Reducing the social costs of pipe installations with microtunneling

The installation of underground utilities has the potential to cause major disruption to the community and surrounding environment depending on the method used. Microtunneling offers an alternative to open pit methods for installing pipelines quickly and accurately while reducing social costs.

Traditional open pit pipeline installation methods require the length of the pipeline – which may include roads and trails – to be blocked off for a period of time to allow for excavation, installation and restoration work.

According to Stuart Harrison, managing director of Edge Underground, using a trenchless method such as microtunneling instead of open-pit methods has a number of advantages that limit the disruption caused by construction work.

“Microtunneling is a pit-launching technique with only an entry and exit pit to dig for installation,” Harrison explains. “This allows installation through a small incision between the inlet and outlet pits, rather than having to tear up the whole street to do it.”

Limit disruption to the community

The AXIS Guided Drilling System is a modular micro-tunnelling machine that can be configured to reduce construction site space requirements, reducing the number of occupied pedestrian lanes and the need for road lane closures.

In addition, it reduces the loss of parking spaces, which can result in less parking meter revenue for the city and less parking fine revenue.

Another social cost of pipeline installations is the loss of trade. Construction zones can reduce accessibility to businesses due to congested traffic conditions, blocked parking spaces, and barriers from the construction site itself.

Businesses may lose customers, who prefer to go to more convenient locations, and those that rely on deliveries may have supply issues. Microtunneling requires less excavation and less restoration afterwards, so project timelines are shortened, minimizing disruption to trade.

“While open pit methods leave long stretches of open trenches that need to be restored after construction, microtunneling leaves minimal surface scarring and requires far less landscape restoration,” says Harrison.

Depending on the requirements of the project, the destruction of road surfaces can be entirely designed outside the project.

“Unlike traditional methods, the AXIS system extracts soil through which a tunnel passes rather than moving it. It is designed to cut and extract soil as it goes, and in doing so it has little or no influence on the ground directly surrounding the installation,” says Harrison.

The AXIS system also uses a vacuum extraction method that provides continuous floor support using a pipe jack system approach. This ensures that the quantities of incoming and outgoing materials are reduced, disturbing the environment less and minimizing the size of the construction site.

Microtunneling requires minimal excavation. Image: Underground Edge

A healthier and safer construction site

Open pit excavations lead to a significant amount of dust in their environment. Cleaning needs, and therefore costs, increase while the quality of life for people living near the construction area decreases. As excavation requirements are greatly reduced with microtunneling, there is also less dust produced by the site.

Noise pollution is also a major by-product of construction sites. The use of heavy construction equipment results in higher noise levels near the work area. As projects that use efficient microtunneling systems can be completed more quickly, the cost of noise pollution is reduced and the impact on residents is reduced.

Worker safety can also be improved by using trenchless technologies such as microtunneling. The large amount of excavation required for surface pipeline installation methods creates a greater risk to worker safety and increases the risk of public interference, especially in urban areas.

Microtunneling requires minimal excavation, so there is less chance of safety issues resulting from trenching. The AXIS Guided Drilling System is the only microtunnelling machine on the market that has been designed with unique safety features to provide a superior level of operator safety and reduce the risk of materials falling into the pit and injuring workers. .

For more information, visit the Edge Underground website.

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Australasia trenchless. Click here to see the digital edition of the magazine.

About Keith Tatum

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