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Pipe Bursting


Pipe bursting offers a means of replacing or upsizing existing pressure or gravity pipelines economically and with minimal excavation. This method replaces existing host pipes by displacing their fragments into the soil while simultaneously pulling in new protection or utility pipe of the same or larger diameter. A wide range of techniques are available, based on pneumatic, hydraulic (expander, rod or cable based) or microtunnelling systems.

In its earliest form pipe bursting comprised the use of a percussive tool or a hydraulic expander to break out the existing pipe with a new pipe being pulled or jacked in behind. Using the correct equipment the original pipe size can be increased to a certain extent for increasing the capacity of the new system. More recently there has been a significant shift away from these systems towards those that rely entirely on axial jacking or pulling forces acting on a tapered bursting head. This system tends to be referred to as Hydraulic Rod Bursting.

In addition to gas and water main renewal, pipe bursting is becoming one of the leading Trenchless Technologies for the replacement of old and undersized sewers. Significant increases in size can also be achieved with this technology.

Sewer bursting operations are typically in the diameter range 150–375 mm, but pipes of 800 and 900 mm diameter have been replaced by this method, and a 1,200 mm diameter burst has been achieved.

Because of the outward expansion of the old pipe, it is necessary to disconnect laterals and service pipes before pipe bursting. Although remote disconnection techniques have been developed, the most common method is by means of a small excavation from which the lateral or service pipe can subsequently be reconnected to the new main. The number and frequency of laterals or service connections can be a determining factor when assessing the economics of trenchless replacement against traditional open-cut methods.

Developments aiding the growth of the pipe bursting market include the development of pipe coil trailers, which enable pre-determined long lengths of pipe to be transported to site, eliminating the need for pipe welding on site and reducing the number of operations required onsite and the working area needed to complete an operation.

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