Excavating the Deep Sea: Modeling the Pressure Effect in Rock Cutting Processes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientific


Seafloor Massive Sulphides are typically found near the oceanic ridges at larger water depths (>1km). The physical properties of SMS, as shown in table 1, are comparable to the properties of weak rock. One of the technical challenges to enable extraction from these locations is the cutting or excavation process. Experiments have shown that the energy needed to excavate the material may increase with water depth (Alvarez Grima et al. 2015). Besides that, it is demonstrated that rock that fails brittle in atmospheric conditions can fail more or less in a plastic fashion when present in a high pressure environment, as would be the case at large water depths. The goal of this research is to identify the physics of the cutting process and to develop this into a model in which the effect of hydrostatic and pore pressures is included. The cutting of rock is initiated by pressing a tool into the rock. As a result, at the tip of the tool a high compressive pressure occurs, which leads to the formation of a crushed zone. Depending on the shape of the tool and the cutting depth, shear failures might emanate from the crushed zone, which will eventually expand as tensile fractures that can reach to the free rock surface. Through this process intact rock will be disintegrated to a granular medium. For an overview of the process (figure 1). Additionally, the presence of water in the pores of and surrounding the rock influences the cutting process through drainage effects. The most relevant effects are weakening when compaction and strengthening when dilation occurs in shearing and tension. Deformation of the rock causes the pore volume to change, resulting in a under or over pressure. As a result, the pore fluid needs to flow. The magnitude of the potential under pressure is limited through cavitation of the pore fluid, limiting further reduction of the pore pressure (figure 2). The drainage effects cause the rock cutting process in a submerged environment to show a stronger dependency of both the hydrostatic pressure as well as the deformation rate (figure 3).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event47th Underwater Mining Conference: Deep-Sea Mining: Challenges of Going Further and Deeper Advances in Marine Research and Subsea Technology Beyond Oil and Gas - Bergen, Norway
Duration: 10 Sep 201814 Sep 2018


Conference47th Underwater Mining Conference


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