Drilling & Tunnelling

Piles completed at the Asry expansion project.

Piles completed at the Asry expansion project.

Keller builds on wide expertise in region

Ground engineering specialist Keller has developed innovative solutions to lay firm foundations for key projects in the region.

October 2018

Keller, a renowned name for providing geotechnical solutions worldwide for over 155 years, is one of the largest independent geotechnical contractors in the world.

Having entered the Middle East market in the 1970s, the company established its  first branches in the Gulf in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Since then, independent branch offices were opened to meet the growing market demand in the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Egypt.

“With a full range of technologies and strong engineering capability, Keller offers design and build solutions to meet specific project requirements,” Keller’s general manager, Mohammad Ali, tells ABDULAZIZ KHATTAK of Gulf Construction magazine.

Ali ... aiming to be a world leader in geotechnical solutions.

Ali ... aiming to be a world leader in geotechnical solutions.

Depending on the nature of the soil and specific requirements, the company offers suitable geotechnical solutions from its wide range of products for infrastructure, industrial, commercial, residential and environmental projects.

Keller can meet specialised geotechnical requirements related to the renovation of existing buildings and the increasing demand for sustainable solutions.

Some of its key products may be categorised as follows:

• Heavy foundations: These include solutions such as bored, continuous flight augering (CFA), driven piling, solutions for marine and near-shore structures together with underpinning solutions using micro piles and push piers.

• Excavation support: These include shaft works, contiguous piles, sheet piles, soldier piles and a combination of jet grouting or soil mixing.

Citing a recent example, Ali says: “Keller recently completed multiple shafts works in Bahrain for the wastewater treatment network where excavations were planned for depths of up to 20 m. Secant piles were installed successfully to provide water-free deep excavation.”


Ground Improvement

• Vibro techniques: Keller was the pioneer in developing methods and equipment for deep soil compaction in the 1930s and has continued to develop the technology, effectively widening its application for wet and dry systems of vibro stone columns. Very weak, cohesive and organic soils that are not suitable for standard vibro techniques can be improved by the installation of vibro concrete columns, Ali points out. Beneath large area loads, vibro concrete columns reduce settlement, while increasing bearing capacity and slope stability, he adds.

Al Salam Resort in Bahrain ... a Keller project.

Al Salam Resort in Bahrain ... a Keller project.

Furthermore, Keller is using various techniques to improve many thousands of sites around the world. These include:

• Soil mixing: Typically used in soft soils, this technique involves the introduction of an engineered grout material to either create a soil-cement matrix for soil stabilisation, or to form subsurface structural elements to support earth or building loads. Soil mixing can be accomplished by many methods, with a wide range of mixing tools and tool configurations available.

• Groundwater control and sealing: Since lowering the groundwater level with deep wells is facing increasing restrictions, Keller can offer its sealing wall and slab technologies as alternatives. Whether it’s an excavation or an embankment, Keller provides environment-friendly solutions for any requirement, Ali points out.

• Conservation and preservation: This is another area in which Keller excels, having refurbished the foundations of thousands of old buildings, historical monuments and town halls, residential and industrial buildings, and infrastructure projects, he adds. Various combinations of techniques are used including jet grouting, compaction grouting or Soilfrac (soil fracturing).

• Soilfrac compensation grouting: Soilfrac is a process used to control or reverse the settlement of structures. It entails injection of material into the soil between the foundation to be controlled, forcing it into fractures, thereby causing an expansion that counteracts the settlement that has been taking pace or producing a controlled heave of the foundation.

• Jet grouting: This erosion/replacement system creates an engineered, in-situ soil/cement product known as Soilcrete. Effective across the widest range of soil types, and suitable for use around subsurface obstructions and in confined spaces, jet grouting is a versatile and valuable tool for soft soil stabilisation, underpinning, excavation support and groundwater control.

“Keller has recently performed foundation strengthening works for the King Fahad Causeway towers. Soilcrete is also currently in use for mitigation of settlements at a project in Al Khobar,” Ali says.

Turning to some of Keller’s key clients in Saudi Arabia, Ali says: “Keller has been a renowned name in Saudi Aramco, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic), Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) and Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) projects since 1976. The company has offered its services on almost all Aramco refineries, Sabic chemical plants, and SEC and SWCC power and water plants across the kingdom.”

Zaman ... Keller moves ahead despite challenging market conditions.

Zaman ... Keller moves ahead despite challenging market conditions.

According to Munawar Zaman, branch manager of Eastern Region, Keller is currently involved in many landmark projects in Saudi Arabia.

“Hadeed, Tasnee, Marafic, Al Khobar desalination plant, Jubail port, Ras Tanura refinery, Wasit Gas plant and Saudi Kayan are just a few of the over 700 projects completed in Saudi Arabia,” he says.

Zaman says despite the challenging market conditions, Keller is currently busy on the Jizan Port project for Aramco, Mutrafiah Housing Development for Sabic, a specialist jet grouting job to stop the ongoing settlement at a residential project, GAS Phase 9 for Sabic and a few other projects for private clients. He credits these projects to Keller’s commitment to quality, high standards of safety, price-competitiveness and the broad range of products in its portfolio.

Meanwhile in Bahrain, its largest piling contract was at the Marassi Al Bahrain in Diyar Al Muharraq, where it bored over 6,000 piles of various diameters, according to Ali.

Keller has completed bored piles for several government ministry and bank buildings; driven piles for Sitra Power Station, Al Salam Resort and Bahrain Business Park; assorted retaining wall techniques and dewatering for the Arab Banking Corporation (ABC) Building; and vibro-replacement for the InterContinental Regency Hotel, Bahrain International Airport extension/aprons, and Hidd power stations. In addition, it has undertaken cavity grouting at the National Stadium; rock anchors for Alba extensions, and extensive site investigation works for the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA).

Keller traces its origins back to the small town of Renchen in southwest Germany where, in 1860, Johann Keller founded a company mainly to construct water wells. Drilling and grouting techniques were added in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the company invented the ‘Vibro’ process for compaction of sands at depth.

Through its main operating divisions – Keller Grundbau in Germany, Keller in the UK and Hayward Baker in the US – the company offers a worldwide service in geotechnical contracting.

With operations in more than 40 countries across six continents, and revenues of £2.1 billion ($2.76 billion), Keller is the largest independent geotechnical contractor in the world.

“Our extensive branch network across more than 200 cities, deep market knowledge and strong client relationships make us ideally placed to respond to local engineering challenges,” says Ali.

Looking ahead, Ali says: “Our vision is to be a world leader in geotechnical solutions. Our focus is on worksite safety by using the principles of effective safety management in all our operations.”

He adds all of Keller’s Middle East branches are IMS (Integrated Management System) certified and regularly perform first and second party audits in this regard.  

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