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ARMA 17-760

Study of scale effects of rock quality designation (RQD) measurements

using a discrete fracture network approach

Wang, R.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Elmo, D.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Stead, D.
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Rogers, S.
Golder Associates, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Copyright 2017 ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 51 US Rock Mechanics / Geomechanics Symposium held in San Francisco, California, USA, 25-
28 June 2017. This paper was selected for presentation at the symposium by an ARMA Technical Program Committee based on a technical and
critical review of the paper by a minimum of two technical reviewers. The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of ARMA,
its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written
consent of ARMA is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 200 words; illustrations may not be
copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgement of where and by whom the paper was presented.

ABSTRACT: RQD (Rock Quality Designation) is a parameter that describes rock mass quality in terms of percentage recovery of core
pieces greater than 10 centimeters. The RQD represents a basic element of several classification systems. In this paper, scale effects for
RQD measurements are studied using synthetic rock masses generated by means of Discrete Fracture Network (DFN) models. RQD
measurements are performed for rock masses with varying fracture intensity and by changing the orientation of the simulated borehole
to account for orientation bias. The objective is to demonstrate the existence of a Representative Elementary Length (REL, 1D analogue
of a 3D Representative Elementary Volume, or REV) above which RQD measurements would represent an average indicator of rock
mass quality. For the synthetic rock masses, calculation of RQD measurements were also performed using the relationship proposed by
Priest and Hudson (1967) and compared to the simulated RQD measurements along the boreholes. A DFN generated for a room-and-
pillar mine using mapped field data is then used as an initial validation of the results, which are preliminary in nature. It is planned to
use several other case studies to further validate the results of the current study.

1. INTRODUCTION have proposed a quantification of the original Geological

Strength Index (GSI, Hoek et al., 1995) that incorporates
Assigning numbers to geology requires a delicate balance
RQD. The advantage of the RQD is largely due to its
between the commonly held opinion that geology cannot simple definition; however, the RQD index is known to be
be quantified and an engineering approach that attempts to
sensitive to the relative orientation of the fractures with
assign precise mathematical terms to every physical
respect to the orientation of the borehole (or scanline).
quantity (Hoek, 1999). Rock mass classification systems
RQD values may also depend on the experience of the
can be viewed as attempts to formalize this balance in terms
engineer logging the core and the ability to distinguish
of the ratings given to several rock mass parameters. For
natural fractures from drill and core handling induced
instance, the Rock Quality Designation index (RQD) was
developed by Deere (Deere et al., 1967) to provide a
quantitative estimate of rock mass quality from drill core
Measured RQD values are sensitive to the length of the
logs. RQD is defined as the cumulative length of intact core
core run (Deere, 1988). The same author recommended a
pieces longer than 10 cm as a percentage of the total length
core run no greater than 1.5m. Whereas such a limited core
of core (Figure 1); RQD ratings are given in Table 1. RQD
length may be useful to identify poor quality zones, it is
represents a fundamental parameter in several rock mass
argued that it cannot be representative of the rock mass as
classification systems, including the Rock Mass Rating
whole. When using RQD as an input parameter in rock
(RMR, Bieniawski, 1976) and the Rock Quality, Q index
mass classification systems, it may be useful to use
(Barton et al., 1974). More recently, Hoek et al. (2013)
“variable core run lengths” to estimate a more
representative RQD value for the entire 2. DISCRETE FRACTURE NETWORK (DFN)
geotechnical/structural domain under consideration. As MODELS
discussed by Palmstron (2001), most core logging is
performed by measuring the joints along each metre of the DFNs are synthetic stochastic models of naturally fractured
core. This approach may introduce measurement errors if rock masses that can be generated using data collected from
there were alternating sections with lower and higher a variety of sources (e.g. 1D boreholes and 2D rock
densities of joints. The uncertainty in predicting the exposures). Relatively undisturbed rock core samples can
mechanical behavior of a naturally fractured mass is be obtained by high quality drill coring, while observations
associated with scale effects (Elmo et al., 2011). Using on exposed rock faces, at or near the project site, have the
variable core run lengths would also allow to better account advantage of allowing direct measurements of
for the transition from small scale anisotropic rock mass discontinuity orientation, spacing, and fracture length.
behavior to large scale isotropic (even though heavily
jointed) rock masses. The objective would be to define, for DFN modelling has been widely used in geomechanics
a given geotechnical domain, a representative elementary applications. Examples include stability design of tunnels
length (REL), as a 1D analogue to the 3D representative (Starzec and Tsang in 2002), open stope stability (Grenon
elementary volume (REV) for a naturally fractured rock and Hadjigeorgiou, 2003) analysis of rock mass strength
mass. and fragmentation (Elmo and Stead, 2010 and Rogers, et
al., 2011). The typical process involved in the generation
of a DFN model requires the definition of four primary
fracture properties (Table 2), including: i) fracture
orientation; ii) fracture length; iii) fracture terminations;
and iv) fracture intensity. The reader should refer to Elmo
et al. (2014) for a detailed discussion of the methodology
required to generate calibrated DFN models.

Table 2. Fracture data and derived input data for a DFN model
from digitally and conventionally mapped data (modified from
Staub et al., 2002).

Source DFN Input Data
Orientation of
Orientation fractures for every
outcrops, tunnels
fracture set
Tunnels, outcrops, Fracture radius
Fig. 1. Schematic representation of RQD measurement and Length
lineaments distribution
calculation for a core run (Deere and Deere, 1998).
Tunnels, outcrops, Choice of the model
lineaments hierarchy of the sets
Table 1. Rock Quality Designation RQD (Barton et al., 1974).

Condition RQD Boreholes,

Fracture intensity (P10
A. Very Poor 0 - 25 Intensity scanlines (P10),
or P32)
B. Poor 25 - 50 outcrops(P21)
C. Fair 50 - 75
D. Good 75 - 90
E. Excellent 90 - 100
Typically, in the DFN community fracture intensity is
expressed with reference to a unified system of fracture
The objective of this paper is to systematically study the intensity measures that provide an easy framework to move
influence of core run length on the measurement of RQD between differing scales and dimensions (Dershowitz and
values for synthetic rock masses generated using a Discrete Herda, 1992). Fracture intensity is referred to as Pij
Fracture Network Approach (DFN). A parametric study intensity, where the subscript i refers to the dimensions of
on core run length, fracture intensity and orientation of the sample, and subscript j refers to the dimensions of
core run is conducted for two scenarios: i) a conceptual measurement. In DFN modelling, fractures are represented
synthetic rock mass; and ii) a synthetic rock mass generated by circular discs or polygons with n sides. Fracture length
using field data mapped in a room-and-pillar mine. is a critical DFN input and a key parameter for sensitivity
studies as it has a significant influence on block size and
fracture connectivity (Rogers et al., 2006).