The engineering geology of a brecciated sub-unit in the Newer Volcanics of Melbourne and the implications for construction.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Geotechnical investigations undertaken by GHD Pty Ltd uncovered a previously undescribed rock type in the suburbs of Footscray and Alphington approximately 5 km west and 6.5 km east of Melbourne CBD respectively. The rock encountered appeared to be a breccia type rock with angular high strength fine gravel to boulder sized fragments of relatively unweathered grey to dark grey basalt surrounded by a matrix of orangish brown fine grained brittle material resembling hard clay. Pillow basalts were also encountered in the deposits in the form of 0.6 m or larger globular but highly fractured basalt bodies within the rock mass. The rock was eventually identified as a hyaloclastite, a rock type formed when basalt lava flows into water bodies and is quench fragmented. The debris forms piles of basalt and volcanic glass fragments. The volcanic glass fragments are thermodynamically unstable and are altered to palagonite within as little as 20 years from initial deposition. No prior reference to the occurrence of hyaloclastite in the Melbourne region could be found. As such, the location, extent and geotechnical properties of this rock type are unknown, posing a potential risk to infrastructure and construction projects. This study aimed to investigate the possible origins of the hyaloclastite; develop a theory of emplacement/origin; identify other locations where this rock type may exist; determine the geotechnical properties and engineering geological behaviour of the rock; and develop a classification system for the rocks encountered. A variety of methods were used to gather sufficient information to allow the occurrences and geological and geotechnical nature of hyaloclastites and pillow basalts in the Melbourne area to be better understood. Samples of the rock were obtained during the geotechnical investigations undertaken in Footscray and Alphington and outcrop mapping was completed on exposures identified during the course of this study. Historical borehole logs and as built drawings were obtained to assist in the understanding of the previous description terminology associated with the rock now identified as hyaloclastite. Standard and “non-standard” laboratory testing was undertaken as well as classification testing. The field of block-in-matrix rocks “bimrocks” was assessed as a possible method to assist in the understanding of the behaviour and geotechnical properties of the hyaloclastite rock with or without pillow basalts. The RMR, Q-System and GSI rock mass classification systems were used to help understand the rockmass characteristics. A weak rock classification system, a weathered rock characterisation system and a ground behaviour characterisation system were also used to provide information on the possible behaviour of the hyaloclastite type rocks. Development of both 2D and 3D geological models of the two sites indicate that the hyaloclastites encountered in Melbourne were deposited in “lava-deltas”. The hyaloclastites were deposited on advancing subaqueous delta fronts with an overlying layer of subaerial basalt above what has been termed the “passage zone” which represents the historical level of water into which the lava flowed. Strength testing undertaken on the various samples suggested that the hyaloclastite should be classified as a weak rock, with UCS values of ranging from approximately 1 MPa to 10 MPa, and a median UCS value of 1.37 MPa. Using the compiled UCS data and PLT data an estimate of the PLT Is50 to UCS conversion factor “k” was calculated as 10.4. The results of jar slake testing and weatherability index testing were variable: whilst the majority of samples showed no sign of slaking, one sample showed a strong reaction. The samples of disaggregated rock were classified as sandy gravel as per AS1726:1995. Whilst the fine to medium gravel was of subangular grains of basalt the sand was found to be made up of angular fragments of palagonite. Plasticity index and XRD testing of fines obtained from the disaggregation process indicated that the fines are comprised of illite and smectite clay minerals and behave as a high plasticity silt. Several categorisation methods utilised indicated that the hyaloclastite type rockmass strength parameters are controlled partly by the strength of the matrix and partly by the discontinuities and that the rock mass strength is dominated by the pillow basalt behaviour (typical hard rock type behaviours) only once the content of these structures in these rocks exceeds a volume content of 75% pillows to 25% hyaloclastite. Rock mass strength and deformation calculations indicate that the hyaloclastite rock mass is both very weak and also highly deformable (rock mass modulus <100 MPa) when compared with the highly weathered subaerial basalt (~500 MPa) and the fresh/slightly weathered basalt (~15000 MPa). A value of petrographic constant mi used in the Generalised Hoek Brown Criterion was also determined to be 7.01. This is considerably different to the values suggested for “breccia” in the literature of 19±8. A modulus ratio of 150 was also estimated using testing data from Melbourne and also Iceland. The extent of hyaloclastite in the Melbourne region remains unknown. Whilst the location of these deposits is associated with the base of palaeovalleys now infilled by volcanic products, hyaloclastite does not occur in the base of all the palaeovalleys and is expected to be controlled by sea level change and also disruption of drainage lines by damming caused by earlier subaerial flows. Geotechnical practitioners must be aware of the potential occurrence of hyaloclastite as both the hyaloclastite and hyaloclastites with pillow basalt rock masses were found to be significantly weaker and more deformable than the highly weathered subaerial basalt rock. Misidentification of the rock as highly weathered basalt during geotechnical investigation may result in significant under-design. In addition, rock mass behaviour categorisation indicates that block-falls of pillow basalt from excavation walls and roofs may be a risk. Increased excavation effort to remove the pillow basalt structures should also be factored in to projects. To aid identification and understanding of the potential hazards associated with hyaloclastite type rocks, a series of reference sheets has been developed. These reference sheets aim to increase practitioners’ knowledge of hyaloclastites, and the implications for excavation and construction. The reference sheets also provide geomechanical details. Three-dimensional simplified engineering geological block models have also been included to provide graphical information on the relationships and possible geohazards of the various rock types. Future research should aim to further define the extent and engineering properties of hyaloclastites in the Melbourne region and to further define the petrographic constant mi, a better estimate of modulus ratio based on instrumented UCS tests. It is also hoped that now this rock has been recognised in Melbourne that the geotechnical community will reassess previous projects and start to build knowledge on the whereabouts of hyaloclastite and pillow basalt type rocks in the Melbourne area.