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Top 6 trenchless predictions for 2015

With ground breaking projects constantly being undertaken throughout Australia and the world, the limits of Trenchless Technology are yet to be reached. However, with Trenchless Technology still the new kid on the block in many cases, it can be difficult to forecast what lies ahead for the industry for another year.

After careful consultation of current projects and developments, as well as reflection on the recent history, here are the top predictions for what’s in store for Australia’s trenchless industry.

Australian power line installations may require HDD crossings

Looking deep within the crystal ball, let’s first explore the electrical sector. After the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, the Victorian Government embarked on a scheme to replace many of the high-voltage power lines. Significant movement is expected on these projects this year, with many of them expected to require horizontal directional drilling (HDD) crossings.

Elsewhere in Western Australia, the State Underground Power Program is still underway, whilst the Northern Territory also has a wide list of projects either under construction or in the pipeline.

Ageing water and sewerage infrastructure will get nationwide boost

Water and sewerage is definitely one to watch this year, with a range of projects being either constructed, designed or considered throughout the country. Every state is a contributor to this list.

With our ageing infrastructure and ongoing increase in population, many major towns and cities are realising the need to upgrade, replace, or install an array of water and sewer pipelines.

Gas projects will remain constant

A mainstay for contractors that work within the trenchless industry, the gas sector will remain constant in 2015. Construction of the VNIE pipeline and Esso Longford pipelines will get underway this year and there are some new gas pipelines in the FEED/ECI phase for Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Distribution gas pipelines will also continue to be augmented in regional areas. For the south-eastern states, history has showed that trenchless methods will continue to be used more often for installations in and around residential areas in Victoria and New South Wales.

Demand for small HDD machines and operators to rise

The proposed production increase from NBN Co could see demand for small HDD machines (up to 16,300 kg pullback) to rise. With more machines will come the need for more skilled operators – a fact that NBN Co is well aware of.

For larger 45,000 kg HDD machines and maxi rigs, demand is not expected to increase due to a potential oversupply over the past few years and a general decrease in large HDD projects.

NBN Co will be a major mover for HDD

The construction of NBN Co’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has been tipped to increase by up to four times its current rate, with an aim to have 400,000 connections completed over the next 12 months. With HDD being used to construct up to 60 per cent of the network, this will see a huge increase in the uptake of Trenchless Technology in Australia’s telecommunications sector.

This year, NBN Co also plans to increase its oversight of the day-to-day operational construction of the NBN to improve the project’s efficiency.

With HDD playing such a significant role in the project, NBN Co is seeking to be the first major asset owner to assist HDD contractors by introducing a Verification of Competency for all individuals working within an HDD operation, as well as providing the contractor with the ability to up-skill via specialised consultants.

NBN Co sees a huge benefit for all parties with this initiative, including better production processes, an increase in safety standards, minimisation of risk and other issues, and improving the HDD industry as a whole.

Transport infrastructure

Rounding out the predictions for the year, numerous road and rail tunnels utilising trenchless techniques are either being constructed or are currently in the pipeline, a trend that will remain consistent in 2015.

New South Wales has the Northwest Rail Link tunnelling project well underway, with the tunnel boring machines (as at the time of writing) running ahead of schedule and below budget.

The large-scale NorthConnex underground motorway, which will consist of two 9 km tunnels – has also been given the go-ahead, and construction of the WestConnex motorway is also scheduled to begin this year.

Elsewhere in the country, newly elected state governments are considering several cornerstone transport infrastructure projects.

Queensland is currently mulling over the $A5 billion BaT Tunnel bus and train project, whilst Victoria is now looking at reviving the Metro Rail Tunnel – though this comes at the loss of the East West Link road project. Whether shelved or green-lit, expect the fates of these projects to be decided this year.

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