A Closer Look: Petrographic Analysis of Extremely Weak Sandstone/Cemented Sand of the Ghayathi Formation, Dubai, UAE
An imminent challenge currently being faced in Dubai is the occurrence of soft rock underlying the quaternary aeolian sand deposits. One such offender encountered, is the thinly laminated calcareous sandstone of the Ghayathi Formation, which may occur as alternating beds of very dense sand and extremely weak sandstone. The current accepted method for differentiating between soil and rock is dependent on a UCS strength occurring below 0.6 MPa. Laboratory experiments performed on samples retrieved from the Ghayathi Formation exhibit an average UCS, Point Load Index and E-modulus of 0.71 MPa, 0.11 MPa and 1128 MPa respectively. However, strength and deformation is controlled by inherent physical properties of the material such as mineral composition, density, structure, fabric and porosity. Petrographic analysis of representative samples from the Ghayathi Formation shows the sandstone comprises of highly porous fine-grains with sporadic bands of coarser material cemented together by a thin uniform crust around depositional grains with some degree of compaction. Overall the mineralogical composition by volume comprises of: calcite (80%) as a cementing agent and bioclasts, quartz (16%), rare feldspars (2%), trace amounts of pyrite (1%) and igneous rock fragments (<1%). Primary pore spaces remain unfilled and result in a high inter-particle porosity of 27.69%, which is inversely proportional to the bulk and dry densities exhibiting average values of 1968 kg/m3 and 1660 kg/m3 respectively. The high inter-particle porosity resulted in the degree of saturation predominantly ranging between 40–80% but the inherent water content had minimal influence on the strength of the samples. This petrographic analysis comparison to laboratory results highlights some of the complexities currently being faced in soft rocks research and further supports that improved sampling techniques, laboratory testing methods and understanding of soft rock characteristics is required for improved classification.
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