Digging up for trenchless tech

Jeff Pace, the Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT) secretary, believes the future is bright. He provides insight into the current and future state of the industry.

Jeff Pace, the Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT) secretary, believes the future is bright. He provides insight into the current and future state of the industry.

Australia has about 130,000 km of water mains and 80,000 km of sewer mains. Much of this infrastructure has exceeded, or is rapidly approaching, its end-of-life design life. There are also thousands of kilometres of conduits for fuel, chemicals, electricity, and telecommunications. While they are not necessarily at critical stages of their design lives, these conduits still require installation, replacement, and expansion. This will continue to occur in the future.

What is changing in the industry?

Infrastructure owners and operators have become increasingly aware of the favourable economics of renovation and rehabilitation techniques for pipeline infrastructure. In Australasia, a history of methods utilising trenchless technologies has developed over the past 30 years. Conventional pipe-cracking, pipe-bursting, and horizontal boring techniques for new infrastructure installations have a history of success in Australasia.

Pipeline infrastructure owners and operators have an economic investment in underground pipelines, each with a vested responsibility and interest in constructing and installing new infrastructure at minimum cost.

The Society constantly demands improved infrastructure systems. At the same time, an ever-increasing value is placed on the existing environment. As infrastructure networks expand to meet this demand, competition for space and work develops. This increases the difficulty, complexity, and cost of infrastructure installation projects.

Industry providers must provide technically appropriate solutions to meet demand. This needs to be done while minimising environmental impacts, social disruption, and disturbances. At the same time, providers need to maintain an economically feasible framework appropriate to the current economic climate.

In general terms, practical solutions to complex problems must be provided with minimal disturbance, impact and cost, maximum public and political acceptance, and “value for money”.

In Australasia, considerable work is being undertaken to provide new installations and pipe renovation work on ageing assets. HDD, microtunnelling, pipe bursting, cured in place and spiral winding are the most common trenchless construction methods adopted in these areas.

What ASTT secretary Pace believes the future holds

The future is bright as we all realise trenchless techniques’ social and environmental benefits. Minimising disruption to the everyday activities of the public is becoming more of an issue that client organisations recognise as important. Several trenchless techniques can provide solutions in these situations.

The Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety regulations will be taking the forefront of most works associated with the construction industry, of which trenchless techniques tick most of these boxes.

The ASTT will also have more members from the telecommunications, power, oil, and gas sectors than the traditional water and wastewater sectors. The gas industry throughout Australasia has embraced HDD technology on several gas pipeline projects for waterway crossings and crossings of difficult terrain.

The telecommunications industry has invested large sums of money in long-distance communications networks involving optical fibre and NBN (National Broadband Network) cable installations. Telstra, Optus, and other industry providers have seen, tested, and proven mini-HDD and HDD as technologies with time and cost savings benefits. These trenchless technologies have featured social and environmental benefits.

Energy Australia reported that they had undertaken many under-road crossings for small-diameter conduits by guided boring techniques each year. Energy Australia also said that at the current time, it was encouraging contractors engaged in conduit installations to utilise other trenchless methods such as mini-HDD.

Other industries, such as extractive resources, have installed new pipeline pipelines by HDD for mine slurry pipelines and fuel lines beneath major airport taxiways.

If these actions are representative of the industry in general, then an increase in the use of trenchless technologies in this industry is expected.

As the community places an increasing demand on infrastructure systems and regulators exert more influence to improve and rationalise infrastructure systems to meet environmental and regulatory requirements, the need to provide new infrastructure and upgrade existing systems will continue to increase. With trenchless technologies providing effective and beneficial solutions to these demands and controls, an increasing trend in their development and usage should prevail.

No Dig Down Under 2023

No Dig Down Under, the ASTT’s 2023 National Conference and Exhibition, will be held from 12 to 15 September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. This event is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, which will allow delegates to attend a choice of three trenchless training courses immediately before the start, as well as attend a selection of technical papers on offer. Exhibition slots are now completely sold out, a testament to our members and the industry. The exhibition is also an opportunity to see the latest innovations the trenchless sector offers.

Future for the ASTT, according to ASTT secretary Pace

The biggest challenge facing the ASTT is ensuring that all our members get value for money. Even though our fees are modest, membership value is paramount to ensure we maintain the membership numbers. This focus is constantly being looked at. For example, we have just redeveloped our website to include a members-only area. It provides exclusive access to member benefits, including guidelines, standards and specifications, and past conference papers.

We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). This MOU establishes a platform for sharing information between WSAA and the ASTT concerning trenchless technologies and products to enhance the outcomes for both industries.

Work is underway with the water utility providers in Australia and New Zealand to produce a “State of the Industry Review.” It provides an opportunity to get a handle on the historical and current market.

Pace retired from his role as the ASTT Secretary effective from 27 April 2023. He wanted to take this opportunity to thank all those members past and present for supporting him and the ASTT over the 32-year period he was at the helm. Over this lengthy period, Pace met some fabulous people and will miss the opportunity to chat with them in the future. The new secretary is Trevor Gosatti, who will certainly do an outstanding job.

For more information, visit https://www.astt.com.au/ and https://www.nodigdownunder.com/

Related Articles:

Send this to a friend