Engineering Classification of Shales

Siokler, Robert A.
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 13
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
Approximately 75 percentage of the earth's land surface is comprised of shale or shale-like materials. Shale itself is composed of the residue from an almost infinite variety of weathered parent materials which have undergone deformations ranging from intense to negligible. Under standard test procedures, shales exhibit a very wide range of physical properties particularly if the test specimen is subjected to a change in moisture content, when the original test values may vary from 0 to 100 percentage. It is this wide variation in physical property values compounded by its ubiquitous presence that makes shale such a problem material to engineers. In reviewing the literature relating to shale, it is evident that the "problem" has been approached from many directions. In order to understand why shales behave as they do, investigators have sought mineralogical, geological, chemical, electrical, and physical answers. Each study yields valuable academic information, but few contribute much of value to the engineer in the field. Many valid relationships between shale strength or competency and clay type, clay content, organic content, water content, grain size, cementation, density, porosity, etc, have been established. Yet it is very difficult to extend these understandings to the in situ condition with results that can be used by the field engineer. One major reason earlier work has not produced better information lies in the ambiguity of the definition of shale. It is apparent that no one laboratory parameter can be successfully used to provide sufficient engineering information to properly describe in situ conditions. For example; shale with swelling clays will produce low strength values provided: the swelling clay is in sufficient quantity, the clay is dispersed throughout the medium involved, and there is a low value of cementation. Shales with high unconfined compressive strengths have been found with very low shear strengths. Sandy shales often provide as many ground control problems as clay shales. Shales of similar nature may provide good roof conditions in one part of a mine yet in another part of the same mine the apparently identical shale may cause substantial problems. A clear need exists to classify shale in a manner which will enable the engineer to better predict the strength and durability of shale-like materials. Studies at the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) have focused on finding parameters which influence durability and competency, while being discretely discernible through uncomplicated testing. Initial research concentrated on distinguishing shale8 on the basis of standard physical tests such as: unconfirmed compression, triaxial shear, and slake durability. As results accumulated, however, it became evident that moisture content played a much greater role in determining competency than had been recognized previously. As a result the focus of the research turned to developing tests which would evaluate the influence of moisture on shale behavior. The above work then became a foundation for a second phase of investigation in which a suite of standardized tests were developed to provide a classification procedure. From this study five tests were identified as being critical: Moisture Activity, Atterberg Limits, Submersion, Unconfined Compression, and Shore Hardness.
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