The Benefits of Trenchless Technology to the Utility Industry in Asia

By Tabitha Mishra
Published: July 13, 2020 | Last updated: July 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

The utility industry in Asia is perfectly suited to benefit from all the advantages trenchless technology offers.

Asia is a large continent and varies vastly in terms of the economic status of the countries within it. In the East, Japan, and Israel on the edge of Western Asia are considered to be among the world’s most economically developed countries. Some countries like Afghanistan and Nepal are very low on the economic scale. China and India are among the countries with the highest GDP in the world.


Asian countries are quickly developing, making them a very lucrative playground for the world market to bring in new technology. Trenchless technology is one such technology that is rapidly catching on in the Asian market and rightly so. The lack of space in urbanized cities has left a little place to dig and repair. (Read: Trenchless Technology in India: An Ever Growing Population Needs Trenchless Innovation.)

Open Trenching and Associated Issues

In many developing countries it's not rare to spot dug-up roads with pipe piled alongside. While it has always been the accepted way of getting repairs done, conventional trench construction can't be justified when better methods are available.


Even when open trenching was the only option, the associated issues were always a problem. With increasing industrialization, environmental pollution has also become a matter of concern. The amount of time and effort associated with trenching and repairing is phenomenal when compared with the ease of trenchless technology. (Read: The True Cost of Trenchless vs Open Sewer Repair.)

Some problems associated with open trenching:

  • It takes up a substantial portion of the road leading to traffic jams.
  • Since repair using open trenching usually takes several days, the open trench becomes a hazard for vehicles, pedestrians, and animals.
  • It runs the risk of damaging other underground utility lines such as electric lines, water lines, sewer lines, gas lines, and telephone lines, leading to disruption of services.
  • Open trenches left for too long lead to the accumulation of water, attracting vermin and leading to the breeding of disease-causing mosquitoes.
  • Leakage from sewer networks damaged during open trenching can seep into water pipelines, contaminating water supply to whole communities.
  • Open trenching for repairing sewer lines can expose workers to contaminated water that can cause serious health issues.
  • Hitting electric lines can lead to power outages and risk to workers.
  • Noise and dust pollution from machinery can cause disturbance to nearby homes and businesses.
  • About 70% of the cost associated with open cut replacement is taken up by excavation and replacement of the dug up ground.
  • Social inconvenience costs include loss of revenue due to lost business hours and increased fuel consumption due to traffic delays.

Benefitting from Trenchless Technology

Urbanization and industrialization bring people from all over the country to metropolitan centers. The number of people flowing into Asian cities on a daily basis tests the municipality to its limits, a limit that these cities were not built to carry.

However; with trenchless technology, it is now possible to upgrade these utility networks to improve efficiency without having to dig up and replace them entirely. (Read: Why Replace Conventional Trenching With Trenchless Technology?)

For cities to function and be economically prosperous, they should have a good supply network. The lifeline of these cities which is the utility network beneath them needs to be in working condition at all times. This network includes water and sewer lines, electricity lines, telecommunication lines, and gas lines.


When the supply from these lines works as it should, the city functions well. When the lines are broken or interrupted, trouble occurs. Overflow of sewer lines is a common problem seen in many cities, the main cause being overload from a population the system was not designed to handle. The health risks this poses to such packed cities can't be overstated. Another common problem in cities is power outages which impact businesses and keep workers from operating at their full potential.

Trenchless — The Right Solution

Trenchless technology has made its way into most countries in Asia as it has around the globe. As companies become aware of the opportunity it presents and the benefits it offers, trenchless technology has been adopted.

While at face value the cost of trenchless installation and repair may seem higher, the long term benefits and profits outweigh the initial cost. (Read: Studies Claim the Trenchless Construction Cost Comparison is Massive.) Trenchless technology has the perfect solution to the problems faced by the utility industry in Asia. The underground system is often highly overloaded and in many places deteriorated.

Trenchless construction and trenchless rehabilitation can both be used to install new pipelines as well as upgrade deteriorated systems without posing health risks or affecting the daily lives of busy working people.

Upgrading utility lines is the most demanding industry right now in developing Asian countries. Below are a few trenchless methods that can be used in crowded cities to upgrade or rehabilitate old water and sewer pipelines without disrupting day to day life.

Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) for Pipe Rehabilitation

Cured in place pipe is a sturdy liner placed inside the host pipe. The main advantage of this method is that the flow rate of the original pipe is not affected. The liner is made of fiber-reinforced fabric or non-woven polyester and is designed to withstand soil, groundwater, and surface pressure, and to fit into the host pipe on expansion.

Pipe Bursting for Pipe Replacement

Pipe bursting is used to replace an existing pipeline without the physical removal of the old pipe. The old pipe is fragmented as it is replaced by a new pipe into the sewer network. This method is used to replace old pipes that can no longer be repaired by methods like lining or spot repair.

Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) for Utility Pipeline Installation

A pilot hole is drilled along the proposed path. The drill bit is equipped with a survey tool to monitor the progress of the borehole. The hole is then enlarged using a reamer to accommodate the required pipe size. The pipes are then pulled through the prepared hole.

Pipe Ramming for Short Installation Lengths

An air compressor is used to hammer the steel casing inside the earth. Using air pressure the soil is pushed out of the pipe. This method is best suited for installing pipes in shorter lengths, like under railroads, highways, and embankments.


Trenchless technology has picked up pace in Asia, but not all places that could benefit have been reached. Local awareness regarding trenchless technology is generally still quite low.

In some developing countries, trenchless technology has yet to be used effectively in the repair segment as most of these countries still resort to the use of traditional dig and repair methods. Asian countries will greatly benefit by using trenchless technology in installing and repairing utility lines.

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Written by Tabitha Mishra | Civil Engineer, Technical Content Writer

Tabitha Mishra

Tabitha has a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from Mumbai University, India, and is currently freelancing as a technical content writer. Prior to writing, she has worked as a site engineer and site manager for various building construction, building rehabilitation, and real estate evaluation projects.

Tabitha is also certified as a Primavera project management professional and is well versed with Auto CAD. In her spare time, she does private consultation for small-sized home builders and assists with plans and permissions.

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