Performance of Suction Caissons in Sand and Clay

by Magued Iskander, Polytechnic University, Six Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201,
Sherif El-Gharbawy, The Petroleum Projects and Technical Consultations Company (Petrojet), Joseph Tito Street, Haikstep, Cairo,
Roy Olson, University of Texas at Austin, ECJ 9.227, Austin, TX 78712,

Part of: From Soil Behavior Fundamentals to Innovations in Geotechnical Engineering: Honoring Roy E. Olson


The use of suction caissons (suction piles) in marine environments has been increasing in the last decade. A suction caisson is a steel pipe with an open bottom and a closed top that is inserted into the ground by pumping water out of it. Pumping creates a differential pressure across the caisson's top that pushes it into place, thus eliminating the need for pile driving. There are a number of uncertainties in the design of suction caissons. First, the state of stress and soil conditions adjacent to a suction caisson differs from those around typical driven piles or drilled shafts. Second, the axial load capacity of suction caissons depends on the rate of loading, hydraulic conductivity, drainage length, as well as the shearing strength properties of the foundation material. Finally, during pullout, volume change characteristics of the surrounding soils may change the theoretical suction pressures. A review of the existing knowledge relating to the design and construction of suction caissons is presented in this paper along with the results of a laboratory study on model caissons in sand and clay. Test results indicate that the use of suction pressure for installation of caissons is a viable alternative to conventional methods. Suction was also shown to resist some axial tensile loads.

Copyright holder: Previously published in Canadian Geotechnical Journal, NRC Research Press, 39, 2002, 576-584

Subject Headings: Caissons | Suction | Soil suction | Axial loads | Clays | Material properties | Load bearing capacity


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