Collaboration to advance the future of drilling technology in UK construction

Leeds Beckett University has teamed up with Borehole Solutions – a geotechnical drilling solutions provider – on a project to advance construction industry capabilities through increased use of sonic drilling technology.

Borehole Solutions – which has have bases in Brighouse, Peterborough and Cambridgeshire – will work with academic experts at Leeds Beckett on a 30-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme, part-funded by the Government through Innovate UK.

As construction site investigation specialists, Borehole Solutions use geotechnical engineering – a form of civil engineering involving the study of materials present below the earth’s surface. This is used within infrastructure projects and uses a range of drilling techniques.

Dr Martin Pritchard, reader in the School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing and project lead, said: “One technique used by Borehole Solutions is sonic drilling – this relatively new technique is seen as the future of drilling.

“It is a soil penetration technique that strongly reduces friction on the drill string and drill.

Dr Martin Pritchard

“Vibration frequency, of up to 150 Hz, causes a very thin zone of soil particles surrounding the drill string to go into liquefaction. Its benefits include increased safety, cost savings, speed, cleanliness, and accuracy as well as being more environmentally friendly.

“Sonic drilling is not widely used throughout the construction industry – with cable percussion (CP) drilling being the most common technique in the UK.

“Borehole Solutions are an innovative and forward-thinking company, and they want to expand the capability of sonic drilling within the UK construction industry.”

The aim of the project is to address the current challenges around sonic drilling and create an independently verified, credible evidence base to allow Borehole Solutions to be explicit about the advantages of sonic drilling.

It will help the business position itself as a market leader in sonic drilling, and eventually discontinue the more dangerous, slower, traditional alternative of CP drilling.

Rob Lewis, manging director, GeoEnviro Solutions, Borehole Solutions Group, said: “It’s great to be getting involved with the university to explore the sonic technology we have adopted as a company.

“The project will allow us to provide rigorous data for the method together – and to improve on the knowledge we have already gained by leading the technology in the field.”

Professor Akintola Akintoye, Dean of the School of Built Environment and Engineering at Leeds Beckett University, added: “I am pleased that our staff from our Civil Engineering specialism are able to partner with Borehole Solutions to advance the future of drilling technology in UK construction – developing appropriate field-based technologies to significantly improve the borehole infrastructure and operational reliability.

“This is a positive example of the close working relationships we are building with local employers through our research and enterprise including KTPs; thereby making an important contribution to the development of our regional economy.”