2017 – A Unique Experience with Liquefaction Assessment of Impounded Brown Coal Ash

Radin Espandar, Mark Locke and James Faithful

Brown coal ash has the potential to be a hazard to the environment and local communities if its storage is not well managed. The risk of releasing contained ash from an ash tailings dam due to earthquake induced liquefaction is a concern for mining lease holders, mining regulators and the community.Ash tailings dams are typically raised by excavating and compacting reclaimed ash to form new embankments over slurry deposited ash, relying on drying consolidation and minor cementation for stability. Understanding the post-earthquake behaviour of the brown coal ash is necessary to assess the overall stability of an ash tailings dam during and after seismic loading events.A particular concern is the seismic motion may break cementation bonds within the ash resulting in a large reduction in shear strength (i.e. sensitive soil behaviour) and potential instability. There is limited information available for black coal ash however, brown coal ash has different properties to black coal ash and no known work has been carried out to date in this area.The dynamic and post-earthquake behaviour, including liquefaction susceptibility, of the brown coal ash was studied, specifically for Hazelwood Ash Pond No. 4 Raise (HAP4A) in Latrobe Valley, Victoria. In this study, different well-known methods for liquefaction susceptibility, including the methods based on the index parameters, the cone penetration test (CPT) and the cyclic triaxial testing, were used and the results were compared.It was found that the impounded brown coal ash is susceptible to liquefaction and /or cyclic softening. Triggering of the liquefaction or softening was assessed based on the results of cyclic triaxial test.In this methodology, the relationship among axial strain(εa), Cyclic Stress Ratio (CSR) and number of uniform cycles (Nequ) was determined based on the triaxial test results. Then, asite-specific CSR was determined using the ground response analysis. The CSR and number of uniform cycles (Nequ) for each ash layer was calculated and added to the εa-CSR-Nequgraph to determine the expected axial strain during an MCE event. It was found that the calculated axial strain for the ash embankment and ash deposits during site specific Maximum Credible Earthquake (MCE) are less than the axial strain of the ash material required for triggering of liquefaction and the brown coal ash in HAP4A does not liquefy and/or soften the material during an MCE event. Also it was found that the insitu tests which break the cementation between particles(such as CPT)does not provide accurate results on triggering or sensitivity.

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