Analysis of the phenomenon of material expansiveness in tunnels built in anhydrite. Outcomes and experiences


  • J. M. del Campo Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
  • J. C. Guerra Ferrovial - Agroman
  • D. Fernández-Ordóñez Universidad Politécnica de Madrid



gypsum, anhydrite, swelling, tunnels, failure modes


The serious geotechnical problems arising in many tunnels bored in material giving rise to stability problems as a result of being expansive, makes the water channelizers. These are materials which are easily washed with sulphates dissolving with water causing the massif to become decompressed and to remould, aggravating and transferring the problem beyond the tunnel’s immediate environment. In the particular case of layers of anhydrite between argillite, it also happens that the primary support and subsequent lining must have exceptional strength to resist the pressures the terrain may transmit in the medium to long term. This article describes the most relevant aspects of the hydromechanical behaviour of sulphated soil and rock and presents some experiments, concluding with various aspects associated to the phenomenon of swelling in tunnels and its possible treatment.


Download data is not yet available.


(1) Amstad, C.; Kovari, K.: “Untertagbau in quellfähigem” Fels. Forschungsbericht 482 (2001) Vereinigung Schweizerisscher StraBenfachleute, 226 s.,, German.

(2) Rauh, F.; Spaun, G.; Thuro, K.: “Assesment of the swelling potential of anhydrite in tunneling projects”, The Geological Society of London. IAEG Engineering geology for tomorrow´s cities. Proceedings of the 10th IAEG International Congress, Nottingham, United Kingdom, Paper number 473 (2006).

(3) Murray, R.: “Origin and diagénesis of gypsum and anhydrite”. Journal of sedimentary geology, 34 (3) (1964) 512-523, Tulsa.

(4) Ortí Cabo, F.; Bayo, A.: “Características litoestratigráficas del Triásico Medio y Superior en el Baix Ebre (Tarragona-España)”. Cuadernos de Geología Ibérica, vol. 4 (1977), pp. 223-238.

(5) Pina et al.: Epitaxial growth of gypsum on anhidrite: in situ AFM observations and computer calculations, Cambridge Publications (2000).

(6) Alonso, E. E.; Berdugo I. R.; Tarragó, D.; Ramón, A.: “Tunnelling in sulphate claystones”, Keynote Paper. Proc. 14th European Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Madrid, Cuéllaret et al. (eds.), Millpress, Rottherdam, vol. 1 (2007), pp. 103-122.

(7) Tarragó Munté, D.: Degradación mecánica de argilitas sulfatadas y su efecto sobre la expansividad. Tesis de Licenciatura en Ingeniería Geológica. UPC, 120 (2006), p. 29.

(8) Huder, J.; Amberg, G.: “Quellung in Mergel, Opalinus-ton und Anhydrit”. Schweizer. Bauzeit, 83. (1970), pp. 975-980.

(9) Steiner, W.: "Swelling rock in tunnels: rock characterization, effect of horizontal stresses and construction procedures". Int. J. Rock Mech. Min. Sci. & Geoch. Abstr., vol. 30, nº 4 (1993), pp. 361-380.

(10) Berdugo, I.; Alonso, E.; Gens, A.; Romero, E.: “Extreme expansive phenomena in a high-speed railway tunnel”. Sesión 3. Avances Tecnológicos e Innovación. Congreso Internacional AETOS (2007), Madrid.

(11) Henke K. F.; Kaiser W.; Nagel D.: “Geomechanische Unter- suchungen im Gipskeuper Forschungsberichte u.ber Durchführung eines felsmechanischen Grossuersuches in der Nordróhre des Wagen-burgtunnels in Stuttgart”. Strassenbau und Strassenverkehrstechnik, vol. 184, (1975), pp. 149-162.

(12) Serrano, A.; Oteo, C.; Dapena, E.; Martín Viñas, J.: “Análisis de los fenómenos de expansión de una formación de margas yesíferas”. Bol. Inf. Lab. Carret. y Geot., 146 (1981), pp. 9-16.

(13) Serrano, A. A.; Dapena, J. E.; García de Paredes, I.: “Study on the swelling potencial of a gypsiferous marl mass in order to build the foundation of a power station”, Proc. Rock mechanics and power plants, Romana (ed.), Balkema (1988), pp. 119-124.

(14) Lloret, A.; Alonso, E. E.; Gens, A.; Batlle, F.: “Analysis of a foundation on swelling rock. Rock Mechanics and Power Plants”, ISRM Symposium. M. Romana, ed. Balkema, vol. 2 (1988).

(15) Alonso, E. E.: Alcoverro, J.: “Swelling and degradation of agillaceous rocks. Keynote lecture”, Proc 3rd Int. Conf. Unsat. Soils, Recife, Balkema (2004), pp. 951-969.

(16) Alonso, E. E.; Berdugo, I.; Gens, A.; Romero, E.: “Expansive phenomena in an instrumented tunnel excavated in anhydritic-gypsiferous argillaceus rocks”, Proceedings of the ISRM regional symposium EUROCK 2004 & 53rd Geomechanics Colloquy. Edited by W. Schubert, VerlagGlückauf GmbH, Essen (2004), pp. 241-244.

(17) Alonso, E. E.; Berdugo, I.: “Expansive Behaviour of Sulphate-Bearing Clays. Keynote Lecture”, Proc. Int. Conf. on Problematic Soils, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, N. Cyprus, vol. 2 (2005), pp. 477-498.

(18) Alonso, E. E.; Gens, A.; Berdugo, I.; Romero, E.: “Expansive behaviour of a sulphated clay in a railway tunnel”, Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Soils Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Millpress, Rottherdam, vol. 3 (2005), pp. 1583-1586.

(19) Deu, A.; Tarragó, D.: Certamen Arquimedes 2004. Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia de España.

(20) Tarragó, D.; Deu, A.; Berdugo, I.; Melgarejo, J. C.; Tauler, E.: “Sobre la expansión en argilitas sulfatadas”, en Cabalero, N., Cingolani, C. A., Linares, E., López de Luchi, M. G., Ostera, H. A. y Panarello, H. D. (eds.), Actas del XV Congreso Geológico Argentino nº 786. (2005) p. 8.

(21) Alonso, E. E.; Berdugo, I.: “Degradation and swelling of sulphate-bearing claystones”, Keynote Paper. Proc. VI CSAMR, Cartagena de Indias. Montero & Colmenares (eds.) (2006), pp. 211-248.

(22) Deu Lozano, A.: “Estudio experimental del crecimiento de minerales sulfatados en argilitas anhidrítico-yesíferas”. Tesina d’Especialitat de Enginyeria del Terreny, Cartogràfica i Geofísica. Tutores: Romero E. y Berdugo, I. Facultad de Geología. Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña (2008).

(23) Wittke, W.: “Stability Analysis for Tunnels”. WBI Print 4. Chapter 3. Gliickauf (2000), p. 415.

(24) Wittke, W.: “Begrenzung der Quelldriicke durch Selbstabdichtung deim Tunnelbau im anhydrifiihrenden Gebirge”. WBI Print 13.2. vols. (2003) Gluckauf, p. 112.

(25) Kovari, K.; Amstad, Ch.; Anagnostou, G.: “Design/construction methods - Tunneling in swelling rocks”. Key questions in Rock Mechanics. Cundal et al. (eds.). (1988). Balkema, Rotterdam.




How to Cite

del Campo, J. M., Guerra, J. C., & Fernández-Ordóñez, D. (2012). Analysis of the phenomenon of material expansiveness in tunnels built in anhydrite. Outcomes and experiences. Materiales De Construcción, 62(308), 583–595.



Technical Note