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The Asphalt Lining of a Large Water Reservoir near Benghazi

Die Asphaltdichtung eines groen Speicherbeckens bei Benghazi
Reinhard Schmid

The Great Man-Made River Project utilizes Libyas vast fossil groundwater reserves in the desert in order to supply fresh water to the populated and fertile Mediterranean coast. Pipelines are transferring the water to artificial reservoirs in the target areas. Near Benghazi, the largest reservoir with a capacity of twenty-four million cubic meters has recently been completed and sealed by an asphalt lining of more than one million square meters. Special equipment designed for hydraulic asphalt has been utilised to place the lining on the steep slopes and on the floor.

Das Great Man-Made River Projekt nutzt die fossilen Wasservorrte in der libyschen Wste zur Versorgung der dicht besiedelten Kste im Norden des Landes. ber Betonpipelines wird das Wasser bis zu 1600 km in die in den Zielgebieten errichteten Reservoirs transportiert, von wo es zur Trinkwasserversorgung der Stdte oder zur Bewsserung landwirtschaftlicher Anbaugebiete verteilt wird. Das grte Speicherbecken, das Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir bei Benghazi, erhielt eine Asphaltdichtung, bestehend aus je einer Binder- und Dichtungslage. Hierzu wurde speziell fr den Bschungseinbau entwickeltes Gert eingesetzt, das von fahrbaren Winden gehalten wird. Die Abdichtungsarbeiten wurden im Mrz 2007 abgeschlossen.


The Great Man-Made River Project of Libya is one of the most ambitious engineering water projects worldwide: it started in 1983 and encompasses the large scale abstraction of fossil groundwater reserves in the desert and their long distance transfer via concrete pipelines to the coastal plains with their fertile soils, where the large majority of the Libyan population is located. Major phases of this project have been completed until now and water is permanently distributed to big Cities like Tripoli and agricultural lands in the coastal region (Figure 1). Engineering landmarks are the five major well fields with more than 1000 wells up to 800 m deep, the water conveying system of four meter diameter pre-stressed concrete pipes and numerous pump stations, as well as big storage reservoirs in the target areas. The largest of these reservoirs is the Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir, which was completed in March 2007.


Tunisia Tunisia

Jefara Plains Region

Mediterranean Sea Benghazi Sirt Ajdabiya

Al-Ghardabiya Plains Region Benghazi Plains Region


Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir

NE Jebel Hasouna Wellfield

Brega PCCP Plant

Sarir PCCP Plant

eria Algeria Alg

Sarir Wellfield
E Jebel Hasouna Wellfield

Tazerbo Wellfield







Figure 1: Libya water grid with Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir near the coast

The Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir

The coastal city of Benghazi is already receiving more than 200 000 m3 of water per day from well fields located 1900 km south. With the new Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir under operation, additional water will be provided to irrigate the large fertile plains in the Benghazi region. There are many good reasons to choose asphaltic concrete as sealing material for a fill dam or water reservoir. High reliability, low maintenance costs and economic construction methods contribute to its long and very successful track record. In case of Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir, the asphalt lining covers an area of 800000 m2 on the floor and 270000 m2 on the slope and it will retain an operational volume of 24 mill m3 of valuable irrigation water. After commissioning, this reservoir will provide water for 18.000 hectares of agricultural land. Further extensions are envisaged in the near future.

General Design Features

The reservoir is surrounded by a 3600 m long ring embankment consisting of a crushed limestone fill and a vertical chimney drain of fine sand. The upstream slope is protected by coarse riprap whereas the downstream slope is overlaid by a drainage zone of crushed limestone material with specified drainage capacities and sufficient stability to allow safe operation of the asphalt paving equipment. The drainage zone was also designed to withstand rain water during construction time, a property which was tested successfully during occasional but very heavy rainfalls in winter. The drainage zone was placed in two layers of 15 cm each with the slope paving equipment, thus providing a very even and accurate formation for the binder asphalt layer.

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411 The reservoir floor was milled five meter deep into the limestone underground by conventional road mining machines. On the accurately excavated bedrock formation a regulating layer of 20 cm was sufficient to provide an even and stable base for the asphalt lining. The excavated material was used as fill material for the embankment thus minimising haulage expenditures for material from outside quarries. Filling of the reservoir is accomplished through a concrete intake structure where seven steel pipes allow for well regulated filling according to operational requirements. The outlet structure is situated on the opposite side of the reservoir to ensure a certain water circulation of the stored water. The draw-off is controlled by valves outside the reservoir.

Design of the Asphalt Lining

The lining consists of a binder layer of 8 cm thickness and a sealing layer of 6 cm thickness. Crucial for the good performance of the asphalt lining under water load are the connections to the concrete structures within the reservoir, in case of Grand Omar Mukhtar Reservoir, the inlet and outlet structure on floor level. In both cases, special designs have been applied, taking into account the flexibility of the asphalt and the rigidity of the concrete. Possible differential deformations between asphalt lining and concrete structure require a special watertight joint construction design. A copper sheet which is clamped to the concrete and installed in loop profile will overbridge a possible opening of the joint between asphalt sealing and concrete wall and thus guarantee a watertight sealing system even in this critical area and under unfavourable load conditions. All construction material such as joint filler, copper sheet and clamping plate not only fulfilled the specified high quality standard but they have been successfully applied on numerous similar projects. At the dam crest the lining is connected to the wave wall. The joint is above the reservoir water level and therefore not exposed to a permanent static water pressure. Expensive joint construction is not required. The joint is filled with highly elastic joint filler which has good bond to both the concrete wave wall and the asphalt lining.

Asphaltic Concrete Mix Design

As a mixture of crushed coarse aggregates, sand, filler and bitumen, with a suitable mix composition and if professionally placed, asphaltic concrete can be manufactured in a way to be technically impermeable. The mix design had also to consider flexibility and stability characteristics under extreme temperature variations of more than 70K. This was established on the construction site laboratory with support of Strabags laboratory in Cologne, following the MS-2 Guidelines of the American Asphalt Institute which define in detail all required steps for the design evaluation. After verification of the specified quality on field tests outside and within the permanent works, full scale asphalt placing started in November 2005.

Production of the Asphaltic Concrete

In order to produce high quality hydraulic asphalt, a conventional asphalt mixing plant which was already on the construction site had to be technically modified and adapted to the specified

412 American Standard. This included mainly an electronically controlled mixing process with automatic recording of main mixing parameters such as weights, temperatures at various process steps and mixing times. The fully computerised plant was equipped with a precise weighting system that ensured a highly accurate and consistent mix composition, as for example a variation in the bitumen content of less than 0,1 %. The production capacity of the mixing plant was at 140 tons per hour for binder asphalt and 120 tons per hour for dense asphalt, which allowed for a continuous asphalt placing process of one placing unit. For the entire asphalt lining covering an area of more than one mill m2, in total 370.000 tons of asphalt were produced between November 2005 and January 2007. All aggregates were taken from a limestone quarry situated 25 km from the construction site. Within the scope of the quality control, all components of the asphalt mix were tested regularly in the asphalt site laboratory.

Placing of the asphalt lining

On the embankment slope, the drainage zone and the asphalt lining were placed with special paving equipment. All machines working on the slope were held and moved by winch wagons which operated on the embankment crest (Figure 2). The paving machine equipped with a high compaction screed, worked in a vertical direction placing asphalt from bottom to top in a width of 5,5 m each lane. In order to allow for a continuous paving process, a supply cart transported the asphalt from the crest to the paving machine. Final compaction of the asphalt was achieved by vibratory rollers which ran on separate winch wagons. On the floor a conventional road finisher with a high compaction screed was used (Figure 3).

Figure 2: Asphalt placing on the reservoir slope


Figure 3: Reservoir lining under construction In this way the binder and dense asphalt layer were placed in two consecutive stages. After verifying the specified quality of the sealing by various tests, a hot mastic coating was spread on top of the lining at a thickness of 1,5 to 2 mm. The coating consists of approx. 30 % bitumen and 70 % of filler. Due to the high sun intensity in Libya, a stabilising agent was added to the bitumen. This final coating will protect the sealing against the ageing effects of the sun radiation, thus conserving the high quality characteristics of the sealing for decades.

Sequence of Construction

In order to shorten the overall construction period, placing of the drainage zone on the slope started when approximately 30 % of the embankment was still uncompleted and before the asphalt mixing plant was operational. After execution of successful field tests, asphalt placing started in one shift, and in spring 2006 a night shift was added for asphalt placing on the reservoir floor. Mainly for safety reasons, slope placing was restricted to the day shift. Whereas interruption of asphalt works by rain were limited to a few events during the winter season, dust and sand storms from the Sahara desert disturbed the placing works more frequently and more severely. In order to minimise interference between earth works and asphalt works and to avoid interruptions, careful work planning with permanent adjustment to the actual work progress was crucial for success. As a result of good co-operation the performance of the placing works met the schedule and only four months after hand over of the last dam section, which included almost 30 % of the entire slope section, the asphalt works were completed.


Monitoring System

In order to collect and monitor any seepage through the lining a ring drainage has been installed along the dam toe which is connected to the drainage layer of the slope. Seepage water from the reservoir slopes can be localised by fibre optical cable which has been installed at the toe of the drainage zone. In addition, the water tables below and around the reservoir are monitored accurately by piezometer boreholes which have been drilled from the dam crest and the surrounding area to a depth below the ground water table.

10 Impounding
Impounding of the reservoir will start in July 2007 after commissioning the pumping and conveying system that will feed the reservoir with water. According to the designers programme the filling procedure will be carried out in defined steps and will take approximately six months in total.

The author wishes to thank all Parties involved in the construction works namely the Owner of the reservoir, the Great Man-Made River Utilization Authority and their Consultant Brown and Root North Africa as well as the local Main Contractor General Company for Building and Construction and their Consultant LTCC from Benghazi.

Authors Address and Affiliation

Schmid, Reinhard, Dr.-Ing. Strabag International GmbH 50679 Kln Germany