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Closed face dec
TBMs in the late 1960s, all shield tunnelling in
soft ground conditions below the water table
was carried out with shields combined with
compressed air. Air pressures were not used
above 3 bar. However the hunt was on for an
alternative, which would avoid compressed air
and it’s associated dangers of the bends and
bone necrosis.
Slurry Tunnelling machines (STMs) arose
from the 1964 patent for the Bentonite
Tunnelling Machine taken out by John Bartlett.
In the UK the use of the patent was first tried
during the New Cross experimental tunnel in
south London, carried out in 1971/72. Prior to
this the Japanese had started trials with the so-
called mud shield in 1964 in the very soft
coastal alluviums. In Germany trials were
carried out in Hamburg in 1976 using what
they referred to as the Hydroshield, a type of
STM still produced today by the TBM
manufacturer Herrenknecht. By the end of the
1970s over 1,000 STMs had been used Independent TBM consultant Alastair Biggart
By the mid 1970s the Japanese were
tackles the very important subject of choosing the
recognising the limitations of the STMs due to most suitable type of closed face TBM for a project.
the narrow range of ground conditions that
this type of closed face TBM was suitable for. The choice will normally be made on issues
So during the mid 1970s they invented the
EPBM. This effectively widened the range of concerning the ground, but also other matters
ground conditions suitable for closed face
TBMs into the finer granular materials and also
such as the environment, or the availability of
silts and cohesive clays. Figure 1 shows the spoil disposal areas. However, the over-riding
envelope of ground conditions suitable for
each type. It can be seen that there is a mid issue will be the requirement to control settlement
range of ground conditions
which is suitable for Fig 1: The PSD Curve for grain size distribution a large percentage of the spoil from the slurry
both types. using vibrating screens, hydrocyclones and, if
Range of ground conditions necessary, belt or hydraulic filter presses for the
How an STM works Clay Silt Sand Gravel removal of very fine material. The use of
In an STM the 100 centrifuges is an alternative to the filter
cutterhead excavates presses. The cleaned slurry is then pumped
the ground in front of down the tunnel for re-use. For environmental
a full bulkhead across 75 reasons it is sometimes necessary to further

the forward end of the clean the spoil using a sand washing plant to

% Slurry

TBM. The cutterhead remove residual bentonite or polymer.

chamber ahead of the An extra benefit of the bentonitic slurry is a
bulkhead is filled with considerable reduction in wear to the
a bentonitic slurry, 25
cutterhead and tools and also in the pipes and
typically a 3% mixture. pumps.
This slurry is Face pressure control is by using a fixed flow
continuously pumped 0 inbound pipe and a variable flow outbound
0 0.002 0.06 2.0 60 mm
through the pump. However if a Hydroshield is used, the
excavation chamber main form of pressure control is the use of a
via an inbound slurry pipe. As the TBM moves cycle. The excavated quantity is computed large air bubble trapped between the main
forward during the excavation cycle the using a magnetic flow meter on both the bulkhead and a semi bulkhead ahead of the
excavated spoil mixes with the slurry and is inbound and outbound pipes together with main bulkhead. This is a more accurate form
removed from the excavation chamber with infrared density meters on both lines. of pressure control.
the slurry through the outbound slurry pipe. The spoil-laden slurry is pumped to the
The slurry spoil mix will be typically in the surface where it passes through a Slurry How an EPBM works
range of 20% to 30% during the excavation Treatment Plant (STP). This effectively removes An EPBM is altogether a simper form of closed

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ace decisions - earth and hydrostatic pressures. Hence the

name Earth Pressure Balance Machine. The
excavated spoil has a large amount of friction,
which resists the easy flow of the spoil
towards the screw conveyor and also causes a
large amount of torque resistance to the
cutterhead as it tries to turn against this high
friction mass. This results in difficulty in
controlling the earth pressure and hence the
control of settlement.
When the EPBM was first introduced in the
mid 1970s the high friction within the
excavation chamber was reduced by injecting
conditioning agents into
the chamber. These
Left: Kawasaki’s were either bentonite,
CTRL 2 EPBM polymer or water or a
combination of all
Opposite page: three. In the early 1980s
The NFM Groene the Japanese introduced
Hart Slurry TBM the use of a surfactant
(courtesy NFM foam conditioning
Technologies) agent, which is made
up of a combination of
Below left: A the surfactant, water
typical Slurry set and compressed air. This
up (courtesy has a dramatic effect by
Herrenknecht) reducing the cutterhead
torque by as much as
Below: A typical 50% and also allows a
EPBM set up large improvement in
(courtesy the control of earth
Herrenknecht) pressure, which in turn
leads to better

face TBM. This means that contractors and TBM. The cutterhead chamber ahead of the settlement control. The use of foam is
owners may be tempted to use an EPBM bulkhead is filled with the excavated spoil and standard today, however EPBMs should
instead of an STM against their better is removed from the chamber via an continue to be supplied with the ability to
technical judgement, purely on the basis of archimedean screw (the screw conveyor). It inject bentonite and polymer to assist the
cost and simplicity. But the wrong choice can can be seen that depending on the relative working of the foam. In addition the possibility
turn out to be an expensive mistake. forward progress of the TBM and the speed of of injecting crushed material such as
With an EPBM, as with an STM, the rotation of the screw conveyor, the pressure pulverised limestone should also be provided
cutterhead excavates the ground in front of a within the excavation chamber can be for areas of ground where the fines content is
full bulkhead across the forward end of the controlled and therefore balanced against the too low for the screw conveyor to provide

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Tailseals - By of a double screw, a very long screw or a

Fig 2: A typical Tailseal array
definition all closed double piston pump attached to the end of
Emergency seal
face TBMs have a the screw. As a general rule it is suggested
4 nos. brush seals pressure of either that if extremely high pressures are involved
Normal build area 130
spoil or slurry in the an STM may be more applicable due to it’s
excavation chamber. ability to hold high pressures.
Shove ram Also by definition
1650 1650
they are in water Crushers - This section only applies to
bearing ground with STMs. Due to the configuration in the
a hydrostatic pressure excavation chamber of an EPBM it is not
all around the TBM possible to have a crusher in the chamber.
shield. For both The crusher in an STM is situated in the
reasons they require invert of the excavation chamber
adequate resistance to control the earth efficient tailseals around the rear of the immediately behind the rear of the rotating
pressure. tailskin to prevent the ingress of water or cutterhead. Typically the crusher will be a
The screw conveyer delivers the conditioned slurry under pressure. Todays tailseals are strong jaw crusher set immediately in front
spoil to a belt conveyor system, which made up of multiple rows of wire brush of a grillage that prevents stones or crushed
nowadays typically includes a long tunnel seals around the intrados of the tailskin. The boulder fragments from entering the
conveyor. It is not as easy to measure the seals and the space between seals is outbound slurry pipe. A crusher should be
excavated quantity as with an STM. However it continuously filled with a fibrous grease included in an STM if large cobbles or
is now standard practice to use belt weighers whenever the TBM is moving forward. Seals boulders are expected in the ground. It is
on a short belt within the TBM back-up. When can now be designed to resist up to 13 bar most important that this part of the ground
used on, say, a 5 ring rolling average this can external pressure. There is no differentiator investigation is set up to investigate the
give an early indication of over mucking. In in terms of the tailseals between the two presence of cobbles and boulders. It is also
addition a laser profiler can be used to back up types of closed face TBMs. See Figure 2 for important that if there are possible
the information from the belt weigher. This a diagrammatic view of a tailseal array. boulders, the gaps between the cutterhead
technology is not yet in common use. arms are sized to retain the boulders at the
The Screw Conveyor - This section only face whilst the cutter tools, which should be
Some important technical characteristics applies to EPBMs. So the description is a combination of picks and discs, break
It is most important to understand the various included in order to describe the limitations them down to a size suitable for the crusher
technical functions of each type of closed face of the screw. It is important to understand to digest. If boulders are present in ground
TBM as this will provide a better background the way a screw works in an EPBM. It’s being excavated by an EPBM it is important
for making the choice. It will also indicate the ability to hold pressure is almost entirely that the cutterhead can break the boulders
various things that should be included in the dependant on the length of the screw and down to a size suitable for digestion by the
TBM chosen. It is no use choosing the correct the viscosity of the spoil. There is a simple screw. As both STMs and EPBMs can digest
type of TBM and not providing it with the formula which can be used to give the boulders the presence of boulders would
correct facilities pressure holding capacity of the screw, L/l x not prevent the use of either type.
p where L is the screw length in metres, p is
Articulation - Closed face TBMs are normally the pressure holding capacity of a single Main Bearings and Seals - The heart of a
articulated. As most tunnels involve some screw flight and is approximately 0.2 bar closed face TBM, or any TBM, is the main
curves, the articulation is provided to help and l is the typical, but variable, length of a bearing. If this should be damaged during
negotiate curves. Even if there are no curves single screw flight and is approximately tunnelling it is a major problem for the
articulation is still useful in order to be able to 0.6m. The pressure holding capacity can be project. It is possible to change a main
correct mis-alignment. There are three basic improved when using an EPBM by the use bearing within the tunnel but extremely
types of articulation: time consuming and expensive. Nowadays
• Passive articulation which is normally in the main bearings are of the three roller type
form of a trailing tailshield connected to The archimedes screw in an EPBM and made by specialist companies such as
the main shield body by passive hydraulic (courtesy The Robbins Company) Rothe Erde. Protecting the bearing in an
rams, which in effect reduces the steerable
length of the TBM shield
• Active articulation which is articulation
between the front and mid body of the
TBM shield. This is a more positive form of
articulation and in effect curves the shield
body positively in order to force the TBM
around curves
• An articulated cutterhead which is
mounted on a spherical bearing and allows
the cutterhead to be set in such a way that
it can overcut in any quadrant of the circle,
thus allowing the TBM to move into the
overcut space
• A combination of any of the above for the
negotiation of extremely tight curves.
There is no differentiator regarding
articulation between the two types of closed
face TBM

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slurry lines. This does not give an absolute

measurement as it requires correction for
ground density and water content. It will
also be inaccurate if there is leakage of
slurry into the ground or leakage of ground
water into the excavation chamber – both
being dependant on accurate pressure
control to balance the hydrostatic ground
pressure. Generally this form of spoil
measurement is reasonably accurate, but it
should be considered as a comparative
measurement rather than an absolute
measurement and therefore be used on a 5
ring rolling average basis to give an early
indication of over-
Left top: The Wirth In an EPBM, up
CTRL EPBM until quite recently
the crude method of
Left: The Kawasaki counting muck cars
CTRL EPBM was used, which was
highly unsatisfactory.
Today, with the
almost universal use of long tunnel
conveyors there is no opportunity anyway
to use muck cars. Today’s technology is to
use belt weighers on a fixed belt within the
TBM back-up. Preferably this should be a
short, constant tension, horizontal belt for
accuracy. These weighers have a declared
accuracy of 10%. They should therefore be
considered as giving a comparative
measurement rather than an absolute
measurement and therefore be used on a 5
ring rolling average basis to give an early
indication of over-excavation. The use of
laser profilers is gradually coming in to
supplement the use of the belt weigher, but
this technology is not yet proven. The belt
weigher results also need to be corrected
for ground density and ground water
content. As the methods for both the STMs
open face TBM against the ingress of dirt is this material to pass through the cutterhead and the EPBMs give in the order of 10%
relatively easy, but with a closed face TBM it openings and it can be difficult for the accuracy and are used on a 5 ring rolling
is extremely difficult. In an open TBM a pressure in the excavation chamber to be average, the measurement of excavated
single set of seals would normally be properly transmitted to the face. This can spoil is not a differentiator.
sufficient. With a closed face TBM it will cause difficulty with settlement control. It is
require multiple seals, the number being recommended that the open area of Why use closed face TBMs
dependent on the pressure in the face. A cutterheads in EPBMs is not less than 35%, Before going on to describe the criteria for
typical supplier of seals is Merkel, who with an absolute minimum of 30% if choosing between the two types, it is
produce seals that will withstand 4 bar of circumstances dictate. It should be noted important to think about why closed face
pressure across the seal. There is no that Japanese manufacturers use nearer TBMs have been introduced to TBM
differentiator between types regarding the 40%. There is no differentiator here tunnelling.
main bearing and its seals. See Figure 3 for between types as either type can be The main motivation for the introduction
a diagram of the seals on a Mixshield designed with an appropriate open area for of closed face TBMs was to enable TBMs to
machine currently in use. the conditions. The photos above show two excavate in water bearing ground in
TBMs that were used on the UK’s CTRL granular soils without the aid of
Open Area of the Cutterhead - Section 2 Tunnels. The top photo is a Wirth compressed air to hold back the water.
Cutterheads are designed to suit the EPBM which had a low percentage of open Secondly there was a wish to widen the
conditions and the type of closed face TBM. area and had to be modified in the ground. range of ground conditions that can be
When using an STM the open area of the The photo below it shows a Kawasaki TBM safely tunnelled using TBMs. In effect
cutterhead can be quite small as the slurry with a larger open area of near 40%. tunnels can now be driven with closed face
contains a small percentage of spoil and is TBMs in any soft ground conditions, where
not very viscous and can easily pass through Excavated Spoil Measurement - In an before the introduction of closed face
a small opening. With an EPBM the STM the excavated quantity is measured by machines it would not have been possible
conditioned spoil is highly viscous, even magnetic flow meters and infra red density to tunnel at all.
when treated with foam. It is difficult for meters on both the inbound and outbound The over-riding motivation is to enable

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TBMs to control surface settlement within

acceptable limits when tunnelling in unstable
Because closed face TBMs have
soft ground conditions. pressurised material in front of the
Additional benefits are the reduced impact
on the environment and the increase in the main bulkhead there is always an
safety of the workforce.
additional backward force to be
Criteria for Making the Choice Between
STMs and EPBMs
overcome in addition to the normal
In examining the various criteria for choosing forces of friction and the force to bury
which type of closed machine to use it is
necessary to recognise that the prime the cutters and tow the back up sledges
requirement is to control settlement at the
surface and to cause minimum environmental Fines Content of the Ground injecting re-constituted fines into the
impact. Contractors and Owners will also wish The cut point for fines content is 60µ. If there excavation chamber, which increases the
to consider the cost and risk implications of are less than say 10% fines below this size capability of the screw conveyor in terms of
their decision. then it is more difficult to use an EPBM. holding pressure.
However, as mentioned above it is possible to
Ground Conditions inject fines such as pulverised limestone to Hydrostatic Head
In soft ground tunnelling the ground increase the natural fines content and As a general rule an STM is more capable of
conditions are well illustrated by the Particle therefore give the screw conveyor a better resisting a high hydrostatic head than an
Size Distribution (PSD) curve. These should be pressure holding capability. EPBM. This is because the pressurised slurry is
plotted for the full length of the tunnel There is also a point at which too many fines pumped around a closed circuit. Whereas with
alignment from boreholes at realistic centres as will inhibit the use of an STM by blocking up an EPBM there are limits to the capability of
near to the tunnel alignment as possible. The the slurry treatment plant. It must be the screw conveyor in holding pressure. As
PSD curves can be drawn with envelopes of remembered that when examining the fines previously mentioned this capability can be
ground which are suitable for each type of content it is necessary to look at the ground improved by re-injecting fines into the
closed face TBM. excavation chamber. The
Generally the STM is more suitable for the most difficult
ground with a higher granular content, Fig 3: The Bearing and seal system on TBM combination would
whereas the EPBM is more suitable for ground be to have a high
with a higher percentage of fines. However, permeability together
there is a mid point between the granular and with a high
the finer material which is suitable for both hydrostatic head.
types (figure 1). Permeability can
There are, nowadays, a number of factors 10 therefore be a strong
that widen the range of ground conditions R2800 factor in deciding the
suitable for each type of closed face machine type of closed face
and also narrow the differences between the TBM. This would be



two types. especially so if say

• For STMs the slurry treatment plants (STPs) high permeability
are becoming much more sophisticated with existed for the whole
use of improved vibrating screens, length of a tunnel,
hydrocyclones and hydraulic filter presses or which would indicate
centrifuges, thus allowing the slurry to be the use of an STM.
more thoroughly cleaned and therefore the
ground range to extend further into the Settlement Control
more silty/clayey materials One of the prime
• For EPBMs the use of long screws, double reasons for using a
screws, double piston pumps and the use of closed face TBM is to
more sophisticated conditioners, including control ground
the re-injection of fines, such as pulverised movement. Nowadays
limestone, enables a better ability for the content for the full vertical span of the tunnel both types of closed face TBM are excellent at
screw conveyor to control the pressure and along the whole tunnel length. controlling surface settlement. Before the
where the natural fines are limited, thus introduction of foam conditioners to EPBMs,
allowing; a) the ground range to extend Ground Permeability the STM was better in terms of settlement
further into the more sandy, gravelly The permeability of the ground must be control. However with the advent of foam
materials and; b) the TBM to work at much examined and it will therefore be necessary to conditioners both types of closed face TBM
higher pressures include pumping tests to give a general can be used to control settlement to an
The above factors mean that generally the two indication of permeability along the tunnel acceptable degree. If the ground is very
types of closed faced TBMs are; a) more alignment. A rough guide to the level of granular with few fines below 60µ then it may
versatile and; b) it is more difficult to decide permeability suitable to each type is that an be necessary to re-inject re-constituted fines if
which type to use. STM is suitable for ground with a higher using an EPBM. Table 1 show volume losses
So the first thing to look at in making a permeability than 1 x 10-5m/s and an EPBM achieved on closed face machine projects
decision on type is the PSD curve. This will give with permeability below this figure. However
an early indication of the correct type, but will an EPBM can be used in ground with a higher Presence of Boulders
not give the final answer. permeability, which implies fewer fines, by Both types of closed face TBM can be used in

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ground containing cobbles and boulders. In necessary to lay out the

both types the cutterhead tool configuration materials in thin layers for a
and size of openings must be designed to week or two to aid the bio-
break up boulders at the face before they pass degrading process. In
through the cutterhead. In an STM they must summary it is necessary to
be broken down to a size suitable for the take into account the effect
crusher and in an EPBM they must be broken on the environment of the
down to a size that can be digested by the various materials used with
screw conveyor. each type.

Thrust and Torque Logistics

It is most important that with all closed face Tunnel logistics are greatly
TBMs they are not limited by insufficient improved by using an STM,
torque or thrust. due to the spoil being
Because closed face TBMs have pressurised removed with the slurry in the
material in front of the main bulkhead there is outbound pipeline. Apart
always an additional backward force to be from reducing total traffic this
overcome in addition to the normal forces of improves the quality of air in
friction and the force to bury the cutters and the tunnel by the consequent
tow the back up sledges. reduction in diesel fumes.
In a 6m diameter TBM with 3 bar in the face There is also a consequent
this force will be 848 tonnes. In a 16m improvement in personnel
diameter TBM with 3 bar pressure the force safety due to the reduction in
will be 6,034 tonnes. A 10m diameter traffic.
machine with 13 bar in the face will have a The same logistical
backward force of 10,214 tonnes. If an STM is improvement does not apply
being used with a slurry in the face it is to EPBMs. However,
possible to have rapid changes in this force nowadays it has become
due, for instance, to a rapid loss of slurry. An common practice to use long
EPBM with a much more viscous material will tunnel conveyors which
not suffer the same rapid changes. So this is a provide the same
differentiator between the two types. These improvement in logistics
very large forces must be considered carefully together with the other
in the design of the pre-cast lining. consequential effects.
Torque is a factor where there is Logistics would not be a
considerable difference between an EPBM and factor in deciding which type
an STM. With an STM there is a very low Tunnel logistics with a slurry system of closed face TBM to use.
viscosity slurry in the excavation chamber. However the logistical effects
agent. Even with foam there is still a severe must be born in mind when
resistance for the cutterhead to overcome. An designed with sufficient torque. taking the decision.
approximate method for calculating the
required torque in tonne metres for each type Environmental Considerations Summary
is obtained from the simple empirical formula The main environmental consideration is the The main criteria in deciding between an STM
αD3 - where α is a coefficient relating to the effect of conditioners or bentonite slurry on and an EPBM are ground related. None of the
machine type and D is the TBM diameter in the spoil disposal areas. factors described above can be examined in
metres. For an EPBM α is between 2 and 3 STMs, since they were first introduced in the isolation. As stated the main criteria is the
and for an STM α is between 0.75 and 2. This 1960s, have always used a bentonitic slurry as information contained in the PSD curves. But
means that an EPBM of 6m diameter would a transportation medium, sometimes this information must be examined together
require a torque between 432 and 648 tonne supplemented by the use of polymers. An with the ground permeability and the
metres, whereas an STM of the same diameter EPBM today uses a surfactant foam usually hydrostatic head and the distribution of fines
would only require between 162 and 432 supplemented by polymers or bentonite. within the whole length of the tunnel. It is
tonne metres. For an EPBM the above These are occasionally supplemented by a re- essential to consider the ability of the chosen
calculations take account of the use of foam constituted material such as pulverised TBM to control settlement within acceptable
with its ability to reduce torque by up to 50%. limestone in areas of very few fines in the limits.
This is a considerable differentiator between ground. These different materials are a definite In coming to a decision the other factors to
the two types. However either type can be differentiator between the two types. For an consider are the presence of boulders, the
STM it is possible, if it requirements for adequate torque and thrust,
Table 1: Percentage Volume Loss (PVL) is necessary, to clean the effect on the environment and also the
CTRL EPBMs: 30.4km –average 0.6% out any residual tunnel logistics. But none of these additional
St Clair River EPBM: 1.87km <1% contaminants using a factors will have a strong influence on the
SMART Slurry: 9.7km <0.75% sand washing plant. choice.
Dockland Light Rail Slurry: <1.0% For an EPBM this is Having made the decision, thought must
Toronto Subway EPBM: 8.8km <0.8% not so easy. However, then be given to the various facilities that
Kowloon Southern Link EPBM: <0.5% most of the should be built into the TBM to ensure that it
Warrington Sewer Slurry:1.4km 1.37% conditioners are bio- is capable of dealing with the known
Heathrow T5 EPBM/CA: average 0.5% degradable and at the conditions and also possible unknown
Seattle CSO EPBM: 1.89km <0.5% worst it may be conditions that may arise.


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