No Dig!

By Neil van Rooyen, introduction by Tarren Bolton

In Part 1 of “Unlocking economic growth in South Africa using trenchless technology”, Neil van Rooyen focuses on how trenchless technology is the veritable evolution of the installation of buried pipeline infrastructure, and how this technological innovation is a major force in economic growth. 

TrenchlessIntroTrenchless technology for pipeline installation, rehabilitation, and repair, efficiently alleviates service delivery issues associated with deteriorating pipeline infrastructure.
Image credit: Stephl Engineering

International No-Dig South Africa is a well-established forum for international and local communities to meet, exchange ideas, and review the very latest products and services available for the installation and refurbishment of underground utilities.

The 36th No-Dig International Conference 2018, which was held in Cape Town on 8 and 9 October, showcased international machinery and products and offered suppliers an opportunity to market their products at this highly focused event, which regularly attracts visitors from across the world.

Water, Sewage & Effluent is running a two-part series on a paper titled “Unlocking economic growth in South Africa using trenchless technology”, authored by Neil van Rooyen, director at Chrysalis Projects. In his paper, the outline of which was delivered by Van Rooyen in his keynote address at the conference, he focuses on how trenchless technology for pipeline installation, rehabilitation, and repair can rapidly and efficiently alleviate the service delivery issues associated with deteriorating pipeline infrastructure. Van Rooyen feels that such an initiative would require significant engagement between local government and private business — and his paper serves as a catalyst to facilitate such dialogue.

We bring you the first part of Van Rooyen’s paper in this issue — the research paper is the result of a call for papers from authors invited to submit proposals on the latest innovations in trenchless technologies. It is a holistic paper, and as such, it is published in its original format, and cannot be edited.

Part 2 of “Unlocking economic growth in South Africa using trenchless technology” will be published in the January/February 2019 edition of Water, Sewage & Effluent.


Image credit: trenchlessinternational.com

Part 1 
UNLOCKING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN SOUTH AFRICA USING TRENCHLESS TECHNOLOGY

Neil van Rooyen1

1 Co-opted board member of Southern African Society for Trenchless Technology (SASTT), independent construction project manager

ABSTRACT 
Trenchless technology, in particular the pipe bursting technique, is an instrument which can be used to unlock economic opportunities for South Africa. The use of trenchless technology for pipeline installation, rehabilitation and repair can rapidly and efficiently alleviate the service delivery issues associated with deteriorating pipeline infrastructure. Declining economic ratings and statistical indicators have compelled the government to prioritize employment creation and to stimulate economic growth. In contrast to this, ongoing deterioration of ageing infrastructure causes service disruption and ultimately results in service delivery protests. Sinkholes, overflowing sewers and these protests then cause further disruption to the country’s economic activity. This paper explores the potential implications of changing the spending priorities of the government by re-distributing funding to more innovative construction methods such as trenchless technology, thereby unlocking the potential economic prosperity. This would also alleviate the rapid deterioration of pipeline infrastructure along with the associated negative repercussions. Such an initiative would require significant engagement between local government and private business. This paper serves as a catalyst to facilitate such dialogue.

1. Introduction
South Africa is considered the gateway to Africa, representing an ideal platform for its economic growth and prosperity. However, the country is in the midst of several critical challenges, which at present, prevents it from achieving this prosperity. New solutions to old problems are needed in order to turn the situation around.

There are several economic sectors which drive the South African economy. This paper focuses exclusively on the construction sector which accounts for approximately 3.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 1

Along with trending issues such as service delivery and infrastructure development, change within this sector is influential in altering the trajectory of the country’s economic future. This paper specifically explores the use of trenchless technology (TT) and in particular pipe bursting, as a catalyst to unlock the growth potential in the South African economy.

1.1 What is trenchless technology?
According to the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT): “Trenchless Technology involves the installation, replacement or renewal of underground utilities with minimum excavation and surface disruption”. This innovative approach is at the forefront of pipeline construction as it is the veritable evolution of the installation of buried pipeline infrastructure. It is now possible to upgrade underground pipelines more efficiently using TT than the conventional way of digging trenches.

Technological innovation has always been considered a major force in economic growth. In the most fundamental sense, there are only two ways of increasing the output of the economy:

  • Increasing the number of inputs that go into the productive process, or
  • Finding new ways in which to get more output from the same number of inputs (Rosenberg, 2004).

The notion of innovation being the forerunner of economic growth seems accurate for the trenchless sector as seven out of the ten largest ISTT affiliate societies feature within the top ten of the world’s largest economies, including the USA, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Canada.

It is therefore unsurprising that this “no-dig” technology has become ubiquitous throughout these countries. Although their pipeline infrastructure is well developed, it is also of the oldest in the world. The focus is on rehabilitating, repairing and installing new pipelines to keep pace with development and growth, but doing so more efficiently and with minimal disruption to their economies, communities and the environment.

1.2 The South African story
At present, South Africa’s economic outlook remains precarious. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrunk by 2.2% within the first quarter of 2018 (Stats SA). Although the country’s GDP is influenced by external factors such as currency strength and climate change (as seen by the drought conditions in the Western Cape which affects agricultural output), several of the underperforming sectors are influenced by internal constraints and inherent challenges facing government.

The GDP performance points toward systemic issues within the country. A series of underperforming elements combine and cascade into a continued cycle of deficit which drives further economic underperformance. Economists refer to this as a poverty trap as illustrated in Figure 1 and evidenced by current statistical trends.

Figure1MMFigure 1: SA economy's underperformance cycle

1.3 South Africa’s declining economic growth
Increased attention from ratings agencies and the recent downgrades have emphasized the challenges South Africa faces. Political uncertainty and policy direction are often listed as prominent reasons for negative speculation. South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate was calculated at 0.2% in July 2015 and decreased to -2.2% in March 2018 2.

1.4 Declining business confidence 
With rising costs of doing business, protest disruptions and infrastructure failure (water and electricity supply etc.), businesses have been reluctant or unable to invest and expand. South Africa’s Business Confidence Index rose to above 50 index points in 2013 and decreased to just below 40 index points in 2018 3.

1.5   Rising unemployment
With the business sector under pressure, inevitable job losses follow. South Africa’s unemployment rate was 25% in 2013 and has steadily risen to above 27% in 2018[4].

1.6 Major service delivery protests by year (2005 – 30th June 2018)
Failing infrastructure has not only affected businesses, citizens have turned to civil unrest and protest action in response to a lack of service delivery. In 2007, 32 major service delivery protests were recorded in South Africa. This peaked at 191 protests per year in 2014 and is currently at 144 protests for 2018[5]. The resultant effect of such poor economic performance is an increase in social inequality.

“While poverty and unemployment are major problems, it is the extreme inequality in South Africa that stands in the way of achieving the national consensus needed to start winning the battle against our massive social problems. It is inequality that generates the anger and deepest divisions that prevent us from becoming a nation. It is probably the most important factor driving social disorder and violent deviant behaviour.” (Van Zyl, 2018).

1.7 South Africa’s current strategy
At the heart of the current strategy is the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030. This 20-year plan is aimed at eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. Of the 13 key challenges listed in a draft diagnostic document covering the plan, creating employment, expanding infrastructure and transitioning to a low-carbon economy, feature highly on this list. According to statistical data in 2018, 8 years into this plan and with only 60% of the deadline remaining, the likelihood of success is unlikely.

1.8 A change in thinking is required
Although the NDP 2030 is specific and clear, the current constraints and resources within government are not geared towards implementing this noteworthy plan en masse. Specifically, with regards to pipeline infrastructure, the wholesale roll-out of trenchless technology is an ideal instrument for achieving several of the NDP 2030’s objectives.

 2. The trenchless model
Since underground infrastructure underpins all development, every South African living in a formalized area is affected and impacted by our sewer, water supply, stormwater, telecoms and other buried networks. Furthermore, within the informal settlements growing around the major population centers, the need for new pipeline networks to service these semi-permanent residential areas are long overdue.

The pipeline reticulation network in South Africa is estimated at over 197 000 km. With an average water loss rate of 37%, the water supply pipeline networks are in need of urgent attention. According to: The State of Basic Service Delivery in South Africa report (Table 6.8), only 63% of South African households experience a ‘full’ sanitation service. The rest of the 6-million households receive a sanitation service which is described as: none, minimal, basic or intermediate.

2.1 Creating employment and livelihood
Although government spending on these underground assets has not kept pace with the rate of deterioration and failure, the focus of the spending has been on the open excavation approach as these are seen as opportunities to create short-term employment for local inhabitants. Although short-term employment is being generated by using open excavation construction, this does not offer a meaningful and efficient solution to the problem of ageing, deteriorating infrastructure. There is little difference between the size of the workforce deployed when comparing open excavation with trenchless methods. More importantly however, is that there is a significant increase in output when using trenchless methods. This translates into more efficient service delivery with greater value for money.

Particularly for water and sewer pipeline upgrades (replacement of old asbestos cement water mains, damaged and cracked clay sewer pipelines), the trenchless method of pipe bursting is a direct alternative to conventional open-cut installation. This also offers the opportunity for the upsizing of pipelines with insufficient capacity.

Table 1: Typical labour requirement for 100 m of water pipe replacement in an urban area

No.

Activity

Pipe Bursting

Open-cut Excavation

Skilled

Unskilled

Skilled

Unskilled

1

Traffic Accommodation

 

3

 

3

2

HDPE Welding

1

2

   

3

Excavation & Backfilling

1

10

1

12

4

By-pass Piping

4

     

5

Pipe Installation

4

2

3

1

6

Tie-in/Plumbing Work

4

 

4

 

7

Reinstatement & Clean-up

2

4

1

12

   

16

21

9

28

 

Total

37

37


2.2 Common misconceptions
When decision makers review the pipeline replacement options, comparing conventional open-cut excavation and trenchless methods, their decisions are influenced by the notion that open-cut excavation will invariably create more employment for local job seekers. Unfortunately, several factors are omitted when considering these options:

  • When undertaking any conventional excavation work, contractors will utilise the most efficient means possible i.e. mechanical excavation and not manual labour. Labour-intensive excavation is only feasible for very shallow trenches in unpaved areas as is the case for optic fibre ducting installations along the road verges in urbanised areas.
  • For any excavations deeper than 1m (which includes most infrastructure pipelines), several safety measures such as lateral support or trench shoring is mandatory in accordance to the country’s health and safety regulations to safeguard the workers against trench collapses. The use of shoring increases the overall cost of the installation and reduces productivity due to the constant installation and removal of the shoring. Accordingly, the objective is to reduce the length of open excavation thereby reducing the amount of shoring required. Thus, any type of trenchless application is already more efficient than the conventional open-cut excavation approach.
  • In present day South Africa, the need for service delivery is now more urgent than ever before. Entire areas require complete pipeline replacement. For a conventional open-cut excavation project, the logistics required, in conjunction with the interruption created during the installation process, makes the roll-out of large-scale projects impractical. With trenchless methods, interruption to local road users, inhabitants, businesses and the environment are significantly reduced. Large-scale projects are ideal for trenchless applications.
  • The trenchless industry is a relatively small component of the civil engineering sector. The implementation of trenchless construction methods creates a significant opportunity for this sector to grow and result in direct and indirect jobs as well as commercial opportunities for new entrants into the construction sector (SMMEs).

 2.3 Rand value
Within the Gauteng region, for every R1-million spent on pipe replacement using 160mm-diameter class 16 HDPE water pipe (inclusive of fittings and reinstatement), approximately 1 000m can be replaced using open-cut methods in comparison to pipe-bursting, where approximately 1 300m can be replaced. Both methods employ approximately 60 people on an ongoing basis for the duration of the project. Thus, the number of employment opportunities created by trenchless and open-cut methods are similar, but the increased efficiency yields approximately 30% more pipe in the ground due to time and cost savings.

Figure 2 shows the ratio of pipe bursting as the base cost when compared to open-cut excavation with shoring and excluding shoring. In some instances, the cost of conventional open-cut excavation with shoring is almost 2.7 times more expensive than the pipe bursting alternative. A similar comparison was done for sewer pipeline installations as given in Table 2, which excludes preliminary and general costs.

Fig2 MM800Figure 2: Cost of pipe bursting (trenchless) vs open-cut excavation for water mains, 100mm diameter6.

Table 2: Comparative cost of pipe bursting and open-cut excavation for sewers7

METHOD

PIPE DIAMETER

CLASS

MATERIAL

P.O.S

RESERVE

ROAD

Nom

OD

ID

*

*

*

mm

mm

mm

R/m

R/m

R/m

Open-cut

160

160

151

34

uPVC

482

609

846

Pipe Bursting

160

160

150

4

HDPE

368

400

458

Cost Saving

         

24%

34%

46%

*60m manhole to manhole length at 1.5m depth, including excavation, and reinstatements

Excludes P&Gs, lateral connections, MH benching repairs. Rates being exclusive of VAT

P.O.S: Public open space, parks, open areas or undeveloped land.   Reserve: Road reserve, unpaved sidewalks and paved driveways.   Road: Road surface, tarred

By summarising and scoring the various decision-making objectives for both a pipe bursting and open-cut option, Table 3 was compiled.

Table 3: Comparative scoring of pipe bursting versus open-cut excavations for water mains

COMPARATIVE SUMMARY FOR 100m OF 110mm DIA WATER PIPE REPLACEMENT - URBAN AREA

No.

Performance Aspect

Quantity

Scoring (Yes - 1; No - 0)

Pipe Bursting

Open-cut

Pipe Bursting

Open-cut

1

Total labour employed

37

37

1

1

2

Skilled labour

14

10

1

0

3

Cost per metre (R) (excl shoring)

533

894

1

0

4

Excavation vol (m3)

15,4

99

1

0

5

Excavation area (m2)

14

90

1

0

6

Typical duration (days)

7

7

1

1

     

Total

6

2

The basic analysis given in these tables clearly reveals that pipe bursting is a better option than the conventional open-cut excavation approach whether for water or sewer mains. In fact, the replacement of sewers by trenchless methods is even more favourable due to the inherent health and safety risks of deep excavations such as unstable ground, the proximity to existing structures and other complications in urban areas.

REFERENCES


About the SASTT

ISTT logoImage credit: tunnelingonline.com

The South African Society for Trenchless Technology (SASTT) is celebrating 21 years since its formation.

It has an active membership who has a collective dedication to the promotion of trenchless technology. The Society is currently developing SASTT standard specifications for trenchless technology.

It continues active dialogue with professional organisations such as IMIESA and is currently making approaches to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to encourage them to introduce trenchless technology as one of the designated categories of specialist work to raise the professionalism of contractors working in the marketplace.


NVR Profile PicNEWImage credit: Neil Van Rooyen

About the author

Neil van Rooyen has over 15 years’ experience in civil engineering construction and has spent over 10 of those years in the trenchless industry. He is the previous director of a trenchless technology contractor and served as a project manager for large infrastructure projects in Mauritius for two years. Van Rooyen is the past treasurer for the Southern African Society for Trenchless Technology (SASTT), and currently serves as a board member for SASTT. He is co-founder of Chrysalis Projects — a project management company intent on supporting emerging contractors. Van Rooyen holds a BTech degree in Civil Engineering from CPUT.


 

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