centralizers to see if any problems arise.
“We’re anticipating there may be problems with it possibly having more twists. We know we can put the hose under several hundred psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure and it doesn’t act like a layflat hose. It doesn’t even look like a layflat hose. It looks like a rigid PVC pipe, and I think that’s what it’ll act like.”
Steverlynck confirms that’s how FlexiRiser will be downhole. He commonly answers questions from contractors about how FlexiRiser will handle the torque of the pump motor upon startup. FlexiRiser indeed comes with a Centralizer Kit that is installed above the pump. It consists of a stainless steel nipple and rubber spider that prevents the top of the pump from touching the side of the casing, but Steverlynck says there isn’t a need for them along the length of the hose.
“When the pump is switched on,” Steverlynck continues, “there will be a partial rotation in the direction of the pump. The weight and pressure of the water flowing up the column will bring the pump and FlexiRiser back to their original position, where they will remain during operation behaving like a rigid column.”
Steverlynck adds that the largest pump installed on Boreline FlexiRiser to date was 380 horsepower in 2017 for an emergency mine dewatering project in Alberta, Canada.
In addition, Blair conducted destructive testing on 2-inch FlexiRiser to see how it would respond if it exploded or tore downhole. Blair used their pressure washer and gauge on the 2-inch FlexiRiser, which has a working pressure rating of 430 pounds per square inch (psi).
“We hooked the hose up to our pressure washer and it blew up at 820 psi,” says Blair who video recorded it and will post to his company’s website. “Then we took that same sample and pulled it apart. It has a theoretical tensile strength of 8750 pounds. We needed 13,000 pounds to pull it apart, and the breaking point was not even where the pressure burst occurred. That’s some pretty strong stuff.
“The interesting thing is it’s designed where it’ll always rip along the length of the hose. There’s a different set of fibers that go around it for pressure, and there’s another set of fibers that go the length of the hose for tensile strength, and so when it blows up, it doesn’t reduce the tensile strength.
“If it still has tensile strength after it rips, then you should be able to just pull it right back out. I have faith in the product, but I know there are things downhole that you don’t expect to happen.”
Blair received validation of FlexiRiser after recently emailing the specifications of the product to the Texas Water Development Board. The water planning and infrastructure financing agency not only said the product is approved for potable water use, but Blair says it told him it’s better than any other drop pipe on the market.
Saving Energy and Pumping Cost
Serving about 1800 residents, Robert Gomez of the Village of Columbus, New Mexico, hasn’t had any issues with FlexiRiser since installing it in 2000.
The retiring public works director went with FlexiRiser because he was having to replace their rusted-out galvanized pipe every two years. He currently has two main wells (4-inch, 300 feet at 350 gallons per minute with 50 horsepower submersible pump) using FlexiRiser and planned to install it in another well.
“The combination of high sodium and iron bacteria along with electrolysis that contribute to the corrosion of the iron column pipe makes Boreline the preferred way to go,” says Gomez, who noticed an instant increase in efficiency of 10% to 20% and thousands of dollars saved over the years with FlexiRiser.
“In 20-plus years, I think I’ve changed it out one time because we get pressure problems sometimes. Sometimes you overload it with pressure too much and you’ll get little bubbles in the pipe. It’s not a whole lot but over the years you keep doing it it’ll start leaking a little bit, so you’ll have some water loss but not a whole lot.
“Compared to the steel pipe in two years, you have holes all over the place and losing all kinds of water. Boreline really works.”
Steverlynck, who guarantees at least a 10% or more reduction in pumping costs, is proud of the fact that an often-overlooked component of the well system like drop pipe can be a long-term solution with FlexiRiser.
Supported by several testimonials like Gomez’s, Steverlynck cites two additional ones that stand out in his mind:
- The city of Westport, Washington, retrofitted four of its nine wells with FlexiRiser in 2012 and hasn’t had any issues with scaling and corrosion from the high levels of iron and manganese.Jason Barnum reported increased pumping capacity by 50 gallons per minute, resulting in a cost savings of $40,000 every five years. The city was also needing to replace its pipes every five years, but by switching to FlexiRiser, it is saving $10,000 per year.
- In Forest Lakes, Arizona, Grant Cooper reports moving to FlexiRiser in 2015 reduced its annual energy cost by 48% overnight.Rigid drop pipe experiences internal scaling and roughening of the internal surface over time, but because FlexiRiser is flexible, “it’s self-cleaning so any buildup breaks off with any movement,” Steverlynck explains.“Due to the permanently smooth internal surface of the Boreline, over time they have not lost production. You don’t lose efficiency. You don’t move up the curve. The pump is going to stay operating where it’s supposed to stay and where the engineer said, ‘this is the design, this is where we want it to stay.’”
Steverlynck attended his first Groundwater Week 24 years ago in 1998 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he saw that the water well industry could benefit from installing their submersible pumps on FlexiRiser.
“I said, okay, there’s definitely a good opportunity here because these guys [contractors] are smart and I can make them more efficient,” says Steverlynck, who moved from his native Cape Town, South Africa, in the early 2000s to Arizona to start Hose Solutions.
“I’m passionate about this because it’s a no-brainer. That’s what makes it easy.”
More than 20 years later, FlexiRiser at Groundwater Week 2021 caught the attention of contractors who were curious to learn more about this drop pipe’s benefits.
Mike Price is the senior editor of Water Well Journal. In addition to his WWJ responsibilities, Price contributes to the Association’s scientific publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.