FAQs From The Field: Applications, Materials & More
- Trey Allis of Prinsco, Application Engineer
Prinsco Ag application engineer Trey Allis joins Jamie to answer frequently asked questions about drainage pipe applications, materials and more.
Episode 44 | 24 min
Trey graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. He joined the Prinsco team as an Application Engineer in 2017 and primarily focuses on Agricultural engineering. Growing up on a farm and in the Ag community, Allis has spent a lot of his career focusing on the Flexible Dual Wall product and the value it adds to the industry.
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Audio recording (00:05):
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Jamie Duininck (00:31):
Well, welcome back to The Water Table podcast. Again today I have Trey Allis application engineer for Prinsco focuses his time on the agricultural side, and just wanted to ask Trey and kind of have a dialogue today with Trey about some of the things we hear often in the field from customers and from installers that are putting in pipe, whether it’s Prinsco pipe or others, just some common questions on the agricultural side and one thing we’ve seen the last, I would say, five-ish years is the advent of polypropylene pipe in Dual-Wall and at Prinsco, we call it Goldpro. That goes along with our Goldflo HDPE pipe. Most of the time you’ll see that as being kind of a gray pipe to… For those listeners that are wondering what we’re talking about, but really the difference is, is one product is made out of polyethylene, HDPE, high density polyethylene, the other one’s made out of polypropylene.
We’ve talked a little bit about this on other podcasts, but the question keeps coming up and there are areas of the country and certain jobs that might be like county main systems that are bid now at times with polypropylene and so I’ve gotten the question from our sales people and from customers, what is the difference? What, why should I consider or shouldn’t I consider one versus the other? So want to go into that and then we’ll just kind of have a dialogue?
Trey Allis (02:16):
Yeah, thanks again for having me on Jamie. I appreciate coming back again. I’ve gotten that question many times too, and essentially, like you mentioned, all it really is, it’s just a different plastic. Polypropylene is a little stiffer, so we can get a little higher performance, a little more, I guess, consistency on some of the things within the pipe and that’s main benefit for it. You get that higher pipe stiffness, and if you install it apples to apples with all things around the pipe the same, you’ll get a little deeper burial depths you can achieve, but it’s not fairly significant.
So that’s kind of the main takeaway that I’ve had on a lot of this stuff. You know, when you’re talking about pipe stiffness, whether it’s the difference between Dual-Wall HDPE versus Dual-Wall polypropylene or whether it’s the difference between single wall pipe and Dual-Wall pipe, you know, a lot of it is just a difference in pipe stiffness, which you get, which is good. You want a fairly heavy duty stiffer pipe when you can get it, but it doesn’t negate the fact that you need to have good backfill around the pipe. Nothing… You’re not going to get… You’re not going to out stiffen your way out of a poor installation, that’s probably a poor way of saying it.
Jamie Duininck (03:31):
Well, yeah, and I think what people need to remember is whether it’s polyethylene or polypropylene, they both still are flexible conduits. It’s not… They’re both still are flexible, it isn’t a product that is that stiff, like reinforced concrete or something.
Trey Allis (03:46):
Right, yeah, there’s two classifications of pipe and it’s either rigid or flexible and when we say flexible, it’s what you’re saying, it’s I guess ring flexibility where the strength of that pipe comes from what’s around it so whether that’s a good, hard clay bottom that matches the OD of the pipe really tight and provides a lot of stiffness that way, or you bring in some sand or gravel and compact it around the pipe, that’s where the pipe gets pretty much all of its stiffness is its combination of pipe stiffness and soil stiffness, but soil stiffness is by far the most important.
Jamie Duininck (04:20):
Right, and I think when you get an inexperienced customer, whether it’s a farmer, contractor, whether it’s in the agricultural side or really in the stormwater side, it doesn’t matter. When you get someone that’s inexperienced and they look at the cost of good backfill, I think, well maybe I don’t need that because I can do this a lot cheaper with native backfill and in some case, the native backfill works but when the native backfill is not the appropriate backfill, you’re going to still have problems, whether it’s polypropylene or polyethylene.
Now, the propylene probably does give you a safety factor on that and so people need to look at that, but also in most of the time, the polypropylene costs more than the polyethylene because of just the input costs of propylene are higher at most times during the year. Not always, but most of the time that’s true so then you have to look at, okay, can I justify in my costs and how I’m installing it at paying more for the product and still getting what I want out of it?
Trey Allis (05:30):
Right, and a lot of times those differences of what you’re getting for say the stiffer pipe, it’s the… Well, a 5% difference in burial depth so, I mean it’s pretty much every application that we see, especially on the agricultural side of things. HDPE pipe is plenty suited for the depths and installation requirements that we need. We call it Goldpro Storm, specifically for the storm wire applications. That’s the primary market for it. One of the more unique benefits or where it benefits it more on the stormwater side is with the joint performance as well. We can get kind of more consistent joints, whether that be from the bell dimensions or the spigot dimensions, we can stay tighter and more consistent with polypropylene within some of that stuff too so when you’re talking about joint performance, that’s more stringent in stormwater applications than ag so… But then that kind of gets back to the point of within the ag market is pretty much everywhere that you’re using the pipe. It’s… HDPE is just fine.
Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve had just to clear it up too, I’ve had questions over time in regards to flow rates and mannings and it’s the same, whether it’s polyethylene or polypropylene it’s dual pipe, it has a smooth inner liner and the mannings aren’t any better with the higher performance polypropylene pipe than it is on the polyethylene and so the higher performance has nothing to do with the flow rate.
Trey Allis (07:03):
Correct, yep. It’s still made on the same machines, same mold blocks, pretty much same everything just that plastic acts a little differently when it’s, I guess, when it’s installed, essentially that yep, you’re still going to be getting it’s very equivalent, it’s just a little stiffer.
Jamie Duininck (07:19):
Yep. Yep. How about how these plastics perform, the difference in ethylene and propylene when it comes to cold weather in the winter or hot weather in the summer. Is there really a performance difference?
Trey Allis (07:35):
Not significant in a lot of the things, I guess polypropylene, the material itself, I believe, is a little more brittle. It’s actually a contaminant in HDPE, in polyethylene manufacturing so if you have too much poly… Of the wrong polypropylene in the wrong spot, there’s some potential for some issues there.
Jamie Duininck (07:54):
So what you’re saying is there isn’t a significant difference in regards to weather and it being cold but because propylene is a little bit more brittle, you could have some issues if it’s super cold.
Trey Allis (08:08):
Correct, yep and when it’s fairly warm, it’s probably going to be acting fairly similar. With the HDPE being black, it’ll absorb a little more heat, but in the grand scheme of things it’s pretty comparable and, like I said, when you’re matching up the application is, and talking generalities is, HDPE is very adequate for a lot of the applications that we see both on the storm side and on the agricultural side, but then also, but polypro does have its niche within some stormwater markets for that as well.
Jamie Duininck (08:42):
Good, good. Well that… I think that helps our… We get these questions a lot. We’ll probably get more and there might be a different line of questioning around the same two products that we’ll have to address, Trey, as we go here and in the future. I know you’re always willing to be on the podcast, so you might be coming back, but you know another area that I just wanted to visit a little bit about in some of the geographical areas where we, at Prinsco, and where the industry sells pipe is in really sandy areas and you get the questions between, okay, I’m pretty sure I don’t want regular perforated pipe, but the industry makes a narrow slot pipe product or socked products and sock is exactly what it sounds like, as you actually put a sock over the pipe that has perforations in it so that the sand can’t get into the pipe.
But let’s just talk a little bit about perforations and you know how do we, how do you advise people when they ask around what should I be doing? I know you, first of all ask, well, what’s the conditions you’re putting it in, but talk a little bit about that and we’ll have a dialogue.
Trey Allis (10:06):
Yeah. So whenever I’ve gotten that question is my routine answer’s been if you know that you’re going to be installing in sand use sock. You’re… That’s a good, you’d rather do it right once and with sock in an instance where you know that you’re going to be dealing with some of these issues, that’s probably the best play for longevity of the system.
If you’re dealing with something, more unique soils or fairly variable, or you might be running into say a sand layer or sand vein in the sub-soil is narrow slot seems to be working very well for a lot of that stuff and that narrow slot is you can barely tell that the pipe’s even perforated with it, but there’s always potential for some irregularities, whether it be when you’re say stringing out the pipe and say, something gets caught and opens up some of those perforations a little more. There’s potential for sand to infiltrate in there and may compromise your system so that’s where I say that the sock is kind of always a good part if you know, you’re going to be in sand.
Narrow slot is a good insurance policy against some of the varying soil types. It’s still going to have pretty equivalent drainage from the grand scheme of things, you know, you’re not hurting your flow into the pipe with the narrow slot, but then also just more perforations, more open area per foot when you’re dealing with a stable clay or silty loam type soil too, more perforations per foot, more open area isn’t going to hurt you either when that soil stays put.
Jamie Duininck (11:38):
Sure, sure. And I think one of the takeaways is we have… We’ve seen so much product go in the ground without any issues that if you know you’re going to be working in sand, just use a narrow slot or a sock, because we have absolutely you’ll know it if you put in perforated pipe in a sandy area, it will fill up and we’ve seen that too but when the correct product is chosen, there’s very few issues and the installation either way, but you know, you do get into more technical soils like Hydric sand that are even more sensitive to what we do and as a farmer, if farmers are listening, I’d really encourage you, if you have those kind of soils, I will tell you that a drainage system on Hydric sand can make an incredible difference in your yields.
And if you want more information about that, give us a call, we’ll talk to you about it but if you are going to hire a contractor, I wouldn’t… Make sure you hire a contractor that has experience in those types of soils because they are very challenging, the Hydric sands and you can get yourself into trouble pretty fast if you haven’t had… Everybody that has experience that have done jobs like that has paid for that experience by the challenges that come along with it.
Trey Allis (13:10):
Jamie Allis (13:12):
Yep, for sure. For sure and also an area where flexible Dual-Wall is a really great product because of those types of challenging soils and it’s nice to just get it in the ground without having to have a lot of exposed open soil.
Trey Allis (13:31):
Yeah, and that’s, in some instances, that’s the only product that’ll work or only installation method, I guess, that would work in some of these soils where everything’s [inaudible 00:13:42] and it’s… He got kind of one chance to lay the pipe in the ground, that was from a conversation that I had with a gentleman, with a customer that was dealing with some of that stuff to say, I got one chance to run pipe through the ground here to drain this area and got to do it right with a narrow slot and flexible, Dual-Wall pipe, it needs to flow and you can’t have an open trench with some of that stuff so that’s really cool to hear some of that is there’s very… We’re doing something right having a product that can meet the demands of some of that very unique applications.
Jamie Duininck (14:16):
Yep, yep. For sure. For sure. So those areas are, I think, in 2021, where I had a lot of questions personally, just being out and about talking to customers around perforations, around polypropylene versus polyethylene. What else are some of the things you’ve seen that you would like to maybe try to clear up with customers so hopefully they’re more comfortable and don’t have to… We’re always open for questions, but don’t have to call because they’re confident and…
Trey Allis (14:53):
Right, yeah, so and maybe that’s just the… And perforations is part of it, but just overall the water movement through the soil, you know, how it gets to the pipe. That’s a big one so when I was saying that the narrow slot perforations still have the same drainage capability with a lot of soils is, that was based off of a kind of a experiment that I was able to be a part of and put together of looking at capped off a 12 inch pipe and dunked it in some water and timed how fast it filled up. The difference between narrow slot and standard perfs and it was, there was a big, significant difference between those two on the scale of seconds versus minutes with the narrow slot. However, if you look at that same scenario of water moving through soil, it’s a lot shorter or a lot longer for that water to move through that soil.
So, there’s going to be a difference in the product itself. You can see it, I’m not going to tell anybody that hey, this is going to drain more but when you’re talking about water moving 30, 40, 50 feet through soil layers of varying degrees of whatever, of different soils or organic matter, stuff like that, that’s going to take a long time, that’s almost always your limiting factor of how quick an area can drain is the soil itself. And on the product side is, yeah, we can match up some of those needs with product, but you’re kind of not going to solve your way out of that mess with just a little more perforations.
Jamie Duininck (16:30):
Right, right and having that… A whole water management, holistic water management system in the ground that can manage that water table is what’s important, because it… The water does move laterally through the ground and if the whole soil profile is full of water, a… If you can put in perforated pipe is probably the best to get it to that point, but we want to maintain so after a couple of years of that system running and working, the narrow slot product is going to be doing a lot of the same things that the perforated system would be doing that.
Trey Allis (17:14):
Exactly, yep. There’s a handful of cases where you may notice a difference one of them being right after installation. If you’re drawing down that water table right away, or initially releasing or getting, I guess, air back into that soil profile. And I guess maybe the other one being, if you’re in a more of a French drainage application where you have high permeability rocker sand around your pipe where you’re essentially giving the pipe, all the water it needs, then you might be seeing a little bit of difference with some of that stuff, but in any water management scenario, from a purely drainage standpoint, the narrow slot and sand proofs kind of work pretty similarly.
Jamie Duininck (17:58):
So yeah, and that absolutely is an area that it’s challenging for people to understand, took me a long time to understand that you can’t see that water in the soil profile and that water literally will move through the soil profile and can move a long ways in the right soils, in sands and where it’s easier for water to move. It can literally move miles laterally through the soil into the right veins and so that’s the challenge with, in some cases you’re not just removing excess water off from your farm right there, but you’re removing it from the area also so I think people need to understand that as part of the challenge.
Trey Allis (18:47):
Right, as well as trying to manage some of that water too, not just in a purely drainage scenario too, but it works fairly similarly if you’re doing, say a saturated buffer laying through a sand layer is, yeah, you might not be seeing a whole lot of drainage coming out the pipe, but that water’s going somewhere, might just be routing through different ways where you’re draining the field area that you need to, but you’re not seeing the water come out the pipe. So the water’s going somewhere, it’s going… Finding some of those veins and kind of doing its own thing so that was, I think, that was based off something research farm in somewhere up in Northern Minnesota, that was first exposed to some of that too so that was a pretty interesting takeaway is everyone was sitting around, they’re like, oh, I don’t know where the water went, well, somewhere underground.
Jamie Duininck (19:34):
Right, right. Exactly. We talked about propylene and ethylene a little while ago, but we didn’t touch too much, it’s kind… It’s almost between the two of perforations but it’s about Dual-Wall pipe question is around the joining system and the joint system. In agriculture, at times we have a soil tight gasket that’s used a lot of the time rather than a watertight gasket that’s used in stormwater and even at times with that we’ve had contractors that just say, oh, I’m going to take the gasket off and just put it on because I want that infiltration. It isn’t sand. Obviously if it’s sand, they wouldn’t do that but what advice do you have or what do you see out there that works well, or they should be concerned about when it comes to the whole bell and picket and watertight or soil tight versus no gasket at all?
Trey Allis (20:35):
Yeah. So I think it’s always good to have a gasket on there. Have some barrier within joining that Dual-Wall pipe. It’s not going to hurt. There’s still water going to be moving through that soil tight gasket, soil tight connection, that’s kind of what it’s designed for is to allow water percolation through it, but holds back a lot of the sand sediment and whatnot, just try to keep that out of the system, keep it in the ground where it should be.
From a water tight standpoint, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have a water tight gasket on perforated pipe so, however, it has been requested for, I guess, other scenarios where, depending on equipment of what they have available and there’s other joining factors that within say a trencher that assembles the pipe itself, you want a little more holding capacity on that joint and one way of doing that is with the gaskets so that’s kind of a unique case that people have been using gaskets for more so just holding the pipe together so to say, but it’s not necessarily required from a joint performance standpoint. So it’s a little counterintuitive or a little backwards when you orders of perforated pipe going out with watertight gaskets on it.
Jamie Duininck (21:52):
Yeah, for sure. I’ve questioned that myself and laugh about it but I mean, the reality of it is, it is good to have that gasket on there and I can understand why, at times, people don’t want to, because it’s a little bit harder, even, soil tight too, watertight is another level up, but it’s a little bit harder to put that joint together compared to no gasket at all, but not knowing for sure what all of the challenges you’re going to have down the road if you get a really big rain, whatever it might be from a safety factor, it’s just the right thing to do to leave it on and your system will work without… With less risk for longer than if you don’t do that.
So appreciate your thoughts on that. You know, I just appreciate you, Trey, as a application engineer at Prinsco and really focused on the ag side, your passion for agriculture and how you can make a difference with your technical knowledge and what you know, to help others. I just appreciate you being part of the team and being willing to be on The Water Table podcast and sharing your knowledge and your enthusiasm.
Trey Allis (23:08):
Yeah. And thanks again for having me and kind of giving me that opportunity to overall problem solve and try to share some of the things that’s going on throughout the Midwest mainly and it’s been a fun part of talking with people down in whatever Kansas and Illinois, they might have be having the same problems up in North Dakota for some of the same stuff, it’s all related and it’s kind of fun to sit and chat with these guys and problem solve, see what they got going on and try to provide some benefit and add some value to what they’re doing so that’s been a fun part of what I get to do so thank you for giving me that opportunity.
Jamie Duininck (23:47):
Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table. You can find us at watertable.ag. Find us on Facebook. You can find us on Twitter and you can also find the podcast on any of your favorite podcast platforms.