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Determination' of rock mass modulus using the plate loading method


Utilisation d'un essai de plaque pour la determination de la deformaolllte d'une roche

/ r . Bestimmung der Verformungsmoduls von Gebirge mittels Lastplattenversuche

• J.T.GEORGE, R. E. FINLEY.& M. RIGGINS, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N. Mex., USA












ABSTRACT: A suite of plate loading tests has recently been conducted by Sandia National Laboratories at the Exploratory Studies

Facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Fielding of these in situ tests as well

rock mass modulus are described. The various methodologies are evaluated and their data compared. Calculation by existing empirical methods and numerical modeling are compared to each other as well as to field data.

as other approaches undertaken for the determination of



RESUM~: Une succession de tests de plaques sous haute pression a ete conduite recemment par les Sandia National Laboratories a

leur site des etudes exploratoires a Yucca Mountain, au Nevada. Cet article decrit les methodes de recherches sur le terrain ainsi que

celles dues a d'autres

evaluees et leurs donnees comparees, Les calculsqui

compares les uns aux autres ainsi qu'aux donnees rassemblees sur le terrain:'

resultent de differentes methodes empiriques et d'analyses numeriques sont


approches utili sees pour determiner le module des masses rocheuses. Les differentes methodologies





•. ~












Exploratory Studies Facility am Yucca Mountain in Nevada durchgefilhrt. Beschrieben wird der Verlauf dieser in situ Tests als auch

anderer Ansatze zur Bestimmung des Gesteinsmassenmoduls,'

verglichen, Berechnung durch existierende empirische Methoden und numerische Modellierung werden sowohl miteinander als auch

mit den experimentellen Daten verglichen.

Die verschiedenen Methoden werden evaluiert und ihre Daten

Eine Versuchsreihe von "plate loading" Tests wurde kUrzlich von den Sandia National Labs in der




The welded tuffs of Yucca Mountain, Nevada are being considered by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) as

potential host media for the storage of high level waste (HLW).' As part of the site characterization efforts for the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP), a mechanically excavated Exploratory

Studies Facility (ESP)

Testing Facility (TTF), subsequently constructed off the main

drift of the ESF, included

and the Drift Scale Test (DST). The DST is being constructed in

a 50-m long, 5-m diameter Heated Drift (HD).

potential changes in the rock mass modulus resulting from

thermally induced closure of the fractures, a plate loading niche

was constructed

would be near ambient temperature and the other side was heated

to ~ 100°C (Fig: 1).' Determination - of rock mass l modulus,

parameter of significance to the Yucca Mountain geomechanics program, is calculated using data gathered from the Plate Loading Test (pLT). It will be used in numerical analysis of drift stability, ground support interactions, and drift and repository behavior. Rock mass modulus may also be used in the coupling of the various thermal-mechanical-hydrological-chemical (T-M- H-C) models used for the proposed The PLT, conducted as part of the long-term DST, consisted

of multiple elements,

each unique though closely related. The

near the DST such that one' side of the niche

was completed

in 1997. A Thermal

the Single Heater Test (SHT) block

To determine


'! "

elements included rock mass quality mapping, Goodman jack tests, and pre- and post-test elastic numerical predictions of the stresses and displacements within the rock mass using the actual

flat jack pressurization cycles.

'. , 'The successful




comparati ve testing

techniques has allowed Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) to

undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the mechanical

behavior of the Yucca Mountain welded

determination of rock mass modulus, as well as providing data against which analytical models can be compared.-

tuffs, including

1.1 . Background'



SNL's experience u;ing 1 1arge-scale (up to 0.80 m 2 ) flat jacks dates back to the mid-1980s, during which time jack fabrication, instrumentation, and monitoring techniques were developed and refined through pressurized slot testing conducted within the G- Tunnel facility on the Nevada Test Site (Zimmerman & Finley


experiments using the large-scale flat jacks for determination of rock mass modulus were conducted by SNL on behalf of the United States Defense Nuclear Agency in 1994 at the Fort Knox Military Reservation (Finley 1994).

1987, Hansen




In addition," pressurized

.~. • •• J ! • PLT_ , DrlIIsc: TOIl Region t " , I
, DrlIIsc:
TOIl Region
• lr!l
• CS 2&+27

Figure 1. Plan view of the ESF Thermal Test Facility.' t' " Ii. ,('. ' -


Having previously identified and described plate loading tests ' in the Site Characterization Plan (US D6E 1988) as the primary deformation modulus test to be conducted in. the YMP underground testing facility, SNL' championed Incorporation of the PLT into the DST during excavation in 1997. The envisioned PLTs were to be based on standard testing techniques consisting of the construction of a reaction frame and the application of static horizontal loads on the surface of the rock near the DST excavation (Brown 1981, ASTM 1980, ASTM 1994a, ASTM 1994b). DST excavation geometry allowed for the design of a plate loading niche whereby the application of static horizontal loads could be applied to both ambient and thermally perturbed rock masses concurrently. Pressures in the loading system and displacements in the surrounding rock masses would then be measured and recorded on a real-time basis.

1.2 Modulus Determination Approa,ches .!

Rock mass or deformation modulus can be estimated via several methods that include both direct in situ testing and empirical

techniques that incorporate properties

of the rock mass including

consistent enough to suggest that the rock mass .in the region surrounding the PLT Niche could be reasonably described by the

~ rock mass quality estimates

from the HD .•, r.

, - •.1

The United States Bureau of Reclarnation performed full periphery fracture mapping along the complete length of the Connecting Drift and the HD. This represents the HD-side of each of the blocks of rock that were loaded by the PLT. In 'contrast, SNL performed line surveys 'for rock mass quality of the left rib of the HD and the Connecting Drift. Each of these surveys provided values of rock mass quality parameters Q and RMR, which can be used to estimate the rock mass deformation modulus. What is most striking in comparing the surveys are the differences in estimated rock mass quality values for the same sections of rock with RMR values varying from 52 to 79 and Q values varying from 2.1 to 11, although the reader should be cautioned that the Q system is logarithmic and such differences can be expected from one region to the next. Also, the rock mass quality survey was performed as a line

survey, and the fracture mapping was performed as a full periphery survey. Therefore, features apparent to one may not be

seen in the other. '


- fracture and intact rock characteristics (e.g., Goodman et al. A summary of these surveys for each side of the PLT Niche

1968, Hustrulid & Schrauf 1979, Rocha 1964, Pratt et al., 1977" can be given by averaging the rock mass quality estimates for Brown 1981, .Zimmerman & Finley 1987, Hansen et al. 1990, sections describing the hot· and ambient sides of the rock

Goodman 1980). These techniques include large-scale in situ

tests such as plate loading tests, rock mass block tests, ,I the average RMR values of 64.7 and 66.8, and average Q values

of 4.03 and 7.7 for the hot and ambient sides respectively. (1 " •.

such as the borehole jack (Goodman jack) and dilatometers, The rock mass quality values can be related to estimates of

geophysical techniques such as cross-hole ultrasonics, and, the deformation modulus for each, side of the P~T using estimations from rock quality field surveys. They 'also include . empirical equations developed by other. researchers: As a analysis techniques to better interpret the in situ data from the .! 'preliminary estimate, the' empirical equations developed by Goodman jack and plate loading tests (e.g., Heuze & Amadei 1 Barton (1983) Serafim & Periera (1983) and Bieniawski (1978)

1985, Boyle 1992). Additionally, a limited number of laboratory rock joint compliance studies have been conducted by SNL for the YMP. Each of these techniques has merit but also inherent limitations. Although the Goodman jac~ tests proved relatively easy' to conduct, the physical size limitations of the equipment could not load an adequately large volume of rock, resulting in local heterogeneities strongly influencing the results. ",,, . Large-scale techniques such as block tests, slot pressurization tests, pillar tests, and radial jacking tests offered scale advantages by testing at a more reasonable rock mass scale. However, the test preparation, geometry, and conduct' proved significantly more complex and costly than plate loading tests and were not considered for the YMP thermal testing program. The empirical techniques for estimating rock mass deformation (Barton 1983, Nicholson & Bieniawski 1986,

1978) have been somewhat

Serafim & Peri era 1983, Bieniawski

pressurized gallery tests, flat jack tests in slots, borehole tests

surrounding the PLT Niche. Such a simplified ,approach yields.

i' are used below to estimate the rock mass deformation modulus on each side of the PLT. Table 1 lists each empirical method and the predicted rock mass deformation modulus for each side of the PLT Niche. "

Table 1. Comparative empirical methods. Parameter - Ambient Side Heated Side Average Rock Mass Quality
Table 1. Comparative empirical methods.
Parameter -
Ambient Side
Heated Side
Average Rock Mass
Quality .:
Q=7.7 (RMR=66.8)
Q--4.03 (RMR=64.7)-
from Bieniawski,
33.6 GPa
(GPa) from Serafim &
Periera, 1983
26.3 GPa
23.3 GPa
(GPa) from Barton, 1983
22.2 GPa
IS.1 GPa
- E = Modulus of Elasticity
. lj·f,~,

These, empirical results suggest that the heated side of the PLT Niche should have a slightly lower rock mass modulus, although the range of estimates differs by as much as about a factor of two, with the Barton (1983) method providing the lowest estimates for both sides of the PLT Niche: ) ",I


Goodman jack Tests r.r I


















Goodman jack tests were performed at a single depth in each of the PL T instrumentation _boreholes prior to, installation of the PLT multiple point borehole extensometer (MPBX) instrumentation. These tests were conducted six months into the DST heating phase, on 12 May 1998, at a depth of 1.2 m from the collar of borehole #187 and 2.6 m from the collar of borehole #188. Borehole #187 is drilled approximately 3 m into the right rib on the ambient SIde of the PLT,.and borehole #188 is drilled approximately 3 m into the left rib on the hot side of the P~T. The rock in pte vicinity of the PLT created difficulty in setting the jack; therefore only the single location in each borehole was, tested. For YMP applications, the jack is typically pressurized to 34.5 MPa (5,000 psi) to 55.2 MPa (8,000 psi) and back to zero' with linear variable displacement transformer (L VDT) readings, recorded during both loading and unloading. " , ,.,',

beneficial. However, because they tend to rely on analytical combinations of related parameters, these methods would necessarily have to be verified through direct measurements, such as plate loading, before they could be universally applied throughoufthe YMP facility. Because the aforementioned tests, techniques, and studies have been presented elsewhere, and a detailed discussion of all techniques is beyond the scope of this paper, only specific methods used in the conduct of the PL T experiment will be present~ for c?mpleteness.



1.3 Rock Mass Quality Estimates

Rock mass quality estimates of the HD drift wall were performed shortly after construction of the HD. These estimates included both the NGI "Q" system and the CSIRO "RMR" system. Two separate sets of estimates were performed, one by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and one by SNL. These separate surveys targeted different parts of the HD, although no rock mass quality estimates have yet been performed within the PLT Niche itself' or on core retrieved from the PLT instrumentation boreholes. Nevertheless, -the reported data are


The results of the Goodman jack testing in the PLT instrumentation boreholes are a calculated rock mass modulus of 3.31 GPa for. the ambient side of the PLT Niche at a depth of 1.2 m in borehole #187 and 5.9 GPa at a depth of 2.66 m in borehole #188. These values suggest that the hot side modulus is about twice as high as the ambient side modulus. These Goodman jack estimates for rock mass deformation modulus are consistent in magnitude with values obtained from the SHT block. It is important to note that the Goodman jack loads the rock along an orientation that is perpendicular to the direction of loading for the PLT.

1.5 Pre-Test Analysis

Pre-test analyses of the expected rock response as a result of the PLT were performed. Two methods of analysis were used. The first was a hand calculation involving a plate load source on a semi-infinite elastic half-space using the equation for a square loaded area on a homogeneous, elastic half-space. A single elastic modulus of 5 GPa was used in the solution to predict the expected displacements of the PLT-loaded rock surfaces and the left rib of the Data Collection System (DCS) alcove. The second method involved a finite element elastic solution. Two elastic moduli were used in the analyses, 5 GPa and 36.8 GPa. These two moduli represent what were considered the likely bounds between a relatively fractured yielding rock (5 GPa) and an intact rock (36.8 GPa). The two moduli give essentially the same stress distribution but yield significantly different displacement fields. The hand solution using the 'equations mentioned above shows the plate displacement to be on the order of 6 mm with a uniform surface load on the plates of 47 MPa. At the DCS alcove wall, the displacement is on the order of 1 mm, and the normal stress adjacent to the DCS alcove wall is on the order of 1 MPa. Stress and displacement using the finite element code show that the normal stress fields are identical for the two elastic moduli. This is to be expected, as the elastic stresses are independent of modulus. The second item of interest is that the normal displacement at the DeS alcove wall is on the order of 2 mm for the 5 GPa case and negligible «0.1 mm) for the 36.8 GPa case. A third item of interest is that the plate displacement is on the order of 9 mm for the 5 GPa case and about 1.2 mm for the 36.8 GPa case. Based on the above elastic analysis of the PLT, the expected displacements at the HD and DCS walls would be expected to be bounded by the 1.2 mm and 9 mm displacement predictions. Similarly, the normal and transverse stresses adjacent to the same regions should be on the order of 1 to 2 MPa. The indirect tensile strength of the rock has been reported to be between 4 to 16 MPa (Hardin, in press). The results from the PLT are quite linear for the range of flat jack pressures achieved, This suggests that linear elastic analyses are adequate for predicting the rock mass response for the PL T,



The PLT was designed based on the standard test described in the International Society for Rock Mechanics (lSRM) testing manual (Brown 1981), ASTM standards D4394 and D4395 (1994a, b), rock mechanics testing literature, and previous testing experience with high-pressure flat jacks in G-Tunnel (Zimmerman & Finley 1987, Hansen et al. 1990). , The PLT conducted as part of the DST differs somewhat from the recommended standard techniques, although the differences are not considered significant and are justified based on the PLT configuration . within the context of the larger DST. The differences are noted throughout this paper The, experiment niche was mined using drill, and blast techniques in the construction phase of the DST during 1997. The PLT was designed to mechanically load the rock in a


horizontal orientation using large square-shaped flat jacks that press against both ribs of the PLT Niche with a steel reaction frame constructed between the ribs. This flat jack design is based on flat jacks originally fabricated and tested by SNL for G- Tunnel rock mass strength and deformability testing (Hansen et al. 1990). The G-Tunnel tests achieved flat jack pressures in excess of 30 MPa (4400 psi), and the surrounding rock failed during the test without failure of the flat jack. Because the flat jacks produce forces of roughly 454,000 kg (1,000,000 lb) per each 6.9 MPa (1000 psi) increment in pressure, it was not possible to pressure-test the jacks prior to conducting the PLT. The jacks were radiographed and helium leak-tested by the fabricator prior to installation in the PLT.



2.1 Reaction Frame Design

Design of the PL T reaction frame was predicated on materials having compressive strengths in excess of 55.2 MPa (8,000 psi:

maximum jack pressure design) and havin~ a minimum Modulus of Elasticity (E) of 30 GPa (4.3512 x 10 psi). In addition, the excavated rock surfaces of the PL T Niche were required to be prepared in accordance with ASTM 4394-84 (1994a). Numerous methods, including hydraulic jacks and pipe columns, cast-in- place high-strength concrete, and structural steel (lor H beam construction) were considered for the' reaction frame. ( The installed configuration consisted of 0.91-m (36-in.) square, mild steel plates stacked horizontally across the diameter of the PLT Niche near the springline (Fig. 2).

This reaction frame design allowed the flat jacks to provide relatively uniform pressure to a single (each side) 2.5-cm (l-in.) thick bearing platen. Each platen bears on a nominal 1O.1-cm (4-in.) thick grout pad cast directly on the hand-smoothed rock surfaces to provide a uniform bearing surface for PL T testing. Availability of materials, ease of installation, and construction schedule time constraints also influenced this design choice. This configuration provided not only, simplicity, but also the necessary mass upon which the anticipated large loading forces could react. Although the joints between the stacked plates allowed some compliance' during low-pressure cycles, the compliance was reduced by adding additional aluminum shims- during initial depressurization cycles prior to actually conducting the PLT. Upon completion of this low-pressure pre-loading, the reaction frame was considered stiff enough to allow general

loading ofthe PLT.



2.2 Pressurization System

The heart of the pressurization system used for the PL T was a pneumatically driven 103 MPa (15,000 psi) maximum discharge pressure pump, which featured a large air piston joined to a smaller diameter plunger. The pressure ratio was the difference of these two areas and was the method of determining maximum output pressure. The pump was designed to stop automatically



, ".


Flat Jack

Bleed Port

SNL Flat Jack

Borehole ',88


(elevated temperatura)'"


~ fii


Plate loading Reaction Frame,




•• .j'.

Figure 2. View of reaction frame and flat jack setup used in !he PLT.

when the output pressure forces and the air drive forces were equal. The pump would then restart with a slight drop in the outlet pressure or an increase in the air drive pressure. The pressurization fluid used was potable water. Water was used instead of the standard fluid (hydraulic oil) so as to limit the potential impact of system leaks on the surrounding rock. '



The PLT instrumentation included displacement sensors in the PLT boreholes and on the data collection system (DCS) side of the PL T pillar between the PL T Niche and the DeS alcove:

Pressure transducers were used to monitor the flat jack system pressure. Borehole anchor locations were selected in competent rock in each borehole based on borehole video logs of each hole. The resulting' displacement measurements along with the measured flat jack pressures were used to calculate the rock mass deformation modulus. i'

. Another set of displacement measurements across the. OCS

alcove was intended to monitor the stability of the west rib of the

PLT Niche pillar as the flat jacks were pressurized.r'Ihis was considered prudent, as the operational range of the flat jacks was expected to exceed 30 MPa (4400 psi) which would impart more than 1,816,000 kg (4,000,000 lb) of force on the rock. No cross- drift (PLT Niche) displacements were made as suggested by the

ISRM testing manual (Brown




An additional test setup deviation from the ISRM-suggested method was in the depth and number of the MPBX anchors

relati ve to the size of the loaded area. (Although the ISRM suggests that the bottom anchor be placed approximately six flat jack (loading platen) diameters away from the loaded surface only, the close proximity to the. nearest direct I heat source allowed borehole depths of only 3 m. Because I the borehole depths were shortened from the recommended ISRM depth, the

number of anchors was also

The final deviation from the ISRM-suggested method was in the loading itself. The ISRM method suggests the load be cycled in multiple increments, with each incremental cycle duration of (up to) three daysBecause of safety issues related to extremely high loading pressures, it was decided to conduct each test in the most expedient manner possible. Maximum pressure increments were established at 9.5 MPa (1400 psi) with cycle durations held to the minimum time required for displacement stabilization.

~.! I'




3.1 PLT Data Acquisition System

The data acquisition system for the PL T consisted of a 16-bit analog to digital (AID) converter with I· in 12 16 resolution installed in a laptop computer with a PCMCIA port. The virtual data acquisition instrument "PL DATA LOGGER" was created using LabView graphical programming language.



• ;',"":




•. '~~

3.2 Plate Loading Tests through June 1998

Two plate loading tests were conducted on 28 May 1998 and 9 June 1998 using the double acting flat jack and reaction frame system previously described. Both tests terminated as a result of flat jack failures resulting in a loss of pressure. For the 28 May 1998 test, the maximum flat jack pressure achieved was about 8.8 MPa (1280 psi). The 9 June 1998 test achieved maximum

flat jack pressure of about 16.5 MPa (2400 psi) prior to failure of

. The PL T results are presented in terms of pressure/dis- placement plots in Figures 3 and 4. : It must be noted that the pressure data required for such plots and subsequent analyses is the pressure directly applied to. the rock mass and not necessarily the pressure measured in the flat jacks or loading systems. In the case of the YMP PLT, the bearing pressure is estimated from the measured flat jack pressure, the estimated dimensions of the flat jack at that pressure, and the bearing platen dimensions. Because

one of the flat jacks.


14 "-"l"-"-'-~- - -:



-· t-· ·





















Displacement (mn) 3 .' Bearing pressure versus displacement for ambient










0.5 I



" Displacement (nvn)



, ",


Figure 4. Bearing pressure versus displacement for heated side.





the flat jacks are flexible, they deform under their internal

pressure, and as they extend from the initial thickness of 9.5 mm the effective loading area decreases. The assumed decrease in

loading area was calculated as follows: .









,~ f.

Bearing Pressure = Flat Jack Pressure x (78 cmi/(91.4 cm)~.

= 0.728 x Flat Jack Pressure


'I ~








Post-test analysis involved modeling the rock mass with an elastic 3D finite element vmecbanlcs code (JAC3D). The equilibrium stress state was used as the initial condition for the PLT analysis. 'Two loading histories (steps) were modeled. The first was the test performed on 28 May 1998 with a plate bearing pressure of 6.4 MPa. The second was the test performed on 9 June 1998 with a plate bearing pressure of 11.9 MPa.'. t' , The rock mass moduli on the ambient and heated side of the PLT Niche were taken to be 12 GPa and 30 GPa, respectively. The normal displacements at each MPBX anchor location for the two bearing pressures were calculated and compared to the observed displacements. The results are given in Tables 2 and 3. . Tables 2 and 3 show' that the predicted and observed displacements compared favorably. For each case (except one) the elastic r solution slightly', underpredicts the observed displacements with an average difference on the order of 18%. This difference may be attributed to displacements associated with initial fracture closing and plate seating prior to mobilizing the strength of the rock mass, Note also from Tables 2 and 3 that both the measured and predicted displacements on the ambient side of the drift are approximately. 2.5 times greater than the displacements on the heated side of the drift.:' "/.1" J> This can be attributed, in part, to the closing of fractures as a result of heating and thus a higher mobilized rock strength on the heated side of the PL T Niche. In addition, factors such as -rock'


Table 2. Nonna! displacements on ambient side of PLT Niche. Anchor Depth (m) Bearing Pressure
Table 2. Nonna! displacements on ambient side of PLT Niche.
Anchor Depth (m) Bearing Pressure 6.4 MPa BearingPressure 11.9MPa
Table 3. Normal displacements on heated side of PLT Niche.
Anchor Depth (m)
Bearing Pressure6.4 MPa
Observed Calculated
BearingPressure 11.9MPa
Observed Calculated
0.87 0.17
1.31 0.22
2.70 0.19

inhomogeneity, drift geometry, and mining methods could also have contributed to the difference in the rock mass strength.


This paper presents results from a unique PL T conducted to

support coupled thermal-mechanical

the YMP. The uniqueness lies in the measurement of rock mass stiffness for both ambient temperature and thermally perturbed rock masses for the double acting system. This paper presents only the ambient measurements prior to significant heating of the rock mass, although the test is planned to be conducted periodically as the rock mass heats from the DST.

evaluations of the DST for

A number of techniques

were used to estimate

rock mass

modulus and are discussed in this paper. These


include estimation of rock mass modulus from rock mass quality surveys, estimation from borehole jacking tests, and estimation using the plate loading technique. The results from the PLTyield rock mass moduli of 11.4 GPa and 29.5 GPa for the ambient and

heated sides of the PLT Niche, respectively. Conversely, the borehole jacking test results yield rock mass modulus estimates from 3.3 GPa to 5.9 GPa for the same rock mass. The rock mass quality estimates yield rock mass modulus estimates within the range determined from the PLT; however, the values determined

from surveys of the ambient versus

heated sides of the niche do

not show the 2: 1 rock mass modulus ratio observed in the PLT. Results of numerical modeling of the PL T as well as thermal


from the DST suggest that the PL T rock mass modulus


better represent

the actual response

of the rock mass

surrounding the PLT Niche than the other techniques discussed. The PLT results suggest that the heated side of the PLT Niche,

even early in the DST heating phase, has caused the fractures in

the vicinity of the niche to close, thus presenting

mass for the PLT. Alternatively, the rock mass quality estimates from the rock mass surrounding the PLT Niche may be more heterogeneous than previously thought, with the heated side actually having a higher rock mass quality than initially estimated. Additional evaluation of the rock mass quality will determine the extent to which this applies to the PLT results. The PL T results provide important information regarding the rock mass mechanical properties for the Yucca Mountain Project design and performance assessment programs. The estimations regarding the coupling of the thermal and mechanical response are critical inputs for estimates of rock mass stability, rock

a stiffer rock


thermal-mechanical and thermal-hydrologic processes necessary for performance assessments. Future PLT testing can further aid in understanding the complex T-M-H coupling necessary for determining the overall performance of the proposed Yucca

Mountain repository.

of the

support interactions,

and the coupling


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