Dulce Simoes Jet Grouting, Pipe Jacking

Keller’s Franki Africa has developed a reputation for being able to deliver cost effective geotechnical solutions using a wide range of appropriate technologies in a host of different, and often challenging, ground conditions. “We have worked in Southern Africa for many decades and have a profound understanding of the different soil conditions and the optimal geotechnical solutions for them,” says Franki’s Trenchless Technology Manager, Byron Field.

He adds that this knowledge often enables the company to be proactive in solving problems that, on the face of it, sometimes seem insoluble. “The Drakenstein Municipality’s Bulk Sewer Pipeline is an excellent example of this,” says Field.

The Challenge     

The path of the sewer pipeline – which is in the Paarl, Western Cape area – includes a ±105m stretch across Arboretum Rd and the N1 highway followed by a ±110m section which runs parallel to the Boschenmeer Golf Estate boundary wall at a depth of between -6m and -8m.

According to Field, the main challenge was the relatively unstable ground conditions, which comprised sands from 0 to -4m with loose cobbles and boulders from -4 to -8m and a very high water table.

He adds that SANRAL also had strict wayleave conditions prohibiting the DM from conducting works beneath the national highway unless they were able to prove that every conceivable precaution was taken to protect the highway and to ensure uninterrupted use.

It was obvious that a “trenchless” methodology, like pipejacking, was required in order for the new sewer to run under the roads without interrupting traffic. But, also, the depth of the pipeline and its proximity to the Boschenmeer Golf Estate boundary wall made open excavation unpractical in this area.

The ground conditions were analysed and a new challenge was encountered! Field explains: “Firstly, the level of the sewer passed directly through the cobble layer between -4m to -8m and when pipejacking through this type of ground it is virtually impossible to prevent collapse of the cobbles during excavation. Secondly, the high water table tends to draw fines from the surrounding ground towards the jacking shield. Both of these things could have led to over-excavation resulting in ground level settlement,” he says.

 Franki’s Proactive Proposal

Franki then approached the Drakenstein Municipality with a proposal to treat the ground beneath Arboretum Rd and the N1, as well as alongside the Boschenmeer golf estate boundary wall.

The proposal entailed Jet Grouting – which involves the mixing and partial replacement of the in-situ soil with cement slurry – to consolidate the in-situ ground condition along the sewer centreline and between the depths of -4 to -9m and then installing a pipejack through the treated ground. “The treatment of the ground would prevent collapse of the sand and cobbles during pipejack excavation and would reduce the ingress of water to manageable levels,” Field says.

He adds that Jet Grouting was Franki’s preferred method of treatment as high pressure jetting can be used to consolidate in-situ ground at exact levels and can provide up to 2.5m diameter columns with only an 80mm drill stem.

The municipality’s design team found the proposed solution acceptable, included it in a tender document for this phase of the works and, in August 2016, Franki was appointed by the main contractor, Vakala Construction, to carry out the specialist geotechnical works as per their envisioned specification.

The Result

Field says that the result could not have been better. “The Jet Grouting work went according to plan and was carried out with zero impact on traffic. In addition, once the Jet Grouting was completed and the site was cleared, there was no remaining evidence at ground level that the ground beneath had been treated,” he says.

As for the pipejacking Field says the entire operation went smoothly with the ground treatment “working beyond even our highest expectations”

The sub-contract work was completed by Franki on time (February 2017) and on budget.

Franki – more than just piles

Franki is renowned for its geotechnical solutions using an array of different piles including driven tube piles, precast piles, auger piles, full displacement screwpiles, rotapiles, micropiles, the famous Frankipile (driven cast-in-situ pile) and many more. It is also well-known for its soil improvement systems including dynamic compaction, deep soil mixing, accelerated consolidation and of course Jet Grouting as discussed above.

Franki’s skills in trenchless technology are just as strong and for more than 30 years it has successfully provided pipe-jacking and other trenchless technologies – augering, thrust boring and large diameter case boring – to a wide range of clients in Southern Africa.

Trenchless technology is a “family” of methods, materials, and equipment capable of being used for the installation, replacement or rehabilitation of existing underground infrastructure with minimal disruption to surface traffic, business, and other activities. It is, therefore, often the most cost-effective solution.

Pipejacking, an integral part of this “family”, is a technique for installing underground pipelines, ducts and culverts. Powerful hydraulic jacks are used to push specially designed pipes through the ground behind a shield at the same time as excavation is taking place within the shield. The method provides a flexible, structural, watertight, finished pipeline as the tunnel is excavated.


By being part of the Keller Group, Franki’s leadership in the Geotechnical space in Southern Africa has been significantly enhanced.  Keller is the world’s largest independent geotechnical engineering contractor, giving Franki significant advantages including access to a wide range of innovative technologies – including trenchless technologies – and in the areas of finance for future growth, new state-of the-art machinery and, of course, a wealth of geotechnical intellectual property and experience.

Article published in the SAICE Civil Engineering Magazine – April 2017