Mechanized excavation of tunnels

Dates: to be determined


Teacher: Daniela Garroux de Oliveira


In collaboration with 



The need for efficient and abundant infrastructure grows around the globe, in cities and as links between them, as well as supply, disposal and deposit spaces in urban areas. The use of underground space is a natural alternative to fulfill these infrastructure needs. And, following the trends of automation, the mechanized methods of tunnelling have gained the market, being the preferred choice to excavate reducing risks and, in most of the cases, decreasing the time of project completion. The tendency goes towards the use of tunnel boring machines to excavate tunnels for transportation, water, and sewage systems.

This course tackles general aspects of all the mechanized methods of tunnel excavation with tunnel boring machines, detailing the process of excavation with Earth Pressure Boring Machine – EPB, considering that for every 10 projects, 9 are excavated with EPBs. It includes from early stages of the projects, the selection of the machine until its operation, especially aspects concerning the interaction of the ground and the machine, such as ground conditioning.



The teacher, Dr. Daniela Garroux de Oliveira, shares her experience from tunnel projects and her research on the excavation with tunnel boring machines. At the end of the course, the student will have sufficient knowledge to choose on a technical basis the most appropriate machine for each project, its limitations, and main risks. They will also have a broad knowledge of both the project involving a tunnel boring machine and sufficient knowledge to understand the soil conditioning process, as well as many aspects that is included in the mechanized tunnelling excavation.


Addressed to

This course is addressed to students and professionals that might be involved or intends to join the tunnelling market. Students from any engineering or geology background are welcome, as the mechanized tunnelling process includes several disciplines, from geology and geotechnics to civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering.


Teaching method and access to the course

The methodology of the course (48 lective hours), is mainly online asynchronous, through our virtual Campus, where access to the course is continuous (24/7). In this way the student can follow his own pace and schedule, being able to make it compatible with work or studies. The different topics of the course will be presented through:

– Videos, in which all the contents indicated in the syllabus are explained in detail.

– Live classes to answer doubts.

– PDF texts.

– Practical cases.

– Evaluation exercises, including a final course project.

– Complementary documentation.

In addition to this, the student will be able to make use of the Forum and Chat of the platform as meeting points with the teacher, who will be available to solve any doubt or question, and the student will be able to contact her at any time.



Course program


Module 1. General overview on mechanized excavation projects and research. History of mechanized tunnelling, major breakthroughs, challenges, and current knowledge gaps. Explanation and selection of the final project of the course.

Module 2. Types of machines and its technical details: functionality, parts, and interaction with different types of ground. Process of machine selection for a project, including main aspects to tackle and cost estimation. Exercise module 2.

Module 3. Calculation of performance, penetration and advance of excavation. Aspects of rock excavation, with Grippers, Single and Double Shield, including ground treatment and tools for machine advance. Exercise module 3.

Module 4. Soft ground excavation, main differences between EPB machine and Slurry Shields. Face pressure calculation. Exercise module 4.

Module 5. EPB excavation and ground interaction: conditioning and flow. Estimation of clogging, laboratory tests and mitigation measures. Abrasivity and changes of excavation tools. Exercise module 5.

Module 6. Data management of tunnel excavation. Project logistics, intervention, and muck management. Reuse of machines: refurbishment versus remanufacturing. Exercise module 6.

Bonus. Open class for discussions and project presentation.


Evaluation exercises, including a final course project.




Students who complete the course will receive a Diploma certifying  that they have completed it, while students who pass the evaluation will receive a Diploma certifying that they have successfully completed the course. The Diplomas will be sent in pdf format by e-mail.