Introduction of Micro Tunneling

Introduction of Micro Tunneling

Micro tunneling is a cutting-edge construction technique that has revolutionized the underground utility industry. This innovative technology allows for the installation of underground pipelines and structures with minimal disruption to surface infrastructure and the environment. With the increasing demand for efficient and sustainable infrastructure development, micro tunneling has become an essential and widely used method for constructing underground networks. In this article, we will delve into the concept of micro tunneling, its history, the various methods and equipment used, and the benefits of this advancing technology in the construction industry.

Micro Tunneling

Micro Tunneling

Micro tunneling, also known as microtunneling or pipe jacking, is a trenchless method of underground construction used to install pipes, culverts, and conduits. It involves the use of a micro tunnel boring machine (MTBM) to excavate a precisely controlled path through the soil while simultaneously installing a precast concrete or steel pipe behind the machine.

The technique was first developed in Japan in the 1970s and has since gained popularity around the world due to its numerous advantages over traditional open-cut excavation methods. Micro tunneling is considered a sustainable and cost-effective solution for underground infrastructure projects in urban areas where open excavation is not feasible.

The MTBM is the key component of the micro tunneling process. It is a remote-controlled, laser-guided machine equipped with a cutting wheel and a slurry pipe for removing excavated material. The MTBM is controlled by an operator on the surface who uses laser guidance to steer the machine along the predetermined path as it excavates the tunnel.

Micro tunneling typically starts with the excavation of a launch pit where the MTBM is lowered into the ground. The machine then excavates the tunnel while simultaneously installing the pipe using a pipe jacking system. Once the machine reaches the other end, a receiving pit is excavated to retrieve the machine and complete the installation of the pipe.

One of the main advantages of micro tunneling is its minimal surface disruption. As the entire process is carried out underground, it reduces the disturbance to surface structures, roads, and other utilities. This makes it an ideal solution for projects in densely populated areas where minimizing traffic disruptions is crucial.

Moreover, micro tunneling can be used for a wide range of soil types, including clay, sand, and rock. The MTBM is equipped with a variety of cutting heads that can excavate through different types of soil and ground conditions, ensuring the successful completion of the project.

Another benefit of micro tunneling is its accuracy and flexibility. The use of laser guidance and a remote-controlled operator allows for precise alignment and depth control of the tunnel, minimizing the risk of errors and ensuring the integrity of the installation.

Micro tunneling is also a relatively fast construction method compared to traditional open excavation techniques. The use of prefabricated pipes and the efficient excavation process result in shorter project timelines and reduced costs.

In conclusion, micro tunneling is a valuable technique in the civil engineering industry, providing a sustainable and cost-effective solution for underground infrastructure projects. Its minimal surface disturbance, accuracy, flexibility, and speed make it an ideal choice for projects in urban areas or environmentally sensitive areas. With ongoing advancements and improvements in technology, micro tunneling will continue to be a preferred method for underground construction in the future.

Microtunneling and Pipe Jacking System

Microtunneling and Pipe Jacking System

Microtunneling and pipe jacking systems are two modern methods used in civil engineering for the installation of underground pipelines, ducts, and cables. These techniques offer a cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional open-cut methods.

What is Microtunneling?
Microtunneling is a trenchless construction method that involves the installation of pipes underground using a microtunnel boring machine (MTBM). The MTBM is controlled remotely by an operator who operates the machine from a control room. The MTBM excavates the soil and simultaneously installs the pipe behind it. This process is known as pipe jacking.

The microtunneling process begins by installing a launch pit and a reception pit at either end of the alignment. A laser-guided system is used to ensure the accuracy of the tunnel alignment. Once the MTBM starts boring, it creates a pilot tunnel using a rotating cutting head. The excavated soil is transferred to the surface through a slurry system, which also supports the tunnel walls.

After the pilot tunnel is completed, the MTBM is removed, and the pipes are installed using pipe jacking. The pipes are pushed behind the MTBM by hydraulic jacks, and the tunnel is backfilled with grout or sand. Finally, the launch and reception pits are backfilled, and the ground surface is restored.

What is Pipe Jacking?
Pipe jacking is a trenchless construction method that involves pushing pipes into the ground using hydraulic or mechanical jacks. It is an efficient and cost-effective method of installing small to medium-diameter pipelines in a variety of ground conditions.

In the pipe jacking process, a launch pit and a receiving pit are excavated at either end of the alignment. The pipes are placed in the launch pit, and the jacking frame is set up. The pipes are then pushed into the ground using jacks, and the jacking frame is advanced with the pipes. The excavated soil is removed from the excavation chamber using a conveyor belt or skip.

Pipe jacking is a highly versatile method that can be used in different soil conditions, including soft ground, hard rock, and under highways or railways. It can also be used to install pipelines at shallow depths, reducing the risk of damage to existing structures above ground.

Advantages of Microtunneling and Pipe Jacking Systems
1. Cost-effective: Both these methods are less expensive than traditional open-cut methods as they require less labor and land disruption.

2. Environmentally friendly: These methods are known as trenchless technologies as they do not require extensive excavation and reduce the impact on the surrounding environment.

3. Versatile: Microtunneling and pipe jacking can be used to install pipelines in different ground conditions and at various depths.

4. Accurate: The laser-guided systems used in microtunneling ensure accurate alignment, resulting in straight tunnels with minimal deviation.

5. Time-efficient: These methods are quicker than traditional open-cut methods, reducing the overall project timeline.

Microtunneling and pipe jacking systems have become popular for the installation of underground pipelines as they offer several advantages over traditional open-cut methods. These methods use advanced technology, require less labor and land disruption, and can be used in various ground conditions. With the growing demand for underground infrastructure, microtunneling and pipe jacking systems are proving to be the future of trenchless construction.

Planning Process for Micro tunneling

Planning Process for Micro tunneling

Micro tunneling is a trenchless method of underground construction used to install pipelines, cables, and other utilities without disturbing the surface above. It involves the use of a remotely-controlled micro tunnel boring machine (MTBM) to excavate and simultaneously install the tunnel in one continuous operation. The planning process for micro tunneling is a critical stage that involves various steps to ensure the success of the project. In this article, we will discuss the key elements of the planning process for micro tunneling.

1. Site Investigation

Site investigation is an essential part of the planning process for micro tunneling. It helps in understanding the ground conditions and identifying potential risks and challenges that may be encountered during the construction process. The site investigation includes geotechnical investigations, ground surveys, and examination of existing underground utilities.

2. Feasibility Study

Once the site investigation is completed, a feasibility study is conducted to assess the viability of the project. This study involves evaluating the site conditions, potential risks, and the technical feasibility of micro tunneling. It also considers the project’s financial feasibility by estimating the cost and evaluating the return on investment.

3. Design and Engineering

The design and engineering phase is a critical step in the planning process. It involves developing a detailed design of the micro tunnel, including the alignment, depth, diameter, and other relevant parameters. The design must also consider the type of MTBM to be used, the type of soil, and the installation method. The design is reviewed and approved by a team of experts to ensure its feasibility and safety.

4. Construction Methodology

The construction methodology is a detailed plan that outlines the step-by-step process for micro tunneling. It includes the sequence of activities, the type of equipment to be used, the safety protocols, and the quality control measures. The construction methodology is developed based on the project’s specific conditions, such as ground conditions, access points, and existing utilities.

5. Risk Management

Micro tunneling involves significant risks due to the complicated underground construction process. The planning process must identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. The risk management plan includes emergency procedures, contingency plans, and safety protocols to minimize risks and ensure the safety of workers and the public.

6. Environmental Considerations

The planning process must also consider the environmental impact of micro tunneling. A detailed environmental assessment is conducted to identify any potential impact on the surrounding area and develop strategies to mitigate them. This may include measures to control noise, dust, and vibration during construction.

7. Project Management

Project management is essential for the successful execution of micro tunneling projects. The planning process includes developing a project management plan that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each team member, timelines, and communication protocols. Project management ensures that the construction process runs smoothly and within the budget.

In conclusion, the planning process for micro tunneling is a critical stage that requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure the successful execution of the project. It involves site investigation, feasibility study, design, construction methodology, risk management, environmental considerations, and project management. A meticulously planned project is more likely to be completed within the set timelines and budget, while also minimizing risks and ensuring the safety of everyone involved.

Microtunneling Construction

Microtunneling Construction

Microtunneling construction is a trenchless method of installing underground pipelines with minimal surface disruption. It involves the use of a microtunnel boring machine (MTBM) to excavate a tunnel while simultaneously installing the pipeline behind it. This method is ideal for areas with busy roads, dense urban areas, environmentally sensitive zones, and areas with existing infrastructure that cannot be disturbed.

The construction process involves several stages, starting with site investigation and planning. This includes conducting geotechnical surveys to determine the soil conditions and identifying potential underground utilities that may interfere with the excavation. The project team also determines the alignment and depth of the tunnel to ensure the pipeline will reach its desired destination.

Once the planning is complete, the construction site is prepared by setting up an access shaft and a launch pit. The access shaft serves as the entry point for the MTBM, and the launch pit is where the machine is lowered into the ground. The machine is equipped with a cutting head that excavates the soil and transfers it to a slurry separation plant for processing.

The MTBM is controlled remotely from the surface, allowing precise control of the excavation. As the MTBM advances, it also installs the pipeline, which is typically made of reinforced concrete or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes. The MTBM is capable of installing pipes of various sizes, ranging from as small as 250mm to as large as 3600mm in diameter.

One of the significant benefits of microtunneling construction is its accuracy. The MTBM is equipped with a guidance system that ensures the tunnel is excavated precisely according to the alignment and gradient requirements. This accuracy minimizes the risk of tunnel deviations, which could lead to pipeline failures.

Another advantage of microtunneling is its ability to handle different soil conditions, including hard rock, clay, sand, and mixed-faced soils. The MTBM’s cutting head can be changed to suit the specific ground conditions, preventing delays and additional costs due to equipment failure.

Once the pipeline installation is complete, the MTBM is removed from the ground, and the access shaft and launch pit are backfilled. The surface area is restored to its original condition, and any above-ground structures, such as manholes, are connected to the pipeline.

In conclusion, microtunneling construction is an innovative and efficient method of installing underground pipelines. It offers numerous advantages, including minimal surface disruption, precise tunneling, and the ability to handle various soil conditions. As a civil engineer, understanding the microtunneling process and its applications can be beneficial in selecting the most suitable construction method for underground infrastructure projects.


In conclusion, micro tunneling technology has revolutionized the world of underground construction and has become the preferred method for various projects globally. Its numerous benefits such as reduced disruption, enhanced safety, and cost-effectiveness make it a desirable choice for projects requiring underground works. As technology continues to advance, we can only expect to see further improvements in micro tunneling, making it an even more efficient and reliable method for underground construction. With its effectiveness and efficiency, micro tunneling is certainly paving the way for a future of innovative and sustainable underground infrastructure.


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