Geotechnical Characterization of the Bearpaw Shale
Powell, J. Suzanne
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This research takes a multidisciplinary approach to comprehensively investigate the material and mechanical properties as well as pore water chemistry of the Bearpaw shale. This made it possible to characterize how these properties relate to the mechanical strength of this material. The results of this research challenge our ideas of the hydrogeology and of the geological history of the region. Core samples of the Bearpaw Formation and the overlying glacial till were collected from a field site in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. A combination of laboratory tests including multi-staged oedometer tests, constant rate of strain oedometer tests, specialized triaxial swell tests, along with pore water chemistry and finite element modelling were used to meet the following objectives: (1) To investigate the material properties and compression behaviour of the Bearpaw in addition to assessing disturbance due to specimen size; (2) Examine the time dependent behaviour of the Bearpaw and the transferability of time rate models developed for soft soils to stiff soils; (3) Examine the swelling potential and behaviour of the Bearpaw Formation and the influence of boundary conditions on this behaviour, while assessing the applicability of the swell concepts developed for compacted materials to a naturally swelling clay material; and (4) Constrain the depositional age of the till overlying the Bearpaw Shale. Contrary to what is seen in soft soils, smaller sized specimens were found to reduce disturbance, and produce more accurate and consistent results. Creep was found to follow the same laws as it does in soft soils, calling into question whether the use of preconsolidation pressure to predict geological history in stiff clays is appropriate. There was significant variation in the observed swell pressures of samples of the same size and depth. Finally, the glacial till at site was found to belong uniquely to the Battleford Formation and ranges in age from 22,500 to 27,500 years which is much younger (over 100,000 years younger) than previously believed.