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3rd International ASRANet Colloquium 10 – 12th July 2006, Glasgow, UK.

Z. Mrabet, Geo-Risk Consulting, USA Mohamed Ridha El ouni, Institut National Agronomique de Tunis, Tunisia Khaled Kheder, Institut Superieur des Etudes Technologiques de Nabeul, Tunisia ABSTRACT
The reliability index of an earth dam in commonly taken as the value corresponding to the failure surface associated with minimum reliability index. However, embankment dams are considered as systems composed of several infinite number of possible failure surfaces associated with different reliability indices. In this paper, the reliability analysis has been performed on El Houareb embankment dam (Tunisia). Here, basic assumption, which considers soil properties of the embankment dam are statistically homogeneous, has been followed. Special attention has been paid to the global probability of failure. The calculated global probability of failure value is found to be close to the value associated with the critical ellipsoid failure mechanism. Hence, the concept of global probability of failure is coherent; should be considered, later, as the probability of failure of the project.



There is growing need within geotechnical engineering for rational ways of handling uncertainty and taking it into account for decisionmaking. Many problems still facing geotechnical engineers regarding the reliability analysis and its applicability for practical problems. The following relevant questions should be addressed: What factors most strongly influence the level of uncertainties in earth structures evaluations? Where are improvements most needed to reduce uncertainty in these evaluations? And what level of reliability of earth structures would be achieved under average conditions? Unfortunately, general responses are very difficult to these questions. The demand for risk analyses is growing in all scientific and technical fields. Increasing attention is being paid to risk and uncertainty in geotechnical and civil engineering, because of the drive for improved reliability and safety. The engineer is confronted with uncertainty associated with the random nature, spatial variability of geotechnical properties, and in the complexity of engineering projects. The engineer is expected to make dependable and clear decisions. To do so requires an understanding of both the nature of uncertainty and appropriate techniques to manage it. Unfortunately, many geotechnical engineers are still skeptical of the outcomes of reliability methods in geotechnical engineering. They prefer

to use conventional methods that are more straightforward. The engineer has often resorts to simple criteria to evaluate the safety of an earth structure (i.e. earth dam). In general, these criteria are used to test if the function of the structure is fulfilled. Engineer, for example, use a criteria for existing structures based on consideration of lifetime. For a given highway, for instance, a life cycle is a criterion associated with traffic, which expressed in cycle numbers and verify that the fatigue strength withstands the traffic. For an earth dam, the approach is more complex, constraints and criteria are multiple. Lifetime is not a criterion. However, the risk of failure could be one. Thus, the philosophy regarding to the safety of these structures should reconciled two points of view: • A partial evaluation issued from the engineering practice and based on either the factor of safety or the uncertainty. • A global theoritecal evaluation strongly anchored in the theory of probabilities and notably the optimization theory of the global cost of the structure. Reliability analyses can be used in routine geotechnical engineering practice. How should probabilistic methods be introduced to practicing geotechnical engineers who have no background in the probabilistic theory? These simple reliability analyses require a little effort more that involved in conventional geotechnical analyses. They provide a means of evaluating the combined

2. there is a multitude of examples illustrating probabilistic techniques for a wide variety of problems in areas such as slope stability. risk of failure of an earth dam. Benjamin and Cornell. During last two decades a significant body of literature has been published including several methodologies and applications (Magnan. The reliability evaluation of most geotechnical structures. • allow the geotechnical engineer to quantify the effect of various failure preventive measures in which R= capacity (resisting force or resisting moment). and they offer a useful supplement to conventional analyses. 1996. an optimum procedure for design of an embankment can be discussed where there are uncertainties with regard to a stability problem. On the other hand. In probabilistic modeling of safety. Pf in which should be smaller than certain reference values set a priori. 1970.effects of uncertainties in the parameters involved in the calculations. Vanmarcke. and S= demand (driving force or driving moment). The probabilistic measure of safety is the probability of failure. the capacity-demand model is the most simplest utilized.. reliability analysis plays a major role in considering the uncertainties influencing the design of earth structures. in particular existing earth dams. The geotechnical engineering designer has to provide a way to systematically incorporate uncertainty into the design process in a rational manner and to must take it into account the soil variability and optimize design (Cherubini. foundation settlement. offshore structures. The probability of failure is defined as (failure occurs if R<S): ⎛R ⎞ Pf = P⎜ ≤ 1⎟ ⎝S ⎠ (2) Assuming statistical independence between the variable R and S the probability of failure can be expressed as: . reliability assessment techniques should be recognized as an additional tool to existing deterministic methods in the evaluation of. Let fR(r) and fS(s) be the probability densities functions of variables R and S. embankments. Li et al. the conventional factor of safety is defined as the ratio of limit capacity of soil to a demand in terms of loads: F= R S (1) Geotechnical engineering reliability analysis is concerned with finding the reliability or probability of failure (or reliability index) of a structure or a system. Thus. R and S are assumed to be random variables. Implementing the programs will ensure that safety is maintained to a robust and acceptable level. 2002. seepage. Reliability assessment methods are being adopted for use to develop rigorous risk-management programs. 1999. as the question of interest is the probability of failure related to a load event rather than the probability of failure within a time interval. 1983). 2004). Mrabet. Mrabet and Giles. 1987a. par example. Fenton. Within the literature. 1987. 1982. 1987). For example. The additional parameters needed for the reliability analyses standard deviations of the parameters can be evaluated using the same amount of data and types of correlations that are widely used in geotechnical engineering practice. Probabilistic methods have been developed to solve geotechnical design problems (Harr. Any simple reliability analysis should include the following steps: • Establishing limit states • Identifying failure modes • Formulating limit state functions • Analyzing uncertainty • Evaluating reliability • Assessment results The reliability index of an earth dam is commonly taken as the value corresponding to the failure surface associated with minimum reliability index. RELIABILITY ANALYSIS on these structures in order to develop an inspection and maintenance program. pillar stability and bearing capacity. The benefit of reliability analysis in geotechnical engineering can be summarized in the following points: • to highlight the uncertainties in design of these structures. Mrabet.

Li and White (1987a) pointed out that the probability of failure may be reduce by three orders of magnitude if the auto-correlation function is taken into account. Thus. uncertainty can be characterized by assuming that the coefficient of variation of a geotechnical parameter is similar to that observed at other sites. Standard quality control programs has incorporated the results of control tests in reliability analysis as soon as they were available in order to take decision based on actualized evaluation of the reliability of earth structures (Mrabet.e. safety is defined by the reliability index. • SFEM can be used as part of reliability analysis leading to more robust designs for geotechnical structures. for example. Stochastic finite element method (SFEM) is a good alternative for solving the geotechnical problem associated with material variability. sensitivity analysis. probability of failure. provides a simple quantitative basis for assessing risk i. β.Pf = ⎛ r =s ⎞ f S (s )⎜ ∫ f R (r )dr ⎟ds ∫∞ ⎜ −∞ ⎟ − ⎝ ⎠ +∞ (3) The use of later formulation of probability of failure makes the simplification possible only for certain types of distribution of R and S such a normal distribution. 1999. PROBABILISTIC MODELING AND RELIABILITY OF EARTH STRUCTURES Probabilistic approaches have considered the uncertainty of natural and compacted material properties as random variables (Mrabet. Early. 1997. auto-correlation distance) in probabilistic models in the geotechnical context generates failure probabilities consistent with frequencies of failure observed in practice.e. random variable model in geotechnical concept has been introduced and discussed in Benjamin and Cornell (Benjamin and Cornell. 2004). However. the calculus of the integrals in the preceding equations is particularly cumbersome. as coefficients of variation solely does not reveal much in accordance with the correlation structure of soil properties (Mrabet. An advantage of reliability index is that it can be determined from two first statistic moments (mean value and variance) of probability density functions of R and S without any assumption on the specific shape of these functions. 1999. caution should be taken when using typical values. as (Cornell 1970): β= E{MS } σ MS (5) in which E{MS} = expected value of MS. and σMS = standard deviation of MS.e. 2004). a lack of sitespecific data. The following points are relevant when performing stochastic finite element modeling in a geotechnical engineering context: • SFEM is useful in evaluating a range of variation of finite element modeling in a geotechnical engineering context. Random Finite Element Method (RFEM) has been introduced to solve a variety of practical problems in geotechnical engineering . In such case the notion of safety margin. Recently. 1970). for example) can be performed using Bayesian Updating technique in conjunction with conditional random field to evaluate the uncertainty related to spatial variation of the materials properties within a dam based on quality control results during construction (Mrabet. Harr (1987) reported typical values of coefficients of variation for soil properties. MS=R-S (cornell 1970) can be introduced. In this case. It is Possible to derive the density function fMS(MS) of the random variable MS and the risk of failure is given as: Pf = −∞ ∫ f (MS )d (ms) MS 0 (4) In general. the mathematical expectation and variance of the average shear strength along failure surface have been estimated from these results. 2000). • SFEM is a useful tool in providing a quick insight into the relative importance of different parameters of soil constitutive laws i. Cherubini (1997) pointed out that integration of the fluctuation scale (i. the reliability analysis of earth fills (earth dams. 1993. Mrabet and Bouayed. 1997). The formulation of this method is described in Ghanem & Spanos (1989). Where random variable of geotechnical property is not available due to. In geotechnical engineering. 3.

65H below and above the berm platform located at the downstream shoulder respectively. which provides impermeable barrier within the body of the dam. General cross section schematic of El-Houareb dam. They estimated the slope failure probability and investigated resulting probability as a function of the soil’s statistical CASE STUDY Upstream shoulder 4. which once flowed into Sebkha Kelbia (Kairouan city. A berm of 40 m long located at the downstream shoulder contributes into the stability of the structure.5 m. but in periods of poor rainfall. 1998) and Monte Carlo simulation to produce probabilistic results. conditional) Finite Element Algorithm Output response Displacements Strains Stresses Pore pressure Uncertainty modeling Reliability analysis Figure 1 A flow chart of the methodology (Mrabet and Bouayed. The dam has a height of 32 m and crest width of 8. 35 km east of Kairouan. Tunisia). Engineering analyses for the proposed dam were performed to evaluate suitable dam sections for the site conditions and available on-site construction materials (figure 2). The outer slopes of the dam are made of 1V: 4H upstream shoulder and 1V: 3H and 1V: 2. 1990) with the finite element method (Smith and Griffiths. The clayey core. but also has extensive flat shores. External Parameters Geometry Loading Boundary conditions Internal parameters Soil parameters (Material properties) Wadi Floods. 6 m wide at the top and 21 m wide at the foundation level. Mrabet (2002) and Mrabet and Bouayed (2003) have used a methodology (figure 1) based on random field theory in conjunction with stochastic finite element method (SFEM) to describe the uncertainty in both the input material properties of a geotechnical system and the result of the analysis of an embankment dam. The hydraulic characteristics of El Houareb dam are shown in Table 1 Table 1. it can remain completely dry for several years on end. Cretaceous and Tertiary aged marine and fluvial sedimentary fractured rock masses on its right side.45H. It retains the waters. Where the river emerges from the Dorsale the reservoir is bordered by higher land. for flood-control and watersupply purposes. has a sloppy upstream 1V: 0. RFEM combines random field theory (Fenton. The main objective of this dam is to contain Merguellil . Filter Core Drain Downstream shoulder Berm Foundation Figure 2.1 DESCRIPTION AND PRESENTATION OF EL-HOUAREB DAM El Houareb dam (Central Tunisia) is selected as a case study to perform the reliability analysis. Hydraulic characteristics of El Houareb dam Area of basin pouring 1140 km2 Total capacity 110 . 2003) El Houareb dam is founded on a sedimentary basin. The water plant grows commonly in the reservoir and provides the main food-source for wildfowl.106 m3 Yearly average contribution 70. It is filled with a Triassic. It has an average depth of nearly 20 m. El Houareb reservoir is a man-made water-body built on the Oued Merguellil.00 106 m3 Parameter uncertainty Uncertainty modelling Random variable Random field (Simple. 4.

specific gravity (γs). optimum water content (wopt). the spatial dependency within the medium should be considered. it is possible to model the spatial variability of soil properties with a spatial stochastic process also known as random field (Mrabet. Spencer's method. RELIABILITY ANALYSIS Spatial correlation has long been ignored in modeling variability of soil properties.4.φ=friction The former method has been selected to evaluate the safety factor. An example of Clara 3D analyses of El Houareb dam is shown in figure 4.downstream shoulder zone: granular material • Material C. Minimum safety factors of 2. ellipsoid failure and wedge failure mechanisms. However.soil foundation and upstream shoulder zones: clay with medium plasticity The main physical and shear strength parameters are reported in Table 2. two mechanisms of failure have been considered.5 1. Due to the foundation layers and the structures of the embankment dam.91 23 25 37 21 15 1. Physical properties and shear strength parameters.2 PROPERTIES OF THE DAM AND FOUNDATION MATERIALS The compacted materials were evaluated according to their maximum dry unit weight (γdmax). To take into account spatial correlation. 4. The construction material for embankment and foundation were: • Material A. • Material D.89 25. the tendency for values of the variable at one point to be correlated to values at nearby points. 5. Material A B C D Properties WL (%) IP (%) W (%) γd/γw 33.e earth dams (Mrabet and Bouayed 2003). Clara 3D) Subsequently.Core zone: very plastic clay has been selected in order to withstand any eventual settlements and to resist into water seepage in case of occurrence of fissures. liquid limit (LL) and plasticity index (Ip). Different modes of failures are implemented in CLARA program which provides a choice of methods of analysis including the following: Fellenius's method.30 10 Figure 3: Analysis of upstream slope of El Houareb dam using limit equilibrium to find the ellipsoid failure surface (3D extension of Bishop’s simplified method. Bishop's method. all the parameters except specific gravity indicated the desirable characteristic as an impervious fill material. Janbu's method and 3D extensions of Bishop's Simplified. only the ellipsoid failure mechanism will be considered. 1999) in which the variable exhibits autocorrelation. particularly in a strongly compacted soil i. 53 31 13.94 for ellipsoid and wedge failure mechanisms have been found respectively.3 PERFORMANCE AND ANALYSIS OF EL-HOUAREB DAM The stability analysis of El Houareb embankment dam and its foundation is carried out using a deterministic approach. for the reliability analysis of El Houareb dam.Filter zone: granular material • Material B.30 30 φ(Degree) 0 0 c (kPa) c= cohesive strength. The three-dimensional limit equilibrium CLARA program (Hungr 1987) is used here to evaluate the factor of safety against different mechanisms of failure. Table 2. .01 and 1.

Recently.95 4.3 6.90 0.13 0. Therefore.23 0. obtained the following function: constitutes a lower limit of the global probability of failure of El Houareb dam. . Extensive measurement program performed on earth dams such Mirgenbach and Vieux-Pre dams (Rossa & Fry 1988) and others led to the conclusion that. Subsequently. for such structures.0000001 18 9.35 Hence. Some recent papers dealing with the concept include those by Mrabet and Giles (2002) Many studies stressed out the effect of existing auto-correlation on the results of probabilistic models of compacted earth slopes analysis.45 0. later.000003 12 5.02 5. Similar pattern have been found for mechanical properties and the exponential auto-correlation function between two different points within the compacted soil of the El Houareb dam has been retained.000000004 24 18. at least for the moment.0000000005 30 Hi = depth of the ellipsoid regarding the interface dam-foundation (or the bottom of the dam) Fi = Factor of Safety corresponding to the ellipsoid failure Surface number i.55 0. However. Ignoring auto-correlation is conservative and considerably more than desired (Mrabet 1998). They are considered independents and vertically separated by 3 m. a significant spatial correlation exists. Due to the lack of data concerning the horizontal auto-correlation function. special attention has given to the role of spatial correlation. as the global probability of the project. This calculation shows that the concept of global probability is coherent.80 0.000000025 21 15. Mrabet and Giles 2002]. we were reported to Anderson’s work (1981) to establish one. we calculate the global probability of failure in respect to the following conditions: -Cross-section of El Houareb dam as considered in the above analysis (figure 2).04 5. should be considered. the dam is divided into different ellipsoids.025 Contact DamFoundati on 2.14 5. The global failure probability is calculated using the following equation: ρ hor 9 x ) = exp(−0.0003 6 3.40 0. -Horizontal auto-correlation distance =60 m -Vertical auto-correlation distance =3 m -Coefficient of variation of the cohesion of the El Houareb dam= 0. a complicated problem to handle since correlation exists between different failure surfaces. This value is close to the value associated with the critical ellipsoid failure surface. Table 3. the global probability of failure of embankment dam is however. but is practically identical for all properties. The analysis that considers typical auto-correlation distances results in reduction of probability of failure (Cherubini 1997).02 5.02. The calculated probability associated to the critical failure surface Pglobal = 1 − ∏ (1 − Pfi ) n i =1 (7) The global probability of failure is P = 0.50 4. In practice. 1999.63 0.00013 3 2. the reliability of whole system may be governed by a few subsystems or components. A pronounced anisotropy of the auto-covariance exists with a vertical distance of influence of the order of meters and horizontal distance of influence of the order of tenth of meters [Mrabet.00002 9 3.00 0.01 3. Pfi = Failure probability corresponding to the ellipsoid failure surface i.0000023 15 7. βi = Minimum Reliability index corresponding to the ellipsoid failure surface number i. embankment dams are considered as systems composed of several infinite number of possible failure surfaces associated with different reliability indices.065 x) (6) The reliability index of earth dam in commonly taken as the value corresponding to the failure surface associated with minimum reliability index.78 4. Failure Probability Hi (m) Fi Pfi βi 0m 2.0000000032 27 25 6.23 0.23 0.63 4. The influence distance at which auto-covariance becomes negligible is sensitive to the construction procedure as well as the material nature. We therefore.

ICASP9. 1583-1591. Z. Benjamin. Z. 12-15 December 1999. . Z. but not limited to: • ignorance of mechanisms of failure • ignorance of the entire history of dam behavior • ignorance of the horizontal auto-correlation length. C. Italy. and Cornell. Fourth International Conference on Computer Simulation In Risk Analysis and Hazard Mitigation. Mrabet. 1987. California pp. Similar reliability analysis could be performed using conditional random field to evaluate the uncertainty related to spatial variation of the material properties within the dam based on quality control. Z. Geotechnique 37 (1): 113-117. Probabilistic risk assessment: a key tool for reducing uncertainty in geotechnical engineering. New York.In reality.. Invited paper. El ouni M.. ENSMP. & A. Journees Gestatistique. P.507 8. 3-14. Reliability analysis of earth fills using stochastic estimation methods. Second International Conference on Computer simulation in Risk Analysis and Hazard Mitigation. & D.pp 203-214 9. 2004. ICASP8. Particularly. Some aspect on reliability in geotechnical engineering. Third International Conference on Mathematical Methods in Reliability. Hungr. RISK 2002. San Francisco. correlations between different properties that characterize compacted materials and their corresponding horizontal auto-correlation lengths generate main uncertainties in the probabilistic model. 4. Calcul en deformation d’un barrage. R. 1998. J. 2000. 17 . C. J. An extension of Bishop’s Simplified method of slope stability to three dimensions. Mrabet. Z. Mrabet. (6): pp 91-104. Mrabet. Magnan. an interesting tool for the engineer who has to deal with the safety and reliability of these structures. Geostatistics and shortterm reliability analysis of homogeneous compacted earth fills. Colloque” Materiaux. REFERENCES 1. 7. Z. 6. 5.A. A new approach. CONCLUSIONS The probabilistic approach applied to clayey embankment dams seems. 13 October 2000. 19 .21 June 2002. Sols et Structures” MS2 2004. 5. 10. Probabilistic Risk Assessment of Homogeneous Earth Dams. 3. Sydney. Trondheim. Presse de l’Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees. MMR 2002. 367 372 11. Statistics and Decision for Civil Engineers. the reliability analysis should be considered as an efficient tool that complemented a conventional deterministic analysis such as the equilibrium limit analysis. Invited paper. 12. 1970. 2002. Mrabet. 2003. 1982. Reliability analysis of homogeneous earth fills. Reducing Uncertainty on the Results of Reliability Analysis of Earth Fills Using Stochastic Estimations. France. Mrabet. Norway. Fontainebleau. Cahiers de Geostatistique. Australia pp 499 . and Bouayed. Risk Analysis 2000. Cherubini. 2004. Mrabet. 1999. Proceedings of the Conference on advances in Safety and Reliability: ESREL 1997. Proceeding of the Ninth International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering. pp. from now on. Giles. 2003. July 6-9. Sintra. McGraw-Hill. Proceeding of the eight International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability in Civil Engineering. A complete reliability analysis should include all sources of uncertainty. pp. France. Probability.20 June 2002. these results show that other sources of uncertainty that should be taken into account including. 2002. New South Wales. O.. 2.1997. Bouayed. Les methodes statistiques et probabilistes en mecanique des sols. Data and consideration on the variability of geotechnical properties of soils. Portugal. Third International Conference on Computer Simulation In Risk Analysis and Hazard Mitigation. A. Bologna. However. Z.

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