You are on page 1of 19

Q. J! Engng Geol. 1977. Vol. 10 pp. 221-239, 11 figs.

Printed in Great Britain



R. Pearson& M. S. Money
Engineering Geology Unit, Department of Geology, Drummond Building,
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU.

The Lugeon or packer test for estimating rock permeability is not standardized and often
yields anomalous results. A programme of repeated tests has been carried out in shallow
drillholes in sandstones and greywackes making use of constant head tanks with continuous
monitoring of flow rate and pressure measurement in the test section. These improved tech-
niques make it possible to distinguish during tests between test system faults, such as packer
leakage, and non-equilibrium effects due to the hydraulic properties of the rock mass. It is
shown that the results obtained depend on the duration of the test and on the sequence in
which different test pressures are applied and it is suggested that these effects are due to the
presence of small but significant storage capacity in the rock mass. The relationship between
equilibrium flows and pressures appears to be non-linear in both rock types.

Measurement of rock mass permeability is an important aspect of many investi-
gations in both engineering geology and hydrogeology, yet the two disciplines have evolved
quite different in situ testing techniques. The "engineering test" usually involves pumping
water at constant head into a single drillhole with or without the use of packers and measure-
ment of constant flow and head are used to calculate permeability. Conventional analyses
are based on the assumption that the rock mass has permeability but negligible storage
capacity so that non-equilibrium effects are ignored. The "hydrogeological test" on the other
hand usually consists of pumping water out of a borehole at a constant rate, making observa-
tions of change of head in the pumped and observation wells to compute both permeability
and storage coefficient.
There has been considerable interest in recent years in the hydraulic properties of rock
masses, leading to what Hock & Bray (1974) have described as a "copious, complex and
confusing" literature in which mathematical theory has gone beyond the bounds of practical
application. Rock masses are so variable that it is not feasible to estimate permeability or
storage characteristics from geological observations and in situ tests are essential. Engineer-
ing tests and in particular packer or Lugeon tests present, however, a number of problems
of both performance and interpretation. Packer types and lengths, test section lengths,
drillhole diameters, test pressures, length of tests, methods of measurement of flow and
pressure, and of calculating the results have never been standardized. Many tests yield
222 R. PEARSON & M. S. M O N E Y

anomalous results and both theory and test observations indicate that the single hole test
measures the permeability of a very limited volume of rock surrounding the hole. The
hydrogeological test measures the response of groundwater flow in a much larger volume of
rock and can yield more information but has the disadvantages of requiring larger diameter
boreholes to accommodate pumps and additional holes for observation wells.
Although there have been a number of recent advances in individual testing techniques,
few attempts have been made to correlate or compare the techniques by repetitive use of
different methods in the same rock mass. Research of this nature is difficult to carry out in
the course of ordinary site investigations, not least because the real cost of permeability
tests is usually grossly inflated by drill rig and crew standing time. The authors have under-
taken a programme of comparative testing in purpose-drilled boreholes using improved but
low-cost instrumentation. This paper describes the techniques used for packer testing and
some of the results obtained.

Test anomalies and their interpretation

The principles of the Lugeon or packer test (Lugeon 1932) are well known and do not
require description here. Over the years a number of investigators have elaborated the test
and various methods of interpreting the results have been proposed. A common test proce-
dure is to apply three constant pressures, A, B, C (in ascending order) to the test section in an
A - B - C - B - A pattern (Lancaster-Jones 1975, Houlsby 1976), and to measure the flow at
each pressure. Simple interpretations derived from Darcy's Law and based on the assump-
tion that the rock is a homogeneous permeable medium predict that a plot of flow against
pressure should be a straight line passing through the origin (Fig. la). In practice, this simple
result is often not obtained. Little, Stewart & Fookes (1963) and Muir Wood & Cast6 (1970)
have illustrated some of these anomalous results which can be divided into two broad
In the first group, shown diagrammatically in Fig. lb, the permeability appears to rise
as higher pressures are applied. This effect is usually attributed either to packer leakage or
movement, erosion of a fracture or fracture coating, or to the dilation of a fracture by the
water pressure. The application of decreasing pressures in the second half of the test is often
accompanied by a hysteresis loop, suggesting that the rock has not recovered its original
In the second group, illustrated diagrammatically in Fig. lc, the permeability appears to
fall as the higher pressures are applied. This effect is usually attributed either to turbulent
flow in fractures or to siltation or clogging of the fractures. These results also commonly
show a hysteresis loop as pressures are reduced.
It will be noted that the explanations given for these anomalies also fall into two broad
groups, effects due to the flow of water in fractures such as erosion, dilation or turbulent
flow, and effects due to the test technique or system, such as packer leakage or the use of
dirty water.
The question of turbulent flow has been taken up by several investigators. Sharp &
Maini (1972) have carried out laboratory experiments on single rock fractures and simulated

FIG. 1. Diagrammatic plots of flow
against head in packer tests.
(a) the "ideal" case
(b) permeability appears to rise
with increasing pressure
(c) permeability appears to fall
HEAD - H HEAD - - H HEAD - - H. with increasing pressure.

increasing pressure x> • Decreasing pressure~

fractures and have shown that a linear laminar flow regime is superseded by a non-linear
laminar regime at quite low hydraulic gradients before full turbulence occurs at higher
gradients. Louis (1969), Lancaster-Jones (1975) and Houlsby (1976) have all suggested that
the form of the flow versus pressure plot in the Lugeon test can give an indication of rock
mass hydraulic characteristics and may be used to identify non-linear or turbulent flow.
Some consideration should therefore be given to the reliability of the test. It is generally
accepted that for practical purposes a high degree of precision is not required, nevertheless
any test on which engineering judgements are to be based should be at least repeatable.
One reason for using the A - B - C - B - A pattern of pressures is to check repeatability and the
numerous tests that show hysteresis loops are clearly unreliable to some degree. It is equally
unsatisfactory to be unable to distinguish between anomalies due to test methods and those
due to the hydraulics of the rock mass. The testing programme described here was designed
to investigate these anomalies by the repetition of Lugeon tests under carefully controlled

Test sites
The authors have set out to evaluate and compare test techniques by using specially drilled
t e s t sites grouped around the Newcastle Geology Department's field centre on the Scottish
Border. The area contains folded Silurian greywackes, Upper Old Red Sandstone and
Lower Carboniferous lavas and sediments.
Each site consists of two or three closely spaced T N X (76 ram) size cored holes drilled
with a Craelius "Minuteman" rig using water flush. The sites were located in disused quarries
or near stream sections to keep overburden drilling to a maximum of about 1 m. The holes
a r e lined through the overburden with steel casing cemented into rock.
At each site all the holes were normally drilled 5 to 6 m into rock before testing com-
menced. Numerous tests were then carried out, mainly in the lower 3 m of the holes and
using a single packer. The drilling rig was then set up again to extend the holes and testing
continued with both single and double packers.
The holes not being used for pumping were used as observation wells during and in
some cases after packer tests in order to estimate storage characteristics of the rock and
provide an alternative measurement of permeability. In all cases the water levels in these
224 R. PEARSON & M. S. M O N E Y

observation wells responded rapidly to pumping in the test well but the large quantity of
data obtained has not yet been analysed fully.
In this paper we comment only on the results obtained from "single hole" tests at two
of the sites, A and B. Rock mass descriptions broadly follow the recommendations of
Anon (1972).
At Site A two drillholes 4.2 m apart have been drilled into the Upper Old Red Sand-
stone. A third hole has since been drilled for further tests. The site is located in a shallow
gully cut by a stream into till and in part into the sandstone. At the site itself the sandstone
is not exposed and appears to be hydraulically insulated at least from the immediate stream
bed since static water levels in the rock are 1 to 1.5 m below stream level.
Drill cores and nearby outcrops show the rock to be mainly dark reddish purple to
light reddish pink, fine- to medium-grained, cross-bedded, thickly- to medium-bedded
micaceous SANDSTONE with lightly to heavily limonite-stained sub-vertical moderately
widely spaced joints. The sandstone grades into dark reddish purple friable calcareous silt-
stones and mudstones. Within these finer grained units there are bands up to 10 cm thick of
thinly bedded, green sandy marls and mottled yellow-green nodular calcretes. The beds dip
downstream at a low angle.
The cores show that the sandstone also contains pockets of poorly cemented dark brown
sand. Erosion of one of these pockets is thought to have been responsible for a horizontal
cylindral hole, 15 mm in diameter recovered in the core corresponding to a depth at which
all drilling water was lost. Good core recovery was obtained in the sandstone units but the
argillaceous horizons tended to wash out. In spite of thorough flushing these holes tended
to retain a skin of clay on the walls. Treatment with a sodium hexametaphosphate solution
and scouring with a circular brush produced a marked rise in apparent permeability.
At Site B two drillholes I0 m apart have been sunk into Silurian greywackes. The site
consists of a stepped quarry excavated for railway embankment rockfill c. 1860. There is
no overburden and the collar of the holes is estimated to be 4 to 5 m below original ground
level. The rock consists of alternations of (a) light grey, fine- to medium-grained, sole
marked, thinly- to medium-bedded G R E Y W A C K E with closely spaced limonite-stained
joints and calcite veins orthogonal to bedding and (b) dark grey, closely bedded shales with
incipient cleavage. The dip and strike of the beds varies rapidly but within the site the dip
is approximately 50 ~ The two drillholes are aligned along the strike.
Core recovery in the upper 5 m of the holes was poor due to the use of the lightweight
rig and to the fact that most joints and bedding planes are open and the core tended to
wedge in the inner barrel.
The water table at this site varies from ground level in the winter to about 6 m below
ground level in a dry summer and it has been possible to test the upper section of the holes
under both "wet" and "dry" conditions.

Water supply
Normal site investigation practice is to use a standard drill pump to supply water to the test
section. Piston-type pumps inevitably produce pulsations which are difficult to damp out
and result in rapidly oscillating pressures. These give unsteady gauge readings, and accelera-

tions of flow which cause flow meters to over-read unless they have been calibrated for the
particular pump. Rotary-type pumps are more satisfactory in these respects but still cause
sufficient fluctuations to affect both pressure and flow readings. Petrol-engined pumps of
both types tend to run unevenly, producing longer term surges.
Control of injection flows and pressures can be achieved by varying the pump speed or,
at low flows, by incorporating a by-pass in the system. Precise control with either method is
difficult to achieve for long periods and requires constant attention by the operator. A
further problem with pump systems is that small leaks in the suction hose result in aerated
water being injected into the rock. This may sometimes be detected at the end of the test
if the hole "blows back" when the pressure is released.
The authors have avoided these problems by using a series of constant head tanks con-
sisting of 45 gallon (200 1) steel drums placed at different levels above the drillholes. The
drums are cheap, widely available and easy to move around the site. A simple valve arrange-
ment enables water to be fed to a single main supply hose and changes from one pressure
to another can be completed in a few seconds. The drill pump supplies the tanks by a
separate movable hose and normal fluctuations in output have a negligible effect on the
applied pressures. In the authors' tests this tank capacity has been sufficient to maintain
flows for several minutes with no more than a 1 m loss of head even if the supply pump
stops due to a minor defect or for refuelling.
The principle benefit from using tanks has been that pump pulsations are eliminated
and that tests can be repeated under identical conditions. The tanks have the further
advantages that air bubbles are eliminated from the pumped water and that any coarse
debris in the water may settle or float out. As a further precaution 200 mesh (75 ~) filters are
placed at the inlet of all measuring equipment. The maximum static head applied was
limited by the use of shallow drillholes to 20 m of water. The pressures recorded in the test
sections are of course lower than the static heads derived from the tanks due to head losses
in the pipework. Such losses are inevitable and can be reduced only by using large diameter
and hence heavy and expensive pipework.
It is recognized that tank systems will not be suitable for all sites; however, the majority
of packer tests are performed on dam sites in rock where, in many cases, the topography
will be ideal. Elsewhere it would be possible to use a simple elevating platform to provide
low heads above ground level.

Packer system
Current British site investigation practice appears to favour the single packer test in which
a length of hole, commonly 3 m is drilled and then isolated for water testing by a single
packer. On completion of the test the next section is drilled and it is thus impossible to
repeat the test. The method is better suited to rocks of uniform lithology, when it provides a
reasonable method of sampling, than to sedimentary sequences when the test section may
include a variety of rock types, such as limestones and shales. The double packer test is a
more flexible technique which allows test sections to be selected when the hole is complete
and logged in detail and makes it possible to repeat tests. The main objection to this tech-
nique has been the difficulty of detecting leakage below the lower packer. Various types of
226 R. PEARSON & M. S. M O N E Y

packer expanded mechanically, hydraulically or pneumatically have been described in the

literature and there is no agreement as to the length of the packers, the sealing pressure that
is required, or whether the single or double packer system is the most satisfactory. More
complex packer systems such as the hydraulic triple probe (Louis 1970) and the source-
sink test equipment (Maini, Noorishad & Sharp 1972) have been used but are difficult to
construct and require substantial lengths of drillhole before testing can begin.
The authors set out to evaluate the single and double packer tests in common use by
employing simple pneumatic packers as described by Harper & Ross-Brown (1972) but
with the addition of piezometer tubes and transducer cable ducts to allow measurement of
pressures in the test section and below the lower packer in a double packer arrangement.
Packer lengths of 1.5 m, approximately 20 times the drillhole diameter, were chosen and
have proved to be reasonably watertight and manageable at the pressure used. The packer
construction is illustrated diagrammatically in Fig. 2.
The packer is constructed of Ductube,* a reinforced rubber hose with a wall thickness
of 8 mm and an outside diameter of 57 mm expanding to 76 mm on inflation. The 1.5 m
length contracts by 55 mm when inflated to 4 kg/cm 2. To accommodate this construction
the water supply through the upper or single packer is led through a length of 19 mm I.D.
copper tubing which slides over a short length of 18 mm O.D. steel tubing at each end.
These sliding joints are sealed with 19 mm I.D. convoluted rubber hose. The ductube and
the short steel tubes are attached to steel end pieces which are threaded to allow connection

FIo. 2. Packer end piece design.
1. Aluminium drill rod, 53 mm o.d. for water, 9. Air inlet to packer.
used female end down. 10. Water stem, 18.5 mm o.d. • 12.5 mm i.d.
2. Strong elastic bands holding 3 to 1. 11. Fibre washer.
3. "Griflex" braided P.V.C. tubing, 3 mm i.d. x 12. 2 B.A. Union.
8 mm o.d. for air, piezometer and transducer 13. P.V.C. tubing, 2 mm i.d. x 4 mm o.d., 3 num-
leads, 4 number. ber.
4. Double ended 2 B.A. stud with "Silcoset 151" 14. "Ductube" cotton braiding reinforced rubber
on threads. packer hose, 52 mm o.d. • 8 mm wall thick-
5. Fibre washer. ness (expanding to 76 mm o.d.)
6. Air, piezometer and transducer lead holes, 15. "Dunlop" convoluted hose, 19 mm i.d.
3 mm diameter, 4 number. 16. Slidingjoint.
7. Packer end seal. 17. "Band-it" clips.
8. Jubilee clips. 18. Water pipe, 19 mm i.d.
* Manufactured by: Ductube Company Limited, Daneshill Road, Lound, Retford, Nottinghamshire
DN22 8RQ.

to the drill rods or a perforated pipe as required and have 3 mm diameter holes for piezo-
meter and transducer connections. The external piezometer tubing and air lines are 3 mm
I.D. • 8 mm O.D. reinforced "Griflex" tubing. Space inside the packers is very restricted
and internal piezometer leads are 2 mm I.D. • 4 mm O.D.p.v.c. tubing. Details of the
packer system and in particular materials and methods of connection evolved after much
experiment. It is particularly difficult to achieve completely air- and water-tight connections
and a variety of tube sizes and materials, threaded and compression unions and sealing
compounds were tried,
In the double packer system the two packers are connected by lm, 2 m or 3 m lengths
of perforated steel pipe which are interchangeable to allow different test sections to be used.
The packers are also linked by an air line and a piezometer tube that is connected through
to the base of the bottom packer. A length of casing sealed at one end and fitted with a valve
is useful for testing the complete assembly for leaks and blockages.
The packer assembly is suspended on a string of 1.5 m long 53 mm diameter aluminium
drill rods to which a hose connection is made above ground level via a hollow hoist plug in
place of the more usual and often leaky water swivel. The whole string is suspended by a
jamming block and tackle system from a lightweight aluminium tube tripod. The complete
assembly can be set up by one man although for rod lengths in excess of 5 m rod clamps are
also required.

Pressure measurement

Published accounts of packer tests generally indicate that test section pressures are measured
by a Bourdon-type gauge attached to the pumping main at ground level. Head losses in the
connecting pipes or drill rods may be either calculated or determined by laying the pipes
and packer assemblage on the ground, preferably expanding the packers in a length of drill
Morgenstern & Vaughan (1963) measured pressure with a Bourdon gauge at the surface
connected to a thin nylon tube leading to the test section. Maini (1971) measured pressure
in the test section using a pressure transducer linked to a chart recorder and reported the
value of such measurements in the indication of packer sealing and detection leakage. As
already described the authors' packer system was designed to accommodate both transducers
and piezometers although in practice, and mainly for reasons of cost, only piezometers have
been used. Once the difficulties of making leak-proof connections have been overcome the
system works well and if faults do occur they are fairly easy to identify and repair in the
field. The main operational disadvantage is that the measured heads must be above ground
level if they are to be recorded on a Bourdon gauge. Gauges with a vacuum scale and a
mercury manometer have also been used but at low heads there is the danger that air will
come out of solution in the tubing.
This particular problem of recording low heads can be overcome by using electrical
transducers but against this must be weighed their considerable cost when allowance is made
for read-out facilities, vulnerability to damage, difficulty in making field repairs and sealing
problems comparable to those of piezometers.
The piezometer lines are connected at the surface to a bus-bar system which allows each
228 R. PEARSON & M. S. M O N E Y

to be flushed from the main water supply or bled from the test hole and to be linked either
to a high quality test gauge or to the continuous recorder described below.

Flow measurement

The wide variation in rock permeability together with the usual procedure of testing at
several pressures require that provision must be made for generating and measuring a very
large range of flows. Analysis of test results from a number of site investigations indicates,
however, that most measurements lie within the range of 1 to 100 lugeons (1 • 10-7 to
1 • 10-5 m/sec approximately). Table 1 shows the flows that would be expected in a 3 m
long test section at a range of heads up to the lugeon maximum of 100 m (10 kg/cm 2)
assuming water absorption is proportional to the length of the test section.
In practice, flows of less than 1 1/min are probably best measured by differences in level
in a calibrated tank, while flows in excess of 100 m are likely to be beyond the capacity of
most standard drill pumps or simple gravity tank systems.
Although restriction of the measurement range to 1 to 100 1/min simplifies the choice of
flow meter other aspects must be considered. It is common practice to use integrating flow
meters in which a mechanical counter is driven by an impeller. There may be a tendency for
meters of this type to be "sticky" at low flows, requiring either a minimum flow or the pulsa-
tions of a pump to start the impeller moving. A more serious objection to this type of meter
is that flow rates can be obtained only by taking frequent readings at timed intervals and
calculating the results. Flow rates can change rapidly in the early stages of a test and it is
important to know when steady flow has been reached. An increase in flow during the test
at a particular pressure may be due to packer leakage and is likely to go undetected unless
continuous checks and calculations are made.
The authors have attempted to overcome these problems by using an Arkon Duplex*
recorder which provides a continuous chart record of flow, in the range 0 to 30 1/min using
differential pressures across an orifice plate with a separate input and pen for recording
This instrument has proved to be extremely sensitive and sufficiently robust for field
use. Its disadvantages are that it requires careful de-airing, an external electrical supply and


Head (m of water)
10 40 70 100
1 0.3 1.2 2.1 3
10 3 12 21 30
100 30 120 210 300

Flow in 1/min into a 3 m long test section

* Manufactured by: Arkon Instruments Limited, Whaddon Works, Cheltenham GL52 5EP. These
instruments can also be supplied with flow integrators.

that pipework for the orifice plate is rather bulky but these drawbacks are easily outweighed
by the improved quality of the test results. Accuracy falls off in the low part of the range
and the recorder has been supplemented by a "Litre-meter"* electronic flow meter. These
meters are available to measure a wide range of flow rate with built-in integrators and it is
possible to alter the meter scaling in the field without recalibration.

Test results and discussion

Single stage tests

The results of carefully controlled tests using improved instrumentation are best described
in the sequence of a normal test, dealing first with a single test at one pressure, followed by
3-stage and 5-stage tests at 3 pressures. It should be emphasized that the effects described
have been verified by repeated tests in both rock types. Care is taken at the start of tests to
exclude as much air as possible from the system and the test section. Both piezometer lines
are first flushed out with water from the tank supply until a steady air-free flow is seen.
The flow is maintained while the packers are positioned at the desired depth in the hole.
The chart recorder is started and the main water supply to the test section is turned on. The
packers are then partially inflated and the piezometer lines switched to their respective
gauges and the chart recorder. Water is allowed to flow past the packers until no more air
is expelled; this usually takes 1-2 minutes after which the packer is rapidly inflated to the
final pressure. The recorder shows an immediate sharp rise in pressure and a drop in flow.
A distinctive "kink" in the flow-rate curve marks the establishment of a good packer seal
(Fig. 3a).
As an experiment the alternative procedure of full inflation of the packers before starting
the flow has been tried. Figure 3b shows that after a few minutes identical flow rates are

(o) FIG. 3
Continuous record of flow rate
in two tests in identical test sec-
tions in the O.R.S. In (a) the
~o z'o '



packer was inflated while
water was flowing, in (b) the
packer was fully inflated be-
fore the flow started. Note
that this figure and Figs 4, 5, 6
(b) 10 / " - - - are traced from chart records
which do not have a linear
I / min scale.
) I I I I I / I I I
0 1 20

30 40 50

TIME mira

* Manufactured by: Litre Meter Limited, Ryefield Crescent, Northwood, Middlesex, HA6 INN.

After the packers have sealed both flow and pressure continue to change, the flow
falling (Fig. 4a) and the pressure rising (Fig. 4b). After a fairly short period, in the authors'
tests usually under 10 minutes, the pressure normally becomes sensibly constant. The flow
rate continues to fall and may take 30-60 minutes to become constant although a continuing
drop is sometimes observable.
As this pattern of behaviour has been seen in over 250 tests, any departure from it is
immediately recognized on the flow and pressure chart. The most common anomaly is
packer leakage, usually caused by leakage in the air line, and immediately detectable by a
rise in flow (Fig. 5a) and a drop in pressure (Fig. 5b). Raising the air pressure produces an
immediate response on the chart and it can be seen whether the leak has been stopped
(Fig. 6). A similar flow and pressure response is seen when the packer pressure is insufficient
to hold a single packer in place in a low permeability section and the whole assembly starts

15 TEST 206

5 FIG. 4
*-PACKER SEAL Changes in the flow and head
during a single packer test in grey-
15 .I wacke above the water table.
J - .

C ' I I I I . a~0 I I I !
15 45

TEST 186

l I I
I I J ......
I 1 I FXG. 5
I 1 I
Identification of packer leakage.
/ I " An initially poor seal (0-5 min) is
I I I l I I I I i I I I
RAISE ]LEAKING I RAISING rectified by increasing the packer
PACKER I PACKER : air pressure. After 30 min leakage
PRESSURE 1 IPRESSUR~ again develops but is stopped by
I .L...,,.~_ I raising the air pressure.

01 I I ! ! II
I'5 ' ' .3'O 45
TIME rmn

to slide upwards. Further checks on leakage or seepage through the rock past the upper
packer are usually made by observing the water level in the hole above the top packer with a
conventional electric dip-meter which emits a high-pitched tone when the weighted elec-
trodes touch water. Clamping the cable so that the electrode is just clear of the water
provides a useful alarm.
When a double packer system is in use the piezometer line to the base of the assembly
is intended to show whether leakage is entering the lower section of the hole. This arrange-
ment is not entirely satisfactory, it will only work if that section of the hole is full of water
and either the rock is sufficiently tight or the leakage sufficiently high to maintain pressures
that will be measurable at the surface. Flow along joints may of course by-pass a fully
sealed packer. An electrical transducer or an adjustable pressure switch would have obvious
advantages in this position. In practice, this lower piezometer often responds to the packer
sealing operation; as the packer expands and closes off the lower cavity an excess pressure
is indicated which decays with time. Leakage past the lower packer has not in fact been
detected in any tests to date.

TEST 177


5 ~ t '~ FIG. 6
I II i I, I~. ,
0 RAISE HEAD-) LEAK IINFLATI:!<--SUPPLY FALLS Packer leakage developing after
t :PACKER'I an increase in water pressure.
15" ~ , I
r I
L [ l

I " I I I I ! I
15 . 30 45
TIME rain

1.2 Test 196 . . . .

Test 2 0 1 -
T e s t 225 - - - - -
FLOW 1.0
FIG. 7
Q 0.8
Plot of Q/H against time for -~
three separate single packer 0.6
tests in identical test sections t/rain
above the water table in grey- m" water OA

i , t ! , i , , , , , I , i , l , , l l
I0 20 30 40 50
TIME rnin
232 R. P E A R S O N & M. S. MONEY

Apart from the cases of upper or single packer leakage and short-circuiting described
above, none of the authors' tests have shown any evidence of flow and hence permeability
increasing during a test at a given pressure as would be expected if erosion of joint surfaces
or joint fillings were taking place. Repeated tests in the Old Red Sandstone, each test taking
up to 3 hours, have, however, indicated a rise in permeability of the order of 10 per cent.
As both flow rate Q and pressure or head H are changing at the start of the test it is
convenient to express the results in terms of the ratio Q/H since this is directly related to the
apparent permeability. Figure 7 shows plots of this type for repeated tests in a single test
section and indicates that these transient effects are repeatable. These effects were most
marked in the greywackes above the water table where the constant value of Q/H is about
half the initial value. In all cases quoted here H is the pressure measured in the centre of the
test section corrected for groundwater level before the start of the test.
Changing flows and pressure are to be expected in any test in rock above the water
table as a zone of saturation extends from the test section. Drilling with water flush may
lead to saturation of a considerable volume of rock and these transient effects may be less
marked when tests follow immediately upon drilling.
Similar non-equilibrium flows and pressures will, however, occur in tests below the water
table or in confined aquifers as the boundary conditions change due to the existence of
storage in the rock mass. In the more usual hydrogeological pumping-out test the flow is kept
constant and the head declines as water is removed from storage. In these packer tests the
head in the hole is kept fairly constant and the flow declines as equilibrium hydraulic
gradients are set up in the rock mass. Storage coefficients in these rocks are of course low,
preliminary estimates based on observation well records give a value of 0.4 per cent for the
sandstones and 0.015 per cent for the greywackes.

Multistage tests with increasing pressures

At both sites most tests have been carried out with three constant head tanks and, as in the
introduction, it will be convenient to refer to these pressures as A, B, C in ascending order.

T.est s 71-75---
Tests 81-83 m
FLOW 5 "1 0
oq_ 4 J,..... Bt
H 111~.~~--''1
m water

0 30 60 90 120 150 180 210

TIME rnin

FIG. 8. Plots of Q/H against time for short term and long term single packer tests in the O.R.S.,
in identical test sections and using the same three constant head tanks.

In many routine packer tests three pressures are applied in a five-stage sequence, A1, B1, C,
B2, As and the figures are numbered accordingly.
After establishing equilibrium flow rate and pressure at pressure " A " the test may be
continued either by immediately raising the pressure to "B" and waiting for flow and pressure
to stabilize or by stopping the " A " test, allowing water levels to recover and then applying
the "B" pressure. This second procedure is naturally very time consuming but was adopted
in some cases in order to measure the response of observation wells relative to various
constant heads in the test hole. Both methods gave similar ultimate values of Q/H. Equili-
brium is reached much more rapidly in the immediate test and there seems no reason to
doubt that this is a satisfactory technique. Raising the pressure to "C" produces similar
initial changes in flow and pressure. In general, however, the longer a test has been running
at one particular pressure, the more rapidly conditions stabilize when a second and higher
pressure is applied.
If the flow is switched to a higher tank before pressure and flow have both stablized
then the flow rate shows a sudden upward surge followed by a rapid drop so that the value
of Q/H declines more rapidly towards an equilibrium value. These effects are illustrated in
Fig. 8 which shows the results of two sets of tests in the sandstone at site A in identical test
sections and using the same three constant head tanks. In the first group of tests, shown by a
dashed line, each pressure was maintained for approximately one hour and it will be seen
that reasonably constant but different values of Q/H were obtained at each pressure.
In a later series of tests, shown by the solid line, each pressure has been maintained for
only about 15 minutes. Equilibrium has clearly not been reached at any stage although the
final value of Q/H at pressure "C" (and after 50 minutes testing) is approaching the " C "
value obtained in the longer tests. These rapid tests are typical of many performed in
routine investigations as described by Houlsby (1976). Taken on their own they indicate
the right order of permeability but do not yield consistent results at any of the three


//e',.,,.A2 FIG. 9
/ Plot of Q versus H for the long-
FLOW / term tests shown in Fig. 8. Read-
llmin / TESTS 71-75 ings taken at approximately 5
/ minute intervals in the early stages
/ of the tests are shown by dots.
I I ! I I
1 2 3 4 5
HEAD rn water

The longer term tests in which each pressure has been maintained for 60 minutes provide
much more reliable results. At each pressure Q/H has almost but not quite reached a steady
value. Figure 9 is a conventional plot of Q versus H for this group of tests but includes the
early readings in each stage which overestimate the permeability. The plot again shows that
there does not appear to be a linear relationship between Q and H. Three explanations of
this non-linear behaviour can be put forward:
1. The tests are too short and if continued a constant value of Q/H might be obtained
at all pressures.
2. The test section or the surrounding rock is "silting up" so that the apparent per-
meability is decreasing.
3. The flow/head relationship in fracture-flow is non-linear and may be turbulent.
After an hour at a given tank pressure, changes in flow rate and test section pressure
are usually barely detectable on the chart record. Water levels are, however, still rising though
slowly, in the observation wells suggesting that complete equilibrium has not yet been
reached. Extrapolation of Q/H values on a log-time basis indicates that periods measurable
in days would be necessary for the " A " and "B" results to coincide with the " C " level.
As described in the introduction, siltation or clogging has often been proposed as an
explanation for reduced permeability.
If the dogging material is suspended in the injected water then further tests should
show a continued decline in permeability. This particular group of tests was followed by a
series of single pressure-stage tests with a period, usually of at least three hours, allowed for
recovery of water levels between tests. Table 2 shows the ultimate values of Q/H obtained
at each pressure in these tests.
These results show that the general trend of lower values of Q/H at higher pressures
continues, but that the individual values tend to rise. This suggests erosion or washing-out of
fractures rather than clogging with repeated testing, although as previously noted no evi-
dence of this has been detected during a single test stage. The packer assembly was usually
left in the drillhole between tests so that the flow of water would normally be from the hole
into the rock. It is possible that reverse flow might occur when the packer is removed at the
end of a test rapidly lowering the water level in the drillhole and this might cause some
backwashing of fractures.


Ultimate values of Q/H (1/min/m) Length
Test No. Tank A Tank B Tank C Min. Remarks

60 Testsshown by dashed line Fig. 8
73 -- -- 3.15 6O
76 4.70 -- 60
77 -- 2.90 60
78 -- 4.10 -- 30
80 4.50 -- -- 30
83 -- -- 3.45 50 Ultimate value of test shown
by solid line Fig. 8

It does appear, however, that there is field evidence from these and other similar tests
for the non-linear flow-pressure relationships demonstrated by Sharp & Maini (1972) in
the laboratory.
Figure 10 shows a 3 • 60 minute test in the greywackes at site B where the A and B
stages appear to have reached equilibrium and again indicate a non-linear relationship. The
"C" value is, however, both constant after 20 minutes and slightly higher than the ultimate
"B" value. Rather high pressures were used at this site, in some tests water from the hole
reached the quarry floor and it is believed that uplift occurred when using the "C" tank. This
effect is more marked in the tests illustrated in Fig. 11 where there is a considerable increase
in apparent permeability.

0.8 Tests 209-213


Fie. 10
I/rn;n Long-term tests in grey-
m'water 0"2 ~ wacke showing differing
Q/H values in the A1 and
B1 stages, probable uplift
in the C stages and "back
pressuring" in the Bz and
As stages.
9'0 21o
I i i

0 30 6~0 '
TIME min

0.8 Tests 201-205



FIG. 11
Long-term tests in grey- m" wote'r
wacke showing Q/H
values indicating marked 0.2f_
uplift in the "C" stage with
little recovery in the A 2
i m
ardB~ stages.
0 3'o ' & ' '9'o' 120 '
' ' 150' ' 180' '210
TIME rain
236 R. P E A R S O N & M. S. MONEY

Multistage tests with reducing pressures

Although some of the tests described and figured above have been 3-pressure 5-stage tests
the discussion has been confined to the results obtained when the pressures are being
consecutively raised, that is the Ai, B1 C stages. The repetition of pressures in the B2 and As
stages in routine tests is intended as a check on the results and it was therefore interesting to
find in the great majority of such consecutive tests that quite different results were obtained
as the flow was switched back to the lower tanks. In general the tests showed rapid change
to a lower flow and a slightly higher test section pressure than in the corresponding first
stage. These changes taken together result in significantly lower values of Q/H as indicated
in the "long" tests (Figs 8 & 10). The only major exception to this behaviour has been noted
in tests in which major uplift or enlargement of fractures has occurred (Fig. 11). Tests have
not been continued at these lower pressures for long periods as the chart records indicate
that flow rates and pressures were changing very slowly.
Repeated rising pressure tests (A, B, C) or reducing pressure tests (C, B, A) in which
water levels are allowed to recover between each pressure stage do not show this reduction in
Q/H values (Table 2). This particular effect must therefore be a function of the test procedure
as well as of the rock mass properties. Similar behaviour was reported by Little, Stewart &
Fookes (1963) who in addition to proposing "siltation" as a cause suggested that " . . . com-
municating fissures became charged with water to a high level thus creating a back pressure
and reducing the true head applied". This concept of back pressure is supported by the
observation that when the water supply is switched from a higher to a lower tank the imme-
diate result is often a sharp drop in flow rate followed by a rapid rise to a fairly steady level.
In general the authors agree with this concept, noting that it is a further consequence of a
small but significant storage capacity in the rock mass.
There is little point in continuing tests with consecutively reducing pressures when this
effect is observed. The indicated values of permeability are not reproducible and on a com-
mercial basis it would be better to allocate the testing time saved to the increasing pressure

The range of packer tests carried out in the first part of this research programme has been
limited for logistic reasons to shallow holes and to two rock types and no attempt will be
made to extrapolate the results to deeper investigations and other sites. The sub-rockhead
zone is, however, of considerable importance in rock engineering, not least in dam founda-
tions. Analysis of routine site investigation reports suggests that many of the effects described
above occur frequently but are often interpreted as errors or anomalies.
Packer tests are expensive, particularly when single packers are used, because they
interrupt the progress of drilling, require the presence of an engineer or technician to super-
vise the test and take readings, involve the attendance of the drill crew to insert and remove

packers and result in the drill rig standing idle for at least an hour in the shortest of multi-
stage tests. Investment in improved equipment can therefore be justified by a reduction in
the failure rate in tests as well as by an improvement in the quality and reliability of the
test results. Full details of test procedures have been given above. The authors' main
recommendations for improvements in routine tests are given below.
Calculation of results while the test is in progress. This is the simplest and most cost-
effective of improvements in test technique. It is listed as an improvement because in the
authors' experience, calculation and scrutiny of in situ test results is often delayed either
until the test is complete and the equipment dismantled or, in many cases, until the report-
writing stage of the investigation. A test that is discovered to be faulty when it cannot be
repeated represents a total waste of time and money. In the field it will only be necessary to
calculate the Q/H values for each test, consideration of a suitable shape factor for the rock
mass and test section can be left until later. Consistency in values of Q/H will not always be
immediately obvious in a multistage test particularly when H values must be corrected for
gauge height, water table and head losses in pipework. The calculation is not of course
difficult but is made more tedious and is more likely to be postponed when gauges and meters
are calibrated in a variety of units. This problem is eased by the advent of the pocket cal-
culator and by the use of standard logging forms and calibration charts.
The use of constant-head tanks. Installing constant-head feeder tanks between the pump
supply and the packer system has several advantages: surges and oscillations in flow and
pressure are virtually eliminated making flow meters and pressure gauges not only easier
to read but more accurate, there is less chance of injecting air and sediment into the test
system, the test is not interrupted by short pump stoppages and it becomes a simple matter
to repeat pressures in the A B C B A test. On sites with suitable topography the additional
cost is small, some extra supply hose is needed while 200 litre oil drums, or plastic or glass-
fibre domestic water tanks are cheap and widely obtainable.
Improved instrumentation. Three features of the instrumentation used by the authors
are considered to justify their cost in terms of reducing test failures and improved quality
and reproducibility: direct flow rate measurement, pressure measurement within the test
section and the display of both measurements on a chart recorder.
Flow rate meters make it possible to observe and record the establishment (or other-
wise) of steady flows and give immediate indication of packer sealing and leakage. No single
instrument known to the authors will give readings over the wide range of flows listed in
Table 1 but a system composed of two "Litre-meter" devices can cover most of this range at
current cost (1977) of the order of s excluding a power supply.
Any flow measuring system should be calibrated with the supply source to be used in
the field, that is pumps or tanks.
A piezometer tube connected directly to the test section is not unduly difficult to install
and does away with the need for corrections for head losses in the drill rods. It is also effec-
tive in damping pressure fluctuations caused by pumping. The system is not, however,
completely satisfactory at low heads.
Combining both flow and pressure records onto a continous chart record has several
advantages: it frees the operator from writing down readings allowing him to check other
aspects of the test, such as the water level above the packer in the test hole. At the same time
there is an immediate visual indication of the progress of the test and a detailed permanent
238 R. P E A R S O N & M. S. M O N E Y

record for later analysis. The hydro-mechanical "Arkon" recorder used by the authors
worked well but was limited in range. Electrical chart recording is clearly feasible but has
not yet been used by the authors.

Test results
The improved procedures described above have made it possible to distinguish between test
system faults and anomalies and changes in flow and pressure which result from the hydraulic
properties of the rock mass. Three features of the tests require emphasis: the initial non-
equilibrium stage, the non-linear flow/head relationship and the "back pressure-effect".
Repeated tests have shown that the establishment of constant flows and pressures may
take much longer than the period usually allowed, particularly in the early stages of the test.
This non-equilibrium stage is repeatable with a given test section and piezometric level and
it is suggested that it results from the presence of limited but significant storage capacity in
the rock mass. In this situation conventional rising and falling head permeability tests are
clearly not valid.
Many routine packer tests show a non-linear relationship between flow and pressure
but in the authors' tests it has been possible to identify unreliable results and to show that
there is no evidence for "siltation" in fractures but some evidence, after many hours of testing,
for erosion of fractures in the Old Red Sandstone. After eliminating this effect and by using
tests of sufficient duration, it has been shown that the flow/head relationship is non-linear,
suggesting the existence of non-linear laminar flow or turbulent flow in fractures. The chief
reservation on this conclusion is that in the present series of tests it has been possible to
apply only a limited range of pressures.
The "back-pressure effect", produced in a multistage test when the pressure is reduced,
is again considered to be due to the presence of significant storage capacity in the rock mass.
Reducing pressure stages are intended as a check on the results and should not be necessary
if properly instrumented tests are performed. Abandoning the reducing pressure stages gives
a saving of 40 per cent on the testing time for 3-pressure multistage tests which can be taken
either as a direct saving or might be applied to the rising pressure stages as longer test periods
or additional test pressures.
It is hoped that publication of these results will encourage others to improve testing
techniques rather than dismissing packer tests as unreliable, and to publish results obtained
in a wider range of rock types and depths.

Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank Mr A. Blyth and Mr W. Proctor for their help in constructing
and commissioning equipment, Messrs P. J. Bitcheno, R. W. McCrae and J. L. Mosforth for assistance in the
field and Mr Andrew Douglas of Saughtree for allowing access to the test sites. Mr R. Pearson is supported
by a Natural Environment Research Council Studentship.

ANON. 1972. The preparation of maps and plans in terms of engineering geology. Q. Jl Engng GeoL 5,
HARPER, T. R. & ROSS-BROWN,D. M. 1972. An inexpensive durable borehole packer. Rock Mechanics
Research Report D24, Imperial College, London.

HOEK, E. & BRAY, J. W. 1974. Rock slope engineering. Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, London.
HOULSBY, A. C. 1976. Routine interpretation of the Lugeon Water Test. Q. Jl Engng Geol. 9, 303-13.
LANCASTER-JONES, P. F. F. 1975. The interpretation of the Lugeon Water Test. Q. Jl Engng Geol. 8, 151-4.
LITTLE, A. L., STEWART,J. C. • FOOKES,P. G. 1963. Bedrock grouting test at Mangla Dam, West Pakistan.
In Grouts and Drilling Muds in Engineering Practice, Butterworths, London, 91-7.
Louts, C. 1970. Hydraulic triple probe to determine the directional hydraulic conductivity of porous or
jointed rock. Rock Mechanics Research Report D12, Imperial College, London.
1974. Rock hydraulics. In Rock Mechanics (edited by L. Miiller), International Centre for Mechanical
Sciences, Springer-Verlag, Wien, New York.
LUGEON, M. 1933. Barrages et Geologie, Dunod, Paris.
MAINI, Y. N. T. 1971. In situ hydraulic parameters in jointed rock--their measurement and interpretation.
Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Imperial College, London.
-- NOORISHAD,J. & SHARP, J. C. 1972. Theoretical and field considerations on the determination of in situ
hydraulic parameters in fractured rock. Proc. Syrup. on Percolation through Fissured Rock, Paper
T1-E, Stuttgart.
MORGENSTERN, N. R. t~ VAUGHAN,P. R. 1963. Some observations on allowable grouting pressures. In
Grouts and Drilling Muds in Engineering Practice, Butterworths, London, 36--42.
MUIR-WOOD, A. M. & CASTE,G. 1970. In situ testing for the Channel Tunnel. In In situ Investigations in Soils
and Rocks, Paper 10, British Geotechnical Society.
SHARP, J. C. & MAINLY. N. T. 1972. Fundamental considerations on the hydraulic characteristics of joints
in rock. Proc. Symp. on Percolation through Fissured Rock, Paper T1-F, Stuttgart.