User-Friendly Finite Element Design of Main Entries, Barrier Pillars, and Bleeder Entries

Lawson, Heather E. ; Larson, Mark K. ; Pariseau, William G. ; Tesarik, Douglas R.
Organization: International Conference on Ground Control in Mining
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2017
"This contribution describes development and application of a user-friendly finite element program, UT3PC, to address three important problems in underground coal mine design: (1) safety of main entries, (2) barrier pillar size needed for entry protection, and (3) safety of bleeder entries during the advance of an adjacent longwall panel. While the finite element method is by far the most popular engineering design tool of the digital age, widespread use by the mining community has been impeded by the relatively high cost of and the need for lengthy specialized training in numerical methods. Implementation of UT3PC overcomes these impediments in three easy steps: First, a material properties file is prepared for the considered site. Next, mesh generation is automatic through an interactive process. A third and last step is simply execution of the program. Examples using data from several western coal mines illustrate the ease of using the application for analysis of main entries, barrier pillars, and bleeder entry safety.INTRODUCTIONRational design of safe underground entries and crosscuts, barrier pillars, and bleeder entries begins with a site-specific analysis of stress. An analysis of stress identifies the critical regions of high-stress concentration where yielding is likely and additional or more focused ground control measures are needed. This analysis also identifies regions where stress concentration is low, and risk mitigation is less urgent. Displacements induced by mining, including roof sag, floor heave, and pillar squeeze, are also of importance to stability. The popular finite element method is well-suited for such analysis and has been in use for studying coal mine engineering problems since the late 1960s (Dahl, 1969). The method has been taught in undergraduate engineering curricula for many years and offers an alternative to existing design procedures based mostly on rules of thumb, empirical methods based on mine data, and predigital-age concepts of strata mechanics. However, despite the versatility of the finite element method, usage has been limited, mainly because of the cost of the software and the required training in numerical methods.The program UT3PC (Pariseau, 2017) has evolved from early two-dimensional versions in the era of mainframe computers. These early versions were still quite limited using only a few hundred elements that required overnight turnaround times. Recent versions of UT3PC are convenient and efficient desktop programs that use several million elements. With the advent of personal computers in the mid-1980s and subsequent increase in computer speed, expanded memory, and lower costs, applications for mining increased in three-way cooperative projects among industry, the former U.S. Bureau of Mines, and academia. The Spokane Research Center of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with the University of Utah, developed a two-dimensional desktop finite element program, UT2PC, available to the mining community in 1991. This was a short course offered at the 1991 SME Annual Meeting in Denver, CO."
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