EPB tunneling challenges in bouldery ground: a new experience on the Tabriz metro line 1, Iran
Underground construction of the Tabriz metro line 1 involved boring twin tunnels with two earth pressure balance machines in alluvial deposits. Although this type of machine is recommended for excavation in fine soils, its performance was evaluated in this project where part of the ground consists of alluvial deposits with particle size ranging from silt to boulder and even rock blocks. It was found that the tunnel boring machine (TBM) performance was highly reduced due to the variation in ground conditions. Many types of problem were observed during the excavation in coarse grained alluvial deposits including high cutter-head torque, excessive wear of tools, breaking of TBM parts and ground instabilities in the form of large settlement and ground collapse. A trial effort was implanted to stabilize the overburden ground by the injection of cement grout, but this proved to be unsuccessful. In both cases, the excavation operation was delayed. With the experience gained from the excavation of the first tunnel and use of foam with a high foam expansion ratio as a soil conditioner in closed mode, the performance of the TBM in the second tunnel improved.