Embankments founded on sulphide clay : - some aspects related to ground improvement by vertical drains

Sammanfattning: In this thesis, some aspects concerning building embankments founded on sulphide clay are studied, with special reference to ground improvement by preloading in combination with prefabricated vertical drains (PVD’s). The main purpose of the research was to increase empirical knowledge of the mechanical behaviour of sulphide clays subjected to embankment loadings and of the interaction between vertical drains and sulphide clays. Important aspects related to ground improvement with PVD’s in more general terms are also treated, in particular how various uncertainties regarding the properties of the clay and the clay-drain interaction imposed in the design phase can be addressed. The benefits of using theobservational method for handling these uncertainties are discussed, and a description of how the method was used in an embankment project is presented. The results from the research are presented in one conference paper and two papers submitted to peer-reviewed international journals, which are appended.The design of PVD’s involves describing the consolidation characteristics of the clay and the interaction between the drains and the clay. Primarily, the rate of consolidation is determined by the hydraulic conductivity (permeability) of the clay in the horizontal direction. Hence, accurate determination of this material property is of paramount importance in making reliable design predictions. As conventional laboratory tests for assessing the consolidation characteristics of a clay only provide information about its properties in the vertical direction, one is often left to make assumptions about the horizontal properties based on empirical correlations. Reliable empirical knowledge of these correlations for a certain clay is there forevital. A large number of CRS tests were performed on horizontal and vertical samples ofsulphide clay in order to investigate the correlation between the horizontal and verticalhydraulic conductivity and coefficient of consolidation. The results show that there is very small anisotropy in these parameters and that the scatters in the results are large. For designpurposes, sulphide clays should therefore be assumed to be isotropic in this respect. In orde rto handle the variation in properties, several parallel tests should be made and partial factors of safety should be introduced in the design. Introducing partial factors of safety in the design of PVD’s is one of the main topics suggested for further research. Regarding the clay-drain interaction, a study of the disturbance effects (smear effects) during the installation of drains in sulphide clays was performed. Back-calculations of measurements of pore pressure dissipation were made via a parameter study. It was shown that smear affects the consolidation rate to some extent but that the natural (undisturbed) hydraulic conductivity is more significant.The undrained shear strength su of a clay is dependent on the preconsolidation pressure σ 'p . As the clay consolidates under a loading, the effective stress increases, possibly to magnitudes surpassing the initial preconsolidation pressure and thereby leading to increased undrainedshear strength of the clay. The relation between su and σ 'p, i.e. the ratio su /σ 'p for asulphide clay, was investigated based on results from a large number of in situ tests andlaboratory tests. There were large scatters in the measurements, but su /σ 'p =0.25 is suggested as being relevant in the direct shear zone for design purposes in sulphide clays.