Excavation in mixed ground conditions is always a challenge, but under a densely urban environment the stakes become even higher. At India’s Mumbai Metro, two 6.65 m hybrid-type rock/soft ground Single Shield TBMs are successfully boring parallel 2.8 km tunnels in basalt rock with transition zones of shale, tuff, and breccia below the city. They have made intermediate breakthroughs at the 1.2 km mark and overcome rock strengths up to 125 MPa UCS with significant water ingress, all just one year after factory acceptance, shipping, site assembly, and launch. The hybrid machines are optimized for abrasive rock geology using a robust cutterhead mounted with disc cutters and a reinforced screw conveyor at the centerline. The machines can also operate in closed or semi-closed mode using features designed to advance in soft ground with water inflows: dual ratio gearboxes to adjust cutterhead speed and torque to the geology, screw conveyors with bulkhead gates and discharge gates, ground conditioning with foam and polymers, and probe drills for pre-excavation grouting.
TBM Excavation in Himalayan Geology: Over 1,200 Meters per Month at the Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project
A Double Shield TBM achieved in 17 months what was projected to have taken 12 years with Drill & Blast: The 12.2 km long Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project (BBDMP). Bored in Himalayan geology including sandstone, mudstone, and conglomerate, the excavation was able to achieve over 1,200 m advance per month on multiple occasions. Crews achieved this while traversing a fault zone and getting through one section that required a bypass tunnel constructed in just five days. The success of this tunnel is not only in breaking through a historically difficult mountain range, but also in changing the notion, to the people of Nepal, that drill and blast is the way to excavate mountainous rock tunnels.
Tunneling through 48 Fault Zones and High Water Pressures on Turkey’s Gerede Water Transmission Tunnel
The December 2018 breakthrough of a 5.5 m diameter hybrid-type Single Shield/EPB TBM at the Gerede Water Transmission Tunnel in Central Turkey was a feat of modern construction. The 9 km leg was the final section of the 31.6 km long water supply line bored through what is widely considered to be Turkey’s most challenging geology. The project was originally started with the contractor selecting three Double Shield machines, which were procured and supplied without Robbins involvement. When two of the machines became stuck and were unable to continue, the solution of the hybrid-type TBM was developed to complete the rest of the tunnel. The TBM was assembled and launched more than 7 km from the tunnel portal and successfully navigated 48 fault zones as well as hydrostatic pressures up to 26 bar.
In April 2019, a 3.5 m diameter open-type, Main Beam TBM and its crew broke through at the Galerie des Janots Tunnel in La Ciotat, France after encountering two large, uncharted caverns. The 2.8 km long tunnel, excavated in limestone known to have groundwater, karstic features, and voids, took two years to complete due to the challenges encountered. Limestone and powdery clays made for slow going early on in tunneling, until a cavern measuring 8,000 cubic meters in size was encountered on the TBMs left side at the 1,035 m mark. The crew had to erect a 4 m high wall of concrete so the TBM would have something to grip against—a process that took about two weeks. The first cavern, while the largest, was not the most difficult void encountered. At the 2,157 m mark, crews encountered a 4,500 cubic meter cavity extending directly below the bore path. This cavern required stabilization, filling, six bypass galleries, and four months of work to get through.
Small hydroelectric projects, with installed capacity up to 10 megawatts (MW), are a relatively untapped but potentially game-changing source of renewable energy in North America. In Norway, hydro projects are pioneering the use of small diameter TBMs in hard rock. Compared with drill and blast, TBMs offer increased production rates and reduction in cross section, among other benefits. The uniquely designed machines are engineered to take on steep gradients, up to a 45-degree angle in some cases.
On May 23, 2019, the last of six 8.93 m diameter EPBs completed excavation at Mexico City’s Túnel Emisor Oriente (TEO), a feat marking the completion of ten years and 62.1 km of tunneling. The TEO is a critically-designated plan to stem severe flooding while boosting wastewater capacity, and is the country’s largest infrastructure project. The six EPB TBMs excavated some of the most complex geology on earth, ranging from abrasive volcanic rock to watery clays.
The Metropolitan St. Louis Water District’s Project Clear is a 28-year program targeting water quality and wastewater capacity throughout St. Louis, MO. The extensive program involves multiple tunnels, including Deer Creek, a 6.3 km long tunnel being bored with the largest TBM ever used in the St. Louis area (6.5 m in diameter). Another tunnel, Jefferson Barracks, is using TBM components that have bored over 40 km of tunnel since 1981.
Much has been made worldwide of the difference in performance between new and rebuilt TBMs. Worldwide, a bias exists that seems to favor new machines, but is the bias warranted? The reuse of machines can, if done to exacting standards, reduce costs and time to delivery while also reducing the carbon footprint. But guaranteeing the quality of TBM rebuilds is another issue—one that seems only minimally improved by the existence of international guidelines. This paper discusses the process of machine rebuilds and the use of rebuilt TBMs with performance examples from projects worldwide. It seeks to establish guidelines and recommendations based on real experiences of success in the shop and in the field.
Years of hard work and planning have paid off at the Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project. This 12 km tunnel is not only breaking through a historically difficult mountain range, but it has also managed to break down the notion, to the people of Nepal, that drill and blast is this only way to excavate the extreme conditions in the Himalayas. This paper highlights the first TBM in Nepal and how it is managing to bore at an exceptional advance rate of over 700 m per month, with a high of 1202 m in one month. It examines which design features of the Double Shield TBM are contributing to the great excavation rates, and how the crew’s operational methods have maximized these results.
EPB TBM tunneling in mixed face conditions—partially in both rock and soil—is inherently problematic for even the most experienced crews. Over-excavation, excessive damage to cutter tools and regular cutterhead interventions are major challenges when negotiating mixed face geology. This paper draws from real field experiences, including successful bores in abrasive rock and soil at India’s Chennai and Bangalore metro projects, to determine the optimal operational parameters for TBMs in such conditions. It also addresses reduction of air losses to facilitate cutterhead interventions under hyperbaric conditions when installation of safe-haven grout blocks is not an option due to surface structures.
- Hybrid TBM Excavation in Challenging Mixed Ground Conditions at the Mumbai Metro
- TBM Excavation in Himalayan Geology: Over 1,200 Meters per Month at the Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project
- Tunneling through 48 Fault Zones and High Water Pressures on Turkey’s Gerede Water Transmission Tunnel
- Overcoming Multiple Caverns: Successful TBM Tunneling in Karst Geology at Galerie des Janots
- TBMs For Norwegian Small Hydropower Projects