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Innovation in the blood

Pezzimenti tunnelbore

The Pezzimenti name has been synonymous with innovations in trenchless technology for more than 55 years. Aurelio Pezzimenti designed, built and commissioned the very first microtunnelling system in Australia in his father’s garage in Melbourne in 1986.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Aurelio was one of three brothers who managed G Pezzimenti & Sons – a company founded by his father in 1957. The company focused on sewer installation in and around Melbourne, with the sewer lines initially installed by hand-digging open-trench methods and boring using auger-driven systems, which were limited in terms of their accuracy and maximum length. 

In the mid-1980s, as the need for longer and more accurate bores became apparent, Aurelio considered an idea for a new concept in boring. With the assistance of driller Nick Bernardi, Pezzimenti Laserbore was founded. 

Uncertain if the concept would work, the team experimented with various drill head designs, drill rod configurations and vacuum power systems. Soon after, the whole concept began to come together. 

In 1986, Aurelio became the inventor of the world’s first fully steerable, hydraulic powered, laser-guided microtunnelling system using vacuum as the means to transport the spoil from the cutting chamber to the surface. The system was suited to the local Victorian conditions, being predominantly clay and basalt. With this invention, the trenchless technology technique –  microtunnelling – was introduced to Australia.

In 1991, the company expanded into New South Wales, establishing a branch in the outer-Western suburb of Emu Plains. As the operations in NSW and Victoria continued to expand, so did the requirements from the water authorities for higher accuracy and longer bores over increasingly flatter grades between manholes. 

At that time, Sydney Water was using auger-based methods with limited reliability and accuracy. Following a successful Intercept Bore project in Blackheath in 1990, where over 200 m of DN500 gravity sewer pipe was installed on perfect line and grade, Sydney Water began using the now-proven method of microtunnelling to install sewers. 

Over the years, the Pezzimenti Microtunnelling System has completed more than 4,500 microtunnels across Australia.  Another notable project was the Victorian Desalination Plant Project. 

This project called for two parallel pipelines of DN1500 and DN1800 reinforced concrete jacking pipes. Pezzimenti won the tender and was required to build the two drilling heads to carry out the nine trenchless crossings. 

These were 1800 mm and 2800 mm in diameter and had to be built in just three months. It was a huge undertaking for the business, one which Aurelio and his team were determined to deliver. In the end, all of the crossings were successfully completed in both clay and sandstone conditions, on-line and on grade. 

In 2013, at the International No-Dig event in Sydney, Aurelio was awarded the ASTT Person of the Year Award in recognition for his lifetime contribution to the trenchless technology industry. Being an inaugural member of the ASTT in 1989, it was an award that made both Aurelio and the company immensely proud. In addition to this achievement, Jim Shooter, the NSW manager of the company for 25 years, won the same award in 2017, in recognition of his contribution to the industry. 

With its expansion into Brisbane in 2018, Pezzimenti Tunnelbore has grown to become one of the largest microtunnelling companies in Australia, helping it to successfully enter the market of installing large diameter culverts while continuing to deliver its core service of microtunnelling. 

As a result of constant research, development and immense desire, Pezzimenti Tunnelbore is now able to comfortably and reliably bore up to 250 m between manholes in a single drive and up to 500 m with an intercept bore in self-supporting ground conditions – all within a 1.5 per cent tolerance. 

Sadly, Aurelio passed away in June 2021. He will be remembered by industry as a compulsive innovator, a savvy problem-solver and a true leader in his field. 

For more information visit the Pezzimenti Tunnelbore website. 

This article appeared in the ASTT 30th Anniversary Edition. 

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