It is well known that infrastructure is the backbone of modern civilization. Specifically, underground infrastructure underpins human societal health and its economic potential. As such, sustainable underground infrastructure is essential to a viable society.

With this in mind, The Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) obtained a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to organize a workshop on “Trenchless Technology and Critical Underground Infrastructure Issues,” at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan (CUG). Additional funding for this workshop was provided through the College of Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UTA. Additional support was provided through the host university, China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China.

At the event, organizers also announced the formation of the workshop, and researchers from the United States and China discussed and presented underground infrastructure issues important to both nations. The event was held Oct. 9-10, and afterward, U.S. and Chinese organizers announced the formation of a new China-U.S. Joint Center for Trenchless Research and Development (CTRD).

Snapshot of China
With China’s rapidly growing economy and densely populated urban areas, there is a great need for trenchless and other underground infrastructure technologies. With vast, large-scale construction projects and an ever-increasing population, China is conscious of utilizing construction methods that are compatible with societal needs. Driven by an increased demand for underground pipeline installation throughout the nation, China has made major progress in underground pipeline construction technology during the past 10 years.

More than 200 contractors are presently engaged in trenchless construction, using more than 2,000 horizontal directional drilling (HDD) machines, approximately 700 of which have been introduced in the last year. It is significant that the largest HDD rig in the world is now in China. Great strides have been made in related education, research and new product development. Many challenging projects — with respect to complexity, pipe diameter and distance — have been successfully accomplished.

In the next decade, the eyes of the world will be on China. The Summer Olympics are coming to its capital city of Beijing in 2008, the World Expo descends on Shanghai in 2010 and the Asian Games are in Guangzhou in 2010. These three major international events and other huge projects, such as the west-to-east gas project and long distance oil pipeline projects, will continue or accelerate the construction frenzy that the country is experiencing. However, despite the advances in the application of trenchless technology in the past decade, trenchless methods presently account for less than 7 percent of the present construction activities. China, therefore, represents potentially the largest and fastest growing worldwide market for the application and further development of trenchless technology and underground infrastructure technologies.

Thus, collaboration between the United States and China allows a unique opportunity to apply and adapt the latest pipeline construction methods and related underground technologies, on a broad scale, to local conditions throughout China.

Dr. Mohammad Najafi, a professor at the University of Texas-Arlington and the director of the Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education (CUIRE), the principal investigator for the project, invited a delegation of U.S. professors and industry experts to travel to Wuhan for the workshop and gave presentations on their areas of expertise. Dr. Tom Iseley (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis), Dr. Ray Sterling (Louisiana Tech), Dr. Sanjiv Gokhale (Vanderbilt University), Dr. Henry Liu (professor emeritus, University of Missouri-Columbia) and Dr. Larry Slavin (OPCS) served as co-investigators. Drs. Baosong Ma, Huiming Tang and Guosheng Jiang served as principal investigator and co-principal investigators, respectively, representing China University of Geosciences.

Other U.S. participants in the workshop were Shah Rahman (Fyfe Co. LLC), Jim Rush (editor of Trenchless Technology), Dr. Mark Hastak (Purdue University), Dr. Rayman Mohamed (Wayne State University), Dr. Anil Misra (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Dr. Jey K. Jeyapalan (consultant), Lembit Maimets (Link-Pipe) and Pamela Salvador (a graduate student, UTA’s Construction Engineering and Management Area of Civil Engineering and an engineer with Halff Associates Inc.).
At the workshop, researchers reviewed state-of-the-art trenchless technologies, cured-in-place pipe, directional drilling, geotechnical investigations, freight pipelines, pipeline assessment, the relationship of underground infrastructure in China and the United States, urban planning, risk assessment and asset management.

Research Center
As an extension of the workshop, the development of the China-U.S. Joint Center for Trenchless R&D will foster continued dialogue and technology transfer between the two countries. Dr. Tang, vice president of the China University of Geosciences, will serve as director. Dr. Ma will serve as vice director, while Drs. Sterling, Iseley and Najafi will serve as co-directors and guest professors of CUG.
“We will work closely with the industry, government agencies and professional and trade associations to ensure that the research and educational topics within the center are relevant and essential to the future of underground infrastructure,” Dr. Ma said.

The partners will work on areas including: carrying out joint research and continuing education programs; organizing conferences, short courses and meetings on research issues; receiving undergraduate students of the partner institutions for study and research; and exchange information pertaining to developments in teaching and research.

The center is committed to excellence in research and dedicated to providing programs that will increase awareness of infrastructure technologies and methodologies.

The idea for the center came about as the result of Dr. Ma studying as a visiting scholar at CUIRE at the University of Texas-Arlington. Following Dr. Ma’s visit, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between The University of Texas-Arlington (UTA), China University of Geosciences (CUG) in Wuhan and Beijing Institute of Exploration Engineering (BIEE) was signed.

The purposes of the cooperation between UTA, CUG/Wuhan and BIEE are to promote interest in the teaching and research activities of the respective institutions and to deepen the understanding of the economic, cultural and social issues environment of the respective institutions. “When I worked with Dr. Najafi at the Center for Underground Infrastructure Research and Education, we talked about the huge market in China and came up with the idea of setting up a similar Center in close ties with CUIRE in China,” Dr. Ma said. “Later, the China University of Geosciences embraced the idea.” As a result of joint efforts, it is planned that Dr. Ma will serve as a co-director of CUIRE and coordinate the U.S.-China activities “When I visited [CUIRE] while working with Dr, Najafi, I got the idea to set up the China-U.S. Joint Center,” Dr. Ma said. “We got the strong support of Dr. Najafi, Dr. Sterling of the Trenchless Technology Center and from within the China University of Geosciences.

“U.S. researchers have more advanced knowledge of trenchless technology for underground pipeline construction, repair and renewal, but in China we have a huge potential market for the application of trenchless technologies. If the U.S. and Chinese researchers can collaborate, it will be a win-win situation,” Dr.Ma said.

“It is planned that the results of U.S.-China Workshop will be presented at three U.S. universities, a workshop in conjunction with ASCE International Pipeline Conference to be held July 2008 in Atlanta and through several conference and journal papers,” Dr. Najafi said.

For more information contact Dr. Najafi at or (817) 272-0507.

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