Pipe Bursting In A Low Carbon World

13th In A Series
By David O'Sullivan, President, PW Trenchless Construction Inc. | May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5

In the past 10 years, the concept of climate change has become a big talking issue. There are two extreme camps that have become very polarized on either side taking the “pro or against” ideology. However like all issues, there is the silent majority still sitting in the middle.

But whatever your thoughts, the state and provincial governments in the United States and Canada are bringing in legislation that push lower carbon emissions in the next few years. There are agreements and initiatives that cover 39 U.S. states and all the Canadian provinces as well as six Mexican states that propose to contain and ultimately start to lower their carbon emissions, mostly before 2015.

The other potential benefit, to pipe bursting in particular, is the increase in flows we are seeing as a result of the increase of rainfall intensities resulting in a demand for larger pipes.

In 2006, California introduced the Global Warming Solutions Act AB32 and in 2008 the province of British Columbia introduced “The Climate Action Plan” and many other states and provinces in North America have introduced into law ways of reducing carbon emissions or paying penalties if you choose not to. Because trenchless technology, by its nature, causes much less ground to be excavated, we could see that there was a potential to offer a utility construction method that had a lower carbon footprint.

Advantage of trenchless
When one looks at the process of installing a utility, the biggest concern is the excavation and replacement of the overburden material above the pipe zone. The volume of the pipe is generally very small (often one percent of the overall excavation) so the question is how can we install that utility in some other way and avoid the excavation? By achieving this, major savings of energy can be made. It is on this concept we have developed the low carbon emission concept and the very strong relationship with all types of trenchless construction, a carbon calculator and a trenchless protocol.

In January 2012, California brought in a cap and trade system for the larger emitters of the state. Among those large emitters are 48 cities. Initial thoughts are that the carbon savings of trenchless programs could be offset against their other carbon emissions. As in British Columbia the whole program is still too fresh to be certain.

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