Leeds Beckett partners with Borehole Solutions to advance the future of drilling technology in UK construction

Feb 9, 2023

Leeds Beckett University has joined forces with Borehole Solutions – a leading provider of geotechnical drilling solutions – on an innovative new project to advance the knowledge and capabilities of the UK construction industry through the increased use of sonic drilling technology.

Borehole Solutions – who have bases in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and Brighouse, West Yorkshire – 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, explained: “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. 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.

This will help Borehole Solutions to position themselves 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 delighted 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.”

The academic team – which includes experts within Leeds Beckett’s School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing and Leeds Business School – will support Borehole Solutions to develop the technical skills and capabilities to measure, analyse and disseminate the positive benefits of sonic drilling to the market – as well as the strategic marketing insight to fully commercialise the new capability.

Dr Pritchard has more than 20 years of experience working in geotechnics in industry and academia. His research includes work on a patented geotextile structure he invented; empirical testing of complex soils; and the application and monitoring of novel water purification systems for developing countries.

The KTP will begin with the recruitment of a full-time KTP Associate, who will be an experienced graduate, and will be embedded as a full-time member of staff at Borehole Solutions for the duration of the project. The Associate will lead the project, with the full support and input from the academic team at Leeds Beckett.

Leeds Beckett University features in the top 15 providers of KTPs in the UK – for the number of KTPs the university is delivering.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) aim to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills within the UK knowledge base.

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