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Air overpressure Prediction Equation for Construction Blasting

Anthony J. Konya, Missouri S&T University


&
Calvin J. Konya Ph.D., Precision Blasting Services
Abstract
State and Federal construction specifications require the Blasting Contractor to prepare a Master
Blasting Plan which is reviewed by the Owners Representative. The Master Blasting Plan requires the
Contractor to submit the design of a typical blast. Most blasting specifications also require the Blasting
Contractor to submit Daily Blasting Plans. The Master Blasting Plan and the Daily Blasting Plan
require that the Blasting Contractor also submit the types and quantities of explosives and initiators
used. The specifications also request that the Blasting Contractor submit the pounds of explosive used
per delay for both production and presplit blasts. The Blasting Contractor may also be required to
predict the anticipated ground vibration and air overpressure levels for the proposed blasts. There are
equations that can be used to predict the ground vibration. There are also equations that can be used to
predict the air overpressure levels. The data for these equations were primarily derived from quarry and
surface coal mine and some construction blasts. Data from major construction projects were analyzed in
this study to determine new air overpressure propagation equations for construction blasting. These new
prediction equations compare calculated results analyzed from field data with other existing air
overpressure prediction equations. Production blasting air overpressure values are also compared to air
overpressure from presplitting.
Background
Air overpressure is an atmospheric pressure wave transmitted from the blast outward into the
surrounding area. Air waves travel through the air similar to compressional waves in water. Shear
waves are not transmitted through fluids such as air or water. This pressure wave consists of audible
sound that can be heard, and concussion or sub-audible sound that cannot be heard. If the pressure of
this wave is sufficient it can cause damage. Generally air overpressure is an annoyance type of problem
that does not cause damage but causes unpleasant relations between the operator and those affected
nearby. Air overpressure is generated by the explosive gases being vented to the atmosphere as the rock
ruptures, by stemming blow out, by displacement of the rock face, by displacement around the borehole
and by ground vibration. Various combinations of these may exist for any given blast.
Overpressure and Decibels
Air overpressure is most commonly measured in decibel (dB). It is also measured in pounds per square
inch (psi). The decibel is defined in terms of the overpressure by the equation:
dB = 20 LOG(P/P0)
where:
dB
=
P
=
P0
=

Sound levels in decibels (dB)


Overpressure in psi (lbs/in2)
Overpressure of the lowest sound that can be heard in psi (lbs/in2)

P0
=
2.9 10-9 = 3 10-9 psi (lbs/in2).
Some typical sound levels with values in both dB and psi are shown in Figure 1.
Air Overpressure and Wind Equivalents
For residents around blasting areas the use of wind equivalents as units for air over pressure is preferred
to decibels or pounds per square inch. Typical activities and damage criteria are expressed in Figure 1
in wind equivalents as well as pounds per square inch and decibels.

Figure 1. Typical Sound Levels (Konya, 2008)


Sound Levels
Sound levels are measured on different weighting networks designated A, B, C, and Linear. These
differ essentially in the ability to measure low frequency sound. The A-network corresponds most
closely to the sound heard by the human ear and discriminates severely against the low frequencies. The
B-network discriminates moderately against low frequencies and the C-network only slightly while the
Linear network measures all frequencies.
Sound produced by a blast is primarily low frequency energy and sound measuring devices should have
a low frequency response capability to accurately represent the sound levels. A C-weighted network, or
preferably a linear-peak, should be used.

Spectral analysis of blast sounds was done by Siskind and Summers, 1974, which clearly showed the
very low sub audible frequencies.
Scaled Distance for Air Overpressure
Air overpressure is scaled according to the cube root of the charge weight similar to what is done with
underwater blasting and not the square root of the charge weight used for ground vibration, that is:
K = d/(W)1/3
where:
d
W
K

=
=
=

Distance (ft)
Maximum charge weight per delay (lbs)
Scaled distance value for air overpressure (ft/lbs1/3).

Potential Damage for Air Overpressure


There are two distinct regions of potential air overpressure damage which are referred to as Near Field
and Far Field.
Near Field
This is the region around the blast site where there is direct transmission of the pressure pulse. The
potential for damage in the near field is considered small with reasonable blast design. The details of
spacing, burden, stemming, explosive charge, delays, covering of detonating cord trunklines and use of
cord with minimal core load can minimize air overpressure. Proper execution of the design ensures a
very low probability of glass breakage.
Far Field (Air Overpressure Focusing)
This represents the region far from the blast site (from 4-20 miles, 6.4-32 km) where direct transmission
cannot produce damage. It represents a concentration or focusing of sound waves in a narrow zone.
These waves travel up into the atmosphere and are refracted back to the earth, producing a large
overpressure in a narrow focal zone.
The cause of air overpressure focusing is the presence of an atmospheric temperature inversion. The
more severe the inversion, the more intense the focusing can be. Wind can also be a significant factor
adding to the effect.
Research Project
This research project will consider only the overpressure in the near field. There are many potential
equations that have been developed to predict air overpressure. The equations are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Equations for (Near Field) Prediction of Air Overpressure


(ISEE Blasters Handbook 2011)
Blast Type
Open Air (no confinement)

AP (mb) Metric
Equation
P=3589 SD3-1.38

AP (psi) US
equation
P=187 SD3-1.38

Source
Perkins

Coal Mines (parting)

P=2596 SD3-1.62

P=169 SD3-1.62

USBM RI 8485

Coal Mines (highwall)

P=5.37 SD3-0.79

P=0.162 SD3-0.79

USBM RI 8485

Quarry Face

P=37.1 SD3-0.97

P=1.32 SD3-0.97

USBM RI 8485

Metal Mine

P=14.3 SD3-0.71

P=0.401 SD3-0.71

USBM RI 8485

Construction (average)

P=24.8 SD3-1.1

P=1 SD3-1.1

Oriard (2005)

Construction (highly confined)

P=2.48 SD3-1.1

P=0.1 SD3-1.1

Oriard (2005)

Buried (total confinement)

P=1.73 SD3-0.96

P=0.061 SD3-0.96

USBM RI 8485

Project Details
Air overpressure measured on major construction projects, with the use of three to four inch (75 to 100
mm) diameter blastholes, and depths to 35 feet (10.7 meters), are different than the average overpressure
results calculated from overpressure equations for construction. This size of blasthole is common in
general construction for highways, locks and dams and site preparation. Since the authors must be able
to predict the air overpressure values for these blast conditions, they evaluated air overpressure data and
determined more site-specific equations for air overpressure prediction. Three cases were studied where
researchers evaluated the results for a total of 386 blasts. The projects were in granites and sedimentary
rock such as shale, sandstone and limestone.
In general presplit blastholes are encouraged to vent to get a clean break to the collar of the holes. These
presplit blastholes were also evaluated to determine an equation for air overpressure from presplits and
compare it to production blasts.
In all cases the mean value equation was developed as well as the 95% confidence level equation.
These equations were compared to the existing published equations given in Table 1.
Figure 2 shows the air overpressure results for the same scaled distances for eight equations given in
Table 1.

Comparisons of AP for Different Equations


10

AP in psi

Open Air
Coal Parting

0.1

Coal Highwall
Quarry

0.01

Metal
Cons Avg

0.001

Cons High Con


Total Con

0.0001
1

10

100

1000

SD3 (feet/pounds1/3)

Figure 2. Comparison of Air Overpressure (psi) vs Scaled distance (d/W1/3)


Results
Air overpressure data from three separate projects were compared using a regression analysis of the air
overpressure and scaled distance (d/W1/3). Figure 3 shows the graphical data as well as the mean value
equation and the 95% confidence level equation in psi. Figure 4 shows the same data and equations
when the air overpressure data is in Decibels (dB). Figure 5 shows the same data and equations in metric
units of kPa, meters and kilograms.
When this equation for construction blasts is compared to the results from the equations in Figure 2, the
results are very close to the results of equations previously derived for quarries and metal mines. Figure
6 shows a graph of Figure 2 with the results of the new equation added to this graph.

Figure 3. Regression Analysis and Equations for Air Overpressure (psi) (US units)

Figure 4. Regression Analysis and Equations for Air Overpressure (dB) (US units)

Figure 5. Regression Analysis and Equations for Air Overpressure (kPa) (Metric)

Comparisons of AP for Different


Equations
10
Open Air

1
AP in Psi

Coal Parting
Coal Highwall

0.1

Quarry
0.01

Metal
Cons Avg

0.001

Cons High Con


Total Con

0.0001
1

10

100

1000

Konya

SD3 (feet/pounds)

Figure 6. Comparison of AP for all equations including Konya


As an example, one can calculate a table of air overpressure values from the three equations and
compare the results (Table 2). If the data is rounded three decimal places the results of the three
equations are nearly identical. A graphical representation of this data is given in Figure 7.
Table 2. Comparison of AP Values
Scaled Distance Quarry (psi) Metal (psi)
Konya (psi)
10

0.141

0.078

0.116

20

0.072

0.048

0.067

30

0.049

0.036

0.048

40

0.037

0.029

0.038

50

0.030

0.025

0.032

70

0.021

0.020

0.024

100

0.015

0.015

0.018

120

0.013

0.013

0.016

150

0.010

0.011

0.013

AP in Psi

0.1
Quarry
Metal
0.01

Konya

0.001
1

10

100

1000

SD3 (feet/pounds

Figure 7. Air Overpressure in psi for Quarry, Metal Mines, and Construction (Konya)
The question is commonly asked as to the relationship of air overpressure for production blasting verses
presplit blasts. An analysis of presplit data was done using air overpressure data regression analysis to
determine the 95% confidence level for air overpressure for precision presplit blasts fired
independently from the production blasts. The precision presplit holes were stemmed with drill
cuttings and a stemming plug. The holes were, in all cases, lightly loaded with detonating cord and
drilled on two foot centers. Figure 8 shows the results of the presplit blasts when compared to
production blast at the same site. The graph also shows the 95% confidence equation for the general
equation of the merged three production blast data used in this study.
Figure 8 shows the air overpressure for site F in granite. Data from site F was used to produce the 95%
confidence level air overpressure equations for both production and presplit blast. The equations used to
develop Table 3 are as follows:
Presplit (USA-PSI) (95 % confidence level site F), PSI = 1.55*(SD3) -0.84
Production (USA-PSI) (95 % confidence level site F), PSI = 0.56*(SD3) -0.82.
An analysis of the air overpressure data showed that presplit blasts will produce about on average about
254% higher air overpressure for the same scaled distance than would result from production blasts.
The average value can be conservatively assumed to be near 250% or 2.5 times the air overpressure for
production blasts
The equation in Granite for presplit (USA-psi) (95 % confidence level site F):
psi = 1.55*(SD3) -0.84. The equation in Granite for presplit (Metric kPa) (95 % confidence level site F):
kPa = 4.93*(SD3) -0.84

Air Overpressure in Psi

0.1
"All Production"
Presplit Site F

0.01

Production Site F

0.001
1

10

100

1000

SD3

Figure 8. Air Overpressure in psi for Site F Presplit and Production

Table 3. Comparison of AP (psi) in Presplit and Production Blasts

SD

Presplit

Production

Difference

10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
120
140
160
180
200

0.224
0.125
0.089
0.070
0.058
0.050
0.044
0.039
0.035
0.032
0.028
0.024
0.022
0.020
0.018

0.085
0.048
0.034
0.027
0.023
0.020
0.017
0.015
0.014
0.013
0.011
0.010
0.009
0.008
0.007

0.139
0.077
0.055
0.043
0.035
0.030
0.027
0.024
0.021
0.020
0.017
0.015
0.013
0.012
0.011

% increase
263
260
262
259
252
250
258
260
250
246
254
240
244
250
257

Conclusions
1. Air overpressure, best fit, equations for 3-4 inch (76 to 102 mm) diameter blastholes, with depths to
35 feet (10.7 meters), in both granite and limestone are:
US units (psi)
Mean value

AP(psi) = 0.14(d/(W1/3)) - 0.89

95% confidence

AP(psi) = 0.95(d/(W1/3)) - 0.89

US units (dB)
Mean value

AP(dB) = -17.81*LOG(d/(W1/3) +153.71

95% confidence

AP(dB) = -17.81*LOG(d/(W1/3) +170.34

where:
d = Distance in feet
W = Pounds/delay
Metric units (kPa)
Mean value

AP(kPa) = 0.43(d/(W1/3)) - 0.89

95% confidence

AP(kPa) = 2.89(d/(W1/3)) - 0.89

where:
d = Distance in meters
W = kilograms/delay.
2. Presplit air overpressure is about 2.5 times greater than air overpressure from normal production
blasting for the same scaled distance in this study. The equation in Granite for presplit air
overpressure (USA-psi) (95 % confidence level site F) is psi = 1.55*(SD3)-0.84. The equation in
Granite for presplit (Metric-kPa units) (95% confidence level site F) is kPa = 4.93*(SD3) -0.84.
References
1. International Society of Explosives Engineers Blasters Handbook 18th Edition (2011) (pp 587),
International Society of Explosives Engineers, Cleveland: ISEE.
2. Konya C. J., (2008). Rock Blasting and Overbreak Control- 4th Edition, Montville: IDC Inc.
3. Siskind, D.E., and Summers, C.R., (1974). "Blast Noise Standards and Instrumentation," (Report
No. TPR 78), Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Mines.