Direct observation of gas in peat layers, generated by slow degradation in anoxic conditions, raised concern in the Netherlands about its potential impact on the geotechnical response of dykes founded on peat. To address this issue, an experimental investigation was initiated, aimed at quantifying the main consequences of the presence of gas on the mechanical response of peats. The results of a series of triaxial tests on natural peat samples flushed with carbonated water are presented and discussed. Controlled amounts of gas were exsolved by undrained isotropic unloading, and the samples were sheared under undrained conditions. During gas exsolution, the samples suffered volumetric expansion, at a rate which is ruled by the relative compressibility of the fluid and the soil skeleton. The gas in the pore fluid dominates the stress-strain response upon undrained shearing, causing lower excess pore pressure compared to fully saturated samples. The experimental results suggest that local fabric changes occur during gas exsolution. However, for the amounts of gas investigated, these fabric changes seem to be almost reversible upon compression. Although the ultimate shear strength is hardly affected by gas, the reduction in the mobilised shear strength at given axial strain thresholds is dramatic, compared to fully saturated samples. The study suggests that the presence of gas must be cautiously accounted for at low stresses, when a reference stiffness is chosen for serviceability limit states, and when operative shear strength definitions, based on mobilised strength for given strain thresholds, are chosen in the assessment of geotechnical structures on peats.
Bibliographical noteAccepted Author Manuscript
- laboratory tests
- organic soils
- pore pressures
- shear strength