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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE5045M Rock Engineering

30 creditsClass Size: 45

Module manager: Dr Mark Hildyard

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23


SOEE5030MSoils Engineering

This module is mutually exclusive with

SOEE5047MRock Mechanics

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Rock Engineering is the application of engineering principles to the safe design of structures in rock for such purposes as mining, storage, underground space, tunnelling and infrastructure. The quantitative science underpinning rock engineering, Rock Mechanics, applies elements of engineering mechanics (e.g. solid mechanics, stress, strain, elasticity, plasticity, fracture mechanics) to rock, a complex and heterogeneous geological material. A thorough understanding of Rock Mechanics is important in many fields, whether for underground construction, mining, oil and gas, civil engineering, or tectonics. Rock Engineering design, may benefit in many cases from the use of numerical (computer) modelling based on rock mechanics theory, but Rock Engineering practice also places considerable emphasis on empirical analysis and empirical design methods, due to the complexity of rock material. This module provides a solid grounding in fundamental rock mechanics theory, and introduces students to numerical modelling, and to rock engineering practices for underground excavation and tunnelling.


The module aims to provide the theoretical understanding of Rock Mechanics and the practical knowledge of Rock Engineering, needed by a practicing engineering geologist. The student should gain the ability:

- To describe rocks and rock masses in a quantitative manner;
- To describe the internal state of an element of rock in terms of stress and strain;
- To understand mechanical behaviour of rock through the relationship between stress and strain;
- To understand elasticity theory and its limitations;
- To understand theories of rock failure;
- To understand and describe the state of stress around underground openings;
- To gain practical experience in applying numerical models;
- To appreciate the strengths and limitations of numerical models in interpreting stress and strain and failure around underground openings;
- To devise a testing program for characterising rock materials;
- To apply rock mass classification schemes to give first order parameters for design, along with an awareness of the limitations of such methodologies;
- To make stability analyses of surface and underground structures.
- To understand different methods used for excavation and tunnelling
- To understand different support methods used in excavation and tunnelling

Learning outcomes
By the completion of the module, students should gain a thorough grounding in Rock Mechanics theory, and a valuable exposure to Rock Engineering practice. The student should gain:

- a clear comprehension of stress and strain as a description of the mechanical state of a rockmass;
- an understanding of the relationship of stress and strain in rock, including regions of elastic and inelastic behaviour;
- an understanding of elasticity theory;
- an understanding of fracturing and failure in rock and theories to describe it;
- an appreciation that rockmass behaviour can be complex with aspects described by both continuum and discontinuum behaviour;
- an appreciation of the use of numerical models as a tool to investigate stress, stability and failure around excavations;
- an ability to design and conduct laboratory tests to characterise rock properties;
- an ability to critically use rock mass classification schemes;
- an ability to assess stability for surface and underground structures;
- an exposure to a variety of different types of underground excavations and designs; and
- an appreciation of practical rock engineering including excavation and tunnelling methods and tunnel support methods.


1. Stress analysis in two dimensions: tractions, internal state of stress, stress rotation, principal stresses; Mohr's circle. Strain analysis in two dimensions: Mohr circle; strain gauges and Rosette theory. Stress and strain in three dimensions
2. Behaviour of materials; deformation under stress, full stress-strain relationship in rock; elasticity theory and elastic constants; anisotropy; non-elastic behaviour
3. Brittle fracture; laboratory tests; acoustic emissions; failure criteria, Mohr-Coulomb, Mohr, Hoek-Brown, Griffiths, fracture mechanics
4. The state of stress in a rockmass; stress fields around underground openings; Kirsch equations for circular openings; lining pressures, rock anisotropy, in situ stress measurement; support and pillars
5. Practical numerical modelling. Hands-on experience using two continuum codes (commercial code RS2, and research code WAVE (simpler than, but giving exposure to the command-type structure used in commercial codes such as FLAC or UDEC) to investigate simple rock mechanics problems. Influence of Boundary conditions resolution; stress state around underground openings; modelling failure; localisation; path dependence
6. Laboratory analysis. Uniaxial tests, triaxial tests, acoustic emissions; Determining UCS, elastic moduli, parameters in failure laws
7. Rock mass classification, NGI Q index, RMR, GSI, and other classification
8. Rock slope stability analysis (Kinematics and limit equilibrium methods)
9. Applied Rock Engineering and Rock Mechanics – Practical applications of Tunnelling and Underground Excavations
10. Excavation Methods: Conventional methods (Mechanically supported; Drill & Blast) and Mechanized Tunnelling (TBMs); selection of Excavation Methods; site investigation (Rockmass Classification) in Tunnelling; geological conditions, geomechanical behaviour, Practical examples
11. Support Methods in Tunnelling and Selection of Support Systems; Tunnelling Methods: NATM (SEM), Observational Method; Tunnel Hazards, Tunnel Costs

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours210.00
Total Contact hours90.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

- group projects (2x40 Hours): 80 hours
- completing problem-solving tutorials: 45 hours
- completing modelling practicals: 20 hours
- Laboratory analysis and reflective review: 5 hours.
- Studying lecture material and directed reading: 60 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Problem solving tutorials; practicals; in-class discussions.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Group ProjectUnderground design project 115.00
Group ProjectUnderground design project 215.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

2nd attempt resit will be via unseen examination of 3 hrs duration.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment2 hr 00 mins35.00
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) (S1)2 hr 00 mins35.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Normally 1st attempt resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the original attempt, unless otherwise stated. 2nd attempt resits for this module are normally by unseen examination only.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 03/02/2023


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