Geotechnical & Geohazard

Geotechnical & Geohazard

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Geotechnical and Geological Hazard (Geohazard) studies are an essential part of any major infrastructure project whether it is in the onshore, nearshore or offshore environment.

The challenge is to quantify and image the physical properties and geological stratigraphy such that the uncertainty about the natural environment can be reduced to an acceptable level.  A higher understanding of soil parameters or natural hazards can enable one to confidently extrapolate away from sampling locations.

Consequently, quality soil/sediment or rock samples are highly valuable not just from a monetary perspective from the cost of acquisition, but also from a project perspective. Geotek’s non-destructive core logging (MSCL) and imaging (X-ray) are therefore the perfect techniques to maximise the data recovered from this precious resource.  These can be used to identify good and poor quality samples and to determine, at a cm-scale resolution, the engineering geological stratigraphy directly from the core samples ahead of opening them, or on archived material.

Non-Destructive Testing for Geotechnical and Geohazard Core Samples

Any geotechnical or geohazard study can benefit from non-destructive geophysical logging using Multi-Sensor Core Logger (MSCL) technology. MSCL data acquisition simultaneously provides a suite of continuous downcore physical and geochemical properties at cm-scale resolutions typically through plastic or metal core liners, or on the core surface. The data provide a quantified geological stratigraphy that can be unitised and lithology interpretations extracted guiding sub-sampling and visual logging.  The data also help to improve descriptions and reduce the re-work of additional sub-sampling for future laboratory testing programmes. The high resolution of MSCL data and non-destructive nature enable an assessment of core disturbance, identifying areas of increased disturbance.  More importantly, the data can identify areas of good quality sample for advanced laboratory testing thus preventing expensive testing programmes of poor quality samples being run.

Advantages to
Geohazard Projects

  • Identification of geohazard features such as: gassy sediments, high salinity profiles, cemented-horizons, or sand/clay-rich layers
  • Parametric characterisation of geohazard features within the core, such as: mass movement deposits, nodules/gravels, or erosion surfaces
  • Improved lateral correlation between core locations to understand spatial distribution of geohazards

Advantages to
Geotechnical Projects

  • Identification and quantification of core heterogeneity
  • Identification of sample disturbance
  • Improved and informed laboratory test planning
  • Non-destructive quantification of geotechnical properties
  • Correlation with downhole wireline data

Similar to cone penetration testing (CPT), the continuous data acquired by the MSCL gives more validity and meaning to geotechnical descriptions.  This enables engineers or geologists to more adequately describe the structure or heterogenous nature of the material, such as the identification of low or high density laminae, their composition, their spacing and thickness, and whether the contacts of the laminae are sharp or gradational.  Geochemical properties such a natural gamma, magnetic susceptibility or X-ray fluorescence (XRF) can then be used to correlate units between core locations.  This enables positive identification of condensed or extended sequences for age dating, or improving confidence in the extrapolation of physical properties between core locations such as density or P-wave velocity, both of which are good indicators of sediment shear strength.

In the Field or In the Lab

MSCL data are typically acquired either in the field or just after fieldwork in the laboratory.  Field-based MSCL core logging provides a rapid assessment of sample quality and of the engineering geological stratigraphy that can be fed directly to the offshore engineers, geologists, operators and client representatives allowing them to make informed engineering, geological, or operational decisions in real time.

Laboratory-based studies are usually conducted just before the main geotechnical, or sedimentological laboratory programmes, equipment is sent to our client laboratory, or conducted at Geotek’s specialist core logging laboratory in the UK for analyses.  Data are then fed to our clients in batches for analysis and to run geotechnical laboratory programmes in tandem.

Visualisation of Core Disturbance and Physical Properties with X-ray Imaging

The use of X-ray imaging techniques such as 2D radiography or Computed Tomography (CT) have long been recognised in the fields of soil mechanics and sedimentology (ASTM D4452-14).  X-ray techniques image differences in density through sediment or rock samples often being able to identify features that are not visible with the human eye, or they can be discerned using other more conventional logging and testing techniques. There are two deliverables for X-ray imaging for geotechnical and geohazard projects: 1) Multi-angle 2D transmissions and 2) 3D Computed Tomography (CT).  Multi-angle 2D X-ray transmissions, otherwise known as radiographs, are fast and efficient X-ray core slabs, which provide 2D information about the natural and artificial features within the core samples such as laminae or fractures.  X-ray CT datasets provide axial slabs through the core samples, which can then be reconstructed into a 3D volume and processed into core slabs in any direction.  X-ray CT is often acquired on smaller sub-samples such as waxed sub-samples or at areas of interest within core samples.

Advantages to
Geotechnical Projects

  • Visualisation of sample quality and recovery
  • Identification of fracturing, bedding, gravels or authigenic cements
  • Improved and informed laboratory test planning
  • Quick and can easily be conducted offshore to provide real time feedback on sample disturbance

Advantages to
Geohazard Projects

  • Identification of geological features may not be identifiable through visual core logging
  • Visualisation of bedding contacts to better plan future geohazard core logging and geological testing programmes
  • Determination of relative palaeocurrent directions
  • Identification of maximum bedding angle ahead of core splitting
  • Quick and can easily be done offshore provided real time feedback on targeted geohazards to ensure appropriate recovery of particular features.

Geotek’s X-ray instruments are specifically developed for handling a range of core materials including unconsolidated sediment cores in plastic, aluminium or steel liners providing image resolutions of 20 μm to 150 μm per pixel.

The high resolution, accurate core motion and flexible geometry set-up provides our clients with an unparallelled ability to obtain highly detailed visualisations of the quality of core samples.  These can include: disturbance, U-shaped pull down, remoulding, undercut core, swelling fractures, gas exsolution, drilling/sampling induced fractures, as well as natural features such as:  fine-scale lamination, bedding contacts, cementation profiles, porosity, sand versus clay, fractures, faulting, gravels, authigenic precipitates, bioturbation, and much more.

Geotek’s X-ray radiography and CT equipment enables engineers and geologists to make informed decisions about sub-sampling or sample suitability for expensive geotechnical testing, sediment age dating, or mineralogical testing; and often provides valuable additional information about the natural structure of sediment cores that may have otherwise gone unknown, and hence the uncertainty about the sediment would remain.

The reduction in uncertainty from being able to adequately resolve the natural structure of geological samples is exceptionally important for geohazard studies.  Often small scale (mm to cm) sedimentary structures can be missed by obliquely splitting core samples to dipping beds, or not being large enough or visually different enough to describe visually.  Ahead of core splitting, X-ray imaging can be used to orientate cores to ensure that key sedimentological structures are not missed during logging. The identification of features such as cross-bedding or sharp erosive contacts might significantly change the interpretation of a geohazard such as a turbidity current, which will affect the geohazard risk inventory and ultimately the geohazard assessment.

Reference List for More Information

Borel. D., Puech. A., Dendani. H., and Colliat. J.L. 2005. Deepwater geotechnical site investigation practice in the Gulf of Guinea. in Gourvence and Cassidy (Eds) 2005. Frontiers in Offshore Geotechnics: ISFOG 2005. Taylor & Francis Group, London.

Brand. J.R., Lanier. D. L., Berger. W.J.III., Kasch. V.R., Young. A.G. 2003.Relationship between near seafloor seismic amplitude, impedance, and soil shear strength properties and use in predication of shallow seated slope failure. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 15161. Houston, Texas,U.S.A, 5-8 May 2003.

Campbell. K.J., Humphrey. G.D., Little. R.L. 2008. Modern Deepwater Site Investigation: Getting It Right The First Time. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 19535. Houston, Texas, U.S.A, 5-8 May 2008.

Digby. A. J. 2005. Assessment and Quantification of the Hydrate Geohazard. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 17223. Houston, Texas,U.S.A, 2-5 May 2005.

Georgiopoulou. A., Benetti.S., Shannon. P.M., Haughton. P.D.W., McCarron. S. 2012.Gravity Flow Deposits in the Deep Rockall Trough, Northeast Atlantic. In Yamada.Y et al. (eds). Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences, Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research, 31. Springer+Business Media B.V.

Horsnell. M.R., Little. R.L., Campbell. K.J. 2009. The Geotechnical Challenges of Active Geohazards in the Design of Deepwater Facilities. Proceedings of the Society of Underwater Technology Annual Conference 2009. Perth, Western Australia.

Lucchi. G., Pedrosa. M.T., Camerlenghi. A., Urgeles.R., De Mol. B., Rebesco. M. 2012.Recent Submarine Landslides on the Continental Slope of Strofjorden and KveitholaTrough-Mouth Fans (North West Barents Sea). In Yamada.Y et al. (eds). Submarine Mass Movements and Their Consequences, Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research, 31. Springer+Business Media B.V.

Paulson. M., Ressler. J., Moran. K., Baxter. C. 2006. Prediction of Sediment Undrained Shear Strength From Geophysical Logs using Neural Networks. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 18119. Houston, Texas,U.S.A, 1 May-4 May 2004.

Peuchen. J.L., Raap.C. 2007. Logging, Sampling and Testing for Offshore Geohazards. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 18664.Houston, Texas, U.S.A, 30 April-3 May 2007.

Rothwell. R.G., Rack. F.R. 2006. New Techniques in Sediment Core Analysis: an Introduction. In Rothwell. R.G. (Eds) New Techniques in Sediment Core Analysis. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 267, 1-29.

Silva. A.J., Bryant. W.R., Young. A.G., Schultheiss. P., Dunlap. W.A., Sykora. G.,Bean.D., Honganen. C. 1999. Long Coring in Deep Water for Seabed Research, Geohazard Studies and Geotechnical Investigations. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 10923. Houston, Texas, U.S.A, 3-6 May 1999.

Vardy. M.E., L’Heurex. J-S., Vanneste, M., Longva, O., Steiner, A., Forsberg, C. F.,Haflidason. H., Brendryen. J. 2012. Multidisciplinary investigation of a shallow near-shore landslide, Finneidford, Noway. Near Surface Geophysics, 10, 267-277.

Vanneste. M., Forsberg. C.F., Knudsen. S., Kvalstad. T.J., L’Heurex. J-S., Lunne. T.,Vardy. M.E., Chand. S., Longva. O., Morgan. E., Kopf. A., Morz. T., Steiner. A.,Brendryen. J., Haflidason. H. 2015. Integration of very-high-resolution seismic and CPTU data from a coastal area affected by shallow landsliding – the Finneidford natural laboratory. In Mayer. V. (Ed.). Frontiers in Offshore Geotechnics III, Taylor &Francis Group, London.

Young. A.G., Honganen. C.D., Silva. A.J., Bryant. W.R. 2000. Comparison of Geotechnical properties from Large-Diameter Long Cores and Borings in Deep Water Gulf of Mexico. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 12089.Houston, Texas, U.S.A, 1-4 May 2000.

Young. A.G., Bryant. W.R., Slowey. N.C., Brand. J.R., Gartner. S. 2003. Age Dating ofPast Slope Failures of the Sigsbee Escarpment within Atlantis and Mad Dog Developments. Proceedings of the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 15204. Houston, Texas, U.S.A, 5-8 May 2003.

ISO/FDIS19901-8. Petroleum and natural gas industries — Specific requirements for offshore structures —INTERNATIONAL STANDARD. Marine soil Investigations. Reference number ISO/FDIS 19901-8:2014(E).

ASTM Standard D4452-14, 2014. Standard Practice for X-Ray Radiography of Soil Samples. ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 19428-2959, USA.