The subsea rock cavern project is an underground storage facility. For cost-effective and safe excavation, the risk caused by the groundwater seepage into the rock cavern must be addressed. As one of the essential steps of the assessment work, the hydraulic conductivities of the fractured rock masses should be reliably determined based on the limited measured data and geological information from the few boreholes. On the basis of site investigation data and monitored water flow and water pressure data during excavation, this paper presents an estimation method for hydraulic conductivities of the rock masses containing water bearing zones.


In the development of underground rock caverns/tunnels, the uncertainty of hydro-geological conditions plays a critical role in terms of construction cost and construction safety. Excessive groundwater seepage has been identified as one of the key safety factors which always lead to vast loss, such as the Seikan Tunnel in Japan which encountered sudden water inflow and then catastrophic face collapsing, tunnel flood during excavation (Xu et al., 2013). As a key factor in the risk management associated with the groundwater leakage into rock cavern, the hydraulic conductivity determination is very important for cost estimation, reliable water control and construction management.

The case presented in this paper is an underground project consisted of a cluster of rock caverns/tunnels for storage of hydrocarbon products. These caverns are located in heterogeneous sedimentary bedrock, at a depth of 130 m beneath a basin, and the crowns of caverns are located at about 100 m below the sea bottom. The caverns/tunnels are designed at two levels, the water curtain tunnels are at the upper level, and oil storage caverns are at the lower level, as shown in Figure 1. A number of horizontal and vertical water injection holes drilled from the upper water curtain gallery tunnel will establish continuous horizontal and vertical water curtains for providing a stable pressure distribution around the caverns, to keep oil/gas inside the lower storage caverns. As the hydrostatic pressure of groundwater around the storage caverns is higher than the pressure of stored oil and gas, the stored oil and gas will not leak out of the cavern (Lu, 2010; Xu et al., 2015). Groundwater pressure gauges are installed in the water curtain gallery tunnels, and water from the operational and access tunnels is injected continuously into the curtains to maintain the pressure. Some monitoring data are recorded at different construction stages. This paper proposes suitable methods to predict the hydraulic conductivity in rock mass and to determine the hydraulic conductivity in the water bearing zones.

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