Improving Reclamations Geologic and Geotechnical Investigations with Drill Parameter Recorder Technology
Enhancing geologic and geotechnical investigation techniques is fundamental for improving the reliability of
Reclamation's vast and aging infrastructure. During a typical geotechnical drilling program, the geologist and
driller work together to capture both "real" data (core logs detailing lithology, Rock Quality Designation, samples,
etc.) and "fugitive" data (driller's notes about rig behavior or subtle subsurface variations, etc.). The fugitive data
can often be as valuable to the final design and construction as the core logs or rock/soil samples. Drill Parameter
Recorders (DPR) can be installed on drill rigs to allow for real-time monitoring while drilling (MWD) of important
fugitive parameters, such as: penetration rate, hold-back force, torque, thrust, rotational speed, mud or water
flow rates and pressures, with depth and time. The parameters can be used to spatially correlate strata between
borings, and identify areas of highly fractured rock, voids, clay seams, or weak/thin stratigraphic zones that may
be washed-out or lost during drilling. Correlations also exist to specific energy (the energy required to drill a
certain volume of rock), rock mass strengths and other components of the Rock Mass Rating (RMR) system. Given
the real-time ability to generate detailed subsurface profiles of fracture zones or areas with higher permeability,
DPR technology could be extremely valuable in increasing the effectiveness of foundation grouting programs;
thereby helping to minimize seepage loss from water storage or conveyance structures.
They key questions for this research are: How can the use of DPR technology improve geologic and geotechnical
data acquisition and better serve the investigation, design and construction of Reclamation's infrastructure? What
kind of Reclamation projects are best served by this technology?
Need and Benefit
DPR technology has been used in the oil and gas sector since the late 1950's and in mining/blasting since the
1980's. Recent advances in the quality of data gathering, analysis and transmittal have allowed its use to grow in
conventional geotechnical engineering investigations. Given the recent advances, and increased data accuracy and
reliability, DPR technology is currently a working item to be included in EuroCode 7 – Geotechnical Design.
Determining if DPRs can benefit Reclamation is an opportunity to look at the state-of-practice subsurface
exploration techniques and assess improvements that can be made. For instance, more accurate and reliable
identification of high-seepage zones will better define grouting programs leading to reduced losses from water
storage or conveyance structures.
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