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Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineering is a very important discipline of engineering that is concerned with behavior of the earth’s materials. Some of the most crucial tasks carried out in geotechnical projects are designing foundations for embankments and structure, lessening soil erosion designing storage systems for various hazardous materials.

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What is geotechnical engineering?

Geotechnical engineering is essentially a science that explains the mechanics of rock and soil and their applications to the development of humankind. This is a very broad field which includes analysis, design and the construction of slopes, foundations, embankments, retaining structures, levees, roadways, tunnels, landfills, wharves, and other systems that are either supported by or made of soil or rock.

One of the key differences between civil engineering tasks and geotechnical engineering techniques is that the latter is less dependent on code based design; however, it requires competent relevant experiences for sound judgments. The objective of many geotechnical projects is to recognize the differences in the properties of rock and soil and evaluate the engineering properties of these elements. The engineers will then determine the best suited design and construction method that will be safe, effective and sustainable.

Functions of Geotechnical Engineering

The main functions of geotechnical engineering include:

• Evaluation of geotechnical hazards such as the potential of landslides
• Assessment of the earth’s pressure and retaining wall performance
• Determining the deformations of foundations, bearing capacity, and the likely interactions between
structure, foundation and soil
• Conducting response analysis for a site.
• Strength of the tunnels, excavations & caves
• Analysis of embankment behavior.

When any civil engineering problems are encountered in a project, geotechnical investigations will be carried out to apply engineering principles and scientific methods and provide solutions to those problems. Some of the aspects included in a geotechnical project include measurement of ground water levels, identifying rock and soil types, determining soil strength etc.

Once the investigation phase has been completed geotechnical designing comes into the picture once again in providing feasible solutions for stable engineering structure.

What is a geotechnical engineer?

A geotechnical engineer studies and assesses the impact that various geological formations can potentially have on construction projects. They use the latest techniques and their deep knowledge of mathematical and scientific processes to examine the earth’s formation around as well as beneath industrial and commercial structures and buildings. Geotechnical engineering is the science that helps us understand how structures interact with the ground.

Regardless of the type of rock or soil the ground is made of, it has a very complex behavior and geotechnical engineering helps solve problems that can arise with these structures. The skills of a geotechnical engineer are used in the construction of production & storage facilities, drilling wells as well as in examining the flow of groundwater and transportation of petroleum products.

Geotechnical engineers work in various settings ranging from mining operations to floating ice platforms and marine operations. These professionals have a role to play in many different types of civil engineering projects. Before any excavation or construction work takes place, it is crucial that a site investigation be done. Failing to do this often has expensive and adverse consequences on the project.

A geotechnical engineer guards and maintains the earth’s physical environment when any major private or public projects are underway. These professionals combine their expertise in the field of civil design and engineering, which enables them to analyze and investigate the sites to determine whether they are, and will be structurally stable. Projects such as these generally involve a number of major alterations to the physical environment; these can include the construction and tunneling of major structures such as bridges, dams and more.

Duties that a geotechnical engineer performs

A geotechnical engineer performs these following functions within the framework of jobs such as:

Geotechnical/Geological Engineers (general) –They provide mapping and analysis of the technical results that have been obtained from the seismic surveying; they also investigate materials and subsurface conditions to determine the risks and properties.

Geotechnical/Geological Engineer (for oil sands projects)- These professionals design dam structures, mine waste dumps and open pit walls utilized in oil sands mining; they also analyze seepage, hydraulic separation and slope stability of dam structures.
Hydrogeological Engineer- Water extraction from sand and soil, providing analysis and designing of ponds that contain discarded oil sands materials, as well as steam injection into wells. They also evaluate the water layers that are trapped in rocks under the ground (aquifers) and provide expert advice on environmental restoration.

Reservoir Geomechanics Engineer (ONG Operations) –These engineers analyze drill whole stability, soil strength, rock formations permeability and what the degree of hydrocarbons trapped in underground reservoirs is.

Geomechanics Engineers (Marine Operations) – They analyze the relationship between various physical structures and sediment erosion, anchoring systems, foundations of coastal and offshore structures.

Systems and tools that geotechnical engineers use

Geotechnical engineers used different types of software such as:

GEO STUDIO –Slope stability analysis
EDUSHAKE- For earthquake & go technical analysis
MATLAB- Mathematical simulation for analyzing foundation and structural and
problems using a series of arrays
GEO5 – This software suite is used to solve geotechnical problems
FLAC3D- For advanced 3D geotechnical analysis of rock, soil, structural and rock,
support.

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