You are on page 1of 11

OTC 23592

A Linear Rock Cutting Test Set-Up for 3 Dimensional Tests under Hyperbaric Pressure
Dr. Mario Alvarez Grima, Wiebe Boomsma M.Sc, Frits Hofstra M.Sc, Rick Lotman M.Sc

IHC Merwede

Copyright 2012, Offshore Technology Conference


This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 30 April3 May 2012.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

Abstract
The submerged mechanical excavation of rock is required for dredging or mining purposes and it is usually performed with
pick points or cutting teeth. Although the mechanical cutting process is quite well understood on land, in a dry situation,
questions remain regarding saturated cutting in a shallow water submerged application.
Even more unanswered questions remain in a deepsea situation where the process is subjected to the hyperbaric effect,
influencing the cutting process strongly.
Especially for deepsea, the required cutting forces and power will have to be decreased, in order to realize a technical and
economical feasible excavation process. Firstly the hyperbaric cutting process must be fully understood and secondly
concepts to decrease the forces and power must be evaluated. Although computer simulations with Discrete Element
Modeling (DEM) have been validated by experiments and proved to be very helpful in understanding hyperbaric cutting,
some questions can only be answered by performing physical tests. Therefore IHC Merwede has developed a test set-up.
This test set-up can drive chisels or picks in a linear motion through a block of rock. During the process, the cutting forces
will be measured in all three directions. Although, linear cutting test set-ups exist in the world, these set-ups mainly focus
on determining the horizontal cutting force. However, especially the vertical forces require attention, because these forces
must be transferred by relatively light equipment. We use the test set-up to investigate current cutting concepts, and to
evaluate new cutting concepts. In the future, we will use this setup to evaluate the cutting process as part of the design
process for specific client driven mining applications: specific rock samples under specific environment conditions
(pressure, temperature, water composition etc.).
This paper describes the technical details, capabilities and limitations of the test set-up.

OTC 23592

Table of contents
Abstract ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 1
Table of contents ........................................................................................................................................................................... 2
Introduction IHC Mining .............................................................................................................................................................. 3
Recent deep sea mining activities ............................................................................................................................................. 3
Introduction to rock cutting process .............................................................................................................................................. 4
Test set-up ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 6
Design of the test set-up ............................................................................................................................................................ 6
Functional requirements ........................................................................................................................................................ 6
Requirements ........................................................................................................................................................................ 6
Basic test set-up design ............................................................................................................................................................. 7
Propulsion ............................................................................................................................................................................. 7
Force measurement ............................................................................................................................................................... 7
Testing................................................................................................................................................................................... 8
Conclusions ................................................................................................................................................................................. 10

OTC 23592

Introduction IHC Mining


IHC Merwede is focussed on the continuous development of design and construction activities for the specialist maritime
sector. It is the global market leader for efficient dredging and mining vessels and equipment with vast experience
accumulated over decades and a reliable supplier of custom-built ships and supplies for offshore construction. IHC Merwede
has in-house expertise for engineering and manufacturing innovative vessels and advanced equipment, as well as providing
life-cycle support. Its integrated systematic approach has helped to develop optimum product performance and long-term
business partnerships. The company's broad customer base includes dredging operators, oil and gas corporations, offshore
contractors and government authorities.
IHC Merwede has over 3,000 employees based at various locations in The Netherlands, China, Croatia, France, India, the
Middle East, Nigeria, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, the UK and the USA. Technological innovation will remain the companys
underlying strength through its continuous investment in research and development. Moreover, it helps to safeguard a
sustainable environment.
IHC Merwede companies have been building wet mining tools since the late 19th century. Among the first were, in 1887 the
gold dredger Danae (Italy) and in 1894 gold dredger Werchne (Russia). In 1908 the first tin mining dredgers were delivered to
Thailand and Malacca. Preceeding the post WWII revival, six Dutch shipyards joined forces in 1943, to build six sea-going tin
dredgers for the Billiton Company, a former Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary. In the process, the cooperating companies, pooling
a long history of ship- and dredger building experience, formed IHC Holland. This was the beginning of an ever closer union,
which ultimately produced IHC Merwede as we know it today. IHC companies have been involved in the design and
fabrication of dredge mining equipment since the end of the 19th Century. Most of this equipment is used in dredge
mining projects all around the world, thus generating a great deal of in-house knowledge, furthering technical development. In
addition to important innovations like the development of the dredging wheel, dredge mining automation systems, submerged
pumping technology and track chain bucket ladder systems, IHC Merwede is constantly trying to improve the latest state-ofthe-art designs for dredge mining systems, and their operation. IHC Mining builds equipment for mining gold, tin (casserite),
aluminum (bauxite), mineral sands (ilmenite, rutile, zircon) and diamond deposits, rock salts and other wet mining
applications.

Recent deep sea mining activities


Companies operating in the mining industry are responding to the growing need for resources and offshore energy industries
have a requirement for infrastructure in deep waters. To meet their requirements, IHC Deep Sea Mining designs, builds and
maintains high-quality, remotely operated marine excavation- and slurry transport systems. The aim is to provide complete and
sustainable solutions for submerged and deep water areas.
IHC Deep Sea Mining combines existing experience in dredging technology, mining technology, offshore technology and
deep water know-how to create total deep sea solutions for customers. To support this ambition, a R&D program is initiated
which focuses its efforts on:
- Deep sea excavation;
- Vertical transport systems;
- Integrated system solutions.
Much of this expertise is founded on centuries of expertise in shallow water excavation and high-volume slurry transport in the
dredging industry, but also the experience gained in the construction of specialized (oil and gas related) offshore systems and
vessels.
This paper describes one of our R&D projects which support the ambition of IHC mining to provide specialized technology for
deep water areas.

OTC 23592

Introduction to rock cutting process


Excavation is the first step of the production process and therefore determines to a great extent the efficiency and effectiveness
of the downstream process. An important aspect of designing an excavation tool is to determine the required cutting forces and
power consumption.
One of the most important aspects of excavation is to design a cutting tool that can cope with the material geotechnical
properties such as compression strength, tensile strength, RQD, permeability and porosity, as well as with the geological and
ambient pressure conditions and productivity requirements of a given mining/dredging site.
The basic mode of action for breaking the cohesion of rocks is the penetration of a wedge. Two types of cutting tools are
distinguished:
- drag bits (such as conical bits)
- indenters.
It is well known that tensile failure require less energy to break the rock than indentation and therefore most of the cutting
tools developed so far in the mining and dredging industry have been designed taken into account that tensile failure will
prevail when cutting rock.
There are several rock cutting theories described in the literature
- Evans model, which is based on tensile failure,
- Nishimatsus model, which is based on full brittle shear failure,
- Merchant model, which was developed for cutting elastic-plastic metals
- And many others.
These cutting models have mainly been used for rock excavation in dry conditions. Although some modifications have been
done for shallow water (submerge conditions), still there are some questions that remain unanswered such as the effect of
water pressure, the effect of cutting speed, the effect of the wear flat area on the cutting forces and in particular on the normal
force perpendicular to the wear flat, etc. On the basis of that, it can be said that the existing rock cutting models as described in
the literature have limitations and they are not applicable for the prediction of rock cutting forces when cutting rock at high
hyperbaric pressures (approx. 200 bar).
Depending on several factors, the amount of power required for a given production rate seems to be higher for deep sea mining
operations than for shallow mining operations. Based on literary studies this potential risk was identified by MTI Holland, the
Research Institute of IHC Merwede in 2006 and an extensive R&D program was formulated and initiated to investigate the
fundamental mechanisms of rock cutting process at large water depth (approx. 2000 m) and consequently to develop a
methodology to design optimum excavation tools that will operate at large water depth in a near future.
Within the framework of the above mentioned R&D program, theoretical study, rock cutting experiments and numerical
modeling has been carried out. Preliminary laboratory experiments have been performed for different ambient pressures,
different rock material properties, and tool parameters such as cutting depth, cutting angle, cutting speed, tooth shape, etc. The
laboratory experiments have been performed in a high pressure tank with ambient pressure varying from 1 to 200 bars in order
to simulate the actual physical phenomenon at deep water.
Furthermore, to model the effect of hyperbaric pressure during rock cutting, MTI Holland has adopted a numerical approach
based on Discrete Element Method (DEM) and more specifically we have used the PFC software. DEM has been applied to
predict intact rock behaviors, that is, the material modeling and the brittle-ductile transition zone, to predict and analyze the
fracture mechanism during rock cutting and to compute the cutting forces. This forms the basis for the engineering model that
uses the calculated forces to determine the reaction forces and the required weight of the tool in order to get the required
excavation forces.
The results obtained with DEM have been validated with the laboratory results obtained so far. A good agreement has been
found between the numerical results and the experimental ones. However, more experiments are foreseen for the coming years
to fully validate the developed model and to give answer to this potential risk in future deep sea mining operations. Besides
new tests are envisaged in order to reduce the cutting forces and/or specific energy, so that we can optimize the future
excavation tool.
The results of this study clearly indicate that in general at high hyperbaric pressure the rock behaves more ductile than in
shallow water conditions. Crack initiation and crack propagation becomes more difficult, resulting in high cutting forces and
therefore high power consumptions.

OTC 23592

As an example Figure 1 illustrates the numerical


results of a crack pattern with PFC and the
fracture laboratory results of the Brazilian tensile
strength (Yenigl & Alvarez Grima 2010). As can
be seen in Figure1, DEM is able to capture the
fracture mechanism rather well with the rock
specimen created when compared with the
laboratory test.

Figure 1 Crack pattern from a Brazilian test by PFC2D simulations and


fracture laboratory (Yenigl & Alvarez Grima 2010).

Figure 2 and Figure 3 show the result of DEM simulations for shallow water depth and for deep water depth, respectively. As
can be seen in Figure 2 at shallow water depth the cutting mechanism is predominantly brittle. Large chips are formed and the
cracks generated are mainly tension cracks. In Figure 3, on the other hand, the rock cutting process is predominantly ductile
and the cracks generated are mainly shear cracks.

Figure 2 . Rock cutting mechanism at shallow water


(brittle cutting process).

Figure 3 . Rock cutting mechanism at deep water (ductile


cutting process).

To validate the models used to simulate the rock cutting mechanism at deep water a new laboratory set-up is needed to gather
the required data and knowledge and to formulate new cutting models of rock cutting at high hyperbaric pressures. This in fact
is the main idea behind the new IHC rock cutting set-up.

OTC 23592

Test set-up
Design of the test set-up
The geotechnical analyses of the prospective excavation sites show that the in-situ material varies from loosely packed fine
grained material to harder material up to rock. The main challenges can be expected when excavating the rocky parts on the
sites at the larger depths.
As previously mentioned, the test set-up is designed to validate theoretical models. For this kind of validation a linear cut
through a rock will be sufficient especially when the cut length is relatively long.

Functional requirements
The new rock cutting test set-up should fulfill the following requirements:
Conventional linear cutting tests
- perform linear cutting tests with different cutting geometry, (i.e. cutting angle, rake angle, clearance angle, different cutting
depth, and different tooth form such that we can quantify the effect of the wear rate on the cutting forces).
- measure the cutting forces in three directions (i.e. in the direction of the cutting tool movement, perpendicular to the cutting
tool movement, and in a transversal direction).
- vary the tooth spacing in order to determine the optimum one with respect to specific energy; and to get more insight in the
three dimensional effect of the cutting process such as the break-out angle.

Requirements
This test set-up has to be capable of cutting different kind of rock specimens (UCS 5-30MPa) under pressure conditions
varying from atmospheric to hyperbaric. The required cutting velocity range has to be at least 0.1-2m/s (common excavation
practice), and the resulting velocity has to be as constant as realistically achievable. The test set-up should also be capable of
measuring forces in all three main directions, the accuracy of the measured forces has to be within 10%. This seems to be
pretty low, but was considered adequate given the variations expected in the properties of the test specimens.
The first question that needed answering was location. In The Netherlands, limited facilities are available at present for
conducting hyperbaric tests. As these proved to be incompatible with the proposed dimensions of the test rig, alternative
locations were considered. Finally, the facilities available at Ifremer in Brest, France, were chosen as the intended location for
the hyperbaric tests. At this location, hyperbaric tests can be carried out at simulated water depths of up to 10.000m.
The dimensions of the test rig were determined by the possibilities and capabilities of both the rock specimens and those of the
test facility. The mechanical properties of rock restrict the dimensions of specimens for testing purposes when these specimens
will be subjected to tensile stresses. As a result, practical dimensions for tests specimens for cutting research is 1-2m. The
dimensions of the hyperbaric test facility determine the maximum length of the test specimen. As a result, the specimens for
the tests will be approximately 1m in length and 30cm square.
The design specifications called for speeds of up to 2m/s when cutting rock of up to 30MPa. Based on the theoretical
calculations of the cutting forces under hyperbaric conditions, a cutting force of 150kN in the three major directions was
chosen as the design force for the construction.

OTC 23592

Basic test set-up design

Figure 4 show the general layout based on the design specifications


and the dimensions of the hyperbaric test chamber. A hydraulic
cylinder drives a rail-mounted carriage. The cutting tool mounted
on the carriage cuts through the test specimen which is encased in
the holding system.

Figure 4: Close-up cross section of the test set-up.

Propulsion
For the propulsion, a number of possibilities such as electric drive (either direct, by means of a spindle or a ratchet ) electric
drives and hydraulic were considered. Due to space constraints and the necessity of crossing the pressure barrier into the tank,
a hydraulic cylinder was chosen as the primary driver. In previous test using hydraulics as the driving system, a hydraulic
power pack was used to drive the carriage. This is highly impractical as the amount of hydraulic fluid actually needed for the
test is low but, at the same time, the required flow is very high for a very short time period. Due to the large possible forces
needed, this resulted in a very large hydraulic power pack. Using hydraulic accumulators the system worked much more
efficient. The required energy can be stored slowly from a small power pack and can be released easily using valves.
Speed control of the cylinder and carriage is not easy under the test circumstances. The response times of hydraulic propulsion
system are high when compared to the time needed to complete a test (this varies from less than 0.5s to 2s). We decided to
forgo fancy closed loop control systems and to use a simple open loop variable valve regulator. This was initially set according
to the required speeds and expected force levels and updated from observations.

Force measurement
There were a number of possibilities for the measurement of the forces: directly on or near the cutting tool, on the carriage or
on the holding system for the test specimen. Measurement of the hydraulic pressures in the driving cylinder was considered,
but the idea was discarded as inaccurate. Commercial systems such as dynamometers are available for the measurement of the
forces in the vicinity of the cutting tool, but it is our experience that these are not sufficiently robust. The main limiting factors
is that the actual loads which, when exceeding the design specifications, will damage the transducer. Moreover we did not find
commercially available dynamometers for high pressure conditions.
We therefore decided to design a new system. As incorporating a force measurement system in the driver carriage proved to be
impossible due to space consideration. Therefore, it was decided to measure the forces on the holding construction for the test
specimen. A number of tensile rods was designed and made for this purpose. These rods were calibrated and thoroughly tested
under atmospheric and hyperbaric conditions and fitted in the construction.

OTC 23592

Testing
After completion of the calculations, the various parts of the test rig were built and the complete system was assembled at
MTI's laboratory in Kinderdijk. Some small modifications and improvements were made. The test set-up was thoroughly
validated. Finally, a number of tests were carried out with rock specimens (UCS 30MPa) under dry conditions. As these tests
were successful, the test rig was declared ready for use.

Figure 5: cross section of the assembled test set-up inside the hyperbaric test tank
Figure 6: Rock specimen after testing under atmospheric dry conditions

OTC 23592

As the test set-up had run its successful FAT test. The test set-up was transported to Ifremer in
Brest, France, to perform its initial purpose: The hyperbaric tests.
After performing the initial test, the measured velocity was retrieved and checked and compared
with the original design specifications and the results of previous tests. As can be seen in figure
8, the results showed that the cylinder achieved the set speed quickly and was capable of
maintaining the velocity for the rest of the test run. The measurements of the cutting forces were
also successful. Figure 9 gives an idea of the results achieved.

Figure 8: test facility in Brest


Figure 7: test set-up at the test facility in Brest

Figure 8: displacement and velocity of the tooth while cutting


Figure 9: Force measurement of the tooth while cutting
Figure 10: Rock specimen
after testing under
hyperbaric conditions

10

OTC 23592

Conclusions
A test set-up is designed, constructed and successfully tested for the measurement of cutting forces under both atmospheric
and hyperbaric conditions. The test set-up was tested successfully under hyperbaric conditions at Ifremer in France. The results
of these tests are currently being analyzed and studied. The test rig is presently being used for additional cutting experiments
under atmospheric conditions. The test set-up has proven to be reliable and versatile, able to perform simple linear cut but can
also be used to test more sophisticated cutting techniques. Among many other plans: the construction is planned to use for
cutting tests on stiff clays. The test set-up is also available for parties outside the IHC Merwede group, parties have already
expressed their interest.

OTC 23592

Reference
- Yenigl, N.B. & M. Alvarez Grima. 2010. Discrete element modeling of low strength rock. Numerical Methods in
Geotechnical Engineering
- Benz & Nordal (eds), 2010. Taylor and Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-59239-0.
- Verbeeten, Thomas, 2011, Finite Element Analysis Hyperbaric Cutting Test Frame
-

11