Trenchless technology and asset management in Australia

Jan 25, 2006

It is fitting that as the global Trenchless Technology community gathered for the 24th International No Dig Conference in Brisbane, Trenchless Australasia magazine has completed its first survey for the industry in Australia.

In this inaugural survey, the focus has been on asset management. Future surveys of Trenchless Technology practitioners in Australia will look at other specific areas of the industry.
For this survey, Trenchless Australasia spoke to five respected individuals involved with Trenchless Technology (TT) in Australia – Andris Krumins, Chris Geehman, Kane Scott, Mike Burdon and Sudipta Basu, all of whom generously gave their time and shared the insights for all involved in the Australian trenchless market.
Asking our participants to describe the evolution of the market for trenchless technologies in Australia since their introduction seemed a logical place to start.
According to Mr Geehman, there is now a much greater acceptance of TT, probably because of the improvements in accuracy for new work and the new and better techniques for renewals, such as liners. Another factor contributing to the popularity of trenchless is a broader requirement in the wider community to minimise environmental impacts and disturbances to property and the local community.
Mr Krumins focused on the conditions under which trenchless work is carried out, noting that the market is now driven by contractors and licence holders who have the rights to distribute/use the technologies of overseas companies.
Mr Burdon and Mr Basu addressed the topic of TT in their respective states. Mr Burdon said that in Tasmania, the industry is in the early stage of acceptance of TT and there are still only a few companies offering trenchless rehabilitation and construction methods. There is also limited knowledge within local Government in relation to TT which is somewhat inhibiting the growth of the industry in Tasmania.
In New South Wales however trenchless techniques are much more common and the industry has steadily developed since the early 70s when Sydney Water adopted slip-lining for sewer renovation. In 1979, Insituform CIPP lining was introduced into the market and in 1985, trials began for another type of CIPP lining, the Rib Loc spiral wound plastic pipe system. Rib Loc really gained popularity by 1993 when the Expanda version was introduced. The fold and form lining system has also gained momentum in the Sydney market since it was introduced in 1987. Other important developments include the introduction of lateral lining in 2000 and junction t-seal technology in 2003.
When asked about the factors crucial to the ongoing and increased success of TT in the coming years, educating potential users of the technologies about the benefits and improving economics were the common responses.
“We need to overcome the perception that TT is more expensive than open-cut. When you take into account social impact, re-work, traffic and business disruption, trenchless is at worst equal and at best cheaper,” said Mr Geehman.
Educating more trenchless professionals and improving training in the application of TT were also cited as critical factors. Mr Krumins suggested that TT be taught to engineers at the tertiary level, instead of simply in the workplace.
Mr Burdon suggested forming a statewide local government working group in Tasmania to combine the capital works programs of Councils, thus making contracts larger and therefore more attractive for companies outside Tasmania to submit a realistic tender price. Mr Geehman also addressed the issue of increasing the awareness of TT in areas where it is now currently well known, highlighting the need to continue to promote projects and advertise in areas where not enough use is made of trenchless. As an aside he noted that the WANTED Quality CONTRACTORS Complete Tool box of Proven Manhole Renewal Solutions Trenchless Australasia - October/November 2006 95 main group not taking enough advantage of TT is probably local Councils, which do not tend to make much use of trenchless for drainage works.
Major growth areas for the TT community was a topic all respondents agreed upon, citing brownfields renewals – such as relining sewer and water mains – as a key area which would offer the industry a lot of work in the near future. Mr Burdon also noted that directional drilling for natural gas was another key area currently earning HDD practitioners a lot of work.
Recruitment and training are critical factors in any skilled industry and it is no different in the trenchless field. All respondents agreed that not enough is being done to recruit new staff to the field, although it was noted that recruitment to the field is particularly difficult, with construction work in general not being an attractive industry for workers and pipeline, drain and sewer work even less so. Trenchless professionals seem to be recruited on other qualities, such as potential and availability, while becoming involved with TT “is just part of a person’s development if they are in a field that can utilise the technology,” according to Mr Geehman.
It therefore follows that development of training over the years has been relatively stagnant. However, Mr Krumins did note that today principal companies train their representatives far better, and although they may be small, inroads into tertiary training for TT are being made. Mr Geehman noted that while trenchless may be somewhat off the tertiary education radar, “we have to remember that at such places students are getting a broad grounding in a discipline rather than a specific topic.”
Increasing the awareness of TT in the wider community is one way to increase the scope of work in the market, as well as highlight the industry to new potential trenchless professionals. For Mr Krumins, the best way to increase awareness of TT is through highlighting the impact and social costs of trenchless versus open cut techniques. Respondents agreed with this assessment, with many suggesting conferences, seminars and exhibitions as one way to do this. However, at the same time, Mr Geehman noted that for such events to be successful in educating the wider community about the benefits of trenchless, they would need to attract people from outside the immediate industry, who would be likely to make use of the technology - if only they knew more about it.
The topic of contract structures drew interesting and varying responses. Mr Krumins said Alliance contracts were the “way to go” as they resulted in a win-win situation. Mr Basu said that Sydney Water operated mostly under schedule of rate contracts while Mr Scott said SA Water had adopted a ‘lost hole policy’ for HDD contracts whereby if there is no success, there is no payment. Meanwhile at South East Water, Mr Geehman said long-term (three year) renewal contracts for both water and sewer pipelines were in place in order to give contractors the confidence and the financial guarantee to invest in people, new equipment and be prepared to try new innovations.
He did note that the use of an Alliance structure is probably the next step for SEW, although Mr Geehman thinks alliances are best suited to projects that can be well defined in terms of final outcome. In the case of renewals however, there are multiple jobs so a schedule of rates type contract is seen to be fairer to all parties. Mr Geehman summed up the thoughts of the group in noting “I suppose the trick with any arrangement is to clearly define who bears the various project risks.”
Following on from this, respondents were asked to detail the asset management program they currently undertake. Mr Krumins said that at Brisbane Water a mixture of strategies are applied to each asset class based on business risk, with the appropriate methodologies, as described in the International Infrastructure Manual (Australia/NZ Edition), being followed. At SEW, for water pipelines burst statistics are entered into a database along with other factors relating to the main’s location, customers affected, and likely remaining life of the main, among others, to generate a relative score and place it in the priority renewal program. For sewers CCTV is used for inspection, followed by a structural assessment. The resultant score and the addition of other factors (age, size, location, etc) also results in a priority score.
At SA Water, water main renewals generally use conventional trenching to a large extent, although Mr Scott noted that there is large potential for slip lining on major mains. In country regions alternatives such as narrow trenching, plough in and pipe bursting have been trialled. For wastewater main renewals, relining is carried out on those identified to be in poor condition based on a structured CCTV program.
The Glenorchy City Council uses the Hansen System for managing their assets, while at Sydney Water around 60 km of non-pressure lining is carried out every year, with pressure pipe lining currently under serious consideration.
Several current issues were identified by respondents as holding the growth of TT in Australia back. These included poor information/knowledge sharing; lack of confidence generally in the accuracy of TT; lack of experienced contractors available to undertake trenchless works; the small size of the market; and insufficient performance data. A key factor in improving in most, if not all, of these areas will be the completion of more work to improve the quality of work completed, increase acceptance and understanding of the technologies and improve project economics.
Knowing the location of assets is another critical factor for trenchless practitioners, and also for asset owners in the asset management program. Respondents noted that knowledge of asset location varied widely between different owners, with some asset owners being known to thank other owners of other assets who stumble across theirs. Mr Krumins said there is a need for a legislative requirement regarding knowledge of asset locations. Mr Geehman said SEW tackles the issue by simply insisting on designers physically proving asset locations during the design phase and contractors doing the same prior to excavating.
The position of the Australian trenchless market, in relation to the international market, drew a range of responses varying from bad to very good. It was noted that as Australia is a large country with a small population, and many utilities with similar budget cycles, the market compares badly to the international scene. However, from a technical point of view, the consensus was that Australia is certainly not lacking in terms of techniques adopted – in fact, Australian innovations where highlighted, in particular from Ribloc and ShieldLiner, both winners of New Product awards from the International Society for Trenchless Technology.
In closing, respondents where asked how they saw the future of the trenchless industry in Australia shaping up. The main challenges highlighted were spreading the word amongst those that could make use of the technologies but are yet to fully appreciate the benefits; promoting the use of trenchless in utility businesses and engineering projects as a genuine, viable option for construction and rehabilitation; convincing potential users that the benefits outweigh the difference in cost; continuing to improve the economics of using TT; root removal from sewers and inhibition; and continuing to adopt new techniques such as non-circular lining, pressure pipe lining and junction sealing.
On the whole however, the prevailing opinion was that the TT industry can only get bigger. Requirements from road authorities, environmental responsibilities and demands from customers and property owners for minimal disturbance to their properties mean that less and less open-cut will be permitted. Combine these factors with concerted efforts from contractors and practitioners to communicate the benefits of TT to the wider community, and more specifically to clients who can benefit from the technologies, and the future of the industry looks very bright indeed.

Andris Krumins is the Queensland Councillor for the Australasian Society of Trenchless Technology and is the Conference Chair International No Dig 2006. He currently works at Brisbane Water as the Manager of Strategic Planning, Policy & Innovation.

Chris Geehman is South East Water’s Manager for Major Projects and Renewals. He also serves as the Victorian Councillor for the Australasian Society of Trenchless Technology. Earlier this year at Trenchless Australasia’s Trenchless Technology: The Unseen Solution seminar, Chris delivered a highly successful and well received presentation titled “Trenchless Technology: Where Do I Start?”

Kane Scott is a Senior Asset Management Engineer with the South Australian Water Corporation. He is also the South Australian Councillor for the Australasian Society of Trenchless Technology.

Mike Burdon works at the Glenorchy City Council in Tasmania.

Sudipta Basu works at Sydney Water as a Design Project Leader.

This article was first published in Trenchless Australasia magazine.

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