Publication Abstract

Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference on Deep Foundations, 2012, Houston, TX, USA, (DFI)

Pile Design and Construction Challenges in Partially Thawed Alaskan Soils
John D. Thornley

Alaskan villages typically store a one-year supply of fuel to reduce significant delivery costs. Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), an electric utility cooperative providing power to 51 Alaska villages, has made a concerted effort to upgrade and improve their undersized and aging facilities. The Village of Stebbins, located south of Nome on Norton Sound is receiving upgrades to its AVEC bulk fuel facilities. Stebbins offered unique challenges from a foundations perspective due to the nature of the soil. The geotechnical investigation found the soil below roughly a third of the footprint of the bulk fuel facility to be thawed with seasonal freezing and the remainder was found to be warm permafrost with ground temperatures of between 30F and 32F. This is a unique and challenging arctic engineering design issue because foundations are designed differently for frozen ground conditions. Driven piles were selected because of site constraints, such as the design flood elevation and the change from thawed to frozen ground conditions. The pile design specified that the pile embedment depths would be selected based on the results of pile driving analyzer (PDA) testing during construction in the thawed ground and maintained within the frozen ground portion of the footprint. Difficulties during pile driving in the frozen ground resulted in several piles becoming severely damaged, requiring subsequent removal. This resulted in a reevaluation of the means and methods for pile installation. Additional fieldwork was performed to further characterize the subsurface soils and their frozen nature. Options for installation of piles in difficult areas were evaluated including ground thawing, predrilling, and reducing embedment depths. Presented within this paper are the findings from the initial and subsequent field explorations, discussion of the design methodology, and the decisions that led to successful installation of piles at this challenging remote village.

 article #1841; publication #99 (AM-2012)