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Engeconsol –Engenharia de Concreto e Solos LTDA, Brasil,


This paper presents an approach about the chalenges for underwater concrete repair in deep
A Laboratory equipment was developed by the engineering team of Furnas Concrete
Laboratory located in Goiânia, to simulate underwater concrete placement in deep water. This
device has enabled the research of concrete´s behavior under waterpressure equivalent of a water
column up to 90 m.
Some concrete rehabilitations are discussed for chalenge situations such as 1) second stage
of the intake guides, in deep water; 2) high pressure seepage waterthighing in cracking in the dam

KEY WORDS: Underwater rehabilitation, microconcrete, steel fiber, trespassing cracks


The rehabilitation works of the intake guides from in Porto Colombia Hydroelectric Plant,
accomplished in 2000, were carried out with underwater concrete placement, being very successful.
Due to this, the Furnas Centrais Elétricas Concrete Laboratory, located in Goiânia, undertook a lot
of research, which not only subsidized the work, but also enabled a better understanding of concrete
properties when placed in great depth.
The waterproofing of the Rio Descoberto Dam from CAESB in Brasília was another
successful example of underwater rehabilitation; only this time it was performed dry through a
secant pile diaphragm wall from the crest of the dam to the rock foundation, close to the upstream
face of the dam. The wholes on the wall were filled with high performance mortar, through tremie
process. (ref 7)
The challenge of extending such kinds of underwater rehabilitation works to other job sites
is approached in the present study, along with the repair of cracks trespassing the dam body with
great seepage.
In the later, besides using the underwater concrete placement technology, hyper plasticizing
admixtures associated with antiwashout admixtures and steel fiber are used in the mix design.
The development of hyper plasticizing admixtures set new grounds for under water concrete
rehabilitation, once it provides higher plasticity as well as great cohesion to the mixtures employed
in such rehabilitations.
The laboratory studies presented in other Congresses and Seminars are here summarized and
complemented by later studies aiming its appliance for both situations at issue.
Equipment for simulating underwater concrete placement and concrete manufactured with
last generation admixtures were used through out this study. During the research, these admixtures
were perfected based on the results obtained adding steel fiber to produce high tenacity concrete to
be applied in diaphragm wall for cracking.

A laboratory equipment was built by the engineering team of Furnas Concrete Laboratory, to
simulate the underwater concrete placement in great depth.
The design and construction of this equipment were a joint venture, beginning with a
conception from this relater and the partnership of the specialized technician Guilherme Leroy (in
memoriam), to simulate underwater concrete placement in laboratory. The evolution of such project
was gradual, starting with the molding of specimens submerged without pressure. It was later
applied pressurized water through a perviousness study device (Bureau of Reclamation model) in a
mixture of fresh concrete to evaluate the influence of water pressure in the concrete’s resistance.
Subsequently, a prototype of the equipment with two chambers which communicated through the
opening of a valve was used. In the upper chamber the fresh concrete was placed while the lower
one received water. The upper chamber containing the fresh concrete was sealed and received an
applied pressure equivalent to the intended water column. The opening of the valve between both
chambers forced the concrete to penetrate the lower one and expel the water through a pipe
equipped with another valve. Before the escape of water through the valve at the end of the pipe, the
concrete was affected by a minor eddy.
The equipment was adjusted and perfected to simulate an underwater concrete placement
without the eddy on the lower chamber and guaranteeing the escape of the water under the
determined pressure throughout this operation. Its final shaping is as shown in pictures one and two.
In short, the equipment got the following shape: two chambers, being the upper one where
the concrete is placed to receive the pressure (equivalent to that of the water column where the
repairs are going to take place) and the lower one filled with water subject to the same kind of
pressure. Between both of them, there’s a two meters long metallic tube with a 10cm diameter,
containing two valves. When the later are both open, the whole system is under the same pressure.
The height of the fresh concrete column in the tube between both chambers is enough to fill, with
gravity action, the lower chamber, simulating the tremie concrete placement.
The equipment is able to work with any given pressure and has been used to simulate
underwater pressure of up to a 90m high water column.
During the concrete simulation, a 71cm high submerged concrete cylinder, with 31cm
diameter, is cost. When the subject of the study is the bond between the old concrete and the new,
the specimen is molded in a prismatic form where an old concrete slab is placed to verify such
The concrete placement simulation allows for mix design adjustments aiming a more
suitable concrete for underwater appliance.
In order to establish the hard concrete properties, 15.2 cm high concrete cores with 7.6 cm
diameter are drilled from the concrete cylinder after it has been submitted to curing room.

Equipamento para Simulação de Lançamento Subaquático de Concreto

1 – Câmara superior para concreto fresco (Volume de 85 dm³)
1 2 – Câmara inferior para água pressurizada
(Volume de 24 dm³) para estudos de aderência
(Volume de 58 dm³) para testemunhos de sondagem
3 – Tubo com diâmetro de 10 cm com 2 m de comprimento(Vol. de 14
3 4 – Válvulas de controle
4 5 – Tubo de ar e pulmão a alta pressão
6 – Escada

Equipment for Underwater Placement Simulation

1 Upper Chamber for Fresch Concrete - ( Volume of 85 dm³ )

2 Lower Chamber for Pressurized Water ( Volume of 24 dm³ ) for bond studies
( Volume of 58 dm³ ) for drill cores
Figure 1.- Equipamento para Simulação de Lançamento Submerso do Concreto
Concretagem Submersa
- Enche-se a campânula
inferior com água, aplica-se
pressão e fecha-se os


- Coloca-se o concreto na

campânula superior e a

236 250


- Aplica-se a mesma pressão
na câmara superior e




240 240
5 - Abre-se chave de saída


Tubo galvanizado 2 1/2"
- Fecha-se a chave após a
SEÇÃO A-A água ser expulsa da câmara
Figure 2.- Seçãododoaparelho
Aparelho Simulador inferior pelo concreto.

The molding procedure for the underwater concrete placement under pressure test
simulation can be summarized as follows:

 Fill the lower chamber (5) with water, apply desired pressure and close the valves.
 Place concrete on the upper chamber (3) and close it.
 Apply the same pressure in both chambers.
 Open the water valve (6)
 Close the valve after the water is expelled from the lower chamber by the concrete under the
same test pressure. The chamber is filled by concrete.
 Open the pressurizing valve from the upper chamber

To bertter study the bond between old and new concrete, an additional chamber was
developed where an old concrete slab could be placed. Over this slab, a moisture sand blasting was
performed to simulate the treating of the substratum before it received the repairing concrete.
After this equipment was built, several underwater concrete placements were simulated to
verify the bond between old and new concrete.
A complementary research was carried out to simulate the placement of a fiber concrete
curtain to waterproof the seepage from concrete cracking trespassing the dam body. The pressure
used in this experiment was that of a 70 m high water column. Some studies presented in congresses
and seminars have already shown this equipment.


3.1. Admixtures for underwater placement and repairs

a) According to KHAYAT[10;11;12], the underwater concrete placement is the combination of

rheology modifying admixtures (RMAs) which are water soluble polymers that increase
viscosity of mixing water and enhance the ability of the cement paste to retain its
constituents in suspension. The admixtures are also known as antiwashout or anti-bleeding

b) Commonly used RMA in cement based materials include polysaccharides of microbial

sources, such as welan gum; cellulose derivates, such as methyl cellulose; acrylic based
polymers, such as partial hydrolysis products of polyacrylamide copolymer or acrylamide;
and sodium acrylate that contains acrylamide as the main component.

3.2. Research about the quality of concrete for underwater placement and its bond to the
substratum when placed 90 m deep

The researches following the rehabilitation works at Porto Colombia Hydroelectric plant
done by the Furnas Concrete Laboratory (refs 5 & 6) aimed the investigation and understanding of
the concrete properties when placed 90m deep.
Besides adjusting the mix design for underwater placement, new admixtures were studied
(anti washout admixtures associated with last generation hyper plasticizing.
After the mix design adjustments the concrete properties were studied.
The main results obtained through out this research were emphasized by the author and
transcribed as follows:
All concrete reached slamps higher than 20 cm presenting adequate characteristics for self
compaction. Adding to that, the use of anti washout admixtures has significantly reduced the
bleeding and the separation between concrete’s constituents, besides increasing its viscosity.
The equipment for simulating underwater concrete placement works effectively and several
different factors which could influence the concretes behavior under the given conditions were
investigated with its help.
First, a 150mm pipe was used to apply the concrete in the simulation equipment achieving
satisfactory results. When a 76mm pipe was used, it became necessary to increase the mortar
content of maximum size aggregate (msa) 19mm to avoid segregation of the mixture during the
test.. Subsequently, the MSA of 9,5 or 12,5 mm was found to be the most suitable for underwater
concrete placement.
Through microscopical analysis it was verified higher compacity in the concrete kept under
pressure in relation to those kept without pressure.
There was a significant resistance gain to the submerged concrete kept under pressure in
relation to the others.
T later time, the concrete to supply the intended premises was obtained, with the mix design
reaching the resistance values of fc28=25 to 30 MPa in relation to A/C = 0,44.
The use of special admixtures such as hyper plasticizing and anti washout was fundamental
to the success of the research.
Intensive concrete placement simulations were accomplished during the research, which
assured and certified technically the whole process, using, for this purpose, the best mix design
based on the optimum content planned for the admixtures.
Extractions of underwater concrete were made (prismatic chamber), having as parameter
different joint orientations on the concrete slab with submerged placed concrete in order to obtain
the cohesion and the friction angle between the joints of both samples of concrete of different ages
through the data from triaxials and uniaxials tests. This tests associated with the simple traction tests
show that the bond between both samples can be assured when properly applied.

3.3. Complementary Laboratory research using steel fiber concrete

The use of the underwater concrete placement technique associated with microconcrete with
steel fiber is an appealing alternative which haven’t been tried in Brazil so far for repairing cracks
which trespass the dam body.
The idea of using such association makes it possible that the placement be done from the
crest of the dam, through the tremie process, once the crack trespasses the dam body.
The trespassing crack creates a contraction joint, provoking opening and closing of the
concrete block parts, according to the seasonal variations in temperature. These movements of the
cracked parts demand that the concrete used be one resistant to the loads which result from such
temperature variations and, in the event of new cracking, it does not suffer further separation due to
the tenacity increase using steel fiber.

The complementary studies were conducted in the laboratory and presented in the paper under the
reference thirteen, to demonstrate that the steel fiber concrete not only is more resistant to these
efforts, but also presents a significant resistance to the opening of cracks, the last being of 1,5; 3 and
5 mm, to a microconcrete reinforced with 40 Kg/m3 of steel fiber. The figures obtained for the fore
mentioned combination could be summarized as follows:

Flexural strenght equivalent to the 1,5 mm, 3 mm and 5 mm cracks were 105%, 93% and 67%
respectively, in relation to the reference microconcrete without the steel fiber.

3.4. The Simulation of Underwater Concrete Placement Using Steel Fiber in Laboratory

To simulate the underwater concrete placement using the steel fiber for watertightening dam
cracking in laboratory, it was used the equipment shown in item 2. A prismatic specimen was
prepared in the full scale trial from Furnas Laboratory and is shown in the sequence of pictures 3 to

Figure 3.- Furos ø de 76mm

Figure 4.- Montagem da campânula

Figure 5.- Base da campânula preenchida com argamassa

Figure 6.- Topo do CP prismático preenchido com argamassa

Figure 7.- Extração do microconcreto do substrato

Figure 8.- Aspecto da aderência do microconcreto ao substrato


4.1. The Underwater Rehabilitation works of Porto Colombia Hydroelectric plant

The rehabilitation from the stop log guides using underwater concrete at Porto Colombia
Hydroelectric plant which took place between july 3rd and September 12,200; has already been
mentioned in previous congresses. [1;3;4]
Some aspects of this experiment must be highlighted:

 Team of divers experience

The underwater rehabilitation with divers required an expert team. The supervision and
safety of the divers were assured fulltime during the execution of the works.

 Laboratory studies

The concrete used in the rehabilitation was carefully designed using last generation hyper
plasticizing admixtures.

 Concrete placement through the tremie process

The experiments have shown that, at 20m deep, it possible to place the concrete with a 10
cm (4 inches) pipe, carrying the concrete from the surface to the form work. The simulation carried
out by the Funil Hydroelectric Plant mentioned in the references above, was crucial for the success
of the experiment.

 Concrete placement with special device

The usual procedure for underwater concrete placement is to haul the concrete using a
tremie and a steel pipe. When the depth is greater than 20m and the volume to be repaired is
relatively small, as in stop log guides, the concrete column in the pipe is superior to the one needed
to fill the form mold of the concrete to be restored.
When the depth goes beyond 20 m, the concrete’s speed when it hits the form mold and also
the necessary volume for filling the repair are hard to control.
A special device to transport the concrete from the surface to the placement site was
developed in order to solve this problem. Picture number 4 shows this device, built during the Porto
Colombia repair works.
( 4 x)

D=Variable 4 *H = distância da válvula inferior do molde até o
5 primeiro nível de
Fast latch lançamento

A=Maximum service height

No scale detail
1 Coupling to winch
Nota: Dispositivo testado na UHE Porto Colômbia,
com concreto reparador com agregado graúdo com

2,12 m
2 Dial - Artificial lighting for evacuation dial
diâmetro máximo de 9,5mm, consistência (slump) de
3 Pressure equalizer Ø 20 to 40 mm 26 cm e com a utilização de aditivos antidispersante e
4 Encasement lid with sealing gasket 8 superplastificante. Grauteamento executado a 28 m de
5 Fast latch 9
profundidade, em média
6 Concrete container
Ref.: Relatório DCT.T.10.037.2000-R0 p. 18/35

*H + 2,00 m
7 Dial - Evacuation check
Sem escala
8 Fast clamp
9 Flexible hose
10 Sphere stop valve Ø 40 to 75 mm 11
11 Fast clamp that couples to mold's valve

Figure 9.- Dispositivo

*H = Especial
Distance frommold's lower para
grouting nozzleto Lançamento
first placement level. de Concreto
4.2. Waterproofing of Rio Descoberto Dam
Device tested at Colômbia HP, with concrete featuring coasre aggregate with maximum diameter of
9.5 mm, slump of 26 cm and with the use of antiwashout and superplasticizing admixtures, top height
grouted in the test, 2.00 meters.
The successful experience in treating the seepage from Rio Descoberto Dam, owned by
Ref.: Report DCT.T.I.10.037.2000-R0 - p. 9/33 - item 7.2
CAESB in Brasília, was the subject of a paper presented on the 21 st Congress on Large Dams and
also in the TECHNE Device for 66 Underwater
magazine inConcrete September 2002.
The rehabilitation
No scale works were performed using a secant pile diaphragm wall, as shown in
picture 5.
Pictures 11 and 12 illustrate the drilling of the diaphragm wall.

Figure 10.- Furos na Parede Diafragma

Figure 11.- Gabarito para alinhamento usado na perfuração

Figure 12.- Vista da Perfuração no Coroamento da Barragem


The Rehabilitation works at great depth are highly complex and costly due to the great
degree of difficulty involved in performing it. In the specific case of the stop log guides there is the
possibility of performing it dry, being possible to choose from two different methods.
The first one is the use of a floating Batel gate, which must be supported by the concrete
from the grid guide. Apart from presenting high accident risk, the waterproofing of the stop logs is
extremely complex.
The second alternative would be to manufacture a steel blister joint enveloping the guide in
all its entirety thus allowing for the execution of the restoration in dry conditions. This option is also
very hard to perform.
There is still the possibility of performing the repair using divers. The successful repair
works in the stop log guides from Porto Colombia encouraged research about using this method in
the rehabilitation works in deep water.
F.BAZQUEZ PRIETO [12] describes the technology for underwater works through
saturation diving.
The method referred to as saturation is based on the fact that there comes a time when no
more inert gas is assimilated, so the decompression period doesn’t increase even though the
duration in compression conditions does. Therefore, the period of the task can be very high with the
condition that the divers maintain themselves appropriately pressurized. Following this method, the
divers enter in a hyperbaric chamber, where they are pressurized to the equivalent pressure of the
depth of the work.
The repair works lasted two moths and were extremely complex, for they were performed
through saturation diving, with depth approximately of 80m on the work site, which was also 900m
above sea level. The aspects to be considered in underwater repair works were emphasized by this
Aspects to be considered in the project:

 The importance of having plenty of information about the work and the surroundings
 The convenience of filming or taking photographs of the area
 Previous conditions must be in established for taking on the cost of repair

Aspects to be considered in the contract:

 The need to have the costs of the different operations independent;

 The convenience of determining prices for periods of stand by;
 The importance of including a final report of the works in the contract;

Aspects to be considered in carrying out the works:

 If possible, it is advisable to bring forward or delay the works in order to take advantage
of the reservoir minimum level;
 The need for the presence of someone to be in charge of the works with enough capacity
and experience to solve any problems that may crop up during the operations;
 The importance of having a ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) for the supervision of the
work in real time.

Miachon et al [3;4] present a very successful underwater concrete placement for the
restoration of the stop log guides from the Porto Colombia Hydroelectric Plant, in Brazil.
The development of advanced laboratory research enabled a better understanding of the
properties of underwater concrete as well as its bond to the substratum
In the underwater concrete placement of guides, all the works concerning the removal of
weathered concrete, preparation of substratum, execution of the form mold and its filling is
performed by divers.
The transportation of the concrete through the device shown in picture 4, allows for a better
programming of the concrete placement as in the tremie technique. The form mold must have a
valve to receive the concrete through its lower end and pipe in its upper end to remove the
excessive concrete.
The use of the saturation diving technique along with the appliance of last generation
admixtures in the concrete, make this alternative the one with lower risk, when compared with the
ones previously mentioned. The risk involved is that of diving in deep water.


The repair of cracking when there is seepage demands the use of special techniques carefully
planned, due to its complexity. When the discharge of the seepage is relatively low, or with low
pressure, the employment of chemical products grouting appears to be satisfactory top contain the
water. When the discharge and the pressure are high the solution for watertighting the seepage
demands unconventional techniques, among which the placement of a geomembrane on the
upstream face. The placement of the geomembrane, when performed dry, is well know technique of
easy execution. If the placement is underwater, diving techniques must be associated to it, such s
saturation diving.
The execution of the diaphragm wall in the Rio Descoberto Dam proved it possible to
waterproof the dam body using a concrete wall from the crest of the dam to the rock foundation.
The execution of the diaphragm wall is performed in the dam body at a 1m distance from the
upstream face. The opening for the curtain must be done at 1,5m of each side of the cracking to
outrange safely its path, once it’s not vertical. The path of the cracking may be best assessed by the
two parameters. The execution of this curtain has to be done associating the underwater concrete
technique (tremie) and the use of microconcrete or high performance mortar, with last generation
hyper plasticizing and anti washout admixtures and steel fiber.


The successful experiences in the rehabilitation works of the stop log guides from Porto Colombia
Hydroelectric Plant and the waterproofing of Rio Descoberto Dam have shown that the results
obtained in both, as well as the laboratory research made possible and reliable the performance of
underwater repair works.

The challenge in performing underwater concrete placement in unusual situations, as in stop log
guides in deep water and the watertighting of seepage in cracks trespassing the dam body has been
researched in laboratory with very satisfactory results.
The placement of underwater concrete through saturation diving enables the repair of stop log
guides in deep water. The concrete hauled under these conditions will have its quality assured, as it
has been proved in laboratory studies.

In the specific case of watertighting cracks with great seepage, the use of mortar reinforced with
steel fiber in a diaphragm wall, with underwater placement through tremie may be an possible
alternative to seal the seepage in the dam body, performed dry.


I would like to express my appreciation to Furnas Centrais Elétricas for the opportunity of
enabling the researches which proved the possibility of using laboratory tests in the underwater
concrete placement.
I take this opportunity to pay my deepest respect to the great technician, Guilherme Leroy
(in memoriam) a partner of over three decades of profitable works in the field of dam engineering.
I also would like to thank my friend Elcio Antonio Guerra for continuing the works of
Guilherme Leroy and for his priceless endeavor in accomplishing these important researches for the
underwater concrete placement with steel fiber.
For typing this paper I relied on the valuable contribution of Vilmar Alves de Souza to
whom I express not only my appreciation but also thankfulness.


Underwater rehabilitation – microconcrete – steel fiber – trespassing cracks


ANDRADE C., MATOS C., (2001) - “Concreto Submerso do 2o Estágio das Guias dos Stop
Logs na UHE Porto Colômbia”, 43O Congresso Brasileiro de Concreto, Foz do Iguaçu-PR.

“Recuperação das Guias dos Stop-Logs da Tomada D'Água nas Unidades Geradoras 1 e 2 da
UHE de Porto Colômbia”

[3] Miachon FILHO G., Sales Goz R., Dias SOBRINHO C. A., Bittencourt R. M., Pacelli de
Andrade W. (2003) – “Underwater Concrete Restoration of the Water Inlet Stop Log Guides at
Generation Units 1 and 2 of the Porto Colômbia Hydroelectric Plant”, 21st ICOLD Congress -

ANDRIOLO F. R. (2003) - “Rio Descoberto Dam: Water Supply System for Brasília City -
Brazil – Rehabilitation and Performance”, 21st ICOLD Congress - Montréal.

(2000) - “Estudo de Concreto Subaquático”, 42º Congresso Brasileiro do Concreto, Fortaleza-
CE, pág. 134.
PACELLI DE ANDRADE W. (2003) - “Concreto para Lançamento Subaquático”, 45o


M., PACELLI DE ANDRADE W., (2001) - “Simulação de Concretagem Submersa a Grandes
Profundidades”, XXIV SNGB, Fortaleza, CE, Tema 3, Págs 371-380.

[8] PACELLI DE ANDRADE W. (2003) - “General Repórter – Ageing and Rehabilitation of

Concrete and Masonry Dams and Appurtenant Works”, 21st ICOLD Congress, Montreal.

[9] KHAYAT K. H. (1995) – “Effect of Anti Washout Admixtures on Fresh Concrete Properties”,
ACI Materials Journal, v.92, n.2, pág. 164-171.

[10] KHAYAT K. H. (1996) – “Effect of Antiwashout Admixtures on Properties of Hardened

Concrete”, ACI Materials Journal, v.93, n.2, pág. 134-146.

[11] KHAYAT K. H.; YAHIA, A. (1997) – “Effect of Welan Gum-high-range Water Reducer
Combinations on Rheology of Cement Grout - ACI Materials Journal, v.94, n.5, pág. 365-372.

[12] ANDRADE M. A. S., FONSECA A. C., GUERRA E. A. (2005) – “Microconcreto com Fibra
de Aço para Recuperação de Fissuras” – XXVI SNGB – Goiânia.

[13] F. BLÁZQUEZ PRIETO, (2003) – “Algumas Experiências e Conclusões sobre Tarefas

Subaquáticas para Reabilitação de Barragens”, 21st ICOLD Congress - Montréal.