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Geol Rundsch (1997) 86: 426 - 438, Offprint with Contributions to "Prediction in geology", Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, February,

22nd-24th 1996


Original Paper

K. Thuro

Drillability prediction - geological influences in hard rock drill and blast tunnelling

Abstract* Usually the main subject in preliminary site investigations prior to tunnelling projects is the prediction of tunnel stability. During the last years in conventional drill and blast tunnelling, problems have occured also connected to the accurate prediction of drillability in hard rock. The drillability is not only decisive for the wear of tools and equipment but is - along with the drilling velocity - a standard factor for the progress of excavation works. The estimation of drillability in predicted rock conditions might bear an extensive risk of costs. Therefore an improved prediction of drilling velocity and bit wear would be desireable. The drillability of a rock mass is determined by various geological and mechanical parameters. In this report some major correlations of specific rock properties and especially geological factors with measured bit wear and drilling velocity are shown. Drilling velocity is dependent on a lot of geological parameters: Those principal parameters include jointing of rock mass, orientation of schistosity (rock anisotropy), degree of interlocking of microstructures, porosity and quality of cementation in clastic rock, degree of hydrothermal decomposition and weathering of a rock mass. Drilling bit wear increases with the equivalent quartz content. The equivalent quartz content builds the main property for the content of wear-relevant minerals. For various groups of rock types different connections with the equivalent quartz content could be detected. In sandstone bit wear is also dependent on porosity or the quality of the cementation. Finally an investigation program is submitted, which helps to improve the estimation of rock drillability in planning future tunnel projects.

Key words: Drillability Drilling rate, Bit wear, Destruction work, Anisotropy, Joint spacing, Equivalent quartz content, Porosity Drilling equipment - technical introduction For drilling blastholes in hard rock, today the rotary percussive drilling is standard in underground mining and tunnelling, providing maximum performance under most circumstances (Cohrs 1988). The hydraulic drill hammer is a combination of a rotary drilling machine and a percussive drill and uses a separate rotary and percussive mechanism. Whereas percussive drilling is controlled by jerkily moving of the drilling rod with only a loose contact of the drilling bit to the bottom of the borehole, rotary percussive drilling is characterized by continuous rotation - comparable to rotary drilling. By means of high feed pressure (12 - 20 kN), lying more than a decade above those in percussive drilling, the drilling bit is always tight to the bottom of the borehole. Since the torques are much stronger, crushing work is carried out also by shearing between the impacts.

Fig. 1 Operation of rotary percussive drilling and the main machine parameters

K. Thuro Lehrstuhl fr Allgemeine, Angewandte und Ingenieur-Geologie, Technische Universitt Mnchen D-85747 Garching, Germany Fax: +49 89 289 14382 e-mail: thuro@

Regarding just the procedure, the rotary percussive drilling is superior to the rotary drilling and the percussive drilling (Feistkorn 1987). The hydraulics facilitate an optimum energy transfer from the percussive mechanism to the drilling rod. Parameters are the


technical specifications of the drill hammer, flushing system and the design of the drilling bit (Fig. 1).

Fig. 2 Drilling rig: Atlas Copco Rocket Boomer H 175 with 3 booms and service platform

Fig. 4 Typical button drill bits with six, seven, eight and nine buttons and different flushing systems mainly used in hard rock

Typical tunnelling rigs consist of a diesel-hydraulic rubber-wheeled tramming carrier, carrying up to three booms with hydraulic drifter feeds and rock drills. The range comprises units for hydraulic drilling with a selection of of different carriers, booms, feeds, and rock drills (Fig. 2).

Fig. 4 shows typical button bits used in underground excavation in rotary percussive drill rigs. The drilling bit is the part of the rig which carries out the crushing work. The bit consists of a carrier holding the actual drilling tools: buttons of hard metal (wolfram carbide with a cobalt binder, MOHS hardness 9). Possible sorts of button types and their main characteristics are shown in Fig. 5.

Button Types

! "non aggressive" shape ! minimum drilling rates ! low bit wear ! excavation mainly by impact


(semi-) ballistic

! "aggressive" shape ! moderate drilling rates ! moderate bit wear ! excavation mainly by shearing / cutting

conical (ballistic)

! "very aggressive" shape ! maximum drilling rates ! high bit wear ! excavation mainly by shearing / cutting

Fig. 5 Button types of drilling bits used for rotary percussive drilling and their main characteristics

Fig. 3 Hydraulic boom BUT 35 of the AC-Rocket Boomer H 175. Centre-mounted feed with double rotation devices, which makes it possible to position the feed vertically on both sides of the boom, with accurate parallel holding, roof drilling and cross-cuts

For example the COP 1440 hammer (20 kW impact power) mounted on the AC Rocket Boomer H 175 is the most popular hydraulic rock drill presently in use. Features such as rapid and exact boom positioning with roof drilling and cross-cuts are performed with the BUT 35 boom shown in Fig. 3.

The shape of the button and the design of the bit (geometry and arrangement of buttons, flush holes and draining channels) have a strong influence on bit wear and drilling performance. In Fig. 6 drilling rates relative to the average of the quickest bit type are plotted comparing 6-, 7-, 8- and 9-button bits. For example, using ballistic 9-button bits, a maximum penetration performance has been obtained in (tough) quartz phyllite of the Innsbruck area. This impression is less distinctive in brittle rock types as can be seen in limestone from the German Muschelkalk. The highest drilling rates in this limestone have been archieved using an 8-button bit, giving an optimum between button stress and button area in brittle rock.

quartz phyllite (Innsbrucker Quarzphyllit)
105 100 95 drilling rate [%] 90 85 80 75 70 6 x 45 s 7 x 45 s 8 x 45 s 8 x 45 b 9 x 45 s 9 x 45 b

Geological Parameters

Machine Parameters

Rock & Rock Mass

mechanical rock properties, rock mass conditions

Drilling Rig
tunnelling performance drilling velocity
percussive drill hammer, power transfer, drilling bit

wear of drilling tools drilling bit wear

Working Process
button bit type limestone (Muschelkalk)
excavation system & logistics, operation & maintenance of the tunnelling rig

105 100 95 drilling rate [%] 90

Fig. 7 Illustration of the term "drillability" and the main influencing parameters.
mineral composition micro fabric elastic/plastic behaviour mechanical rock properties equivalent quartz content porosity / cementation destruction work compressive strength Young's modulus tensile strength ratio of compressive and tensile strength rock density anisotropy spacing of discontinuities status of weathering hydrothermal decomposition



85 80 75 70 6 x 45 s 7 x 45 s 8 x 45 s 8 x 45 b 9 x 45 s 9 x 45 b
rock mass rock mass conditions discontinuities

button bit type

Fig. 6 Drilling rates in quartz phyllite and limestone depending on the button type and drilling bit. 9 x 45 b = 9 button type, 45 mm, b ballistic; s spherical

Fig. 8 Geological parameters: General view of the characteristics of mineral, rock and rock mass

Parameters of Drillability Drillability is a term used in construction to describe the influence of a number of parameters on the drilling rate (drilling velocity) and the tool wear of the drilling rig. As could be seen in the technical introduction, drillability is - first of all - influenced by the machine parameters of the chosen drilling rig. Therefore, only tunnel projects with the same drilling equipment can be used for drillability studies (Thuro 1996). The interaction of the main factors is illustrated in Fig. 7. Apart from technical parameters, especially the geological parameters will basically influence the drilling performance and the wear of the drilling rig (Fig. 8). The specific characteristics of rock material and rock mass may be at least partly put into figures with the help of mechanical rock properties. But rock mass conditions also highly depend on the geological history, weathering conditions, hydrothermal decomposition and the structure of discontinuities. Therefore, one has to go through three levels of investigation: mineral - rock type - and rock mass - meaning also three levels of dimension!

The last important factor influencing drillability is the working process itself. Firstly, smooth operation and permanent maintenance of the tunnelling rig contributes to a successful drilling performance. Secondly, a high penetration rate at the tunnel face does not automatically lead to a high performance of the tunnel heading (Thuro and Spaun 1996a). Therefore, it is a matter of understanding the entire excavation system before applying expertise to the investigation of drillability. The necessity of drillability studies But why is prediction of drillability necessary? The following figures will show the effects of increased drilling time on the performance of the tunnel heading. As an example, the excavation works of the Altenberg Tunnel in Idar-Oberstein are presented as circle diagrams in Fig. 9 - in calculation (left side) and during final construction (rigth side; Thuro 1996). As can be seen from the drilling segment, the entire drilling time of one round has increased nearly three times from calculation to final construction. The time for charging of the explosives during construction has increased five times as compared with calculation. Finally, the time for excavating one entire round has be-


been doubled, as can bee seen by the bigger diameter of the construction circle, and heading performance has been cut in half.
support 67 min

Fanglomerate composition quartzite weathered volcanic rock

27% 25% 8%
mucking 90 min charging 20 min support 157 min drilling 62 min




22% 10%
vein quartz schist

volcanic rock
compressive strength [MPa]
0 100 200


mucking 79 min

16% 20%

33% 33%
drilling 167 min


vein quartz

charging 102 min

volcanic rock

Comparison: drilling rate net drilling time round length heading performance

Calculation 2.5 m/min 60 sec 4.2 h 13.3 m/day


swellability of the weathered volcanic rock


very high

1.3 m/min
30 swelling [%] 20%

equivalent Ca-montmorillonit content

121 sec 8.4 h 7.6 m/day



10% 5%

moderate low no swellability

10 0% 0

Fig. 9 Working round in the Altenberg Tunnel in calculation and final construction. Effects of increased drilling time on the performance of the tunnel heading






swelling time [h]

The reason for this fatal fault in prediction is evident in Fig. 10: The composition of the fanglomerate (Waderner formation, Rotliegend) coming up along the entire length of the tunnel. The fanglomerate is composed of quarzite, vein quartz and schist of the Hunsrck range and volcanic rock of the Idar-Oberstein volcanic area. But about one half of the volcanic rock has already been deeply weathered and decomposed to a clay-siltstone with swelling minerals ranging from high to very high swellability. The range of the compressive strength of the components ranges from over 250 MPa (quartzite) to nearly zero (completely weathered volcanic rock). This was the reason for stucked drilling rods, blocked water flushing, collapsed boreholes and - above all - bad drilling and blasting conditions during running excavation why drillability is not only decisive for the That is works. wear of tools and equipment but is - along with the drilling velocity - a standard factor for the progress of excavation works. The estimation of drillability in predicted rock conditions might bear an extensive risk of costs. Therefore an improved prediction of drilling velocity and bit wear would be desireable.

Fig. 10 Composition of the fanglomerate (Waderner formation), compressive strength of the components and swelling ability of the weathered, decomposed volcanic material

Monitoring and classification of drilling rates and bit wear To get information on the correlation between drilling rate, bit wear, mechanical rock properties and geological parameters, extensive field studies and laboratory work was carried out. Until now, nine tunnel projects in Germany, Austria and North India have been followed more or less extensively, measuring drilling rates periodically during running excavation works. Furthermore, rock samples have been analysed to get mechanical rock properties of representative sections (Thuro 1996). Based on engineering geological mapping of the tunnels, mean values of 25 different rock types or homogeneous areas were taken for correlation analysis. In this way, drilling progress and bit wear could be connected with some of the main rock parameters. Before going into a detailed analysis of drillability parameters, a classification of drillability is given, contributing up-to-date experience. Firstly, a drill-


ability classification should rely on values easily obtained on the site. Secondly, the parameters should be expressive and provide a good resolution of drilling rate and wear characteristic. The system proposed here is based on net drilling velocity, measured at the tunnel face and drilling bit wear recorded as the bit lifespan.
drilling velocity borehole depth drilling rate = net drilling time drilling bit wear total boremeters bit life-span = number of drill bits bits meters minutes meters

case studies in 9 tunnel projects in Germany, Austria and overseas (North India) were plotted into the chart in Fig. 11. The investigations were carried out using a 20 kW borehammer (Atlas Copco COP 1440). The matrix was based on the experience, that high drilling rates (3 - 4 m/min) and low bit wear (1500 - 2000 m/bit) should be described as "fair" drillability. The drilling rates range from 1 meter per minute to about 5 meters per minute. The bit life-span ranges from 50 meters to over 2,000 meters per bit. Therefore drillability ranges in our classification from extremely poor to easy. Mechanical rock properties The most frequently used rock properties are the unconfined compressive strength, the Youngs modulus and the tensile strength. As a derived rock property, the ratio of unconfined compressive strength and tensile strength often is designated as toughness (or brittleness) of a rock material. Many authors tend to take one or more of those properties as main parameters of drillability (Schimazek & Knatz 1970, Wanner 1975, Habenicht & Gehring 1976, Blindheim 1979, Movinkel & Johannessen 1986). Thus extensive rock testing has been carried out based on the ISRM suggested methods (Brown 1981, ISRM 1985) to gain representative mean values of the properties of the drilled rock types. Regarding the drilling rig, the drilling process is fundamental for the choice of the investigation pa-

Formula 1 Determination of drilling velocity and drilling bit wear

The drilling performance is taken as the drilling velocity or drilling of one simple borehole. The drilling bit wear is taken as the bit life, which means the total of boremeters drilled with one bit (Formula 1). To get an impression of how wide values of bit wear and drilling rates may vary, mean values of different rock types or homogeneous areas derived from 25 Bit Wear
extremely high


very high

ity bil illa Dr

very high


et dy ne i bta to



rm al

ea sy


very low


drilling rate [m/min]

po o r
t ye ed n tai ob ot n


ve ry


ex tr po eme or ly



percussive drill COP 1440 - 20 kW

very low

0 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 [m/bit]

sandstones conglomerate & fanglomerate

limestone & marl quartzite marble

phyllites & gneiss quartz-mica-schist amphibolite

Fig. 11 Classification diagram enclosing 25 case studies of different rock types or homogeneous areas derived from 9 tunnel projects

Drilling Velocity



rameters. In Fig. 12 the crushing mechanism is illustrated. Coming from studies by high-speed photography and analysis of thin sections of rock below the area of disc cutter tools of tunnel boring machines, three main destruction mechanisms could be detected (Ozdemir et al. 1977, Wang et al. 1978, Blindheim 1979). Those results can be generalised and transferred on the crushing process below the buttons of a drilling bit.




failure point

unconfined compression test

destruction work Wz= d


drilling bit


Fig. 13 Estimation of the specific destruction work Wz from the stress-strain curve of a rock sample under unconfined compression. UCS unconfined compressive strength

button 1 3


2 2
10 mm

1 crushed rock powder

2 radial cracks

3 detached fragments

Fig. 12 Crushing process in rotary percussive drilling. Destruction mechanism under the bit buttons

In Fig. 14 drilling rates of the previously mentioned rock material is plotted against destruction work including clay-siltstone, sand- and limestone, conglomerate, marl, marble, schist and different cristalline rock. The destruction work proved to be a highly significant parameter for correlation with the drilling performance. The chart indicates the close correlation between drilling velocity and destruction work.
5 standard deviation 4

drilling rate [m/min]

Around the contact of the button a new state of stress is induced in the rock, where four important destruction mechanisms can be distinguished: 1) Under the bit button a crushed zone of fine rock powder is formed (impact). 2) Starting from the crushed powder zone, radial cracks are developed (induced tensile stress). 3) When stress in the rock is high enough (if enough cracks exist parallel to the bottom of the borehole), larger fragments of the rock can be sheared off between the button grooves (shear stress). 4) In addition to the mechanisms above stress is induced periodically (dynamic process). Examining the drilling mechanism it is obvious, that besides compressive and tensile strength (percussive process) and shear strength (bit rotation) the elastic characteristics of rock material is of crucial importance. To be precise, the bit always drills through pre-cracked rock (see Mller-Salzburg 1963: 104). Therefore the so-called specific destruction work Wz has been introduced (Thuro 1996, Thuro & Spaun 1996a,b), as a measurement for the quantity of energy, required for destruction of a rock sample or - in other words - the work, necessary to build new surfaces (or cracks) in rock. As a product of both - stress and strain - destruction work represents the work of shape altering including the post failure section (Fig. 13).

y=5.49-0.60ln x y(n-1)=0.28m/min n=23 R2=89%

0 0 100 200 300 400 500

destruction work [kJ/m3] sand- & claystone conglomerate & fanglomerate limestone & marl silicic dolomite phyllite & gneiss marble

Fig. 14 Drilling rates, correlated with destruction work of 23 rock types. The correlation is very good

In contrast to the described connection, correlations between the conventional mechanical rock properties (unconfined compressive and tensile strength, Young's modulus and the ratio of unconfined compressive strength and tensile strength "toughness") and drilling rates show less significance (see Thuro and Spaun 1996 b).


Geological parameters Although mechanical properties allow prediction of drilling performance to be more precise, geological influences are even more decisive for drilling velocity as well as for the bit life. There are several geological influences though only some can be mentioned here: 1. anisotropy - orientation of discontinuities related to the direction of testing or drilling 2. spacing of discontinuities 3. mineral composition - equivalent quartz content 4. pore volume - porosity of the micro fabric Hydrothermal decomposition of rock material very often shows the same effects as the status of weathering. Some of the possibly connected problems have already been discussed in this paper. Anisotropy Of course, rock properties and drilling rates are also highly dependent on the orientation of weakness planes related to the direction of testing or drilling. This has been discussed in detail by Thuro & Spaun (1996, also see Spaun and Thuro 1994). When the direction of drilling is at right angles to the orientation of foliation (Fig. 15, left side), rock material is compressed at right angles but sheared parallel to it. Although cracks will develop radial to compression, the cracks parallel to the bottom of the borehole will be used for chipping. Usually in this case the highest drilling velocities are obtained, because of the favourable schist orientation. Drilling is controlled by the shear strength of the foliated rock material. The minimum destruction work causes large sized chips and a maximum drilling performance (Fig. 16). If the drilling axis is oriented parallel to foliation (Fig. 15, right side), compression also is parallel but shear stress is at right angles. It should be clear, that fewer cracks will develop for reasons of higher strength at right angles to foliation. Drilling is controlled by the tensile strength parallel to the foliation producing small-sized fragments and a minimum drilling performance (Fig. 16). It is certain, that in the parallel case, rock properties are the highest and drilling rates are low. In addition, blasting conditions are often related to drilling. Thus, if the tunnel axis is parallel to the main foliation, drilling and blasting conditions are supposed to be very poor. As a further result of anisotropy, problems may occure when drilling direction is diagonal to the tunnel axis: When the angle between drilling and tunnel axis is acute-angled, drifter rods are deviated into the dip direction of foliation, if obtuse-angled, into the normal direction of foliation. In any case, drill tracks may be seen as curves and produce distinct borehole deviation and a geologically caused overbreak.

compressive/tensile stress
shear stress shear stress

testing arrangements UCS TS UCS TS

Fig. 15 Drilling process according to different orientations of foliation (after Spaun and Thuro 1994).
high tensile stress low tensile stress

100 drilling rate indirect tensile strength [%]





graph equation y = a + bcos x

90 75

tensile strength 25 60 45 30 dip angle of foliation 15 0

Fig. 16 Drilling rate and tensile strength plotted against the orientation of foliation

Spacing of discontinuities Of course, drilling rates are also dependent on spacing of discontinuities in rock mass. Discontinuities are, as a law, weakness planes in rock mass - thus MllerSalzburg (1963) talks about rock mass as "broken rock". The spacing of joints could also be described as "joints per meter" and is another parameter for the precracking of rock. In the chart of Fig. 17 the influence of discontinuities is not visible, if the spacing is large against the dimensions of the borehole. When the joints get closer, the drilling velocity increases up to the double. But the connected problem is borehole instability, causing hole collapses and timeconsuming scaling of the established blasthole. By this means, the efforts of fast drilling, especially in fault zones, may be rendered useless very soon.

drilling rate [%]



limestone (middle Muschelkalk)

200 180

the Mohs hardness is known, the abrasiveness of minerals can be estimated by this chart with satisfactory accuracy (within a half degree of Mohs hardness).
equivalent quartz content

drilling rate [m/min]

spacing large against dimension of borehole

160 140 120

3 collapse of boreholes common

0,6 cm 2 cm 6,3 cm 20 cm 63 cm 200 cm

100 80 extreme closely medium

equ =



very closely



very widely

fault zone

A - mineral amount [%] R - Rosiwal abrasiveness [%] n - number of minerals

joint spacing

Formula 2 Determination of the equivalent quartz content

Fig. 17 Correlation between drilling rate and joint spacing in limestone of the middle Muschelkalk

Equivalent quartz content Having discussed some factors influencing drilling rates, parameters for predicting the drilling bit wear are now mentioned. As a leading parameter, the wear of drilling bits has been examined in different rock types. Other tools such as drifter rods, couplings and shank adapters have a life-span on average ten times the one of button bits and thus are not suitable. Technical parameters are not really suitable for drillability studies though there are about 200 hardness tests for rock characterization (Atkinson 1993, West 1989, Brook 1993, Nelson 1993). Much of them have been introduced for a special purpose and have not been developed further. Only few have gained international attention such as the drilling rate index DRI (Selmer-Olsen and Blindheim 1970) or the Cerchar abrasivity index CAI (Valantin 1973, Suana and Peters 1982). The point is, there is no single physical property in existence to quantify and describe hardness as if it is the uniaxial compressive strength for stress. Also a lot of petrographic parameters such as rock texture and mineral fabric have been discussed to be used for predicting tool wear and drillability (Howarth and Rowlands 1987). But the performed structural methods are very time consuming and thus have not been applied in practice. It is clear, that tool wear is predominantly a result of the mineral content harder than steel (Mohs hardness ca. 5.5), especially quartz (Mohs hardness of 7). To include all minerals of a rock sample, the equivalent quartz content has been determined in thin sections by modal analysis - meaning the entire mineral content refering to the abrasiveness or hardness of quartz (Formula 2). Therefore each mineral amount is multiplied with its relative Rosiwal abrasiveness to quartz (with quartz being 100%, Rosiwal 1896, 1916). An appropriate correlation between Mohs hardness and Rosiwal abrasiveness is given in Fig. 18. When

9 8 7


Mohs hardness

6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 10 100 1000

y = 2.12 + 1.05ln x y(n-1)=

n=24 R2=95%

Rosiwal abrasiveness

Fig. 18 Correlation between Rosiwal abrasiveness and Mohs hardness, enclosing 24 different minerals (excluding diamond)
Bit Wear 2500 very low 2000

bit life-span [m/bit]

hydrothermal decomposition

defects of binder, porosity


1500 moderate 1000 high 500 main graph very high

extremely h.

0 0 20 40 60 80 100

equivalent quartz content [%] sandstone fanglomerate & conglomerate limestone & marl crystalline rock
hydrothermaly decomposed

phyllite & gneiss marble

Fig. 19 Bit life of different rock types correlated with the equivalent quartz content enclosing 42 case studies in 8 tunnel projects

The method of determining the equivalent quartz content is wide-spread among tool manufacturers, engineers and engineering geologists for preliminary site investigations prior to tool wear problems. In Fig. 19 the bit life of different rock types is correlated with its equivalent quartz contents. It is visible

dry density [g/cm ] that bit wear raises mainly with increasing equivalent Bit Wear 2 2,1 2,2 2,3 2,4 2,5 2,6 quartz content. But obviously some kinds of rock have 2000 their own curves: (a) sandstones, especially those with hydrothermally low decomposed higher porosity, often corresponding with a defect in 1500 the silicic cementation; and (b) hydrothermally demoderate composed crystalline rock. defect binder In each of those special rock types the interlocking 1000 inc of the grains in the microfabric is "disturbed". Therer high por easin g osi ty fore, for purposes of prediction, each rock type must compact 500 be discussed individually. In Fig. 20 a rock family very high something like a "normal facies" - of limestone, marl, y=174+60? y =136m/bit n=8 R =90% x extremely h. 0 conglomerates, together with phyllites and marbles has 25 20 15 10 5 0 been built to be described by a logarithmic regression porosity [%] curve. For the chosen rock family the relation is very clo- Fig. 21 Correlation of bit life-span and porosity (dry density) in sandstones se and may be used for a forecast of bit wear, when the equivalent quartz content is determined by a thin secdry density [g/cm ] Drilling velocity tion modal analysis. 2 2,1 2,2 2,3 2,4 2,5 2,6 bit life-span [m/bit]
(n-1) 2 3 3

7-button bits

limestone, marl, conglomerates, phyllites, marbles 2500

y=3131-624ln x y(n-1)=144m/bit n=22 R2 =95%

Bit Wear very low

6 clay-silt-stone 5 drilling rate [m/min] 4 high 3 moderate 2 low 1 y=1.83+0.12x 0 25 20 15 10 porosity [%] 5 0 y(n-1)=0.12m/bit n=8 R2=98% COP 1440 - 20 kW very high

2000 bit life-span [m/bit] low 1500

standard deviation


1000 high 500 very high

extremely h.

very low

0 0 20 40 60 80 100

equivalent quartz content [%]

Fig. 20 Bit life-span of limestone, marl, conglomerates, together with phyllites and marbles and corresponding equivalent quartz content

Fig. 22 Correlation of drilling rates and and porosity (dry density) in sandstones

Porosity and binder defects For sandstones and decomposed rock other relationships must be discussed. The expected connection is also detected when plotting the porosity of sandstones instead of the equivalent quartz content into the diagram (Fig. 21). Porosity is measured here as a function of dry density of rock material and ranges from a compact (dense) to a totally decomposed silicic binder-free fabric. There seems to be a correlation between the porosity of the rock and technical parameters, such as bit wear (Fig. 21), drilling rates (Fig. 22) and - naturally mechanical rock properties such as unconfined compressive strength (Fig. 29) and destruction work (Fig. 30). Although the number of cases in each chart is quite low, the good correlation coefficient suggests a close connection. The data were collected in the Schnrain Tunnel near Wrzburg, where mainly rock of the middle und upper Bunter sandstone has been encountered and in the Achberg Tunnel nearby Unken in the Werfen sandstone formation.


Fig. 23 Hard, quartzitic Bunter sandstone with a very dense and compact fabric. No pores can be seen and the fracture runs through each individual quartz grain ("intragranular failure"; picture length approx. 1 mm)

Fig. 26 Small hexahedric granules of silicic cement growing on quartz grains (picture length approx. 0.1 mm)

Fig. 24 Hard Bunter sandstone with a less dense fabric. Fracturing is dominated by intergranular (grain-to-grain) failure. Larger hexahedric quartz crystals growing on grains are developing out of small granules of silicic binder (picture length approx. 1 mm)

Fig. 27 Clayey binder of the decomposed Bunter sandstone showing kaolinite crystals growing in the twinning lamellae of a plagioclase crystal (picture length approx. 0.1 mm)

Fig. 25 Hydrothermally decomposed Bunter sandstone, characterised by a porous fabric with a clayey binder in replacement of the original, silicic cement (picture length approx. 5 mm)

Fig. 28 In the grain gaps, small calcite rhombohedrons are growing as secondary binder (picture length approx. 0.14 mm)

dry density [g/cm3] 2 120 unconfined compressive strength [MPa] y=168-53ln x 100 80 60 40 20 0 25 20 15 10 porosity [%] 5 0 clay-silt-stone low
very low




2,4 n=8

2,5 R2=95%


compressive strength
after ISRM


very high



Fig. 29 Correlation of unconfined compressive strength and porosity (dry density) in sandstones
dry density [g/cm3] 2 250 y=327-103ln x destruction work [kJ/m3] 200 y(n-1)=30kJ/m3 n=8 R2=83% 2,1 2,2 2,3 2,4 2,5 2,6





0 25 20 15 10 porosity [%] 5 0

shown where fracture is characterized by intragranular failure.In Fig. 24, a hard Bunter sandstone with a higher porosity is visible, suggesting a fabric less dense than before. The silicic cement does not fill every gap between the quartz grains but the cementation is more than just a grain-to-grain binding (intergranular failure). The small granules of silicic cement are also hexahedric, as can bee seen by increased enlargement in Fig. 26. The hydrothermally decomposed Bunter sandstone of Fig. 25 is characterised by a porous fabric with a clayey binder. Clay has replaced the original silicic cement. The rock has changed its colour from originally red to a flat whitish-grey, thus indicating hydrothermal activity dating from a fault zone ("Harrbacher Sprung") in the Schnberg Tunnel. The contact of the grains is not solid anymore but only weakly cemented and the surface of the grains looks "dirty". In Fig. 27 the clayey binder of the decomposed Bunter sandstone is visible, showing kaolinite crystals growing in the twinning lamellae of a plagioclase crystal. The small flakes probably are fed into the grain gaps by circulating ground water. In the grain gaps, small calcite rhombohedrons grow as secondary binder (Fig. 28). It looks like the silicic binder has been removed from the sandstone together with the red colour, leaving behind some clayey material and calcitic cement. Conclusion After all these observations, it is clear, that neither laboratory and field testing alone, geology alone, nor experience alone and equipment design and operation expertise alone can lead to the point where drillability is anything like a clearly defined formula. Firstly, with the discovered correlation charts for

Fig. 30: Correlation of destruction work and porosity (dry density) in sandstones

The fabric of the different stages of porosity (or dry density) can be visualized by raster electron microscope photography. In Fig. 23 a very dense and compact fabric of a hard, quartzitic Bunter sandstone is

Investigation Program
preliminary site investigations engineering geological mapping rock & soil description and classification quantitative description of discontinuities on basis of IAEG and ISRM standardization sampling out of drilling cores if possible, out of an investigation tunnel anisotropy spacing of discontinuities status of weathering hydrothermal decomposition destruction work compressive strength Young's modulus tensile strength ratio of compressive / tensile strength rock density / porosity " influence of anisotropy or other factors equivalent quartz content degree of interlocking

mechanical rock properties

petrographic description

mineral composition micro fabric

Fig. 31 Proposal of an investigation program for preliminary site investigations


mechanical and petrographic rock properties, it should be possible to predict drilling rates and bit wear for the examined rock types in a satisfactory manner. But besides rock properties, the main problem is the variety of geological phenomena, which cannot be put into figures and rock properties. Nevertheless in preliminary site investigation the most important thing to do is simple and basic geological mapping. This sounds simple. But it is extremely necessary to keep in mind all the parameters possibly influencing drilling performance. Secondly, it is very important to prepare all rock and soil descriptions in a way engineers are able to understand. Only in such a manner is it possible to raise the level of geological contribution to underground construction, and the entire excavation system must be understood before applying geological expertise to the solution of expected or developing drillability problems In Fig. 31 an investigation program for preliminary site investigations is presented, which should help to improve the estimation of rock drillability in planning future tunnel projects, trying to integrate all discussed knowledge bases. References
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