Hard Rock Tunneling

The Earth Mechanics Institute (EMI) at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has been performing basic and applied research and engineering for all types of excavation systems for more than 30 years. The body of knowledge acquired over this time period has allowed EMI to develop methods, which have been verified by field data, to analyze the performance of tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for hard rock tunneling.

Current testing, design, and engineering programs for hard rock tunneling:

  • Physical Property Testing
  • Borehole Evaluation/Analysis
  • Rock Mass Classifications
  • Full Scale Cutter and Cutterhead Laboratory Testing for preferred cutter selection, optimum cutting geometry and machine specifications (thrust and power)
  • Selection of Machine Type
  • Cutterhead Layout and Balancing for Production Optimization evaluated by proven computer models
  • Performance Predictions for penetration rates, system utilization, advance rates
  • Cutter Cost Estimates
  • Overall Project Costs and Completion Schedules

Standard Physical Property Tests for Hard Rock Tunneling :

Field Data Collection and Machine Data Logger Analysis for Hard Rock Tunneling:

Most of the today’s modern TBM have a PLC system, which is an on-board data acquisition system in order to record all the machine parameters. The type and amount of data needs to be recorded depends on machine type and ground conditions. This type of information is very vital how to define the behavior and performance of the machine in varying rock conditions. EMI analyzes machine data logger from various TBM project by using customized Excel macro programs developed at the Institute.

More info on data logger analysis

Hard Rock Tunneling Projects:

These are some of the selected hard rock TBM projects that EMI got involved in different phases of each project.


Queens Water Tunnel #3, Stage #2 (Queens, New York City, USA)


Manapouri Second Tailrace Tunnel (Manapouri, New Zealand)


Chattahoochee Tunnel (Atlanta, Georgia, USA)


Lotschberg Tunnel (Switzerland)


Gotthard Base Tunnel

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Last Updated: 03/16/2018 14:41:45