Guided Auger Boring has become one of the most popular and cost-effective trenchless methods to accurately install steel casing for underground utilities. In the past five years, the number of projects released for bid specifying a pilot tube guided boring system to ensure line and grade accuracy has increased by approximately 40%. Nearly 99% of projects are bid in the civil construction sector were for sewers and water mains, road crossings, rail crossings, water treatment facilities, and drainage culverts. To align with other infrastructure project schedules, bid opportunities for guided auger boring as well as standard jack-and-boring generally peak between the months of March through June.
Figure 1: Guided Auger Boring Project Heat Map. 5-yr Trend.
A heat map shown in Figure 1 displays regional guided auger boring activity over the past five years. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring of 2020, schedule delays resulted in fewer opportunities. A resurgence of guided auger boring project in the fourth quarter of 2020 showed increased activity in regions such as California, Colorado, Alberta, Ontario, Texas, Nebraska, and North Carolina.
Guided Auger Boring remains strong and is expected to increase with additional infrastructure spending and FEMA relief allocations. Increased demand for supply of oil & gas, CO2 transmission, as well as drainage services will continue to escalate the market demand. Guided boring systems are now using rock tooling for non-displaceable ground conditions as well as incorporating pneumatic DTH hammer technology for hard rock conditions to further the market potential.
The slurry microtunneling market in North America has been growing at a rate of nearly 7% per year over the past five years. Over 98% of slurry microtunneling projects are funded through tax payer dollars. Nearly 60% of those projects are being funded at the municipal level such as CSO mitigation projects. Due to the scale of planning and design, construction of microtunneling projects generally lag behind proposed bid dates by 12 to 18 months. While the increase of microtunneling bids stabilized between 2018 and 2019 to around a 2%, project owners, engineers and contractors have begun to embrace the Design, Bid, Build process at a higher rate. The D.B.B. process allows owners, engineers, and contractors the ability to collaborate on project designs and mitigate project risks at an earlier stage.
With the ability to direct install product pipe in a wide range of ground conditions with critical line and grade accuracy, the majority of projects are designed to suit the sewer and water industry. Project values have increased since 2016 with Texas, California, and Ontario producing the largest number of opportunities. Contracts ranging from $2.5M to $6M USD were most common through North America, with the highest value projects in California, Ohio, Washington, and New York. Figure 2 below shows a general concentration of microtunneling projects for the United States and Canada over the past five years.
Slurry microtunneling is considered strong and growing in North America. Project design, contractor expertise, and equipment technology is advancing at a rapid pace resulting in successful and cost-effective installations. Increased performance, along with advancing industry knowledge will continue to drive the microtunneling market forward.
Pipe Roofing is a trenchless method where steel pipes are accurately installed ahead of the tunnel face in the form of an umbrella or canopy to pre-support and increase the stability of unconsolidated ground for larger excavations such as pedestrian crossings and drainage culverts. The small diameter steel casings are often installed by guided boring, guided auger boring, guided pipe ramming, or slurry microtunneling. Oftentimes the steel casings are interlocked by a slide-rail type connection and grouted in-place to increase the load bearing capacity of the structure. Once the pipe roof is constructed and secured, the main excavation of the tunnel can proceed safely. Heavier and final support structures are then installed upon final completion of the tunnel per the design requirements of the final application.
Pipe Roofing can be a cost-effective solution and is often used as an alternative to ground freezing or jet grouting. While this method has been used successfully in North America on several occasions, pipe roofing has been much more prevalent in other regions of the world. Understanding the concept and studying the successes from previous projects will only advance the usage as our underground infrastructure grows throughout North America.
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