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World’s largest tunnel boring machine finishes job in Niagara

The tunnel boring machine drilling its way under the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario has finally reached the end of its 10 kilometre journey. The Niagara Tunnel Project to increase the flow of water to the Sir Adam Beck Generating...


The tunnel boring machine drilling its way under the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario has finally reached the end of its 10 kilometre journey. The Niagara Tunnel Project to increase the flow of water to the Sir Adam Beck Generating station is described as the “largest renewable energy project of its type under construction anywhere in the world.”

The tunnel boring machine, “Big Becky” is also the “largest hard rock tunnel boring machine in the world.” The borer is four storeys high and 150 metres long, digging an opening one-and-a-half times larger than the Chunnel between France and England.

Premier Dalton McGuinty was on hand for the celebrations for the tunnelling completion on May 13. However, construction on the project continues round the clock with 2013 the date scheduled for starting generation. The new tunnel will carry 500 cubic metres of water per second to Sir Adam Beck station, providing increased capacity to generate energy for 160,000 homes — enough for the entire Niagara peninsula. The tunnelling began in 2005, but fracturing rock problems created major delays and caused the design-build contractor Strabag AG of Austria to change the alignment.

Hatch Mott MacDonald and Hatch are consulting engineers on the project for Ontario Power Generation. 

Rick Everdell, OPG’s Project Director, as featured on the Ontario Government’s latest video of the project, notes that “there is no dam, there is no flooding; we just use the natural fall of the water.”To see the short video of the project, click here.