Keyhole Technology

Innovative Techniques for Smart Construction

GTI Energy is the industry’s center for keyhole technology innovation—developing, testing, and facilitating innovative “keyhole” technologies for utility system installations, repairs, and rehabilitation.

"Keyholing" is the process of making a small, precisely controlled excavation to access buried utilities, for the purpose of locating, inspection, or perform repair, maintenance, and installation of utility facilities with the use of specialized tools.

Keyhole technology allows utilities and their contractors to cost-effectively expose and perform repair and maintenance work on their underground pipe and other facilities without resorting to more costly and disruptive conventional excavation methods. Conventional practices—usually performed using several large pieces of equipment (backhoes, dump trucks, pavement breakers, etc.)—can account for a significant amount of time and labor relating to a repair job.

The Keyhole Process

  1. Coring - Common keyhole methods involve creating a pavement opening only 12 to 18 inches in diameter, usually made with a circular core-hole cutter, allowing for remote access to the facilities. Restoration is accomplished by replacing the cored pavement coupon after repairs are made.
  2. Vacuum Excavation - Once the core has been cut and removed, vacuum excavation equipment is used to excavate down to the pipe. Debris removed from the hole is stored in a tank on the vacuum truck, and, ideally, the debris can be re-used to backfill the keyhole. Vacuum excavation is defined as a means of soil extraction through vacuum when using water or air jet devices for breaking the ground. This method of excavation is commonly referred to as “soft excavation” and is commonly accepted as being equivalent to hand digging within the “tolerance zone” around underground facilities.
  3. Construction & Maintenance Activities - With the help of specialized, long-handled tools, various utility operations can be conducted through a keyhole opening. These activities currently include: potholing/depth checks, valve box cleanouts, meter guard installations, plastic pipe squeeze-offs, service installation and abandonment, cathodic protection, and cast-iron joint sealing.
  4. Backfill & Pavement Restoration - Backfill and soil compaction are integral to the effective replacement of the cut core. Using the proper materials during backfill and core replacement will prolong the life of the pavement. After proper backfilling the keyhole core that was originally cut from the pavement is reinstated back as a permanent restoration of the roadway using special bonding products. Site restoration requires no temporary patching, overnight road plating, or return trips to make final restorations. The road is restored to traffic-bearing strength in as little as 30 minutes following job completion.

GTI Energy Keyhole Consortium Group (KCG)

The GTI Energy Keyhole Consortium Group is made up of utilities, distributors, and manufacturers located in the U.S. and overseas. Managed by GTI Energy, this group strives to provide value and share ideas to contribute to the acceptance and advancement of keyhole technology.

Fond out more information on the GTI Energy Keyhole Consortium Group and membership application.

Guideline Documents

Keyhole Database

Other Resources

Learn More

Contact Dennis Jarnecke, GTI Energy Keyhole Consortium Group Manager