Clogging Potential of Earth-Pressure Balance Shield Driven Tunnels

Alireza Rashiddel1, Fatemeh Amiri Ramsheh2, Asma Ramesh1, Daniel Dias3, Mohsen Hajihassani1, *
1 Department of Mining, Faculty of Engineering, Urmia University, Urmia, Iran
2 Mining and Metallurgical Engineering department, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
3 Department of Civil Engineering, Grenoble Alpes University, Laboratory 3SR, Polytech Grenoble, France

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© 2020 Rashiddel et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Mining, Faculty of Engineering, Urmia University, Urmia, Iran; Tel: +989122735914; E-mail:,



Nowadays, the construction of urban tunnels for rapid transportation in metropolises is necessary. Since these tunnels are excavated at low depths, they are often associated with different problems and hazards. Some of them can reduce the efficiency of the tunnel boring machines and sometimes will stop the project. Among these problems the clogging can cause problems at the cutter head, in the chamber, and in other sections where the material transference occurs.


The main purpose of this paper is to evaluate and determine the risk of clogging in the tunneling boring machine in Line 6 of the Tehran Metro. It includes stations: Amirkabir, Shohada Square, Emam Hossein Square and Sayyadeh Shirazi. This phenomenon induces an adhesion of the shield with the soil, increasing the necessary shear forces and it can eventually leads to the project interruption.


Due to the fact that the criterion for the behavior of fine soils against moisture is Atterberg Limits, therefore, Atterberg Limits and the water content were utilized. For this purpose, the new method proposed by Hollman and Thewes (2013) was used. In this study, in addition to the Atterberg limits, the amount of free water resulting from the machine and from the underground water inflow was included in the calculations.


It was found that the water content should be increased carefully as the soil is very sensitive to this parameter. An increase of 15% of the water content permits to reduce the risk of clogging. If the added free water amount 15%, the probability of clogging becomes high. Whereas, in case where the added free water amount reaches 20%, the risk of clogging decreases significantly.


According to the performed assessments, it was found that critical areas for the clogging aspect are both the cutter head and the chamber. The sensitivity of the soil is very important to the free water amount. Therefore, due to the behavior of sticky and plastic of clay soils against increasing water, it is necessary to determine the percentage of allowable water used in mechanized excavation projects.

Keywords: Shield tunneling, Clayey soil, Clogging, Subway, Atterberg limits, Water content.