Microtunneling has emerged as a groundbreaking method in the field of underground construction, revolutionizing the way we build tunnels and install pipelines. This article aims to shed light on the concept of microtunneling, its applications, benefits, and its significance in the construction industry.

What is Microtunneling?

Microtunneling can be defined as a trenchless construction technique used for the precise installation of underground infrastructure, such as pipelines, conduits, and cables, without the need for disruptive and extensive excavations. This method employs remotely controlled microtunnel boring machines (MTBMs) to create small-diameter tunnels with high accuracy.

The Process of Microtunneling

Microtunneling involves several key steps:

  1. Pilot Boring: A small-diameter pilot hole is drilled from a launch shaft to the reception shaft using a guidance system, usually incorporating laser or electronic controls.
  2. Pipe Jacking: Once the pilot hole is complete, the microtunneling machine is fitted with a pipe jacking system that pushes precast concrete or steel pipes into the bore, simultaneously excavating the soil. The machine continues to push the pipes until they reach the reception shaft.
  3. Excavation and Spoil Removal: The excavated soil, or spoil, is transported back to the launch shaft through the annular space between the pipes and the surrounding ground using slurry or other appropriate methods.
  4. Installation and Grouting: Once the pipes are in place, they are aligned and sealed to ensure a watertight connection. Grouting may also be carried out to provide additional stability and prevent ground settlement.

Applications of Microtunneling

Microtunneling offers a versatile solution for a wide range of applications:

  1. Sewer and Water Systems: Microtunneling is extensively used for the installation of sewer lines, stormwater drains, and water mains, enabling efficient and reliable wastewater management and water distribution.
  2. Utility Conduits: It is employed for the installation of utility conduits, including telecommunication cables, fiber optics, gas pipelines, and electrical lines, allowing for the seamless transmission of various services.
  3. Environmental Projects: Microtunneling is particularly beneficial in environmentally sensitive areas, as it minimizes disruption to habitats, preserves natural landscapes, and reduces the risk of contamination.

Benefits of Microtunneling

  1. Minimized Disruption: Microtunneling significantly reduces surface disruption compared to traditional excavation methods, making it suitable for densely populated areas, busy road networks, and locations with sensitive infrastructure.
  2. Environmentally Friendly: By minimizing excavation, microtunneling helps preserve natural environments, reduces the carbon footprint associated with construction, and minimizes the need for land acquisition.
  3. Cost-Effective: Despite the initial investment in equipment and technology, microtunneling can lead to long-term cost savings by reducing the need for extensive surface restoration, traffic management, and utility relocation.
  4. Enhanced Safety: With most of the excavation work being carried out underground, microtunneling minimizes the risks associated with open trenches, such as cave-ins, utility strikes, and accidents involving pedestrians or vehicles.


Microtunneling has revolutionized the underground construction industry by offering a precise, efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional excavation methods. Its applications in sewer systems, utility conduits, and environmental projects have significantly contributed to the development of sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

As the demand for efficient underground construction continues to grow, microtunneling plays a crucial role in meeting these needs while minimizing disruption and ensuring environmental preservation. With its numerous benefits, microtunneling is set to shape the future of underground construction and pave the way for innovative solutions in the years to come.

For microtunneling projects, you can contact D.J MacCormick Contractors today.