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Reconnaissance Report of the Chilean Industry

Affected by the 2010 Chile Offshore Maule

Farzin Zareiana), Carlos Aguirreb), Juan Felipe Beltránc), Ernesto Cruzd),
Ricardo Herrerae), Roberto Leonf), Arturo Millang), Alejandro Verdugoh)

This paper summarizes findings of the EERI reconnaissance team and a group
of Chilean experts on damage to industrial facilities caused by the February 27,
2010 Offshore Maule Earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. Chile’s industry as a
whole was severely affected primarily because major industrial plants, such as
paper mills, wood mills, thermoelectric power, and oil and gas refineries, were
shut down after the earthquake either due to sustained damage or evaluation for
structural and environmental safety. Damage was mainly caused by ground
shaking; however, it was exacerbated by the ensuing tsunami in coastal areas.
Important industrial sectors, such as the wine industry, and the fishing and pulp
and paper industries, suffered severely. The damage observed was mainly due to
improper anchorage of equipment, differential movements between adjacent
supports of piping and equipment, foundation displacements, and failure of non-
structural elements and equipment.


The offshore Maule earthquake with magnitude of Mw = 8.8 struck Chile on 27 February
2010 at 3:34 AM local time (epicenter at 35.909°S, 72.733°W), approximately 70 miles
north-northeast of Chile's second largest city, Concepción. The rupture occurred in the
contact between the Nazca and the South American plates and had an approximate extension

University of California - Irvine, E/4141 Engineering Gateway, Irvine, CA 92697
Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Av. España 1680, Valparaíso, Chile.
Universidad de Chile - Oficina 440 Departamento de Ingeniería Civil, Santiago, Chile.
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile - Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Macul (Correo 22), Santiago, Chile
Universidad de Chile - Oficina 435 Departamento de Ingeniería Civil, Santiago, Chile.
Georgia Institute of Technology, 308 Mason, Atlanta, GA 30332
Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Av. España 1680, Valparaíso, Chile.
of 450 km in the North-South direction. This catastrophic subduction-type earthquake
affected an area of approximately 160,000 km2, which houses around 75% of the population
of Chile, damaging 370,000 homes, affecting 1.8 million people, and claiming approximately
500 lives (USAID, 2010). From Figure 1, which shows a schematic of the distribution of
industrial activity in Chile, the high concentration of industries in the area which was affected
by the earthquake is evident. The most hard hit areas ran from Temuco in the south to
Santiago in the north.

Figure 1. Map of economic activity in Chile (after, 2011)

Chile has a strong economy with three major sectors: Industry, Services, and Agriculture.
Major industries in Chile include mining, mostly north of Santiago, pulp and paper, fish
processing and wood in the regions south of Santiago. Agriculturally, Chile is mass producer
of wheat, grapes, fruits, and fish, with most of the agricultural products grown in the central
valley that runs from Santiago to Temuco. Figure 2 shows Chile’s Economic Profile
according to Economicwatch (2011). Chile’s exports account for 40% of its GDP and have
experienced growth of 4% since 1999.

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

Figure 2. Summary of Chilean economy (ref. Economicwatch 2011)

Chile’s industry as a whole was severely affected by the Mw = 8.8 offshore Maule
earthquake, primarily because major paper, wood, and thermoelectric plants, and oil and gas
refineries in the area around Concepción were shut down after the earthquake. Other
important industries suffered damages as well, either due to the effects of the earthquake
ground shaking (wine industry) or combination of ground shaking and ensuing tsunami
(fishing and pulp and paper industries). Even major mining installations in the area north of
Santiago shut down operations immediately after the earthquake to ensure that equipment
was not damaged.

The observed damage is similar to that reported after the earthquakes of 1960 by
Steinbrugge and Flores (1963), and was mainly due to improper anchorage of equipment,
differential movements between adjacent supports of piping and equipment, and foundation
movements. There was little, if any, evidence of large ductility demands and damage to most
of the structures supporting equipment; the same cannot be said for non-structural elements
and equipment. After a brief discussion of seismic design guidelines for industrial facilities in
Chile, the next few sections present selected observations of damage to certain types of
industrial facilities. Wineries are only peripherally addressed in this paper as they are the
subject of a separate contribution.


The seismic design of industrial facilities is governed by the Chilean code

NCh2369.Of2003 (INN 2003). This specification aims to achieve two performance levels,
Life Safety and Continuity of Operations, for the most severe earthquake expected in a
region. More specifically, the objectives are: avoid collapse of structures; avoid fires,
explosions, or emissions of toxic gasses and liquids; protect the environment; ensure
operation of escape ways during the earthquake emergency; keep essential processes and
services running; avoid or minimize downtimes; and facilitate inspection and repairs of
damaged elements. Chile is divided into three seismic regions (see Figure 3), where the
earthquake hazard decreases from the Pacific coast to the Andes mountains. The seismic
demand is characterized by a design acceleration value or a seismic coefficient according to
the seismic region, which is modified considering the soil conditions and the inherent
equivalent viscous damping, deformation capacity, and overstrength of the structure.

At the time of the earthquake, the design of the majority of the existing reinforced
concrete structures was governed by ACI318-99 (ACI 1999), considering the three seismic
zones as high seismic hazard zones in the application of Chapter 21 of this code. In the case
of steel structures, given the lack of an official national design code, NCh2369.Of2003
contains design considerations largely based on the AISC LRFD Specification (AISC 1999)
and the AISC Seismic Provisions (AISC 2002), complemented with recommendations based
on the experience of reputed Chilean structural design offices. The application of NCh2369
results on structures with limited ductility but a large overstrength, which explains why for
this extreme event, the observation of damage to structural components shows that most of
the industrial structures seem to have remained nearly elastic.


Rupture zone



Figure 3. Area affected by the Maule earthquake and location of recording stations (after
Boroschek et al 2010)

Figure 4 shows the response spectra of the horizontal components of ground acceleration,
for 2% equivalent damping ratio, recorded at five sites shown in Figure 3 within the affected
area, namely: Hualañé, Curicó, Constitución, Talca, and Concepción. These spectra are
compared to the design spectrum established in NCh2369 (INN, 2003), considering no
modification of the response (R = 1) and the same equivalent damping ratio. It can be seen
that, with the only exception of the record from Concepción, the recorded ground motion
response spectra for periods larger than one second are comparable to the design level
earthquake considered by NCh2369; therefore, continuity of operation should be expected for
industrial structures in this area. The particular shape of the record from Concepción is
related to the unfavorable soil conditions in this city, which sits on fluvial deposits part of the
Bio-Bio river delta. This record is particularly damaging for flexible structures, imposing a
non-decreasing displacement demand for structures with longer natural periods.




Pseudoacceleration  ‐ PSa [g]

NCh2369 (2%, R=1)

0 1 2 3
Period ‐ T [s]

Figure 4. Response spectra of recorded ground motions and design spectrum from
NCh2369.Of2003, for 2% equivalent viscous damping.


Several reconnaissance teams investigated industrial facilities from Coronel (south of

Concepción) up to Santiago (the capital of Chile), following reports of substantial structural
and non-structural damage to selected facilities within two weeks after the event. At that
time, gaining access to visit each industrial facility was understandably time consuming and
cumbersome as many of the facilities were still being evaluated both for structural and
environmental safety. In addition, many industrial facilities decided not to share information
for business-related reasons. However, reconnaissance teams were able to observe few
industrial plants and deduce patterns in the damage suffered by the industry. In view of lack
of information from plant owners, an estimate of earthquake effects on industrial facilities
can be deduced from the power consumption statistics. One month after the quake, 15 main
industrial plants had reduced their power demand to a 13% of normal consumption (Raineri,
2010). Power demand evolution for the first three months of 2009 and 2010 is shown in
Figure 5.
Figure 5. Maximum daily power demand comparison (Adapted from Raineri, 2010)

Power Plants

Historically, Chile has relied heavily on hydroelectric power, but the country’s rapid
growth since the late 1990s has forced the construction of new thermoelectric plants fueled
by diesel, coal, and natural gas (in part as LNG). As much of the latter fuels have to be
imported by sea, a number of these large projects are located in areas where deep water ports
and terminals can be built. The reconnaissance team visited one such facility, a 350 MW
pulverized coal fired cycle power plant under construction in Coronel, about 20 miles south
of Concepción. At the time of the earthquake, construction was estimated at 50%-60% of
completion (Figure 6a). The team explored the entire site, from the water intakes and outfalls
(Figure 6b), about a mile east of the main site, to the steam turbine and generator building
and the transformers bays. Overall, damage was slight and confined to situations where: a)
due to construction scheduling the structure/equipment was poorly braced or not completed
(Figure 6c, and b) excessive settlement occurred in foundations or structures not supported by
piles (Figure 6d, and c) equipment was undergoing alignment prior to final installation of
anchoring systems (Figure 6e, and d) non-structural elements were not seismically detailed in
office areas (Figure 6f). The only failure was to a large gantry used in the coal handling /
storage area. Another thermoelectric plant nearby, which was built in the 60s, suffered more
serious damage and the electricity supply was decreased as a result, however, power outages
were due to failures in the distribution system, mainly in the substations. The hourly load on
the main electrical system in the central and southern regions increased from a range of 4500
MW to 6200 MW in the days before the earthquake to a complete blackout immediately after
the event; this was followed by a steady increase to about 3000 MW two days after the event.
Only about 6% of the installed capacity was destroyed by the earthquake but the distribution
system was severely damaged (Araneda et al. 2010).

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e) (f)

Figure 6. Damage to the 350 MW coal fired power plant power plant (under
Port Facilities

The reconnaissance team visited the port of Coronel. The port was undamaged with
relatively minor subsidence on wharves (Figure 7a). Cranes located on the unique base
isolated wharf where undamaged (Figures 7b, c, and d). Huachipato suffered the failure in
shear of all the inclined piles, presumably due to insufficient embedment of the steel tube in
the concrete slab (Figure 7e). Derailment of cranes without seismic restrainers was caused by
the strong shaking, and damage to a crane with seismic restrainers (Figure 7f) was induced
when the hook of the crane was pulled by a ship trying to reach deeper waters to avoid the
tsunami. Damage to smaller ports was more serious due to the tsunami, which displaced
containers, damaged fishing installations and cold storage facilities essential for the export of
agricultural and fishing products.

(a) (b)

(c) (d)
(e) (f)

Figure 7. Damage to port facilities

Pulp and Paper Plants

The team visited two pulp and paper plants (both located in the rupture area) subject to
confidentiality and thus no pictures are provided. In general, there was no significant damage
to structures. Most of failures were in steel structures older than 20 years, and with no ductile
detailing. Typical damage included buckling of slender bracings and fracture of gussets in
bracing connections (where design was not based on tension capacity of bracing). Permanent
drift in a couple of steel buildings occurred because of buckling of the only diagonal member
in the braced frame (lack of redundancy). A large number of anchor bolts yielded and
fractured in columns and equipment bases; in addition, numerous instances of crushing of
grout under base plates and compression failure of concrete piers were observed probably
due to low quality of grouting and poor rebar detailing.

On the other hand, most of buildings and structures designed using modern codes, such as
NCh2369 Chilean code, did not sustain any damage. Structural damage was observed in
boiler steel buildings of power plants (each pulp plant has its own power plant). Failures were
concentrated in seismic stoppers, where in some cases lead to total destruction of the
restraining elements and the consequent clashing between boiler and building structure.

Cracking of a concrete tank was observed in the effluent treatment system of one of the
visited plants. The cracking was locally concentrated in opposite sides of the tank, probably
associated with a directionality of seismic sloshing.
In one case, the plant was inundated by the tsunami, but it mainly affected minor buildings
(offices and small warehouses) located in the flooded area and resulted in total destruction of
quite a few. Heavy industrial structures were not damaged by the tsunami.

Cement Plants

The team visited a very large cement factory in the Bio-Bio region, about 100 km from
the epicenter; at the time of the earthquake, a large part of the plant was down for repairs and
upgrades. Damage was limited to hairline shear and torsional cracks in the largest silos
(Figure 8a), some buckled X-braces in the top story of the plant (Figure 8b) and some
movement in the equipment. In general, the plant came through the earthquake well and was
back in production shortly afterwards. This was important, as the reconstruction efforts could
have been affected by lack of this basic construction material.

(a) (b)
Figure 8. Damage to cement factory

Steel Plants

Severe localized damage was evident at the only steel plant visited in Huachipato, near
Concepción. Figure 9 shows several performance problems, including failure of conveyor
belts (Figure 9a), large settlement (about 40 cm.) of an interior column (Figure 9b), fractured
braces (Figure 9c, and d), buckling of downspout tubes (Figure 9e), and elongated and
broken bolts in the support structure for a large chimney. (Figure 9f). This was one of the
more severely damaged facilities visited by the team, but performance must be considered to
be within the expected range as the facility was not modern, was close to the epicenter, and is
very large.
(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e) (f)

Figure 9. Damage to steel plant.


Damage to warehouses was predominantly of two types. First was the collapse of
warehouses with precast walls, such as the structures in Concepción (Figure 10a), along Route
5 which connects Santiago to Concepción (Figure 10b), and in the Santiago suburbs (Figure
10c). Poor detailing of connections between precast elements and poor understanding of
diaphragm action in the roofs seem the major causes of these failures. The other common type
of failure was the failure of pallet racks due to improper anchorage and bracing (in many cases
these were non-existent) or the falling of contents when the racks performed well (Figure 10d).

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

Figure 10. Damage to warehouses

A considerable amount of damage to stacked goods was observed, ranging from collapses
of stacked plastic beverage containers (Figure 11a), construction materials (Figure 11b),
agricultural products (Figure 11c), to poorly contained granular materials (Figure 11d).

(a) (b)
(c) (d)

Figure 11. Damage to stacked goods

Fish Processing Plants

Most of the processing facilities, located at the seaside in Talcahuano Port Bay, a few
miles to the north of Concepción, were devastated. The severe damage was mainly because
of the tsunami and affected ship loading structures, process plants and cold-storing facilities.
As is shown in Figure 12, typical construction corresponds to light steel buildings.

(a) (b)

Figure 12. Damage to fish processing plants

Tanks and Silos

The reconnaissance team was able to obtain pictures of buckled refinery steel tanks and
cooling towers in refineries around San Vicente and Hualpén (Figures 13a, and b), near
Concepción. These were taken from a distance and it appeared that the plants were not
working. The team observed a number of damaged steel and concrete tanks along route 5
(Figures 13c, d) and in the city of Talca (Figures 13 e, f).
(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e) (f)

Figure 13. Damage to tanks and Silos

The wine industry in Chile mostly concentrates its production on stainless steel tanks.
Although a small percentage of wine is processed in reinforced concrete tanks, most of these
tanks sustained almost no damage and the loss of wine associated to the failures on this type of
tanks was minimal. Typical damage observed to reinforced concrete tanks consisted on
horizontal cracks associated with cold joints executed during the tank construction and a rare
case of diagonal cracks, associated with insufficient transverse reinforcement of the tank wall.

The losses incurred by the wine industry were mostly due to sustained damage to
stainless steel fermentation tanks, fall of stacked storage, and loss of unprocessed wine due to
spills. Two types of steel structural configuration tanks were encountered in wineries during
the inspections: legged and continuously supported tanks. Legged tanks are commonly used
to ferment up to 50,000 liters of high quality wine. Two main failure types were seen in this
type of tank: buckling of the tank legs due to insufficient thickness of the leg plate and
denting of the tank wall due to an inappropriate leg /mantle relative stiffness leading to an
undesirable “strong leg-weak mantle” mechanism (Figure 14). In both cases, tank legs are
directly welded to the tank wall without using a stiffener ring.

(a) (b)

Figure 14. Failure in legged stainless steel fermentation tanks: a) Tank leg buckling, b)
dented tank wall

Continuously supported tanks usually have capacities greater than 50,000 liters. The
observed damage to this type of tanks can be classified as follows: instability of the tank
wall, failure of the anchoring system, failure of welding connection between tank wall and
bottom plate, and failure of connections between piping and tank wall. Two modes of
instability failure of tank walls were observed in the wineries visited: “elephant foot” and
“diamond shape” buckling modes. “Elephant foot” buckling mode was seen in squat tanks
(height/diameter < 1) and was related to the appearance of a bulge at the tank shell due to its
insufficient thickness (Figure 15a). This type of failure was seen just above the tank base and
at wall height where the wall thickness changed. “Diamond shape” buckling mode was
present in slender tanks (height/diameter > 1) due to stress concentration in regions where
changes of stiffness occurred abruptly. As shown in Figures 15b, this mode of failure was
generally encountered in zones where the tank wall thickness changed abruptly and where
tank wall was connected to an anchorage system.

(a) (b)

Figure 15. Modes of tanks wall instability: a) Elephant foot buckling mode, b) diamond
shape buckling mode.

In some continuously supported tanks anchor bolts were used to prevent the sliding and
overturning of the tanks due to lateral loads. Inspections revealed that this type of anchorage
system failed due to three main sources: corrosion in anchor bolts, insufficient distance from
the connection to the edge of the foundation, and deficient effective embedded bolt length.
Figure 16a shows a combined failure in which corrosion in anchor bolt, insufficient distance
from the connection to the edge of the foundation, and diamond shape buckling of the tank
wall is apparent. Some tanks that were not anchored or poorly anchored overturned and slid
due to lateral force and impacted other tanks damaging their roofs and walls as shown in
Figures 16b, c, and d.
(a) (b) (c) (d)

Figure 16. Damage to continuously supported stainless steel fermentation tanks

Another common mode of failure observed during the inspections of wineries was related
to the crushing of the tanks due to vacuum effect resulting in buckling of the tank wall as
shown in Figure 17. Failure of the connection between piping and tank wall (Figure 17a, and
b) and the rupture at the bottom plate and wall-shell junction (Figure 17c) are two main
reasons that we believe induced vacuum leading to crushing of the tanks.

(a) (b) (c)

Figure 17. Crushing of stainless steel fermentation tanks due to vacuum effect

Once wine has been bottled, wine bottles are generally stored in wooden, plastic or
metallic bins. Wooden bins presented different behavior during the earthquake depending on
the quality of their constructions. Poorly constructed wooden bins did not have a good
performance during the earthquake losing the majority of the stored bottles (Figure 18a). On
the other hand, well constructed wooden and plastic bins had a satisfactory response to
earthquake without loss of stored bottles reported (Figure 18b). Metallic bins had a very poor
performance during the earthquake and collapsed leading to loss of product (Figure 18c). A
separate article on the performance of wineries is provided in this special issue.

(a) (b) (c)

Figure 18. Wine storage damages


The damage to industrial facilities observed in the aftermath of the Mw = 8.8 earthquake
that struck Chile on 27 February 2010 can be considered to be minor from the structural
standpoint. There was little evidence of significant inelastic demands on most structural
members, few collapses of modern, properly engineered structures, and little or no loss of life
associated with these failures. On the other hand, damage to equipment was extensive due to
poor anchorage and bracing. The losses due to business interruptions were very large,
particularly for large plants in the Concepción area, which were out of commission for
several weeks (and in some cases months).


The research was funded by the EERI Learning from Earthquakes project, under grant
#CMMI-0758529 from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Any opinions, findings, and
conclusions or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the
views of NSF. The authors would like to thank Victor Sandoval and César Sepúlveda,
graduate students at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago, for their
assistance to the reconnaissance team.

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