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Grouting Theory



The ow of grout through a formation is governed by the properties of the

formation and the grout, as well as the hydraulic gradient. While much has
been written about the theory of ow through porous media, soils are so
heterogeneous in nature that it is difcult to apply such theories, and with
the exception of Darcys law, little application has been made to grouting
practice. Nonetheless, there are theoretical considerations that can be
studied advantageously.



In theory, a liquid can be pumped into any porous formation, provided no

pressure or time constraints exist. In practice, chemical grouts must be
placed at pressures consistent with good engineering practice and at rates
that make the use of chemical grouts economically feasible. In the
discussions that follow, it is assumed that those practical considerations
are met for all conditions. It is also assumed, unless otherwise stated, that
grout penetration into a formation is by permeation, not fracturing.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When grout is injected through the open end of a small pipe placed
below the water table in a uniform, isotropic granular soil, the ow of grout
is radial. Thus, under certain conditions, the groutgroundwater interface
becomes and remains spherical. The required conditions include interface
stability and hinge upon specic relationships between viscosities and ow
rates. Flow rates, in turn, are dependent on pumping pressure for given
formation permeability and grout viscosity.


Groundwater is generally moving, although movement is usually very slow

except in the vicinity of an open discharge. However, many construction
projects provide such open discharges by excavations for shafts, tunnels, etc.
When grouting is done to shut off water entering the excavation, placement
of grout takes place in moving groundwater, and mixing with groundwater
can occur. If groundwater is moving rapidly enough to cause turbulent ow,
mixing to some degree is sure to occur. If groundwater ow is laminar,
mixing will still occur if the rate of water moving past the grout injection
point* approaches the rate of grout placement.
If groundwater is static, or if the rate of grout placement is large
compared to the ow of ground water, the interface between grout and
groundwater will be stable{ during grouting when the grout viscosity
exceeds that of the groundwater. Experience veries that this is true even
when the grout viscosity approaches that of water (as it does for acrylamidebased grouts, with viscosities as low as 1.2 cps). When the interface is stable,
its shape under uniform isotropic conditions is spherical.
The lower boundary of the groutgroundwater interface is inherently
unstable [1]. The grout (for grouts denser than groundwater) tends to sink
under the action of gravity. If the downward movement is slower than the
expansion of the groutgroundwater interface, the sinking has little effect on
the shape and location of the grouted mass. However, if pumping stops and
the grout remains in place as a liquid, it will continue to migrate downward
until it sets.
A grout with a viscosity lower than that of water will always have an
unstable interface with groundwater. Instead of a spherical interface, the
grout will penetrate the groundwater with a number of intrusive ngers and
* This is a rather nebulous number to compute, since it involves not only knowing the actual
speed of the groundwater but assuming a reasonable cross-sectional area of groundwater ow.
Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the possibility of grout dilution when pumping at
slow rates.
{ Stable in the sense that mixing does not occur to any important degree.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

lenses. This factor is used to advantage in the two-shot system (in the
Joosten process, for example, sodium silicate and calcium chloride) by
injecting the most viscous material rst. In such systems, the intruding
ngers and lenses interlock to form a more or less continuous gel matrix,
without displacing all the formation water from the voids. In contrast, an
expanding stable interface displaces virtually all the pore water.


Under uniform, isotropic conditions with laminar ow of a Newtonian uid

(such as water and the low viscosity chemical grouts) the theoretical ow
rate [2] equals:
m 1r R1 R1
Q ow rate
k permeability
H hydraulic gradient (head)
m viscosity of liquid
r radius of spherical injection source
R radius of liquid penetration
The value of R is often dictated by the design of the grouting
operation. The preceding equation can thus be used as a coarse check on
whether the parameters Q and H fall within cost-effectiveness and safety.
For a cylindrical
source of length L and diameter D, r may be

taken as 1=2 LD. Also on a coarse level, the indication is that grout
acceptance will vary directly with the pressure, and inversely with the
The open passages through soils and many rock formations consist of
tortuous winding routes of variable cross-sectional size and shape made up
of interconnected adjacent voids. Analysis of ow through such individual
passages is unproductive. If we straighten the route and unify the crosssectional size and shape, analysis becomes meaningful, although not
necessarily applicable. Poiseuilles law does this for a long tube of small
diameter through which a liquid is owing slowly:

ppr4 t


Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

V volume of liquid escaping in time t

t time for V
p pressure differential between tube ends
r tube diameter
L tube length
m viscosity of liquid
(The notation Z is often used for viscosity and has been changed to m here for
Qualitatively, the following general conclusions can (again) be drawn
in applying Poiseuilles law to ow through soils: For any given pressure, the
rate at which the formation will accept grout will vary directly with the
pressure and inversely with the viscosity. This relationship appears to
become invalid at very high gradients and viscosities, but is of little interest
to chemical grouters in those ranges. Further, the acceptance rate is directly
proportional to the fourth power of the average void size (and therefore also
of the average grain size for granular materials).



In practical terms, grout should always be pumped as rapidly as possible in

order to minimize job costs. Structural safety and sometimes equipment
limitations will always impose a pressure ceiling, which in turn may limit the
rate at which grout is placed.
When pumping into a uniform, isotropic granular soil, as long as the
movement of the interface exceeds the rate of sinking caused by gravity,
pumping rate has no effect on the ow of grout through the soil (other than
affecting the rate of interface movement). However, few soils are uniform
and isotropic, and even those which appear to be so are almost always
considerably more permeable in the horizontal direction than in the vertical.
This is often due to layering caused by size separation of waterborne
materials or by seasonal deposits of differing grain sizes. Grout pumped into
such formations, particularly if they are varved, will tend to penetrate the
coarser strata as parallel sheets. From these sheets, penetration vertically
into the less pervious zones will occur. At slow pumping rates, the
penetration phenomena occur simultaneously, and the grouted soil mass is
shaped like a attened spheroid. At rapid pumping rates the horizontal
advance in coarse strata may be so rapid as to leave much of the ner strata
ungrouted. Similar reasoning applies to grouting in ssured rock and points
out the usual necessity for sequential grouting in the same zone.
If the pumping rate is constant, the rate of expansion of the grout
groundwater interface is constantly decreasing. Thus, for large volumes of

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

grout pumped at a constant rate, the grout ow at the periphery is laminar.

If pumping very slowly through a large open-ended grout pipe, it is possible
to have laminar ow throughout the entire grout zone. However, with the
pipe sizes and pumping rates usually required for eld work, the ow rate at
the end of the grout pipe is great enough to create turbulence. Thus, a zone
of turbulence (analogous to quick conditions in granular soils) will exist at
the open end of the grout pipe. In uniform soils the shape of this zone will be
roughly spherical, and its size is a function of the pumping rate, increasing
as the pumping rate increases.
The creation of a turbulent zone effectively enlarges the pipe size and
thereby facilitates the placement of grout. As long as the zone of turbulence
is a small portion of the grouted zone, it is a desirable condition. The
relationship between the sizes of the two zones is a function of both the
pumping rate and the total grout volume. To avoid turbulence throughout
the total grouted zone,* when placing small volumes of grout, it may be
necessary to pump at rates slower than those appropriate for larger volumes.
Head loss will occur as the grout moves through the voids in a
granular soil or ssured rock. The longer the ow paths and the ner the
pore openings, the greater the head loss. Thus, under some eld conditions it
may be necessary to increase the pumping pressure in order to keep grout
moving into the formation. If the pumping pressure rises above the
fracturing pressure, fracturing may occur. Often, this is undesirable and
counterproductive. When such situations arise, good practice calls for
additional grout holes at smaller spacing.



The rate of pumping grout under steady-state conditions into a formation is

directly proportional to the pumping pressure. In practice, steady-state
conditions are transitory, and while pressures must always be increased to
increase pumping rate, they must often be increased merely to maintain a
constant pumping rate.
The act of pumping liquid into a formation creates a zone of high
pressure potential. Because of this, the entering uid ows away from this
zone in all directions, locally changing the normal groundwater ow
pattern. At low pumping pressure, the excess pressure potential dissipates at
short distances from the injection point, and it may be possible to establish
new equilibrium conditions with steady-state inow.
* Turbulence leads to mixing of grout and groundwater and is therefore undesirable if it occurs
throughout the entire grouted zone.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The greater the pumping pressure, the farther the distance for effective
pressure dissipation and the longer the time for establishment of steady-state
ow conditions. During the time interval between pressure application and
steady-state ow, pumping pressure increases if the pumping rate is held
constant. When pumping at low pressures into more pervious materials such
as coarse sand and ne gravel, new equilibrium conditions establish
themselves quickly. When pumping at high pressures and into less pervious
materials such as ne sand, silts, and siltstone, new equilibrium conditions
are generally not reached during the grout pumping time (i.e., either
pumping pressure must be slowly increased to maintain the pumping rate or
pumping rate must be decreased to keep pressures from becoming
excessive). Of course, if grout begins to set up in the formation while
pumping continues, this reduces the formation permeability and either
decreases the ow or increases the pressure or does both.
Limitations on allowable pumping pressures should be established by
the job owners engineer. Such allowable pressures should recognize the fact
that when working at short gel times, only a very small quantity of grout is
in the liquid state within the formation at any one instant. For example,
when grouting near a dam with cement grout or with large volumes of
chemical grout at long gel times, it may be necessary to assume that a major
portion of the dam base may be subjected to the uplift forces at the grouting
pressure. On the other hand, an insignicant portion of the dam base would
be subjected to uid pressure when grouting with chemicals at short gel
times. Thus, the allowable grouting pressures can be much higher than if
cement were used or long gel times with chemical grouts.
Determining an exact safety factor against overpressuring a formation,
(which would result in either uplift or fracturing), is seldom done for a
specic job site. Instead, grouters will use previous experience, or resort to
commonly accepted rules of thumb. The one most often used for soils is one
psi per foot of overburden depth. When grouting cohesionless strata
underlying cohesive strata, uplift (if it occurs) will generally occur at strata
interfaces. Thus, the cohesive strength of clayey soils does not necessarily
permit higher grouting pressures than could be used in sands.
When grouting in sands and silts with short gel times or with very
small grout volumes, particularly in strata overlain by clays, grouting
pressures may be safely increased above the values based on cover alone.
Such pressures cannot be computed without extensive laboratory test data
since they are related to the plastic characteristics of the soils. However, it is
reasonable to grout at pressures approaching twice the rule-of-thumb value.
When grouting in cemented sand or siltstone or in fractured rock,
allowable grouting pressures may be signicantly higher than those which
can be used in granular deposits. Such pressures should be determined by

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

experience or by tests on representative eld samples. General criteria for

allowable pressures in such materials are not available as yet.
True grouting pressures are those at the elevation of the grouted
stratum. Gages at the pump do not include the elevation head, nor can they
account for friction losses in the piping system, or in the grouted strata.


There is considerable difference of opinion among practitioners concerning

the deliberate use of pressures which fracture the formation. Although the
technical literature contains derivations to determine fracturing pressures
and their orientations, the resulting equations may contain terms such as
Poissons ratio and assume a uniform, isotropic formation, which preclude
their use to obtain reliable results.
A full understanding of fracturing pressures and how to determine
them accurately would go a long way toward clearing up the ongoing
discussions about what pressures to use in the various situations that require
grouting. Current practice in the United States (in the absence of reliable
data permitting higher values) is to limit pressures to one psi per foot of
depth below ground surface. European practice generally uses higher
pressures. These may, or may not, cause fracturing. If fracturing does occur,
those in favor of such practice feel that it may be benecial, since fracturing
would occur along a zone of weakness, which is strengthened by grouting.
Those opposed to the practice feel that while a fracture completely lled
with a strong grout such as cement may indeed be benecial, the chances of
completely lling a fracture with solid grout are small, and with weak grouts
such as most chemical grouts, a grout-lled ssure is not as strong as the
original unfractured formation.
Grouting with chemical grouts is generally done within limits of half to
twice the overburden pressure. If these pressures cause fracturing in
granular deposits, it will occur along planes of minimum pressure. Where
horizontal soil pressures are at rest values (the usual condition), fracture
planes will be vertical, as opposed to uplift planes which are generally
horizontal, or nearly so.
Fracture experience which has yielded reliable eld data in the past has
come primarily from grouting into impervious materials such as clay and
rock. Obviously, if grout could be placed it was going into existing ssures.
If grouting pressure caused the ssures to grow, or opened new ssures, a
noticeable pressure drop occurred, accompanied by an increased ow rate.
These circumstances are generally accepted as indicative of fracturing. For
granular materials, the pressure-ow transition from pre- to post-fracturing
is a gradual process.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In contrast to the accepted view of a fracture growing quickly and for

great distances when the critical pressure is exceeded, the crack length in a
permeable formation is very limited. A fracture of small length exposes a
large surface area of ungrouted soil into which grout can ow. Higher ow
rates would be required to penetrate the new area at the same pressure. Still
higher ow rates would be needed to raise the pressure and make the ssure
grow. Thus, fracture length is limited by the ow capacity of the equipment.
When grouting through a previously treated zone, that zone behaves as an
impervious zone, and a fracture will move quickly through it until it
encounters untreated soil.


Darcys law and Poiseuilles law both deal with the ow of uids through
porous media. Because of the haphazard arrangement of pore sizes and
passages in geologic formations, these theoretical equations cannot be
directly applied to grouting problems. They do, however, give order-ofmagnitude data about the effects of changing the controllable variables.
Pumping rates and pressures are interdependent, and one or both are
easily controlled during a grouting operation. The upper limits for each are
determined by specic job conditions.


1. R. A. Scott, Fundamental considerations governing the penetrability of grouts

and their ultimate resistance to displacement. In Grouts and Drilling Muds in
Engineering Practice, Butterworths, London, 1963, pp. 67.
2. J. F. Rafe and D. A. Greenwood, The relationship between the rheological
characteristics of grouts and their capacity to permeate soils. Proc. 5th
International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering,
Vol. 2, pp. 789793, London, 1961.


What properties control a grouts ability to penetrate a formation,
and the formations ability to accept grout?
What is the practical application of the creep endurance limit?
What causes an interface between grout and groundwater to be stable
or unstable?

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.