From the magazine, Microtunnelling, Pipe jacking, Tunnelling

Jeff Pace – a lifetime in Trenchless Technology

Mr Pace became involved in the trenchless industry in January 1991 when Menno Henneveld asked him to establish an Australian Society for Trenchless Technology. In a matter of months, Mr Pace familiarised himself with the industry, and went through the process of preparing a constitution and getting the Society incorporated.

Whilst undertaking this task, Mr Pace managed to get involved in a Water Corporation project that involved the installation of a 450 mm diameter sewer using the company’s Okumura Super Mini microtunnelling machine. It was here that Mr Pace learnt the basics of microtunnelling and soon became aware of some of the issues associated with this type of work.

Establishing the ASTT

According to Mr Pace, the ASTT was created to promote Trenchless Technology to all who are concerned with the provision of gas, water, sewerage, power, telecommunications and electrical services. Historically, this has included consultants, contractors, material and equipment manufacturers, public authorities at all levels of government, and those engaged in research and development for underground systems.

“It is worth mentioning that the original objectives of the ASTT are still valid today, and these are to advance the science and practice of Trenchless Technology for the public benefit, to provide a forum in Australia and New Zealand for the interchange of knowledge and skills in the field of Trenchless Technology, and to encourage the interchange of specialist knowledge and practices in Trenchless Technology within Australia, NZ and overseas,” said Mr Pace.

With a now well established industry association, the future for the trenchless sector is bright.

“I think we are now all realising the social and environmental benefits that trenchless techniques can provide. Minimising disruption to the everyday activities of the public is becoming more and more of an issue that client organisations are conscious of. There are several trenchless techniques that can certainly provide viable solutions in these situations.”

Change and growth

Having been involved with the industry for two decades now, Mr Pace has seen changes in the sector, and the emergence of new trends.

“The changes over the past 20 years have been related to the enormous improvements in what varying pieces of equipment can deliver,” said Mr Pace. “For example, we are now seeing record HDD drive lengths being achieved in all sorts of remarkable situations, and rehabilitation liners have improved as the technology has. I have also noticed a stronger focus on the wellbeing of the operators of the equipment.”

One of the interesting trends Mr Pace has noticed is the shift from new installations to rehabilitation.

“Initially the trenchless industry was focused on new installation work, however this focus is now swaying towards asset management. Clients are now looking seriously at refurbishing their existing assets as they are getting older by the day.”

This is certainly something Mr Pace has experienced firsthand in his work as a Project Manager at Water Corporation.

“Until recently, my interest in Trenchless Technology has been focused on microtunnelling and directional drilling. However I am now responsible for the relining of several of Perth’s old main sewers, some in excess of 100 years of age. Because of this, I am now interested in rehabilitation. To date, I have found this quite an involved process – the repair of the pipe is the easy bit, the setting up of by-pass pumping arrangements, restoring house connections, the community engagement and so on is the challenge.”

A word of advice

“The advice I would offer new trenchless technologists is to understand the technology they are looking at getting into before becoming too involved and acquiring equipment,” said Mr Pace.

“New contractors need to understand the limitations of the machines. To me, it is like buying a car – do your homework first and make sure that you get precisely what you expect from the car and nothing else.

“The next thing I would do is ensure that the operators of this equipment are trained as quickly as possible, gain the necessary on-the-job skills, and then are evaluated to a Certificate III level to ensure they are competent to operate it. This training is now becoming a mandatory requirement from client organisations, so it is well worth the investment.”

Fond memories

With a wealth of Trenchless Technology projects under his belt, there’s a few that are particularly memorable for Mr Pace.

The aforementioned first microtunnelling job is fondly recalled, particularly because the 450 mm diameter sewer was installed without necessitating open cut – which it previously would have – preserving the remembrance trees that stood along the pipe route.

This project led to an ongoing interest in the microtunnelling sector, and for this reason, Mr Pace was thrilled to recently meet Dr Martin Herrenknecht in Berlin – one of many inspiring professionals he has met over the years.

“Over the past 20 years I have met some great trenchless legends, people like Bill Menzel and Aurelio Pezzementi, as well as some international legends, namely Ted Flaxman and Dr Satoro Tohyama. Naturally I have also met hundreds of other people involved in the trenchless industry. I am really fortunate now as I have a great deal of contacts globally to call upon for advice should I or any member need it.”

When asked to name his main mentor over the years, Mr Pace doesn’t hesitate to name inaugural ASTT Chairman Menno Henneveld.

“Menno, over the 18 years that he and I worked closely together, was always willing to listen to my ideas and would offer his support to see that they were carried through.”

Looking ahead

According to Mr Pace, the future for the Trenchless Technology industry in Australasia, and the ASTT, is bright.

“In the years to come, I foresee the ASTT becoming a significantly larger organisation. Naturally I also envisage Australia and New Zealand having extremely competent contractors all working to the same set of guidelines, standards and specifications.”

The main challenge Mr Pace currently faces is ensuring that all ASTT members are getting value for money. “Even though our fees are modest, membership value is paramount to ensure we maintain our financial members. I am constantly on the lookout for added things the ASTT can provide. Access to the NUCA TAG through the ASTT website is one such initiative.”

Outside the ASTT

Mr Pace lives in Greenwood, Perth, and has done so since 1974. The ASTT office is located here – in a bedroom specially converted for this task!

“I have a tremendous wife, Rosemary, to whom I have been married for some 38 years, and our son, Mark, is now married himself.

“In my leisure time I try to play that crazy game called golf. Over the years I became reasonably good, playing off a handicap of seven at my best, but my, how things can change with age – most senior golfers will understand what I mean!

“As a result of my past 20 years involved with the trenchless industry, I now find myself on the Australian Drilling Industry Training Committee (ADITC) Board, and last year I was successful in being accepted to the ISTT Board and as a member of the Executive Subcommittee for the ISTT. All of these things take up some of my spare time, but I enjoy it.

“Over the years I have travelled to places I would never in my wildest dreams have thought of going to. This journey has been a lot of fun for me and I hope to continue on for a long time yet.”

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