Observations and Numerical Back Analysis of an Excavation in the Queenston Mudstone

Perras, M. A. (ETH Zurich) | Diederichs, M. S. (Queen’s University)



The Niagara Tunnel Project (NTP) is a 10.1 km long water-diversion tunnel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, which was excavated by a 14.4 m diameter tunnel boring machine. The excavated rock types included limestone, sandstone, siltstone, shale and mudstone. Based on observations and measurements the overbreak was divided into four zones. Approximately half the tunnel length was excavated through the Queenston Formation, which locally is a shale to mudstone. Three of the four overbreak zones were within the Queenston. Zone 1 includes the formations above the Queenston Formation, Zones 2 and 4 are border regimes with little or no influence from St. Davids Buried Gorge and Zone 3 is the area influenced by the gorge. Zones 2 through 4 can be generally summarized as having overbreak as the result of stress induced spalling. Zone 2 marks the transition from slabbing at the Whirlpool contact in the stress shadow to spalling towards Zone 3. The behaviour of Zone 3 is interrupted from the typical high stress behaviour due to the presence of St. Davids Buried Gorge. As the tunnel passed from the gorge the high regional stresses induce spalling, which creates the typical notch shaped overbreak geometry of Zone 4.

Three modelling approaches were used to back analyze the brittle failure process at the NTP: damage initiation and spalling limit, laminated anisotropy modelling, and ubiquitous joint approaches. Analyses were conducted for three tunnel chainages: 3+000, 3+250, and 3+500 m because the overbreak depth increased from 2 to 4 m. All approaches produced similar overbreak geometries to those measured. The laminated anisotropy modelling approach was able to produce overbreak depths and chord closures closest to those measured, using a joint normal to shear stiffness ratio between 1 and 2. The back analysis results were able to produce sets of stress and strength inputs for different sections of the tunnel at the transition from overbreak Zone 3 to 4. The back analysis procedure demonstrates the importance of including the anisotropic stiffness in the numerical modelling approach to correctly capture the overbreak geometry and deformations around underground excavations.