There are a lot of complexities behind optimising tunnel boring projects, but overall there is a simple recipe for ensuring that TBM machines are working efficiently and water consumption is minimised; choosing the right products and using them as they were intended.

Normet is dedicated to driving innovative technology and sustainability in the mining industry, and with a combination of its continuous research and development to improve products, along with its onsite assistance, Normet helps customers to optimise their TBM projects.

spoke with Robin Swift, Normet’s TBM projects manager, to find out more.

“On the R&D side of things, we have to make sure that our products are efficient, but we also understand that using the additive correctly onsite will have a big impact on water consumption,” Swift explains. “It’s all well and good having a really good product, but if they’re not using it as intended to really optimise the performance and versatility of the soil conditioning system, then it becomes a price battle for us, and that’s not good for anyone. Entering a price competition just drives market rates down.”

To help customers get the most of these products, Normet offers onsite support. Ensuring efficiency includes everything from making sure that the working chamber is filled properly to modifying soil conditions with water so that foam additives react better.

Normet’s research and development team recently updated its soil conditioner range, which further reduces TBM cutterhead torque, cutterhead tool and screw wear, and improves muck flow characteristics, as well as launching its portfolio of next-generation Tail Sealants. The process for developing a comprehensive range of tail sealants came with a host of challenges, especially as a field that is very specialised for specific applications.

According to swift: “Other than the main bearing greases, a lot of these products aren’t following standards for testing because it’s a very niche product line, so a lot of the work we do is developing testing for replicating how the products will work on the machine.”

For tail sealant, you have quite a few requirements. It has to be pumpable, it has to be compressible, it needs to be able to create a seal with the wire brushes, it needs to have good anti-washout properties, and it needs to be biodegradable. The issue with this is that if you create a great anti-washout product, the chances are it’s going to have terrible pumpability properties. A lot of what we’re asking for in this product is almost counter intuitive, so it’s like a balancing act to try to get it right.”

Tunnel boring projects simply aren’t possible without chemicals, so Normet offers an extensive portfolio of TBM products, including its TamSoil (soil conditioning foams and polymers), TamSeal tail sealants and TamGrease ranges.

From development through to assisting with setup and executing the project, Normet supports tunnel boring customers from start to finish.  For more information about Normet’s speciality chemicals for TBM tunnelling, or to purchase TBM technology for your site, visit their website.