Building underground infrastructure for delivering utilities is a vital component of developing urban communities. Nowadays, you will rarely see cables and conduits on the surface. Whether electricity, water, sewage, telecommunications, or transportation, all these sectors benefit from technological innovation involving the installation and maintenance of underground pipes.
There are three general categories of underground infrastructure
- Buried conduits for utility services such as gas, water, and electricity.
- Underground tunnels for subway and train systems.
- Underground structures necessary for constructing skyscrapers and bridges.
In all of these sectors, two significant changes are occurring. First, the exploration and development of new materials. Second, the use of technology, such as drilling sensors and controls. All these innovative technologies help in preparing a site for the project, conducting the actual drilling and installation, as well as maintaining and repairing these infrastructures.
A closer look at underground utility installation
Since burying utility, conduits became standard practice in developed countries, vast networks of pipes and cables are now present underground. One of the main challenges faced by directional drilling companies is navigating around this network to install new pipelines or maintain existing cables. It is not uncommon for water systems to decay and break due to years of negligence. Another problem is that older conduits are made with metal pipes prone to corrosion.
The good thing is that new materials for manufacturing pipes are being developed to enhance the construction and installation of underground pipes. In addition to new pipe materials, the open-cut method is slowly being replaced by directional drilling.
This approach involves using a piece of equipment that drills a small hole in the ground. A drill is inserted into the hole to create a path where the pipe will be installed. At the end of the drill path, the duct is attached to the drill head and pulled back into place. The process is relatively straightforward and efficient. With the help of sophisticated tools and devices, drill operators can now more accurately move the drill head underground to maximize precision.
The same drilling technique is not only applicable to new installations. It may also be used in conducting repairs and maintenance work on existing pipe networks.
New trends in tunnelling
Tunnelling has also benefited significantly from technological advancements. New tunnelling machines and techniques can create bigger tunnels, yet leave minimal damage to the surroundings. This is exciting for the transportation industry because they can expand their operation and at the same time, make use of bigger and faster subway trains.
In the past, tunnelling was limited because machines tended to damage the area around the tunnel site. Since the invention of advanced tunnelling machines, boreholes can be created through sandy soil and even hard rock. Developing countries are also exploring the possibilities of building underground tunnels for transportation because of these new tunnelling machines and techniques.
Indeed, as cities continue to expand, underground infrastructure will also continue to become more complicated. Together with new technology and innovative techniques, various industries will benefit along with the general population in both developed and developing countries around the world.
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