Editor’s Note: Today’s article was written by one of our readers, Jayde Ferguson. As the construction industry and everyday people become more environmentally conscious, ‘green’ practices have edged their way more predominately into building solutions. Whilst the principals behind the success of microtunneling have been around for decades, it’s only in the recent years where environmentally added benefits have just about been the norm. So how exactly does the microtunneling process work to implement ‘green’ practices that not only benefit our environment, but the workers and people around the site too. We check out the method behind microtunneling and the green-friendly advantages it creates. Microtunneling Defined Microtunneling is a digging technique that combines the pipe jacking method into a remotely controlled, guided way of construction. Because of its extensive techniques, the overall process avoids the need to have open trenches for pipe laying ensuring there’s less destruction to the rest of the community. The method was developed by the Japanese in the early 1970’s and today, it’s the most accurate pipeline installation process. Collective with a need to utilise ‘green’ practices, microtunneling has evolved into a clean cut and practical means of doing business. 1. Microtunneling vs. Traditional Open Cut Construction Because the microtunneling procedure involves a remotely-controlled steerable system to install pipes and cables at the ground surface, it only requires a small tunnel boring machine. As opposed to traditional open cut construction which can be destructive to the surrounding site, microtunneling allows for a much more direct route. Microtunneling techniques offer advantages over traditional open cut construction and therefore, have become the primary means of underground construction methods. Microtunneling is said to be one of the most beneficial underground construction techniques for everyone involved and the surrounding environment. 2. A Cleaner Process The microtunneling method is very friendly on the environment because of its cleaner process. Techniques used in the microtunneling and pipe jacking process ensure quantities of both incoming and outgoing materials are reduced significantly. Not only is this less harsh on the surrounding environment, but it boosts the safety benefits for the workers too. Because of this cleaner process, the amount of soil and stone backfill spillage is condensed. This ensures no liquids surface when injecting bentonite at high pressure too, which can be apparent when horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is used. By ensuring a cleaner process with microtunneling methods, there is less disturbance with the local and wider environment making the process a very effective one in all regards. 3. A Safer Working Environment Combined with pipe jacking techniques, the microtunneling method is one of the most environmentally friendly and safer underground construction processes. Because open cut trench construction normally has to follow existing pipe utilities, roadways and other unobstructed surface, microtunneling offers a trendless construction that protects the environment rather than destroys it. To construct utilities within busy areas, through natural barriers and underneath waterways tends to present major environmental concerns. Construction companies want to minimise the disturbance to these environments as much as possible – whilst of course, still getting the job done effectively. To address these environmental concerns, corporations are constantly seeking ways to develop trenchless methods that keep their workers and the environment safe. Microtunneling processes have proven to be an advantageous and practical method that not only reduces environmental risks, but project costs too. In trenchless construction, almost all microtunnels and pipe jacks are installed between a drive shaft and reception shaft. In order to prevent environmental contamination and the ingress of water into the pipeline, a reception arrangement has to be designed to ensure the exit points are out of the ground or set under water. Microtunneling innovations are specifically designed to use the right size drive shafts to promote a successful pipe installation at virtually any depth, through any soil type with as little disruption to the surrounding environment. Other safety precautions that should be taken are checking piping and piping component material chemistry with a handheld x-ray fluorescence analyzer (XRF) and producing “Trust but Verify” piping and piping component material test reports (MTR’s). This action can provide complete records of Material Chemistry Verification for your pipeline construction quality program and help mitigate corporate risk. Material Verification allows for Objective Quality Evidence to regulators that MTR chemistry is being verified and increases pipeline safety by reducing the chance of an incorrect material entering the construction process of finished product. [Click here to view a presentation on New Developments in Measuring Low Silicon in Process Piping Using Handheld X-ray Fluorescence (XRF).] 4. Vacuum Extraction Systems In comparison to other underground construction techniques, the microtunneling method shifts its focus to a vacuum extraction system which promotes a much cleaner environment. This provides continues support to the ground by using a pipe jack system approach. By using vacuum extraction systems, setup footprint to the work site is minimised significantly. These types of systems used in microtunneling offer safer methods of open cut construction, to both the workers and the environment around us. The risk of injury to workers and the general public are reduced by using methods such as microtunneling with more accurate systems still being achieved.
This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for DM Civil Contractors based in Perth, Western Australia – providing the most tailored and sustainable civil contracting solutions to Australia’s leading companies.