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Mitigation of Liquefaction Using Stone Columns

Article in Electronic Journal of Geotechnical Engineering January 2008


3 53

2 authors, including:

A. J. Choobbasti
Babol Noshirvani University of Technology


All in-text references underlined in blue are linked to publications on ResearchGate, Available from: A. J. Choobbasti
letting you access and read them immediately. Retrieved on: 25 November 2016
Mitigation of Liquefaction Using
Stone Columns

Nima Ranjbar Malidareh

M.Sc. Student, Department of Civil Engineering, Babol University of Technology,
Babol, Mazandaran, Iran


Asskar Janalizadeh Choobbasti

Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Babol University of
Technology, Babol, Mazandaran, Iran

Seismic motions may cause the liquefaction of saturated loose sandy soils. The existence
of saturated sandy soils in Caspian Sea beaches and the high-underground water level
close to the ground surface makes the region susceptible for liquefaction phenomenon
under earthquake effects. According to earthquake background and existence of large and
small faults in this region, it is essential to find a solution to prevent the liquefaction
phenomenon or to reduce its dangerous effects under seismic motions. In this paper, by
using the geotechnical data obtained by field and laboratory of the region, effects of stone
columns in reducing the potential of liquefaction are studied. Numerical analysis for
implementation of stone columns in regions with a high risk of liquefaction revealed high
efficiency of this technique for decreasing the risk of liquefaction.

KEYWORDS: Liquefaction; Stone column; Mitigation; Earthquake analysis.

Liquefaction of soils has been responsible for the failure of many man-made and natural
geotechnical structures. Therefore its study is considered to be of great importance. From the
studying of failures of masses of soil in the field, it is understood [1], that at least two types of
soil failures can be distinguished, namely, shear failures in dry and water saturated dense
materials with dry or only partly undrained behaviour and liquefaction failures in water saturated
loose soils with mainly undrained behaviour with small undrained peak strength at small strain
and a subsequent decrease of the undrained strength up to large deformations.

Studies of literature concerning the investigations of soil behaviour, indicate, that the
liquefaction phenomenon of saturated soil deposits under static loading conditions have been the
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subject of many investigations in the past 80 years [2]. Many of these investigations have been
based on the principle of subjecting representative soil elements to the same loading conditions in
the laboratory as they would encounter in the field, and assessing the probable field performance
from the resulting behaviour of the laboratory test specimens. At the initial stage [3] of these
investigations only drained tests could be performed. Liquefaction failure was not observed in
these investigations. Later on, when undrained test techniques [4, 5] were developed, the
investigators were able to observe the characteristics of the liquefaction failures in the laboratory.

Laboratory investigations of liquefaction behaviour, indicate the significant effect of initial

density, confining pressure, and initial deviatoric stress level on the initiation of undrained
instability. These investigations also indicate, conflicting documented evidences about the influence
of the strain rate on the minimum deviatoric stress state of deformations reached during flow [6, 7]. It
seems that, more experimental investigations are required before a general agreement about this
influence can be achieved. For both the field and the laboratory type of observations of soil
behaviour attempts were made to propose methods to evaluate the liquefaction potential of a
particular soil. On the basis of the field observed liquefaction failures and in-situ tests, the minimum
undrained deviatoric strength at flow of the liquefied sand or silty sand was related to SPT tip
resistance. For the evaluation of the liquefaction potential, on the basis of laboratory observed
liquefaction failures, the initial driving deviatoric stress, the undrained peak strength, and the
minimum undrained deviatoric strength at flow of the liquefied sand were considered to be very

In general terms, liquefaction refers to the loss of strength in saturated, cohesion less soil due
to the build-up of pore water pressures during dynamic loading. Liquefaction primarily occurs in
geologically young sediments of sands and silts in areas with high ground water levels. When
loose and saturated sand is under the effect of oscillation it has a tendency to compacting and
reduction of volume. If drainage is not done the pore water pressure increases. With continuing
of oscillation the pore water pressure is increased in the sand and there will be a time that the total
pressure is equivalent of the pore water pressure. In this case, sand does not have any shear
strength and like liquid clay suddenly takes the shape of fluid, this phenomenon is called

During many large earthquakes, soil liquefaction results in ground failures in the form of sand
boils, differential settlements, flow slides, lateral spreading, and loss of bearing capacity beneath
buildings. Soil liquefaction and associated ground failure have been a major source of damage
during many past earthquake. Such ground failures have inflicted much damage to the built
environment and caused significant loss of life i.e. Figure 1.

In many geotechnical problems loads have to be supported by soft ground. A granular soil
deposit can be considered to be safe against a flow slide as long as it remains in a dry condition. In a
water saturated granular soil deposit with a sufficient density no danger of the initiation of a flow
slide exists either, since its undrained shear strength is higher than its drained shear strength. But, if a
soil deposit is sufficiently loose, then any small disturbance in its undrained condition may cause an
unstable undrained deformation, leading to an undrained peak strength, which is lower than the
drained peak strength. This undrained deformation may initiate a flow slide. The disturbances
required to initiate a flow slide may have different sources. It may be produced by any change in the
position of the water table or the pore pressure distribution generally, or by a change of static load on
the soil mass. Earthquake shaking may also initiate a flow slide.
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Figure 1: Liquefaction type of failure

Out of several techniques available, stone columns have been widely used. This ground
improvement technique has been successfully applied to mitigation of liquefaction, associated
ground deformation, and increase the bearing capacity. In many cases, since settlements are likely
to be excessive, some techniques for improvement of the soft soil are necessary. Again a very
economic and commonly used method is stabilization by stone columns in sand soil. Stone
column as a liquefaction mitigation procedure was initially studied by Seed and Booker.
Installation of stone columns by vibro-replacement mitigates the potential for liquefaction but
increasing the density of surrounding soil, allowing drainage for the control of pore pressures,
introduction of stiff elements (stone column), which can potentially carry higher stress levels
causing reduction in stress levels in the surrounding soil.


Axisymmetric analyses were carried out using Mohr-Coulombs criterion considering elasto-
plastic behavior for soft clay, stones, and sand. The characteristic of the material being modelled
and the intended application of the material will determine which constitutive models will be
used. It was decided that for this research to model the soil as an elasto-plastic material with a
Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion.

The Mohr-Coulomb criterion can only model the dilation of soil at failure and not the
densification during cyclic loading at stress below failure. Therefore, the Mohr-Coulomb model
was modified in order to model the changes of permanent volumetric strains in drained cyclic
loading or pore water pressures in un-drained cyclic loading. The changes in volumetric strains or
pore pressure were modelled using the Finn model.

To study the seismic response of the stone column, a robust computer code is to be used. The
computer code has to have the ability to incorporate key factors and phenomena that influence the
behavior of unimproved ground. The flexibility of the computer code for alternative soil models
to be taken into account. Finally, the reported success of the use of the code and acceptance by
geotechnical engineering profession also become a factor.

The computer code Flac Fast Lagrangian Analysis of Continua [8] was selected because it
meets the criteria mentioned above. It was first developed by peter Cundall in 1986. The code is
an explicit two-dimensional finite difference program that performs a Lagrangian analysis.
Explicit means it uses a time stepping procedure to solve the problem without forming the
stiffness matrix. The Lagrangian formulation enables the grid to move and deform with the
Vol. 13, Bund. F 4

material it response since the incremental displacements are added to the coordinates. The version
that was used for this research is version 5 developed by Itasca interface facilities. Silent
boundary (see Figure 2) is best suited for dynamic source applied within a grid. It should not be
used along the side boundary of a model when the dynamic source is applied at the top or bottom
boundaries because the propagating wave will leak out of side boundaries. For this case, free-field
boundary should be used. The purpose of using free field boundary is similar to that of silent
boundary in that it is used so that the outward waves propagating from inside the model can be
properly absorbed by the side boundaries. The details of the use of free field boundary can be
seen in a finite difference code [9, 10].

In addition to that, free field boundaries were assigned at both sides of the model so that the
outward waves propagating from inside the model can be properly absorbed by the boundaries.
Silent boundary was used at the base of the model the same purpose as the free field boundaries,
so that the outward propagating waves are not reflected back into model by the boundaries.

Figure 2: Assumed boundary conditions

The decision was to use soil for modelling by using clay or plastic modelling (Mohr- Coulomb)
which was combined with Finn model. The stone column was designed in FLAC by elements that
considered Mohr- Coulomb model without Finn model. In numerical modelling, the information
of Loma Prieta earthquake that has been occurred in 17th Oct 1989, in California with the
magnitude of 7.1 Richter scale, was used. The models that were analyzed in this soft ware are
shown in the following Figure 2. The related parameters are also summarized in Table (1).

Figure (3a, b): Analyzed models in FLAC

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Figure (3c): analyzed models in FLAC

Table 1: The related parameters of stone columns modeled in FLAC

sat sat d E C
KN gr
d ( N1)60 C2
(KN m )

m 3 m3 3

(Mpa) (Mpa) (Mpa) (kpa) C1 E N

SILTY 0.4 0.8 0.6

20 2.04 15.76 1.61 15 12.5 5.77 0 30 0 13 0.394
SAND 89 2 5
1.5 0.2
CLAY 17 1.73 11.87 1.21 5 9.69 1.77 10 17 0 4 1.1 0.524
4 6
23 2.35 22.32 2.28 44.7 24.83 18.63 0 50 0 - - - 0.2

The models with width 2.6 m and height of 4.5m are once without stone column and once
more again with stone column, which are shown in all the Figures 4-6 and 5-7 respectively. In
these figures the points 1, 2, 3, 4 show the depth of 0.68 m 1.45m 2.97m and 3.73m
respectively. In these figures the points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 show the depths of 0/68m, 1.45m
2.97m 3.73m 5.11m 6.02m and 7.39, respectively. The distance of the all above points is
0.5m to the left side of the axis of the stone column.

Figure 4: The points mesh without stone Figure 5: The points mesh with stone column
column for a model with depth of 4.5m. for a model with depth of 4.5m.
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Figure 6: the points mesh without stone column Figure 7: the points web with stone column
for a model with depth of 8m for an example with depth of 8m


After analyzing, the following graphs (figures 8,9) were produced for the cases of with or
without stone column by software FLAC.

Figure 8: The graph of excess pore water pressure Figure 9: The graph of excess pore water pressure
ratio according to the time for the case of without ratio according to the time for the case of with stone
stone column A. column A.

Figure 8 shows that the value of ru during the first second of the initiation of earthquake
increases rapidly in all depths. The value of ru are relatively high and close to each other with a
range about 65% to 1. It is clear that for point 1 at first the liquefaction ( ru =1) occurs during 4
seconds of quake. Whereas, the Figure 9 shows that for point 1 the value of ru increases during
the two seconds of quake and suddenly reduces. The value of ru during 1 second quake for the
points 5, 6 and 7 increases rapidly. It is obvious that the value of ru in soft clay layer (points 5 to
7) is more than that of silty sand layer (point 1 to 4).
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Figure 10 shows that the value of ru increases rapidly during 1 second quake for all depths
and remains relatively stable after 6 seconds quaking. It is observed that the value of ru is
approximately in the same range. The value of ru reduces with depth. Figure 11 also shows that
the value of ru increases rapidly during the first 2 seconds quake for point 1.

Figure 10: the graph of excess pore water pressure Figure 11: the graph of excess pore water pressure
ratio according to the time for the case of without ratio according to the time for the case of with stone
stone column B. column B.

For points 2 and 3 the value of ru increases slowly at the beginning of the quaking and then
reduces and finally increases in last 6 seconds. The values of ru for point 4 are in small limit
between zero and 0.4. It is obvious that generally the value of ru reduce with depth. In the
following Figures 12 and 13 these aspects will be discussed further.

Figure 12: the graph of excess pore water pressure Figure 13: the graph of excess pore water pressure
ratio according to the time for the case of without ratio according to the time for the case of with stone
stone column c. column c.
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Figure 12 shows that the value of ru increases rapidly during the first 1 second quake for all
depths, then remains relatively constant until the end of quake. It is obvious that for point 1 (0.68
m depth) the primary liquefaction occurs in 2 seconds quake. The value of ru reduce with depth.
Also Figure 13 shows that for point 1 (0.68 m depth) the value of ru slowly increases and then
reduces and suddenly increases to unit value ( ru = 1) and again reduces and finally stay constant
to the end of quake. It is obvious that for point 1 the primary liquefaction earthquake occurs in
about first 2 seconds ( ru = 1).

For points 2 and 3 the value of ru are relatively the same and are constant during the earth
quake. The value of ru increases during the first 1 second quake for points 5, 6 and 7. Table (2)
summarises the results of analysis performed in this research.

Table 2: A summary of the results of analysis performed in this research.

0.98 0.96 0.85 - 0.8 0.65 0.71 - 0.997 0.955 0.95 0.75
0.892 0.674 0.74 - 0.71 0.64 0.65 - 0.9 0.69 0.3 0.25
ru POINT 3
0.864 0.8 0.34 0.69 0.62 0.54 - 0.69 0.61 0.275 0.18
0.821 0.75 0.19 0.75 0.69 0.32 - 0.588 0.52 0.212 0.102
0.96 0.91 0.964 - - - - - 0.55 0.51 0.87 0.84
0.91 0.891 0.958 - - - - - 0.563 0.5 0.55 0.53
0.931 0.874 0.947 - - - - - 0.8 0.78 0.72 0.6

The analyses performed in this study using the numerical analysis software FLAC reveals
that using stone columns plays an important role in reducing the potential of liquefaction to a
considerable degree. Namely, with the installation of the stone columns, along the Caspian Sea
beach with the existence of saturated sandy soils and the high-underground water level close to
the ground surface under earthquake effects, the value of ru , the pore water pressure ratio, is
reduced substantially comparing with the case of without stone column.

Authors of this paper would like to acknowledge the Babol University of Technology for the
financial support and corporation concerning to this investigation.
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