Published by Jim Schill
In North America there are few areas as beautiful and well-regarded as Banff National Park and Lake Louise in Canada. This majestic area of the Rocky Mountains is known for its amazing scenery, breath taking views, glacier-fed streams and lakes, as well as abundant wildlife.
Approximately 80 miles west of Calgary, Alberta, the park is accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway. The highway zigzags its way from the western edge of the Calgary prairie into the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park. Preserving the beauty of the surrounding area, as well as the access to the park is a high priority for Parks Canada. It’s also not unusual that trenchless construction would be specified for a utility replacement project in the park.
The Lake Louise Water and Sewer Upgrades project included the replacement of existing water and sewer mains under the Trans-Canada Highway. Utility contractor Total Trenchless, Calgary, AB, was subcontracted to installation twin 30-in. casings, 280 ft, under the highway to house the water and sewer mains.
“The project owner was Parks Canada as the project fell within the limits of Banff National Park. The Trans-Canada Highway is pretty much the only passage through the Rocky Mountains. There’s a small development on the north side, Harry Hills, near Lake Louise that needed to have some utilities replaced, two 4-in. diameter carriers,” says Total Trenchless safety/field operations supervisor Jeff Corsie. “One was a force sanitary sewer main and one was for water supply. Parks Canada specified that the lines run through casings under the highway. We were brought in to install those twin casings.”
For the project, guided pipe ramming with pilot tube was specified for installing the casings under the highway.
For the installations, Total Trenchless used a 24-in. diameter Grundoram Taurus pipe rammer from trenchless equipment manufacturer TT Technologies, Aurora, Illinois, combined with a pilot tube system. According to TT Technologies pipe ramming specialist Rick Melvin, this combination of methods be really effective.
He said, “Pairing pipe ramming with guided boring or the pilot tube method can result in extremely accurate casing installations. The line and grade control system and a hydraulic jacking frame allows contractors to place pilot tubes through the ground very accurately. Once the pilot tubes are in place, an adapter is used to make a transition to the casing that’s being installed. The casing basically follows the pilot tube’s path, resulting in a very accurate, line and grade installation.”
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Thread wear and ballooning is what transpires over time and is caused by excessive side-loading and high torque. This reduces the thread’s engagement and this loss of face adds additional stress to the female end of the pilot tube.
Use the thread gauge tool to compare the threads to new pilot tubes (see Figure 1), making thread wear more apparent.
If you look at a cut-away view of two mated pilot tubes where ballooning has occurred, you will notice that the thread teeth show rounding at each crest (see Figure 2). The rounding diminishes the rigidity of the connection, lessens the maximum rotational torque capacity and could fatigue the tube to failure.
When pilot tubes are in good condition, the exterior join region should be smooth (see Figure 3). When running your finger along this area there should be no step or overlap. When threads are worn and ballooning has occurred, there will be a noticeable overlap in this region (see Figure 4).
Another tell-tale indicator of worn threads is noticed difficultly when separating them at breakout. If the tube does not thread apart easily during removal in the reception shaft, it may simply require lubrication, however, this could also be an indicator of excessive wear and it may have the potential for ballooning. When tubes are difficult to separate, the crew should mark and set these pilot tubes aside for further inspection, cleaning and lubrication following the bore.
Over time, seasoned operators will become familiar with the indicators for pilot tube replacement based on performance and visual inspection. Consistent observation of maintenance intervals will help contractors realize great distances.
Contact Aftermarket Support to get a thread gauge tool for your pilot tube inventory.
Alex started in microtunneling assembly and as an MTBM field technician, but he also dabbled in support for the GBM, TBM, and EPBM equipment lines. For ten years, he was integral on many high-profile projects all over North America for customers Michels Tunneling, Super Excavators, Inc., Frontier-Kemper Constructors, Inc., and J&J Boring, Inc., to name a few.
On one of his first technician projects, he received prudent advice from Vladimir that he’s never forgotten. “Vladimir said, ‘I know figuring out problems is stressful, but approach them one step at a time.’ This helped me grow as a technician.”
In 2017, Alex was appointed as MTBM Lead, adding managerial and production workflow responsibilities, along with continued field technician support.
In April of 2020, he was named Plant Manager. His two years in this position have been marked by increased production volume, facility expansions, machining center and heavy equipment acquisitions, product quality improvements, a reduction in backlog, workforce expansion, and moving our safety program back in-house.
“What we do here is unique…not one project is ever the same,” he reflects. “Because of the experiences I’ve had and the relationships I’ve developed with our customers, I know their expectations and how they operate their projects. In my role as plant manager, I try to consider their needs when making production decisions.”
What motivates Alex to come to work each day is our people and their values. “When there is a situation, our employees react, and that’s been consistent over time – every person pitches in.” He furthers, “We do not cut corners when we do something – we do it right.” He details, “I also believe that we’re good at identifying our employees’ skills and promoting within.” Like most of us, he likes that, “We’re still a family place, the Akkermans’ appreciate their employees, and it shows.”
He recognizes, “I couldn’t do my job without the department leads, heading up each section of the production floor. I like helping them to facilitate their goals and continuous improvements.”
Justin states, “Alex always brings great energy to Akkerman and is a great motivator. In his current role, Alex takes into account the interests of everyone and has made the work environment much more enjoyable. Alex is a driver and holds others accountable to achieve our goals.”