Pipelines carry oil, natural gas, and water from one community to another all over Canada. The longest pipeline in Canada carries gas from the province of Alberta all the way to Quebec, and there are calls to make this pipeline even longer. Expanding a pipeline typically requires digging under roads using trenchless technology to avoid closing down highways and roads that can leave rural communities stranded. If you live in a community that could be impacted by the lengthening of the pipeline and want to know more about the process, here is a brief overview of how pipe jacking works to keep a highway open while a contractor installs pipes underneath it.

Trenchless Technology

Trenchless technology means that the contractor will not have to dig an open ditch across the highway in order to install pipes for a pipeline underneath it. In the old days, a contractor would use backhoes and trench diggers to dig a trench across the highway. This process interrupted the flow of traffic and damaged the surface of the highway. This usually led to an uneven surface on the highway after the pipes were installed. Trenchless technology avoids disturbing the highway and interrupting the traffic flow.

Pipe Jacking Machine

A piece of equipment contractors can use to dig a hole underneath the highway is called a pipe jacking machine. The machine sits on a skid that is placed down in an open ditch alongside the highway. At the front of the machine are changeable blades that can cut through bedrock and other surfaces. The blades are placed on a drum that spins around as it cuts a hole underneath the highway. Hydraulic powered pistons are used to push the boring portion of the machine through the ground as it digs.

The pipe jacking operator sits in the machine as it digs. The operator uses a laser beam system to make sure they are drilling in a straight line underneath the road. The operator has the ability to adjust the path the machine is on in case it starts to veer off course.

The broken up ground and rock are deposited onto a conveyor that runs underneath the boring portion of the machine, and the rock is then pulled out of the hole. The debris is typically loaded onto a dump truck and hauled away. After the hole has been dug, the contractor will insert pipes through the hole and connect them together. The ditches alongside the highway are filled up and the contractor moves on to the next section that needs to be dug out.

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