Pipe Bursting – Terminology And Lingo: What Does It All Mean?

By Matt Timberlake, President, Ted Berry Trenchless Technologies LLC | May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5

Pipe bursting, like many technologies today, has its own set of lingo or jargon which often times makes it difficult to understand for someone new to the industry or without a lot of direct experience with the technology.

Let’s start with the basics. The IPBA recognizes two primary types of pipe bursting: “static pipe bursting” and “pneumatic pipe bursting.” Over the years, there have been other forms or variations of pipe bursting. However, the technology has matured into these two primary methods.

Static pipe bursting is a method of replacing an existing pipe by exerting enough hydraulic force on a tool designed to cut or “burst” the pipe while pulling an “expander head” through the existing pipe path and expanding the surrounding soil to an outside diameter (O.D.) approximately 20 percent larger than the O.D. of a new pipe that is simultaneously being pulled into place.

Pneumatic pipe bursting accomplishes the same work but instead of requiring significant hydraulic forces, uses a much lower hydraulic force with a pneumatic hammer that assists the bursting tool and expander head while once again pulling the new pipe into place. Often times pneumatic pipe bursting will be called “dynamic” pipe bursting and static pipe bursting will be called “hydraulic” pipe bursting. Although these terms are not wrong, references like “hydraulic” pipe bursting can often be confused with an older method that used hydraulically operated heads and are no longer common. The industry typically uses “static” as the most common terminology.

Where confusion can often be generated is when manufacturers, contractors or engineers use their trade names for different parts of the system or the method itself, leaving many wondering “what does this all mean?” Some will call a pneumatic hammer a “Hammerhead” (a trade name), a “Grundomole” (again another trade name”, a “mole” (from the pneumatic piercing tool industry), and many names in between. Remember, in construction everyone likes to use their own jargon. For example, often “Bobcat” and “skid steer,” are incorrectly used interchangeably. The same is true with pipe bursting.

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