Introduction of Micro Tunneling

Introduction of Micro Tunneling

Micro tunneling, also known as pipe jacking, is a trenchless method of underground construction that has revolutionized the field of civil engineering. It involves the installation of underground pipelines, conduits, and shafts using advanced technology and specialized equipment, without major disruptions to the surface. With its precision and efficiency, micro tunneling has gained widespread popularity in the construction industry, and its application continues to expand in various projects around the world. In this article, we will explore the basics of micro tunneling, its benefits, and its various applications in modern infrastructure development.

Micro Tunneling

Micro Tunneling

Micro tunneling, also known as pipeline jacking or pipe jacking, is a trenchless construction method used to install underground pipelines, ducts, and utilities. It is a versatile and efficient method that is commonly used in urban areas where open trenching is not feasible due to space constraints or environmental concerns.

The process of micro tunneling involves creating a guided pilot tunnel using a micro tunnel boring machine (MTBM) that is remotely controlled by an operator. The MTBM is typically launched from a shaft with the help of hydraulic jacks and is capable of excavating a tunnel with a diameter ranging from 300mm to 3,500mm.

The pilot tunnel is driven using a laser-guided system that ensures accuracy and precision in alignment. Once the pilot tunnel is completed, the MTBM is repositioned at the launch pit, and a larger diameter cutting head or shield is attached to the front end of the machine. The cutting head excavates the soil while the MTBM simultaneously installs the pre-cast concrete pipes behind it, forming the final tunnel.

One of the main advantages of micro tunneling is its minimal impact on the surrounding environment. As the construction takes place entirely underground, there is little to no disruption to surface activities and traffic. This makes it an ideal option for urban areas, highways, and other areas with high population density.

Micro tunneling is also a cost-effective method compared to open trenching. It requires fewer resources, such as labor and equipment, and can be completed in a shorter time frame. As the process is automated, it also reduces the risk of human error and increases safety on the site.

Another benefit of micro tunneling is its ability to install pipelines and utilities in challenging ground conditions, such as beneath rivers, highways, or buildings. The use of advanced technology and experienced operators allows for precise tunneling even in difficult soil conditions.

Overall, micro tunneling is a reliable and efficient method for installing underground pipelines and utilities. Its minimal impact on the environment, cost-effectiveness, and versatility make it a preferred choice for many civil engineering projects. With continued advancements in technology, micro tunneling is expected to play a significant role in the future of underground construction.

Microtunneling and Pipe Jacking System

Microtunneling and Pipe Jacking System

Microtunneling and pipe jacking system are two trenchless methods used for the installation of underground pipelines and utilities. These methods allow for the installation of pipes without the need for large open trenches, minimizing disruption to the surrounding environment and reducing construction costs.

Microtunneling is a method used to excavate and install small diameter pipelines (generally between 200mm to 2500mm) in a controlled and precise manner. It involves the use of a microtunneling machine, which is a remote-controlled, mechanized tunnelling system. The machine is equipped with a rotating cutterhead at its front, which excavates the soil, and a conveyor system that removes the spoil material from the excavation to the surface. The machine is guided by a laser guidance system, which ensures the pipeline is installed accurately along the alignment and gradient required.

The microtunneling machine is usually set up in a launch shaft, and the pipe sections are installed as the machine progresses along the alignment. The spoil material is removed from the excavation through a pressure chamber located in the rear of the machine, where it is then transported to the surface via a slurry system. The slurry is typically a mixture of water and bentonite clay, which acts as a lubricant for the excavation and keeps the tunnel stable.

One of the significant advantages of microtunneling is its ability to work in various ground conditions, including sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils. It can also be used to install pipelines in areas with significant water tables, as the slurry pressure helps to stabilize the tunnel and prevent groundwater from entering the excavation.

Pipe jacking, on the other hand, is a method used for installing larger diameter pipes (over 2500mm) with the use of hydraulic jacks. It involves the excavation of a launch shaft, where the pipe sections are assembled, and the tunnel is then pushed forward using hydraulic jacks. As the pipe is pushed into the ground, the excavated soil is removed from the launch shaft and transported to the surface using a conveyor belt system.

Pipe jacking can be used in various ground conditions but is particularly useful in areas with soft soils. The jacking process is typically slower than microtunneling, and the excavation is not as precise. Therefore, it is commonly used for the installation of pipes where accuracy is not critical.

In both microtunneling and pipe jacking systems, the pipe sections used are usually precast concrete or steel segments, which are installed as the machine progresses. The segments are joined together using various methods such as bolted gaskets, jacking pipes, or segment rings. As the machine advances, the newly installed pipe sections are connected to the previously installed sections, creating a continuous pipeline.

In summary, microtunneling and pipe jacking systems are highly efficient and cost-effective methods for the installation of pipelines. These trenchless methods have revolutionized the construction industry, providing a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional open-cut methods. With continuous advancements in technology, these systems are becoming more precise, safer, and more versatile, making them the go-to methods for underground pipeline installation.

Planning Process for Micro tunneling

Planning Process for Micro tunneling

The planning process for micro tunneling involves several steps to ensure the successful execution of the project. Micro tunneling is a trenchless method of installing pipelines underground, often used in urban areas where traditional open-cut methods are not feasible. It involves the use of a micro tunnel boring machine (MTBM) to excavate the soil and install the pipeline simultaneously. The following are the key steps in the planning process for micro tunneling:

1. Feasibility Study: The first step in the planning process is to conduct a feasibility study to determine the suitability of micro tunneling for the project. Factors such as soil conditions, existing utilities, alignment, and topography are considered in this study.

2. Alignment Design: Once the feasibility study is completed, the next step is to design the alignment for the micro tunnel. This involves determining the starting and end points, depths, and curves of the tunnel based on the project requirements.

3. Geotechnical Investigation: A detailed geotechnical investigation is conducted to determine the soil conditions along the tunnel route. This helps in selecting the appropriate MTBM and determining the type of soil conditioning required during excavation.

4. Utility Mapping: It is essential to identify and map the existing utilities, such as water and gas pipelines, electric cables, and telecommunication lines, in the project area. This information is vital to ensure the safe execution of the micro tunneling process.

5. Risk Assessment: A thorough risk assessment is carried out to identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. This includes risks associated with soil conditions, utilities, and urban congestion.

6. Cost Estimation: A detailed cost estimation is prepared based on the project design and specifications. This includes the costs of equipment, materials, labor, and any potential risks.

7. Permitting and Approvals: Before starting the project, all necessary permits and approvals from local authorities and stakeholders must be obtained. This includes environmental permits, traffic control permits, and any other relevant approvals.

8. Project Schedule: A detailed project schedule is developed, taking into account the design, construction, and testing phases. This helps in effectively managing the project and ensuring timely completion.

9. Construction Methodology: The construction methodology is developed based on the project design, soil conditions, and other site-specific factors. This includes determining the size and type of MTBM, the method of soil conditioning, and the type of pipe installation.

10. Quality Control and Assurance: A rigorous quality control and assurance program is implemented throughout the construction process to ensure the quality and safety of the project.

11. Project Management: A project manager is appointed to oversee and manage the entire micro tunneling project. The project manager is responsible for coordinating with various stakeholders, managing the budget and schedule, and addressing any issues that may arise during the construction process.

In conclusion, the planning process for micro tunneling is crucial in ensuring the success of the project. It involves a detailed assessment of project feasibility, alignment design, geotechnical investigation, risk assessment, cost estimation, permitting, project scheduling, construction methodology, quality control and assurance, and effective project management. A comprehensive and well-planned approach is necessary to execute a micro tunneling project efficiently and safely.

Microtunneling Construction

Microtunneling Construction

Microtunneling construction is a trenchless method of installing underground pipelines with minimal disruption to the surrounding environment. It involves the use of a remote-controlled microtunnel boring machine (MTBM) to excavate the ground and install the pipeline in a single continuous operation. This method is widely used in urban areas where traditional open-cut construction is not feasible due to the presence of existing structures, utilities, or sensitive environmental areas.

The process of microtunneling construction starts with the MTBM being set up at the launch pit, usually located at the starting point of the pipeline. The machine is then lowered into the ground and starts to excavate the soil using a rotating cutting wheel at the face of the machine. Excavated material is then transported back to the launch pit through a conveyor system or by using slurry pumps.

As the MTBM progresses, the pipe segments are pushed into the ground behind the cutting wheel. These segments are typically made of reinforced concrete or steel and are connected using a variety of methods such as jacking or thrusting.

The MTBM is controlled by a skilled operator who uses laser guidance systems to ensure accurate alignment and grade control. The machine also has sensors to monitor its position and performance, allowing for adjustments to be made to ensure the tunnel is being constructed as per design specifications.

Once the tunnel has been completed, the MTBM is retrieved from the exit pit and the newly installed pipeline is connected to the existing network. Final inspections and tests are carried out before the trench is backfilled and the surface is restored.

There are several benefits to using microtunneling construction. One of the main advantages is its ability to minimize disruption to the surrounding environment. As the tunnel is excavated underground, there is little to no disturbance to the surface above. This method is also less labor-intensive compared to open-cut construction, making it more cost-effective.

Additionally, microtunneling can be used to install pipelines in areas with limited access, steep slopes, or where ground conditions are challenging. It is also a preferred method for installing pipelines in densely populated areas, as it reduces the risk of damage to existing structures and utilities.

However, microtunneling construction also has its limitations. It is not suitable for all ground conditions and may not be cost-effective for shorter distances. Extensive planning and design are required to ensure the success of a microtunneling project.

In conclusion, microtunneling construction is a modern and efficient method for installing underground pipelines. With its minimal disruption to the environment and surrounding structures, it is becoming a popular choice for urban infrastructure projects. As a civil engineer, it is important to understand this construction method and its capabilities in order to evaluate the most suitable methods for a specific project.


In conclusion, micro tunneling is a revolutionary method of underground construction that offers numerous benefits over traditional methods. Its ability to minimize disruption to the surface and surrounding environment, as well as its cost-effectiveness and efficiency, make it a highly desirable choice for various types of underground projects. With advanced technologies and techniques constantly being developed, micro tunneling is expected to play an even bigger role in the future of underground construction. It is an exciting innovation that has the potential to shape the way we build and connect underground networks for years to come.

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