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Pipe Jacking and Microtunneling

  1. In the design of pipe jacking, what particular areas on pipe joints should engineers take care of?


Since in pipe jacking, the jacked pipes could hardly be jacked in the designed level and alignment and some deviation from the original one is commonly acceptable provided that the deviation are within the tolerance of the Contract. However, in order to avoid damage made to the pipe joints due to overstressing, it is necessary to estimate the stress concentrations resulting from these angular deflections.


Note: Pipe jacking is a trenchless method in which pipes are jacked underground from jacking pits and receiving pits.


  1. What are the differences in design between normal precast concrete pipes and pipes used for pipe jacking?


For pipes used for pipe jacking, they should possess the following characteristics:


  • Pipes should have high concrete strength to withstand the stress induced during the jacking process.


  • There is tight tolerance in pipe dimension and the pipe joints are specially designed to provide trouble-free joint details. Two commonly available joints are rebated joint and butt end joint.


  • Pipes preferably should have smooth external concrete finishes to reduce the friction between the pipes and surrounding soil.


  1. Why are intermediate jacks designed in some pipe jacking projects?


When the process of pipe jacking stops, building up of resistance is very fast in some soil. For instance, increase in jacking force of 20%-40% is required for a stoppage of pipe jacking for just several hours. Hence, it is recommended that pipe jacking should be carried out in a continuous operation.


For a long pipeline, the frictional forces established between the jacking pipes and soil is high. Sometimes, such resisting forces may be so high that they can hardly be overcome by the jacks in jacking pits. Moreover, even if the jacks can overcome the high frictional forces induced during jacking, high loads are experienced in jacking pipes during driving. Jacking pipe’s material e.g. concrete may not have sufficient strength to resist these stresses and hence pipe strength is another factor that govern the need for consideration of using intermediate jacks.


  1. What is the function of packing materials in the joint of concrete pipes in pipe jacking?


Packing materials are about 10mm to 20mm thick and are normally made of plywood, fibreboard or other materials. In case packing materials are absent in pipe joints for pipe jacking, then any deflection in the joints reduces the contact area of the concrete and it leads to spalling of joints due to high stresses induced. With the insertion of packing material inside the pipe joints, the allowable deflection without damaging the joint during



the pipe jacking process can be increased.


  1. In pipe jacking/microtunneling, it is commonly accepted that cover depths of jacking pipes cannot be too shallow (i.e. less than 2D where D is the diameter of jacking pipes). Why?


For pipe jacking/microtunneling, the causes of large settlement are loss of face stability, failure to stabilize ground around shafts, presence of annular space around pipes and shield, drag along pipe joints, etc. The settlement mechanism of shallow depths of pipe jacking/microtunneling is the formation of a settlement trough on top of the jacking pipes. The width of the trough depends on soil properties; the larger is the cover depth of jacking pipes, the larger is the width of settlement trough. For the same soil volume loss due to pipe jacking/microtunneling, the width of settlement trough for shallow cover depth is smaller and therefore it results in a larger vertical maximum settlement.


  1. In precast concrete jacking pipes, sometimes grout holes are designed inside these precast pipes. Why?


Grout holes are present in precast jacking pipes for the following reasons:


  • They serve as the locations for injection of bentonite or other lubricant. Lubricant is used for both granular soils and cohesive soils to trim down the frictional resistance. For cohesive soils, the soils cannot get onto the pipes by the presence of lubricant and the shearing plane lies within the lubricant as suggested by R. N. Craig (1983). On the other hand, for granular soils, the lubricant mixes with soils with a significantly reduced friction. With the use of lubricant, longer pipe lengths can be jacked without the use of intermediate jacking station.


  • They provide the inlet locations for subsequent grouting works after completion of pipe jacking to fill completely the void space between the pipes and surrounding soils.


(iii)They are used as lifting holes when placing the precast jacking pipes into rails inside the jacking pits.

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