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|Conventional barrier pillars in underground coal mines are intended to protect mains and sub-main entries for relatively long periods of time. Inter-panel barrier pillars that may be used in especially deep coal mines, say, below 800 m (2,400 ft), are intended to protect longwall panel faces and adjacent panel entries for the life of nearby panels. Barrier pillar failures have serious consequences, especially when failure is sudden and catastrophic. Design of barrier pillars is thus of considerable importance to safety and efficiency of operations. Locally, failure occurs at the limit to elasticity when stress tends to exceed strength. Strength of rock is stress dependent, so an analysis of stress is central to rational design of barrier pillars. There are several approaches to stress analysis for coal mine pillar design that range from the simplified but popular tributary area method including variations that use empirical definitions of the tributary area (volume) to more sophisticated numerical methods such as the boundary element method and the finite element method. Despite ease of use, empirical methods are limited and always suspect when applied to conditions beyond their scope of definition, while boundary element methods do not generally include pillars in the solution domain. The finite element method is not so restricted and thus is a natural choice for conventional and inter-panel barrier pillar safety analyses. Caving of roof strata certainly affects the distribution of stress about longwall faces and nearby barrier pillars. Conventional wisdom that considers roof strata to respond as cantilever beams indicates the longer the span the greater are loads on longwall faces and face supports. Failure of roof beams, caving, shortens spans and relieves face and support loads. The same view is applicable to barrier pillars in that long roof spans outside of barrier pillars leads to higher pillar loads than short spans. Hence, caving should be beneficial to barrier pillar safety. However, the benefit may be small depending on the extent of caving and only in the form of a slight reduction in overburden weight transmitted to the barrier pillar, especially in case of inter-panel barrier pillars. FINITE ELEMENT MODEL Finite element models for stress analysis in rock mechanics are formulated in consideration of physical laws, kinematics, and material laws. These models meet the essential requirements for equilibrium of stress, satisfy strain displacements relations, and in a general sense, relate stress to strain through material laws, often referred to as constitutive relations. The last may be complex and replete with nonlinearities. A de facto engineering material law is the elastic model in the form of Hooke?s law for linear, homogeneous materials that may be anisotropic. A limit to elasticity is imposed by strength in the form of a failure criterion or yield function that accommodates triaxial stress states. Examples used in rock mechanics are the well-known Mohr-Coulomb (MC)criterion, the popular Hoek-Brown (HB) criterion, and the Drucker-Prager (DP) criterion. The first is linear in stress, while the second is nonlinear. Both do not include any effect of the intermediate principal stress. The last is also linear in stress but includes the intermediate principal stress. All show an increase in the major principal stress at failure with confining pressure. In the UT2/3 finite element programs, the failure criterion Y is a nonlinear, anisotropic form and is also the plastic potential : [YJI=+ 11NYJI=+- (1) ] where N is an exponent, usually 2, and J2 and I1 are nonlinear anisotropic forms of the second invariant of deviatoric stress and the first invariant of principal stress. The form (1) reduces to DP when N=1and isotropy prevails. When Y = 1, the limit to elasticity is reached and plastic deformation is possible. The material constants that enter (1) are all computed from unconfined compressive, tensile, and, in case of anisotropy, shear strengths. These latter strengths may be estimated from conventional laboratory test data. Of course, joints in field-scale rock masses induce different values. How different is often a matter of conjecture. For comparative studies, laboratory rock properties seem adequate. Inelastic, that is, plastic behavior occurs with strain beyond the elastic limit. Strain hardening, ideal plasticity, and strain softening are possibilities. Ideally brittle behavior with complete loss of strength is an extreme form of strain softening . Caving may also be considered as strain softening with a less drastic reduction of material properties. As intact roof strata fail, fall, and form a rubble pile below, a new material is formed with greatly reduced elastic moduli and strengths, say, 1/100th of the original intact moduli and strengths. From another viewpoint, caving is simply a natural cut and fill process. Input for stress analysis by the finite element method includes: 1. Preexcavation stress state 2. Geology (stratigraphic column) 3. Structure (major faults, joint sets) 4. Elastic moduli 5. Strengths, and specific gravities of each rock type 6. Excavation sequence Output from an analysis includes distributions of: 1. Stress 2. Strain 3. Displacement 4. Local factor of safety (element fs) The last is defined as the ratio of strength to stress and in view of the failure criterion (1), is the ratio [fsJstrengthJstress=] where the numerator is the maximum possible value and the denominator is the actual value of the square root of the second invariant of deviatoric stress. This invariant is a measure of shear stress intensity but also reduces to uniaxial tensile and compressive strengths as the case may be. An fs greater than 1 indicates an elastic state of element stress; a value of 1 indicates the limit to|