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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Bio Data for Mark Merrie

Mr Merrie graduated from Sheffield Halam University in 1988 Before long his
education in underground construction was utilised at the Channel Tunnel
project. Leading from this has been 23 years of underground and tunnelling
works mainly using Tunnel Boring Machines from Hard Rock gripper TBMs in
Honk Kong to small diameter Earth Pressure Balance TBMs in UK.
Since 1995 Mr Merrie has providing engineering services to a wide range of
projects mainly in the SE Asia and Sub continent where he has completed
three separate contracts on various metro lines in Singapore. He was the
tunnel manager for Contract MC1B on the Delhi Metro and was in charge of
the first use of EPBs in India.
Subsequent to this was a period of business development in SE Asia which
resulted in the award of two contracts in India, AMEL C1 and Tapovan HRT
which was the first deployment of a Shield TBM for the construction of a
head race tunnel in the Himalayas. In conjunction with the TBM supplier
many innovative development were incorporated to cope with the expected
difficult ground conditions.
Mr Merrie is currently working for the TBM Supplier NFM Technologies using
his practical experience of the region and local ground conditions to develop
and supply TBM suitable for the challenging projects within the SE Asia
region.

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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground


M Merrie
NFM Technologies, Singapore Representative Office
ABSTRACT:
As more developing countries introduce and/or expand their infrastructure there is an increased realization that these services are best constructed underground where surface disruption is minimized and land is
not blighted for future development. Thus major development of metros,
strategic sewers, road and cable tunnels are occurring in the urban environment where strict controls of the tunnelling process are required to ensure minimal risk to the surface features and member of the public. This
is particularly relevant as many of the developing worlds major urban areas are built on fluvial material which is inherently unstable at depth.
The author will highlight the various means of ensuring surface stability
through the application of mechanized equipment Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs), in their various guises; highlight the mythology of each
type and the selection criteria for the most applicable means of excavation
given the prevailing geology

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INTRODUCTION

Whilst tunnelling has been carried out since biblical times, particularly by
the Romans and Greeks in Europe this has generally been in rock where
the ground was self support both in the medium and long term. However
there was a considerable time before soft ground tunnelling was practically
possible. The first notable case of soft ground tunnel under a river was
the carried out by Marc Isambard Brunel in 1825 for the Thames Tunnel in
London. This was only possible by invention of the Tunnel Shield which
allowed the excavation of the face in a controlled manner ensuring face
stability.
However as the shield advanced being jacked off the newly
build brick lining there was a section of unsupported ground which was the
cause of numerous inrushes, one of which almost claimed the life of
Brunel. At this stage the excavation process was entirely manual; a successful rotating cutterhead would not be seen in the UK until 1874 by
Thomas Beaumont which led to the deployment of the Thomas English
Machine in 1880 on the first Channel Tunnel attempt (commonly mistakenly called the Beaumont Machine), Figure 1

Fig 1 The Thomas English Machine


This early effort resulted in a 7 foot diameter (2.1m) tunnel some 2040
yard long out under the English Channel (1.87km) which until its partly
destruction by the present Channel Tunnel was in admirable condition,
Figure 2
The combination of both the
shield and rotating cutterhead
was first patented in 1893 by J.J
Robins for operation in London
Clay with the first commercially
produced
machine
available
from Markhams and Co in 1901.
However there still remained the
problem that this was in effect

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an open shield in that there was no support applied to the excavation face.
Thus should the ground be unstable there was no means of supporting the
face much like in Brunels time and collapses and surface sinkhole would
occur. These Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) where therefore limited to
ground which was partly self supporting, commonly above the water table.
Figure 2 First Channel Tunnel Attempt, Photo Taken 1985
It was not until the development of the Slurry TBM in 1964 by J.V Bartlett,
the Hydroshield in 1974 by Wayss and Freytag AG and the Earth Pressure
Balance TBM (commonly referred to as an EPB) in 1963 by Sato Kogyo
that tunnels could be constructed in soft ground with any degree of face
support mitigating the danger to the workforce and the general public.
These two face supporting TBMs or Closed Face TBMs have enabled the
development of numerous projects which before had previously been considered impossible. This is the reason that the early Underground in London was almost entirely North of the River Thames where the impermeable London Clay was prevalent, unlike South which consisted of the
highly permeable Thanet Sands & Gravels Figure 3. Indeed the next deep
underground sections were only carried out in xxxx Victoria Line and Jubilee Line and Extension xxxx & 2000

Figure 3 London Underground circa 1938

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GROUND SUPPORT PRINCIPALS IN SOFT GROUND

As discussed, in soft ground there is a tendency for the excavated tunnel


to either collapse or deform once a void is introduced in to the ground matrix during the tunnelling operation.
This occurs on the face of the excavation and the excavation profile.
The closed face TBM provides support to the excavation face by application of a pressurized medium, whether this is compressed air, conditioned
spoil or a liquid and provides support to the excavation profile of the tunnel by means of the shield and the lining erected behind the shield.
The support of the excavated face is required to prevent movement of the
soil sub-strata and inflows of ground water into the tunnel which destabilizes the ground above the tunnel leading to settlements and ultimately
sinkholes. With correct control over the excavation pressure and the
grouting process settlement will still occur albeit at acceptable figures.
The typical settlement profile in respect to the TBM progress is shown in
Figure 4

Settlement caused by
face loss

Settlement caused by
shield void losses

Settlement over long


term

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Figure 4 Settlement vs. Time


From this can be seen the 3 areas where settlement is induced and these
areas can be identified for mitigation implementation to reduce the settlement cause to a minimum
2.1 Support of Excavation Face
Without the tunnel face being supported by a pressurized medium there
will be a tendency for the face to slump or ravel into the TBM excavation
chamber.
Once this occurs it results in additional material being excavated for one TBM advance. This over excavation is commonly referred
to as face loss and is measured in percent (%) of the volume required for
one TBM advance:
TBM Diameter
= 6.6m
1 No TBM Advance
1.4m
Volume required for 1 No TBM advance = (6.6 2) x = 34.2m x 1.4m
= 47.9m
If an over excavations of 1m, 2m and 5m were to occur the face losses
are quantified as
47.9m 1m
47.9m 2m
47.9m 5m

= 2.1%
= 4.2%
= 10.4%

A well operated TBM will have faces losses of 0.5-1.0% which as can be
seen in this example is over excavating by less than 0.5m per excavation.
The consequences of face loss are eventually transferred to the surface
where they will become apparent as surface settlement. As shown in Figure 5

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Figure 5 Typical Settlement Profile for Varying Face Losses


The amount of settlement caused by volume loss at the face is dependent
upon
Contributing Factor
Face Loss Volume
Geology

Depth

Explanation
The greater the face volume loss, the greater the
total settlement will become. Settlement volume
does not normally exceed face loss volume
In soft to very soft materials (clays, water bearing sands) almost 100% of the volume loss will
be transferred to the surface.
In stiff grounds
(silty sands) there will be a bridging effect and
the overall settlement may only equal 50-75% of
face loss
At greater depth the settlement profile is much
wider (commonly assumed to be 2 x depth), thus
face loss volume would be spread over a wider
area with the total maximum settlement comparably lower than a shallower tunnel where the
settlement profile is narrower. Compare Figures
xx & xxx

The Maximum Settlement,


, for face volume loss only can be calculated by extrapolating the following equations

Where

Volume of Settlement Trough


i
Settlement Trough Inflection Point (varies between 0.350.5,
sand / clay respectively)
Volume of Tunnel over 1m advance
Face Volume Loss (in Percent %)
Depth of Tunnel at Axis
Summarizing a 6.6m diameter tunnel of varying workmanship and depth
in clay gives the following maximum settlements

Volume

Depth to Tunnel Axis


15m Depth
30m Depth
45m Depth
1%
Good Practice
2.5%

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18mm

9mm

6mm

46mm

23mm

15mm

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Adequate
Practice
5%
Poor Practice

91mm

46mm

30mm

This highlights the need for strict control on face volume loss, especially at
shallow depths where poor workmanship can quickly turn into excessive
settlements
To prevent the development of face volume loss the excavation face must
be supported, no or incorrect support pressure will result in settlement.
In principal the pressurized medium in the TBM excavation chamber must
balance out the pressure exerted by the weight of the ground and the
pressure exerted by the height of the water table at that location. Thus
shallower tunnels require a lower support pressure (in general) Figure 6

Surface Level
Water Table

TBM Support Pressure = Sum of Water Pressure


and Earth Pressure

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Figure 6 Ground Support Principal


2.2 Excavation Management
Before the EPB can start the excavation of the tunnel, the Contractor will
be required to determine the support pressure (Earth Receiving Pressure ERP) required along the tunnel alignment at various horizontal intervals,
with an interval of 10-15m being the upper limit. The actual pressure is
dependent on the depth of the tunnel, the height of the water table, the
prevailing geology and the presence or otherwise of surface structures.
This is the ground level or geology various considerable over short distance then the support pressure interval should be reduced. The establishment of the ERP is not the end of the story; the contractor must monitor the EPBs excavation performance to determine that the design
parameters used in the calculation of the ERP are correct. This is performed by the monitoring of the Excavated Volume and geotechnical instrumentation (both surface and sub-surface)
2.2.1 Monitoring Excavation Volume EPBs
It is critical that the excavation volume is monitored in real time thereby
highlighting over excavation as it occurs not at the end of a ring where it
will be too late. To these means TBM manufactures provide a real time
mechanical monitoring device (belt weigher or laser scanner) on the conveyor belt. These monitor the volume of the excavated material as the
excavation progresses and compares this to the theoretical volume for the
current length of advance and displays the results in the TBM operators
cabin. This information is updated every 5-10mm, thus the TBM operator
will be informed in real time of the status of any over excavation and can
respond accordingly. This monitoring system can be installed with alert
levels after which audio-visual alarms are activated in the TBM operators
cabin. At the request of the contractor this system can also provide alerts
in the contractors office and even via email and/or text messages.
As a back up to the automatic system the age old system of counting
skips is also a useful indicator of the status of potential over excavation
and should be carried out as a back up to the automatic system.
2.2.2 Monitoring Excavation
Slurry TBM

Volume

Unlike the EPB the excavated spoil is not


visible until it reaches the Slurry Treatment Plant (STP) so alternative means of
monitoring the excavated volume in real
time is required. STP can be equipment
with belt weighers for the various primary
shakers and hydrocyclones units but strict
checks on density are required to ensure

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the water inherent in the slurry is not included in the calculation. This is
further complicated when dirty slurry tanks are used for multiple TBMs.
Again this is not real time and can only proved information after the excavation is completed, after which it may be too late. To this means the
TBM manufactures install flow and density meters on both the slurry feed
and slurry return lines (Figure 7).
A simple computer program automatically compares the weight of the
slurry entering the excavation chamber against the weight of the slurry
and excavated spoil removed from the excavation chamber to the STP and
subtracts one from the other there by giving the total weight extracted in
real time.
Again this can be interfaced with audio visual alarms in the
TBM operators cabin and contractor office.
Figure 7 Density and Flow Meters in Slurry Lines
2.2.3 Instrumentation
Instrumentation is used to observe and record the effects of the tunnelling
on the surface and surface structures and where applicable any existing
sub-surface structures. Table 1 indicates the typical instrumentation
INSTRUMENT TYPE

REAL TIME

COMMENTS

SURFACE
Surface
Points

Settlement

Deep Surface
ment Points

Settle-

No
No

Requires survey teams to


measure, calculate and issue results

BUILDINGS
Electro Beams

Yes

Tilt Meters

No

3D Monitoring

Yes

Uses
a
robotic
theodolite/EDM
sighting
prisms installed on building

DEEP INSTRUMENTATION
Piezometer

No

Records variations in water


table

Inclinometer

No

Records subsurface deformations in 2 axiss

Extensometer

No

Table 1

Typical Instrumentation

By combining the information produced by the instrumentation the performance of the TBM in respect of settlement can be monitored. However
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the limitation of the instrumentation should be stressed.


Surface and
deep settlement points will only start to record settlement after a short
period of time, typically 12 hours in soft ground, longer in stiff conditions.
Indeed it has been recorded that surface settlement points have recorded
minimal settlement immediately preceding a surface sinkhole due to the
bridging effect of the surface.
Instrumentation is an imported monitoring tool but the close observation
of the TBM operation will provide quicker indication of impending excessive settlement which can then be acted upon.
2.3 Support of Excavation Profile
2.3.1 Shield
To allow the TBM shield to negotiate curves the body of the TBM shield is
slightly smaller in diameter than the excavation profile cut by the cutter
head, this overcut is commonly in the order 15-25mm on the radius, depending on the tunnel alignment geometry. In a slurry shield this overcut
is filled with the pressurized slurry thereby providing support to the excavation profile. However in the EPB the nature of the material in the cutterhead excavation chamber is more viscose and may not fully fill this
void. Experience has shown that after 50-75 rings this void become filled
with a weak material made up of excavated material and grout which has
flowed forward. This soft material does not prevent the TBM from steering
within the cut profile but is robust enough to reduce the effect of ground
deformation.
Some clients require the periodic injection of a stiff bentonite mix around the shield to ensure this void is filled, although there is
no clear evidence that this has a beneficial effect.
2.3.2 Grouting
Both closed face TBM erect a segmental lining behind the TBM shield, this
is erected within the confines of the tailskin at the rear of the TBM shield.
Thus the extrados of the ring is of smaller diameter than the tailskin and
this creates a void (referred to as the annulus) around the segmental ring.
If this void is not filled, the ground will start to deform filling the annulus
creating settlement. The rate of which the ground deforms is dependent
on the geology; running sands will immediately collapse filling the void,
whereas stiff clays will take days, even weeks. It is therefore imperative
that the void is filled
immediately to prevent
additional settlement to
the surface and to provide support for the segmental ring. Figure 8
Excavation Profile

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Annulus Filled with Grout

Extrados of Segmental Lining

Figure 8 Filling of Annulus With Grout


This filling of the void is carried out by the introduction of a grout (either
cement/bentonite or cement/sand) simultaneously with the excavation
process. Thus as the TBM moves forward the grout is injected simultaneously into the annulus providing immediate support of the ground.
The grout is injected through pipes in the tailskin allowing the grout to be
injected in to the void immediately behind the shield.
To prevent the
grout flowing back into the shield the tailskin is equipped with 2-3 rows of
wires tailseal brushes which are continually injected with high viscosity
tailskin grease. Figure 9

Figure 9 Schematic of Simultaneous Grouting


2.4 Long Term Support - Tunnel Lining
The provide long term support to the tunnel for its life time a permanent
lining is required, for soft ground tunnels built by mechanized means this
means a segmental lining most commonly using reinforced concrete but
steel segments continue to be used in specialist applications. This section
will concentrate on concrete segments giving a brief overview of the key
components and features. The design of the segmental ring differs from
project to project, however for the Metro sized projects the concept of a 5
+ 1 design is now the norm where watertighness is required. This ring

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design consist of 3 normal segments, two counter key segments and a


smaller key segment, Fig 10.
Counterkey
Segment
Segments

Key

Normal Segments
Figure 10 Typical Ring Design
2.4.1 Segments bolts,
The segment bolts serve no structural purpose once the rings are grouted
in place and the ground has relaxed onto the lining. Indeed some clients
allow the removal of bolts after a predetermined period of time allowing
the contractor to reuse the bolts.
The bolts are used to hold the segments together during the erection
process and whilst the primary and secondary grouting is performed, this
holding of the segments together ensures that the gaskets are kept under
the correct compression to ensure the gaskets function correctly in the
long term.
Bolts can be straight or curved (Banana Bolts) and serve the same purpose. Straight bolts tend to be quicker to install whilst curved bolts tend
to give better ring build quality

Straight Bolts

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Curved Bolt

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Figure 11 Typical Segment Connection


2.4.2 Alignment Realization
Whilst the tunnel segments look to be rectangular they are in fact slightly
tapered, with the completed ring being wider on one side and narrower
on the other. If the segments were rectangular they would be unable to
follow the TBMs round the curves in the tunnel alignment. By rolling the
rings and placing the taper in various positions the lining can be build in a
straight line, or by placing the taper predominantly to one side, curves can
be negotiated without the requirement of additional packing required between rings. Fig 12

Tunnel Rings on Straight Alignment


alternating the taper wide/narrow

Tunnel Rings on Curved Alignment


Wide Taper predominately on the
Out Side of Curve

Figure 12 Effect of Ring Taper on Tunnel Alignment


The amount of this taper is commonly 30-40mm on a 1400m wide ring
but is dependent on the alignment of the tunnel, thus the taper 30-40mm
will enable curves of radius 200m to be obtained.
The tighter the curves, the more taper is required or the shorted the rings
should be (e.g. 1200mm instead of 1400mm)
The changing of the key position is referred to as rolling the ring and has
the added advantage that cruciform joints are avoided, Fig 13. Cruciform
joints are a potential weak spot in the terms of watertighness and should
be avoided were possible

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Staggered radial joints


Good Practice

Cruciform radial joints


Poor Practice

Figure 13 Radial Joint Details


2.4.3 Gaskets
The tunnel left behind must be to all intents and purposes, water tight.
Any leaks into the tunnel will over a period of time cause localized water
draw down which in the right circumstances cause consolidation of the
ground above, especially clays and other fluvial material.
Commonly
leaks in a segmental tunnel would occur on the joints between individual
segment therefore before the segments are erected in the tunnel they are
fitted with a gasket which when compressed between the segments creates a watertight seal. The gasket types typically used are
Compressible Gasket EPDM
Combination Gasket Both EPDM and Hydrophilic
2.4.3.1 Compressible Gaskets
Normally composed of EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) which
is extruded to form a compressible gasket with welded corners. The internal structure comprises of a series of holes which allow the gasket to be
compressed to the required watertighness. The holes provide voids within
the structure of the gaskets into allowing the gasket to be squeezed into
itself, Figure 14. Generally the percentage of voids in the gasket is inversely proportional to the water pressure sealing required. The higher
the sealing pressure required the lower the percentage of voids within the
gasket.

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To ensure the gasket remains in the correct location it is fitted into a gasket groove this ensures the two faces of gaskets on adjacent segments are
correctly aligned, any misalignment will reduce the effective sealing; however a misalignment tolerance of 5-10mm is normally designed into the
gasket

Figure 14 EPBM Gaskets (Datwyler)


2.4.3.2 Combination Gasket
To improve overall watertighness some clients call for a bell and braces
approach in that they require two seals, one of both EPDM and Hydrophilic. These can be laid separately side by side, Figure xx or increasingly
common is the combination gasket were a strip of hydrophilic is either inserted into a groove in the EPBM or co-extruded with the EPDM Figure 15

Figure 15 Co-extruded EPDM-Hydrophilic Gasket (Datwyler)

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Gasket installed on
Segments

Figure 16 Co-extruded gasket installed on Segments

CLOSED FACE TBMS

3.1 BASIC TBM FEATURES


Both the EPB and Slurry closed face TBMs share similarities in their basis
layout and operation with only the means of transporting the excavated
material differing, the basic components are:

Cutterhead
Main Bearing
Drive Motors
Thrust Cylinders
Articulation Cylinders
Manlock
Erector
Screw Conveyor (EPB only)
Slurry System (Slurry TBM only)
Grouting System
Guidance System

Of these items the cutterhead is the key component of the TBM and the
correct cutterhead must be selected at the start of the contract, unlike
other TBM components it is very difficult to replace the cutterhead once
excavation has commenced.
The cutterhead is equipped with cutting tools with project in front of the
cutterhead structure and are the means of excavating the ground as the
cutterhead rotates. These cutting tools can be discs cutters (15-19 diameter) or drag bits The design of the cutterhead is dependent on prevailing geology which will affect the cutting tools selected and the opening

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ratio of the cutterhead (expressed as a percentage of the cutterhead cross


section area).
In softer clayey ground it would be advantageous to have a cutterhead
with as large an opening ratio as possible whist ensuring an adequate
number of cutting tools, where as in soft rock conditions a smaller opening
ratio can be used whilst ensuring the correct number and size of cutter
disc are installed. Figure 17

Soft Ground Cutter Head 6.65m


37 No 17 Discs or Drag Bits
Discs/Drag Bit Spacing 106mm
Opening Percentage 33%

Mixed Face Cutter Head 6.65m


46 No 17 or 19 Discs
Discs Spacing 76mm
Opening Percentage 26%

Figure 17 Typical Cutterhead Designs


The design of the cutterhead becomes extremely problematic when mixed
face conditions of hard, competent bedrock underlies softer deposits.
Here the cutterhead is required to be a compromise between a hard rock
cutter head with a large number of disc cutters (17-19 diameter) and a
large percentage opening, unfortunately these two requirements are
3.2 Basic TBM Operation
Both Closed Face TBMs operate in much the same manner to complete
the tunnel in that they are Single Shields. Single shields thrust off the
newly erected lining during the excavation phase using the thrust cylinders, one the required distance has been excavated (one ring width), the
segment erection phase then takes place where a new segmental ring is
erected in the gap created in the tailskin during the excavation advance,
Figure 18:

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Figure 18 Single Shield Advance Mode

3.3 EARTH PRESSURE BALANCE TBMS (EPBS)


3.3.1 Shield Features
Main Bearing

Articulation
Cylinders

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Manlock

Thrust
Cylinders

Tail Seal
Brushes

Screw
Dis

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Cutterhead

Articulation
Joint

Drive Motors

Segment Erector

Screw Conveyor
(EPB Only)

Figure 19- EPB Shield Components


3.3.1

Support methodology

As mentioned the face of the excavation is required to be supported by a


pressure which balances out the natural earth and water pressure at the
tunnel horizon. In the EPB TBM the excavated earth which has been cut
from the ground is held at pressure in the excavation chamber thereby
balancing the pressure hence Earth Pressure Balance.
Obviously the excavated material is required to be removed from the excavation chamber as the TBM advances otherwise the pressure will continually build up in the excavation chamber.
The excavated soil is removed via a screw conveyor commonly mounted in the invert of the
excavation chamber. This screw conveyor contains an Archimedes screw
(Figure 20) which rotates within the screw casing withdrawing the excavated material from the excavation chamber.

Figure 20 Screw Conveyor with bolted wear protection


This screw enables a pressure gradient to be established over the length
of the screw, which maximum pressure at the excavation chamber end of
the screw and zero pressure at the discharge gate. The creating of the
pressure gradient is dependent on the soil being sufficiently cohesive to
resist flowing under pressure; clayey soils are particularly apt at this, by
creating a pressure gradient a plug of material is formed in the screw.
The higher the Earth Pressure required to support the face, the longer the
length of screw conveyor required.
The amount of material discharged from the end of the end of screw conveyor must be carefully controlled by the TBM operator, the amount dis-

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Be

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

charge must be equal to the amount excavated by the cutterhead and being introduced to the excavation chamber. By balancing the amount introduced to the excavation chamber and the amount withdrawn the TBM
operator can maintain the pressure in the excavation chamber.
Thus if the screw speed is too high then the pressure in the excavation
chamber will drop increasing the change of settlement, if the screw speed
is too low then the pressure in the excavation chamber will increase with
the potential for ground heave and/or blocking the excavation chamber.
3.3.2 Soil Improvement
In line with the increased use of the EPB has been the development of
solid conditioning agents which are injected into the excavation chamber
through ports on the cutterhead. Fig 21. There are various types of conditioning agent for use on an EPB with the main two being Foam and
Polymer, other conditioners are available and could form the basis of a
paper on their own.

Figure 21 Factory Testing of Foam System


3.3.2.1 Foam
Foam soil conditioners are used for the following reasons

Decrease the permeability of the ground by decreasing the water ingress and helping to keep the earth receiving pressure

Homogenize the mixture in the excavation chamber with the foam


bubbles filling the voids created by the swelling after excavation.
Figure 22

Decrease the friction between the ground and the steel structure
with significant reduction in the cutterhead torque

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Reduces the abrasion of the cutterhead steel structure and cutting


tools
Reduces the stickiness of clay ground reducing clay plugging and
blocking of the cutterhead openings
Keeping the homogeneity of the excavated material within the screw
conveyor assisting plug formation and preventing the probability of
screw conveyor blow outs.
Addition of Dry Soil

Add Foam

Result

Figure 22 Result of Foam Addition on Test Sample (Mapei)


3.3.2.2 Polymers
Water absorbing polymers are used primarily where the geology is coarse,
water bearing strata. The polymer binds the free water in the soil to the
soil particles producing a cohesive mass which is able to create a plug in
the screw conveyor. For example, should the EPB encounter water bearing sands below the water table, there is insufficient fines in the sand to
create a plug in the screw conveyor, without plug formation in the screw it
is impossible to control the pressure in the excavation chamber as the
running sands would be forced around the screw helix to the gate in an
uncontrolled manner. This occurs as the ground water acts as a lubricant
allowing the sand to flow, the injection of polymer into the excavation
chamber caused the water molecules to be bound to the soil particles
binding the water/soil into a cohesive mass which resists flowing under
pressure. Introduction the polymer in this case would allow the creation
of a plug in the screw conveyor allowing controlled excavation and the correct support pressure to be carried out. Figure 23
Saturated Material
Natural Sand
3 Litres Water
No Polymer
Added
Natural Sand
3 Litres Water

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Treated Material

Slump

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

60ml Polymer
Added
Figure 23 Affect of Polymer on Saturated Sand (Mapei)
3.4 SLURRY TBMs
These TBMs can be separated in to two categories, Slurry TBMs and Mixshield TBMs with the term Slurry TBM being used as a coverall for both
systems. The chief difference in these systems can be found at the front
of the shield.
The Slurry TBM has a single pressurized chamber full of
bentonite slurry whilst the Mixshield has an excavation chamber and an air
bubble chamber (Figure 24 & 25), these as typical of the Japanese and
European manufactures respectively. This paper will concentrate on the
Mixshield type slurry TBM.
Main Bearing

Manlock

Thrust
Cylinders

Segment Erector

Tail Seal
Brushes

Screw
Dis

Cutterhead

Drive Motors

Articulation
Cylinders

Articulation
Joint

Figure24- Slurry Shield Components

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Slurry Suction
Line

Be

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

The excavation face is support by the introduction of a fluid into the excavation chamber, commonly bentonite slurry. This slurry is maintained at
a pressure predetermined my the contractor so as to support the face

Cutterhead

Excavation
Chamber full
of slurry

Air Bubble
Chamber
50% slurry, 50%
Compressed Air

Figure 25 Layout of Mixshield TBM


3.4.1 Basic Operation
.
As mention in 4.2 above the slurry TBM in common with the EPB is a single shield and as such has two distinct modes of operation, excavation
(with simultaneous grouting) and segment erection.
The slurry TBM differs in that the mode of excavated material is via
pumped bentonite slurry which is feed from the surface via pumps to the
excavation chamber, here it creates the support pressure required and is
mixed with the spoil from the excavation face. This mixture of bentonite
slurry is then pumped from the excavation chamber back to the surface
were it undergoes treatment to remove the excavated spoil. The cleaned
slurry is then returned to the TBM in a continual loop until the excavation
advance is completed. Figure 26

Slurry Flow IN

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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Slurry & Excavated Material Flow OUT

Figure 26 TBM Slurry Flow Schematic


3.4.2 Support Methodology
The excavation face is support by the introduction of a fluid into the excavation chamber, commonly bentonite slurry. This slurry is maintained at
a pressure predetermined by the contractor so as to support the face by
the controlled introduction/removal of the slurry via the slurry feed and
suction lines. This requires fine control of the pumps in the lines to ensure the rates of injection/extraction are balanced to provide the correct
pressure.
The Mixshield has the added advantage of a compressed air
bubble in the plenum chamber which responded to pump and ground
variations and balances the slurry to the predetermined pressure. As air
is extremely fluid, the balancing action response is rapid and allows the
pressure in the excavation chamber to be balanced to within 0.05bar.
This fine control over the support pressure makes slurry TBMs practically
attractive where low ground cover is to be expected.
Slurry TBMs perform best in grounds which are permeable and have a
coarse matrix (sand & gravels) with low fines content. To the casual observer the fact that the Slurry TBMs perform well in permeable ground is
an anathema as it is reasoned that the bentonite slurry will simply penetrate into the permeable ground without providing support pressure to the
face.
Whilst there is some penetration into the ground the actual mechanics of face support in a slurry TBM is somewhat more complex.
In permeable ground, if water was to be used as a support fluid, the liquid
would simply permeate into the ground matrix until it balanced the water
pressure, however as the water would freely pass around the soil matrix
no effective support is applied and the tunnel face would collapse. Thus
there is a requirement to effectively pass the support pressure in the excavation chamber on to the face of the excavation providing support and
face stability.
This is done by using the non-Newtonian nature of bentonite slurry which forms a stable filter cake on surfaces in the excavation
chamber. Once the filter cake is established the pressure of the bentonite
slurry in the excavation chamber acts on the filter cake coating the excavation face there by providing support. Figures 27 & 28

Seminar Document- REDECON 2010

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Bentonite Slurry in Highly Permeable Ground.


Note the slurry is not of sufficient
quality to form a filter cake on the
excavation face, instead the slurry
permeates in to the ground little
face support
Figure 27 Slurry Quality vs. Permeability
Bentonite Slurry in Normal
Ground
Note the bentonite slurry forms a
filter cake on the excavation face
providing a means for transferring
the support pressure to the face.

As can be imagined, as the cutterhead rotates the filter cake is removed


by the tools on the cutterhead exposing the soil matrix and creating potential instability. It is therefore important that the filter cake is reformed
as quickly as possible. It is therefore advantageous that some penetration
of the slurry into the soil matrix has previously occurred allowing the filter
cake to be established quickly Figure 25

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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Figure 28 Mode filter cake formation and penetration


3.4.3 Slurry Properties
What must not be underestimated are the correct rheological properties of
the slurry for the prevailing ground conditions. Whilst soils of high stability and low permeability or rock can be supported with a fairly weak slurry
mix, sandy and grounds of higher permeability require slurry with high
rheological properties.
The main properties are, in order of importance:
3.4.3.1 Rheological Parameter
As mention bentonite slurry are non-Newtonian in that their viscosity is
dependent on their flow velocity. At high flow rates the viscosity is lower
and low or no flow rates the viscosity is high to such a point the slurry will
gel. To ensure the slurry is correct the apparent & plastic viscosity and
yield point should be checked regularly.
3.4.3.2 Filtration Properties
Filtration properties govern the filter cake formation. The cake must be
sufficiently impermeable, strong and flexible to guarantee there will be a
pressure gradient across the thickness of the cake. During testing a thick
filter cake is no guarantee of a quality slurry, but may indicate poor quality slurry with a large separation coefficient.
3.4.3.3 Density
Bentonite slurry is a mixture bentonite and slurry (additives can be used
to improve slurry properties as required) normally in the ratio of 1m /
50kg water/bentonite. During the excavation process additional material
is introduced from the excavated spoil, the coarser material is easily separate however the fine clays are difficult to extract and normally recirculates through the slurry separation plant back to the TBM. Thus as
the excavation continues there is an increase the density of the slurry being fed to the TBM. Eventually as the density increases the slurry pumping system becomes unable to pump effiecently and the production rates
will decline. The limits of pumpability are normally set by the TBM manufactures
Max Slurry Feed Density 1.2, Max Suction Density
1.4
Once the slurry density reaches 1.2 action must be taken to reduce the
density
3.4.3.4 Other Properties
Other characteristics (pH, polymer or soluble salt types and contents etc)
have to be identified for better characteristics of the slurry and meet environmental requirements. A high pH value may indicate contamination of
the slurry by cement with causes the slurry to flocculate and break down.

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Typical properties for 3 basic ground conditions are set out below in Table
2. Note that these are ball park figures and should form a starting point
after which the exact properties can be based on the prevailing ground
conditions.
Parameters
Apparent
Viscosity
(AV)
Plastic
Viscosity
(PV)
Yield Point
(YP)
Filter Cake
Marsh Cone
Viscosity
Density
pH
Sand
Table 2 Typical

Unit
Cp

Permeable
Soils
m/s
15-40

Semi Permeable
m/s
10-20

Impermeable
Soils
m/s
8-20

Cp

5-20

5-10

5-10

Pa

8-5

5-10

<15

mm
Sec

2-6
40-120

1-5
35.50

1-5
30-50

1.02-1.15
1.02-1.20
1.02-1.20
7-10
7-10
7-10
%
1-5
1-5
1-5
Slurry Properties (AFTES Recommendation 2005)

3.4.4 Slurry Treatment Plant


As important as the TBM is the Slurry Treatment Plant (STP). Here the
mixture of excavated spoil and slurry is passed through various stages of
separation with recovered slurry being returned to the TBM in a continuous loop and excavated material being extracted and deposited in the
spoil heap for onward disposal.
The excavated spoil is required to be
separated so as to maintain the density of the slurry, this cannot be allowed to exceed the TBM guidelines as then the pumping system cannot
cope and the equipment become overloaded. Typically densities of 1.2
and 1.4 are the limits for the feed and return lines respectively.
The main stages of separation are
Separation Process
Bar Sizer
Primary Screens
Primary Hydrocyclones
Secondary Hydrocyclones
Dewatering Screen
Centrifuges

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Cut Point
50mm
5mm
80 microns
25 microns
All Materials

09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

A typical STP flow schematic is shown in Figure 29 with Photographs of the


Plant in Figure 30

Figure 29 STP Flow Schematic


In summary, the bentonite slurry is re-circulated through the STP and the
TBM excavation chamber in a loop. The shakers and hydrocyclones in the
STP remove all material in excess of 50 microns with the remaining
clays/silts being re-circulated back to the TBM.
This recirculation can continue until the TBM slurry starts to reach predetermined slurry parameters after which the efficiency of the slurry is compromised. Thus when the set point is reached a quantity (not all) of the
slurry in the TBM/STP loop is withdrawn to the Dirty Slurry tank and takes
not further part in the TBM process. Once the quantity of dirty slurry has
been removed from the loop an equal measure of fresh bentonite slurry in
introduced into the TBM/STP circuit and mixed, thereby improving the
quality of the slurry in the circuit. The amount to be withdrawn is dependent on how poor the quality of the dirty bentonite is. The poorer the
quality of the dirty bentonite, the more fresh bentonite is required to improve the quality.
Once the dirty bentonite slurry is transfer to the dirty slurry tanks there is
a constant drawing off of the slurry by the centrifuges which, with the additional of flocculent, strip all the clays and slits (including the bentonite)
from the slurry, producing spoil in to the muck pit and clean water for disposal off site. This water cannot be reused in the slurry system as it contains traces of flocculent which degrade the properties of the bentonite.

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Primary Screens

Primary Hydrocyclones

Secondary Hydrocyclones

Dewatering Screens

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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

Centrifuges
Figure 30 Typical Components of STP (Schauenburg)
The actual layout and capacity of the STP are dependent on the size of the
TBM, the required excavation rates and the geology. Obviously the larger
the TBM or the faster excavation speed will require a larger STP. Critically the geology, or more accurately the clay content, determines the capacity of the centrifuges. The fine clay partials in suspension can only be
fully removed by the centrifuges (clay lumps will be removed by the hydrocyclones), thus the higher the clay content the higher capacity of centrifuges is required.
4 CLOSED FACE TBM SELECTION
The differences between the two closed face TBM together with their basic
modes of operation have been highlighted above, the question remains
which TBM for which project? The narrative above highlights that for effective plug formation in the screw conveyor a soil with high fine content
is preferred. However for the slurry TBM a coarse soil with few fines is
preferred. The chart in Figure 31 shows the respective applicable zones
for both the Slurry and EPB TBM.

Figure 31 TBM Selection vs. Soil Grading


This chart has been used for many years, however developments in the
soil additive industry such as improved polymers and binders means the
range of the EPB is now encroaching soils which traditionally were the pre-

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09-Mechanized Shield Tunnelling in Soft Ground

serve of the Slurry TBM only and the selection process is therefore not a
clear cut as previously.
5

CONCLUSION

Both types of closed face TBMs provide the means of controlling the potential settlement to acceptable.
The means of preventing settlement are similar in both cases; support
pressure in the excavation chamber provides the exaction face with stability during the tunnelling operations with the simultaneous injection of
grout into the annular gap prevents the excavation profile from deforming
after the shield. IN the long term surface settlement is controlled by the
watertight tunnel lining which prevent localized draw down on the water
table preventing settlement in compressive soils,
This prevention of settlement provides safety to the tunnelling process and
to the general public in the longer term.
Should excessive settlement/sinkholes occur there will be serious implications to both program
and to budget, both to the detriment of the contractor and the client.
Whilst it is the Contractors responsibility to carry out the works to the correct standard, the Client should work closely with the Contractors to ensure the design criteria and methodology are correct.
The reliance on
geotechnical instrumentation should be examined, in many cases excessive settlement and sinkholes can be identified from the TBM data, hours,
even days before the settlement/sinkhole occurs
The choice to use a closed face TBM is fairly simple one; however the
choice of which type of closed face TBM, EPB or Slurry is somewhat more
complex with both types offering advantages, with the ground generally
being the deciding factor.

Seminar Document- REDECON 2010