Despite being a method that results in fewer traffic detours, less harm to the environment and a smaller budget, trenchless construction still encounters several issues, but with CETT and similar organizations conducting deeper and more intricate research, those issues are beginning to shrink.
Established in 2012, CETT is a partnership between the University of Alberta, The Crossing Company, IVIS Inc. and the City of Edmonton with TELUS Communications joining in 2013. According to Dr. Alireza Bayat, CETT founder and director, the organization is in the final stage of agreements with four new partner companies and he expects them to be part of CETT in 2016.
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“CETT has grown to include TELUS Communications as an industry partner, which has provided an opportunity for CETT to research micro-trenching for fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) applications,” says Bayat. “CETT also established a membership structure to promote industry involvement with its research activities. Neptune Coring became the first member, and they joined us in researching pilot tube microtunneling.”
Leading CETT’s research activities are a group of seven graduate students – both PhD and MSc – three postdoctoral fellows and two undergraduate students.
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In terms of research, the students are heavily involved in horizontal directional drilling (HDD). The students are working on developing better filter cakes, HWTD testing on micro-trenching technology and estimating fluidic drag during HDD. Recent paper publications include:
• “Fluidic Drag Estimation in Horizontal Directional Drilling Based on Flow Equations”
• “General Method for Pullback Force Estimation for Polyethylene Pipes in Horizontal Directional Drilling”
• “Predicting Soil Expansion Force during Static Pipe Bursting Using Cavity Expansion Solutions”
• “Predicting the Plan Annular Pressure Using the Power Law Flow Model in Horizontal Directional Drilling”
The students are also active members of the University of Alberta’s North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) student chapter. At NASTT’s 2016 No-Dig Show in Dallas, Texas, the student chapter received accolades, as did one of its members.
CETT students Montazar Rabiei and Ali Rostami travelled in March to take part in the annual show. The duo accepted second place for best student chapter in North America, and Rabiei took home first place in the NASTT poster competition for his poster, “Simple Method for Estimating Fluidic Drag for Pipes Installed via Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD).”
More than 100 students attended this year’s NASTT No-Dig Show to present their chapter’s activities and posters. These chapters included top U.S. universities like Louisiana Tech and the University of Texas.
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This is not the first time CETT has received accolades on behalf of the University of Alberta. In 2012, CETT received first place for best student chapter in North America, and CETT students have continually placed first and second in NASTT’s yearly poster and CCTV competitions. Bayat is a NASTT Trent Ralston Young Trenchless Achievement Award winner for 2015. Bayat received the award at NASTT’s 2015 No-Dig Show in Denver.
“This year’s win was a collective effort,” Bayat says. “Our students and industry partners have pulled together and accomplished some very important work this year. No-Dig is a unique opportunity to show the trenchless industry what our students are capable of.
“The fact that we can participate in top-level shows and have our work acknowledged by industry experts around the world shows the level of passion and commitment our students have for the trenchless industry,” Bayat says.
This year’s win at No-Dig is another success to add to CETT’s already impressive list of achievements, but the story will not end there. CETT already has its sights set on NASTT’s 2017 No-Dig Show, along with a nonstop stream of grant-funded research, academic papers, groundbreaking experiments and educational courses geared towards the public.
What role does CETT and its NASTT student chapter play in helping to grow the industry? In addition to research, it is about public awareness Bayat says.
“We rarely know what’s happening beneath our city streets, much less the issues we might encounter when we try to excavate them. CETT and NASTT seek to educate the public so that more sustainable excavation techniques can be used where appropriate,” he says. “CETT and NASTT are also dedicated to training future engineers, designers, owners, etc. in trenchless technology so the industry can have the most skilled workforce available.”
For its public outreach and education efforts, CETT will host a Pipeline Condition Assessment workshop in Edmonton in October and the organization is already in the planning stages for its fifth annual Planning and Design of Horizontal Directional Drilling Projects short course for May 2017. For more information on either of these events, visit cett.ualberta.ca.
Looking at the overall trenchless market in western Canada, Bayat sees much potential for growth in the industry and at CETT because of Edmonton’s position as a leading region for trenchless construction in North America.
“Although Edmonton is a huge oil and gas city, it has seen less of an impact from the downturn in oil and gas than places like Calgary. This is partially due to Edmonton being the capital of trenchless technology,” Bayat says. “TELUS Communications announced in April 2016 that it was committed to spending $4.5 billion in fibre-optic lines in Alberta over the next four years. This investment is expected to create 1,500 jobs and includes a $1 billion pledge to Edmonton that will be split between civil engineering and fibre-optic technology. With projects like these, Edmonton’s economy is more stable than many cities because of its growing trenchless industry.”
On the fibre front, CETT intends to conduct deeper research in FTTH applications to find new ways Canada can evolve from using traditional copper networks to fibre-optic networks. Students are also researching TBM clogging potential, developing a pilot tube microtunneling guideline and design tool for the City of Edmonton and investigating trenchless construction problems specific to cold-climate regions like Canada.
“CETT has just finished up its first five years. Now we’re planning for the next five years,” says Bayat. “But no matter what we do, research and education will always be at the heart of it.”