The installation of pipelines is a critical process that varies based on environmental, logistical, and operational factors. Several techniques have been developed to efficiently install pipelines across different terrains and settings, each best suited for particular conditions and requirements. Today, we explore the five main pipeline installation methods and their ideal applications.

 1. Open Cut/Trenching


The open cut or trenching method is one of the oldest and most utilised techniques for pipeline installation. It’s straightforward but labour-intensive, requiring the excavation of a trench along the predetermined pipeline route. After the trench is dug to the required depth, sections of pipes are laid down, joined, and then inspected for integrity. Once the pipeline is securely in place, the trench is backfilled, and the surface is restored.

While cost-effective and practical for large diameter pipelines, the open-cut method can significantly disrupt the local environment, including road traffic, natural habitats, and residents in the area. It is best employed in settings where these disruptions can be minimised, such as sparsely populated or industrial areas, or for the installation of sewer and water systems in new developments where infrastructure has not yet been fully established.

2. Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD)


Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) is a modern, trenchless technology that allows for the installation of pipelines underneath natural and man-made obstacles with minimal environmental disruption. The process begins with the drilling of a small, horizontal pilot hole along a designed trajectory, using a jetting or a mechanical cutting head. Upon reaching the exit point, the drill head is removed, and a reamer is attached. This is pulled back through the hole to enlarge the borehole to accommodate the pipeline. Finally, the pipeline, often pre-assembled and pulled from the exit point, is installed in the expanded borehole.

HDD is particularly advantageous for crossing rivers, estuaries, and roadways, as well as installing pipelines in environmentally sensitive areas. The method significantly reduces ecosystem disturbance and does not impede surface activities, making it a preferred choice for urban areas or protected natural zones. For more information, read our blog on Utilising HDDs in Urban Environments.

3. Pipe Ramming


Pipe ramming technique involves the forceful insertion of a casing pipe through the soil using a pneumatic hammer. The hammer is attached to the end of the casing or the pipe, driving it through the earth horizontally, and displacing the soil without removing it during installation. After the casing is in place, the soil or material inside the casing is removed, providing a clear pathway for the new pipeline.

This method is especially effective in challenging terrains, like gravelly or cobble-rich soils, where other methods might fail. It is ideal for installations under railways or roads because it doesn’t cause subsidence, thereby posing no risk to the infrastructure above. However, pipe ramming requires substantial operating space for the pneumatic hammer and other equipment, limiting its use in congested areas.

4. Microtunneling


Microtunneling stands out for its ability to provide continuous, remote-controlled installation of pipelines with high precision. Unlike traditional tunnelling, this method uses a microtunnel boring machine (MTBM) that is operated from the surface, eliminating the need for manual handling of the pipeline during installation. The MTBM simultaneously excavates the soil and instals the pipeline, ensuring a high level of accuracy in alignment and depth.

Microtunneling is excellent for projects requiring strict control over ground settlement, making it suitable for busy urban areas, crossings underneath rivers, and locations with existing underground infrastructure. The method’s ability to work well with various soil types and the reduced risk to workers adds to its appeal. Read our blog on HDD vs Microtunneling for an in-depth comparison of the two methods.

5. Pipe Bursting


Pipe bursting serves as an essential technology for the replacement of existing and potentially failing pipelines without the need to excavate along the entire pipeline’s length. The process involves a bursting tool that is pulled through the old pipeline. This tool fractures the existing pipe and forces the fragments into the surrounding soil. Simultaneously, a new pipe, attached to the back of the bursting tool, is pulled into place.

One of the main advantages of pipe bursting is that it allows for the replacement of pipes with minimal surface disruption, especially valuable in urban areas with significant road traffic, surface infrastructure, and limited work space. Moreover, it often permits the installation of a larger diameter replacement pipe, enhancing the capacity of the original infrastructure. This method, however, requires careful consideration of the existing pipe material and the surrounding soil’s ability to absorb the old pipe fragments.

Vermeer and Pipeline Installation


At Vermeer WA & NT, we supply a wide range of trenchers and HDDs used for pipeline construction in both the civil and mining industries.

One of our most popular trenchers is the Vermeer T755, capable of digging trenches of up to 3 m in depth and 0.9 m in width. The machine comes with two engine options: a 275 hp Caterpillar engine with 55.6 L/hr fuel consumption or a 275 hp John Deere engine with 50.0 L/hr fuel consumption. These powerful engines are great for tackling hard soil conditions and allow the operator to dig trenches at a faster rate.

Vermeer T755 trenchers

If you need extra digging ability, we have the Vermeer T1055. This machine is capable of digging trenches of up to 4.3 m in depth and 1.2 m in width, plus it comes with a 415 hp Caterpillar engine with 79.1 L/hr fuel consumption. The Vermeer T1055 is ideal for jobs involving larger pipes or that require deeper installation.


For trenchless pipeline installation, we recommend the Vermeer D130 Navigator. This HDD rig boasts a thrust/pullback of 130,000 lbs (58,967 kg), crucial for handling tough ground conditions and lengthy installations. Moreover, its rotational torque of 15,000 ft-lb (20,337 Nm) complements the thrust/pullback force, allowing for precise steering and effective execution of the drilling process.


If you’re looking for something more powerful, the Vermeer D550 has a thrust/pullback of 550,000 lbs (249,475 kg) and a torque of 100,000 ft-lb (135,581 Nm). This HDD is ideal for jobs involving longer pipeline installation in tougher soil conditions.


For more machines, browse our full range and find the best solution for your next pipeline installation job. The team at Vermeer WA & NT is always ready to help, so feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding our products or after-sales service. 

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