Geological formations containing sulphates are commonly associated with the development of severe expansions when they are involved in tunnel excavation. The intensity of the observed expansive behaviour in these materials is greater than in other expansive soils and rocks free of sulphates. Swelling in sulphated formations can also occur in the rock mass although no tunnel is excavated, and also within fills made of compacted material from excavations in sulphated rocks. The functionality and stability of engineering works are affected in the majority of the cases. The prediction of strains and swelling pressures in sulphated formations is a difficult task. On that direction, the Thesis analyses and describes the mechanisms and conditions leading to expansions in sulphated rocks through the detailed investigation of three exceptional cases of damage induced by expansions involving sulphated formations in Spain. Lilla tunnel, the first case-history analysed, was excavated in Tertiary anhydritic claystone. Expansions developed led to severe tunnel floor heaving and to very high pressures against tunnel lining. The second case, a bridge founded on piles within an anhydritic claystone, Pont de Candí bridge, experienced an unexpected and sustained heave of the central pillars as a consequence of the development of swelling strains below the deep pile foundations. The third case, the compacted access embankments to another bridge, Pallaressos embankments, experienced a very significant volumetric expansion. As a result, the bridge was axially compressed and damaged. Mechanisms leading to swelling in tunnels in sulphated rocks have been described in the literature; however, an alternative interpretation is proposed. In the first two cases the development of swelling phenomena is explained by the precipitation of gypsum crystals in rock discontinuities. The presence of anhydrite plays a central role in the phenomenon because its dissolution leads to supersaturation conditions of groundwater in calcium sulphate with respect to gypsum, which will result into gypsum precipitation. The process of precipitation of gypsum in discontinuities is thought to act as local jacks inducing swelling strains. The maximum pressure exerted by crystal growth has been estimated under a thermodynamical point of view. Expansions in the third case analysed are a result of massive growth of ettringite and thaumasite minerals in embankments reinforced by Portland cement due to sulphate attack to cementitious materials. Mineralogical analysis and the simulation of the chemical reactions involved in sulphate attack have shown that expansions in this type of embankments would proceed for a long time because of the availability of the necessary components for ettringite and thaumasite formation. A finite element model of embankment swelling developed has shown that great loads can be generated due to swelling against rigid structures restraining the expansion in some direction. A coupled Hydro Mechanical and Chemical model formulated in a porous media has been developed to simulate volumetric expansions explained by gypsum precipitation. The model is consistent with field and laboratory observations and describes the kinetics of precipitation and dissolution of gypsum and anhydrite, the solute transport and the development of strains induced by crystallization. The model has been applied to interpret and simulate the heave experienced by Pont de Candí viaduct. Modelling capabilities were checked against the long term history of viaduct heave and also, against the foundation response when the vertical load from a surface embankment was added to counteract swelling.

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