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Microtunnelling is still a relatively new trenchless technology, and as such it continues to evolve as methods and practices are improved, allowing pipelines to be installed quicker and with less risk to keep projects on time and in budget.

However, in order for this to happen, contractors and subcontractors need to be open to taking a flexible approach on projects, especially when challenging conditions mean that the traditional way of doing things may not produce the best outcome.

Developed in Japan in the 1970s, microtunnelling is still a relatively new technology that is still evolving as machinery and techniques continue to be improved.

This means it is still new enough for engineers to be wary of it – especially if they have never used it before – but also old enough for current practices and procedures to be established.

The industry is still in its infancy – even though it’s been around for almost 50 years – because when it was first developed, the methodology wasn’t consistent and only got it right some of the time.

But it’s evolved a lot since then, and little by little the methodology has been improved to the capabilities of some of the best microtunnelling machines on the market today which can consistently achieve accuracies of ±10mm.

The exciting thing is that the industry is still evolving and the growth over the next ten years has the potential to be huge.

An evolving industry

However, the evolution of the industry in coming years will rely on a host of different factors and not just equipment improving.

The continuing evolution of the industry is not just about the equipment, it’s not just work practices, it’s about products and design as well. It’s about pulling it all together to make a package that is truly competitive, and a true alternative to open cut.

Before even starting a job, a microtunnelling contractor needs to help companies eliminate risk. At the end of the day, when you get risk wrong, that’s when budgets get destroyed.

So whenever you can find a situation where you can reduce risk, you get a more accurate way of knowing what the final cost will be.

That is a critical part of our industry moving forward; whenever we get the opportunity to create a methodology that reduces risk, we can create outcomes that everyone’s looking for.

A part of the puzzle

However, it is not always easy to do this, as engineers and contractors can be wary of microtunnelling if they are unfamiliar with it, and finding ways to improve and reduce risk requires everyone to be open to a flexible approach to getting the job done.

Microtunnelling contractors are a piece of a puzzle on a job site, offering a very specialised service to deliver a pipeline from A to B accurately in a very wide range of ground conditions.

As a company, Edge Underground will take on even the hardest jobs that no other microtunnelling contractor is willing to touch, and in doing this it will look for the best and most economic way of completing the project in the provided time frame and budget.

Sometimes this means finding an unconventional way of doing things, especially when there are challenging conditions, but everyone needs to be open to giving it a go.

An innovative solution for a challenging project

To better understand the benefits of a flexible approach, let’s look at an example of how it can be used to complete projects in difficult conditions and time frames that other subcontractors may not want to risk.

In one instance, Edge Underground completed a 300m PVC sewer pipeline installation in Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s inner west, which had to be completed in a tight access area near existing infrastructure, but also needed to be completed in a short time frame.

There was such as tight schedule to complete the project that it would’ve been difficult to put shoring into place without going taking longer than specified.

When this happens, working with a flexible contractor that is open to new ideas is a great benefit to finding a solution to get the job done.

Edge Underground worked on this project with Eden Drainage, and by working together they were able to come up with a solution; Edge Underground essentially shotcreted the tight access shafts, allowing it to complete the job in the specified time.

By coming up with a flexible and innovative approach to the job, rather than going with a preconceived idea, Eden Drainage gave Edge Underground full scope to achieve a fantastic outcome.

About Stuart Harrison

Global microtunnelling pioneer Stuart Harrison is the Managing Director of Edge Underground, where he specialises in on­-grade microtunnelling installations with millimetre accuracy.

Stuart is also the inventor of the Vermeer AXIS Guided Boring system, and he is constantly working to improve the effectiveness of this and other trenchless systems used in the installation of gravity sewers.


This partner content is brought to you by Edge Underground. For more information,contact Stuart on 1300 JACKED or at [email protected]

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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