CPT Prediction of Soil Behaviour Type, Liquefaction Potential and Ground Settlement in North-West Christchurch
Thesis DisciplineEngineering Geology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
As a consequence of the 2010 – 2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence, Christchurch experienced widespread liquefaction, vertical settlement and lateral spreading. These geological processes caused extensive damage to both housing and infrastructure, and increased the need for geotechnical investigation substantially. Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) has become the most common method for liquefaction assessment in Christchurch, and issues have been identified with the soil behaviour type, liquefaction potential and vertical settlement estimates, particularly in the north-western suburbs of Christchurch where soils consist mostly of silts, clayey silts and silty clays. The CPT soil behaviour type often appears to over-estimate the fines content within a soil, while the liquefaction potential and vertical settlement are often calculated higher than those measured after the Canterbury earthquake sequence. To investigate these issues, laboratory work was carried out on three adjacent CPT/borehole pairs from the Groynes Park subdivision in northern Christchurch. Boreholes were logged according to NZGS standards, separated into stratigraphic layers, and laboratory tests were conducted on representative samples. Comparison of these results with the CPT soil behaviour types provided valuable information, where 62% of soils on average were specified by the CPT at the Groynes Park subdivision as finer than what was actually present, 20% of soils on average were specified as coarser than what was actually present, and only 18% of soils on average were correctly classified by the CPT. Hence the CPT soil behaviour type is not accurately describing the stratigraphic profile at the Groynes Park subdivision, and it is understood that this is also the case in much of northwest Christchurch where similar soils are found. The computer software CLiq, by GeoLogismiki, uses assessment parameter constants which are able to be adjusted with each CPT file, in an attempt to make each more accurate. These parameter changes can in some cases substantially alter the results for liquefaction analysis. The sensitivity of the overall assessment method, raising and lowering the water table, lowering the soil behaviour type index, Ic, liquefaction cutoff value, the layer detection option, and the weighting factor option, were analysed by comparison with a set of ‘base settings’. The investigation confirmed that liquefaction analysis results can be very sensitive to the parameters selected, and demonstrated the dependency of the soil behaviour type on the soil behaviour type index, as the tested assessment parameters made very little to no changes to the soil behaviour type plots. The soil behaviour type index, Ic, developed by Robertson and Wride (1998) has been used to define a soil’s behaviour type, which is defined according to a set of numerical boundaries. In addition to this, the liquefaction cutoff point is defined as Ic > 2.6, whereby it is assumed that any soils with an Ic value above this will not liquefy due to clay-like tendencies (Robertson and Wride, 1998). The method has been identified in this thesis as being potentially unsuitable for some areas of Christchurch as it was developed for mostly sandy soils. An alternative methodology involving adjustment of the Robertson and Wride (1998) soil behaviour type boundaries is proposed as follows: Ic < 1.31 – Gravelly sand to dense sand 1.31 < Ic < 1.90 – Sands: clean sand to silty sand 1.90 < Ic < 2.50 – Sand mixtures: silty sand to sandy silt 2.50 < Ic < 3.20 – Silt mixtures: clayey silt to silty clay 3.20 < Ic < 3.60 – Clays: silty clay to clay Ic > 3.60 – Organics soils: peats. When the soil behaviour type boundary changes were applied to 15 test sites throughout Christchurch, 67% showed an improved change of soil behaviour type, while the remaining 33% remained unchanged, because they consisted almost entirely of sand. Within these boundary changes, the liquefaction cutoff point was moved from Ic > 2.6 to Ic > 2.5 and altered the liquefaction potential and vertical settlement to more realistic ii values. This confirmed that the overall soil behaviour type boundary changes appear to solve both the soil behaviour type issues and reduce the overestimation of liquefaction potential and vertical settlement. This thesis acts as a starting point towards researching the issues discussed. In particular, future work which would be useful includes investigation of the CLiq assessment parameter adjustments, and those which would be most suitable for use in clay-rich soils such as those in Christchurch. In particular consideration of how the water table can be better assessed when perched layers of water exist, with the limitation that only one elevation can be entered into CLiq. Additionally, a useful investigation would be a comparison of the known liquefaction and settlements from the Canterbury earthquake sequence with the liquefaction and settlement potentials calculated in CLiq for equivalent shaking conditions. This would enable the difference between the two to be accurately defined, and a suitable adjustment applied. Finally, inconsistencies between the Laser-Sizer and Hydrometer should be investigated, as the Laser-Sizer under-estimated the fines content by up to one third of the Hydrometer values.