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Active Control of Underground Stresses Through Rock Pressurization
  • Published Date:
    1/1/2010
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Active Control of Underground Stresses Through Rock Pressurization
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  • Description:
    To significantly increase the stability of underground excavations while exploiting the full advantages of confined rock strength, methods must be developed to actively control the distribution of stresses near the excavation. This U.S. Bureau of Mines study examines theoretical and practical aspects of rock pres¬surization, an active stress control concept that induces compressive stress in the wall rock through repeated hydraulic fracturing with a settable fluid. Numerical analyses performed by incorporating the rock pressurization concept into a variety of boundary-element models indicate that rock pressurization has the potential to improve underground excavation stability in three ways: (1) by relocating stress concentrations away from the weak opening surface to stronger, confined wall rock; (2) by inducing additional stresses in a biaxial stress field to reduce the difference between the principal stress components near the surface of the opening; and (3) by counteracting the tensile stresses induced in the rock around internally loaded openings. Practical aspects of the rock pressurization concept were investigated through a series of hydraulic fracturing experiments. The use of sulfur as a settable fluid for hydraulic fracturing was demonstrated, although problems related to sulfur viscosity suggest that other molten materials, such as wax, may be better suited to practical field application of the rock pressurization concept.

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