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A technical note on Water Jet Probing in Geotechnical investigations

Jet probes are used for a variety of purposes (e.g. underwater cable routing,
marine archaeology, coastal engineering) and are usually deployed in conjunction with
other data collection techniques such as hydrographic surveys (to determine water
depths and map existing bottom conditions), sub
bottom profile survey (to identify near sub-bottom
stratigraphy, 3-7 m depth), side-scan sonar survey
(to identify morphological variations and natural
and man-made obstructions on the seabed), and
vibratory coring (to acquire direct physical
information of near surface sediments). Jet probe
surveys acquire indirect physical information on
subsurface lithology by surveying the thickness and
stratigraphic layering of sedimentary covers on land
or underwater.

Grab samples provide information about surficial

seafloor sediments whereas vibro-core can provide long and relatively undisturbed
cores that are required to assess the stratigraphy of the deposits. Water jets are less
expensive than cores involving the water-jetted penetration of a pipe down through the
sediment in order to determine the layering, as opposed to (undisturbed) core retrieval.

It is not uncommon sometimes for clients to specify the size of jet probe (say, 50 mm or
0.05 m diameter) and the pressure (say 7 bar). In other words it is equivalent to applying
a load of 70 tonnes/m2 (Note 1 bar is approx 10 t/m2) over a circle of diameter 50 mm.
Such a concentrated load is sufficient even to fracture or break loose mildly cemented
sands and over-consolidated clay. While selecting the pumps for the project, it is
necessary to bear in mind the differences among the terms, static pressure, stagnation
pressure and dynamic pressure which if inappropriately used could be misleading.

Static pressure is what is commonly

called simply the pressure of the fluid. Its
a measure of the amount that fluid
pressure exceeds local atmospheric
pressure. It is measured through a flat
opening that is parallel with the fluid
flow. Static pressure measurement is
illustrated with U-tube manometer in
The pressure gauges used to measure air pressure in motor vehicles fall in this category.
Note that air in the wheel is not in motion but is static. This pressure is in direction
lateral (or parallel) to the flow and does not simulate the pressure imparted by the water
jet on the soil/rock medium.

Stagnation pressure is also a measure

of the amount that fluid pressure exceeds
local atmospheric pressure, but it
includes the effect of the fluid velocity
converted to pressure. It is measured
through a flat opening that is
perpendicular to the direction of fluid
flow and facing into the fluid flow. The
fluid that enters the gauge has its kinetic
energy converted into pressure head.
This is called the Stagnation pressure.
Stagnation pressure (also called total
pressure) measurement is illustrated in
Figure-2. This applies to jet probing
technique used in the field. The water
jet when hits a unbreakable or rock
medium, it loses its velocity head and
develops into a pressure head.

Dynamic pressure (also called velocity

pressure) is a measure of the amount
that the stagnation pressure exceeds
static pressure at a point in a fluid. t can
also be interpreted as the pressure
created by reducing the kinetic energy to
zero. Its measurement is illustrated in

In the case of jet probing, Figure 2 is applicable as the fluid comes to rest when it hits a
strong strata like rock.

Pstag = P + V2 + h
Where: is the fluid density, is the specific weight of the fluid, h is the height above a
specified reference plane, V is the average velocity of the fluid and Pstag is the stagnation
pressure.. Stagnation pressure is indicated by pump manufactures in the name of
Shut-off head.

Shut-off head is the maximum head generated by a centrifugal pump with zero flow and
relatively less power. Because it has to overcome very small head [upto discharge valve],
less frictional losses and inertia loads. Shut off head is a part of the characteristic curves
of a pump.

It is the head developed by the pump when the delivery valve is in close'. For low
specific speed pumps, normally it is the 'Y' intercept of the head Vs capacity curve.

However for high specific speed pumps, like large axial flow pumps, it is extrapolated
from the above curve, as running the pump at shut off condition will damage the system
components. For this reason, these pumps are started with delivery valve in open by at
least 1015%. Otherwise the prime mover will not provide the high starting torque and
power required, leading to equipment failures.

In the present case it was observed that the pressure gauge showed a reading of 9 bar
when a half-inch pipe was attached to the two inch delivery pipe. Actually, attaching an
half-inch pipe to two inch pipe only simulates a valve with an opening of 94% and the
gauge reading should increase with further closure approaching the shut off head of
the pump.

The gauge reading of 9 bar testifies that the pump is able to deliver the specified 8 bar
stagnation pressure (or total pressure) as required by the specifications. Further, it is
important to note that the half inch pipe which only simulated a partially closed valve
should be removed while jet probing. Also, during jet probing it is necessary to hold the
pole almost vertical to the rock surface so as to simulate valve closure and develop the
shut off head to flush out breakable loose soil.


From the information provided by the field personnel, it is noted that the gauge shows 9
bar pressure after a half-inch pipe was attached to two inch delivery pipe. This only
proves that the pump is able to deliver the head required by the clients specifications. It
is important to distinguish the difference between static pressure and total (or
stagnation) pressure and make measurements accordingly. Force is equal to area
multiplied by pressure normal to the area. Accordingly, in case of jet probing,
pressure exerted by the jet soil medium is important and accordingly, measuring
static pressure in the flow is inappropriate. It is necessary to hold the jet pipe
vertically flushing with rock surface to get full pressure effective. Holding it in inclined
position is akin to keep end valve partially open with some pressure energy leaking into
surrounding soil.

Dr S. Kathiroli Ph.Ph D (UK),

Former Director, NIOT