The Rock Mechanics and Physics Laboratory (RMPL) undertakes research on the physical properties and behaviour of rock specifically for: planning, design and construction within the civil engineering sector; extraction and storage within the energy sector; developing our understanding of near-surface to shallow crustal earth processes in order to help predict and mitigate the effects of small and large scale geohazards. The RMPL lab specialises in standard (ISRM and ASTM) and bespoke geomechanical and rock physics testing, including measurement of strength (triaxial and uniaxial), deformability, thermal properties, geophysical properties, sonic velocity, permeability, porosity and density
RMPL is the home of BGS’s large scale rock deformation apparatus which is used to measure the physical properties and behaviour of rock when subjected to changes in pressure and temperature associated with near surface to shallow crustal conditions (~6 km). The system comprises an MTS 4.6 MN capacity servo-controlled hydraulic load frame, triaxial pressure vessel, confining pressure intensifier unit (140 MPa), a pore pressure intensifier unit (70 MPa total pressure and 35 MPa differential pressure) and heating system (200 °C). The rock deformation apparatus is able to make synchronous measurement of stress, strain, sonic velocity, acoustic emission and permeability during deformation on right-circular cylinder rock specimens with diameters up to 54 mm. A planned upgrade to this system to expand the acoustic emission measurement capability to 16 channels and provide acoustic emission tomography is scheduled for April 2016.
Research in this laboratory has been used to improve the understanding of material behaviour and processes related to the mechanical and physical properties of rocks, and hence contribute to process models and performance assessment related to CO2 storage, underground gas storage and other underground construction applications. Recent studies have focused on the geomechanical parameters of: reservoir (sandstone) and cap rocks (mudstone) from CCS sites in the North Seas as part of the EPSRC-funded CONTAIN project; underground cavern host rock (halite) for proposed underground compressed air storage as part of the EPSRCfunded IMAGES project; strength and deformability of the Montorfano Granite as part of the SAFER project; and measurement and characterisation of stress induced changes in the electric stress field of geological and man-made materials as part of the EPSRC-funded E-Stress project.