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21st Century Dam Design — Advances and Adaptations 31st Annual USSD Conference San Diego, California,

21st Century Dam Design — Advances and Adaptations

31st Annual USSD Conference San Diego, California, April 11-15, 2011

Hosted by Black & Veatch Corporation GEI Consultants, Inc. Kleinfelder, Inc. MWH Americas, Inc. Parsons Water and Infrastructure Inc. URS Corporation

On the Cover

Artist's rendition of San Vicente Dam after completion of the dam raise project to increase local storage and provide a more flexible conveyance system for use during emergencies such as earthquakes that could curtail the region’s imported water supplies. The existing 220-foot-high dam, owned by the City of San Diego, will be raised by 117 feet to increase reservoir storage capacity by 152,000 acre-feet. The project will be the tallest dam raise in the United States and tallest roller compacted concrete dam raise in the world.

U.S. Society on Dams


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Mission USSD is dedicated to:

• Advancing the knowledge of dam engineering, construction, planning, operation, performance, rehabilitation, decommissioning, maintenance, security and safety;

• Fostering dam technology for socially, environmentally and financially sustainable water resources systems;

• Providing public awareness of the role of dams in the management of the nation's water resources;

• Enhancing practices to meet current and future challenges on dams; and

• Representing the United States as an active member of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD).

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Copyright © 2011 U.S. Society on Dams Printed in the United States of America Library of Congress Control Number: 2011924673 ISBN 978-1-884575-52-5

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Rafael Ibáñez de Aldecoa 1 Gonzalo Noriega 2 Antonio Sandoval 3 Miguel Sanz 4


La Breña II is a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) straight gravity dam located on the Guadiato River, about 25 km southwest to the city of Cordoba in Southern Spain. With a height of 119 m, and RCC volume of 1.4x10 6 m 3 -out of a total of 1.6x 10 6 m 3 of concrete placed-, La Breña II is the largest RCC dam built in Europe. The use of a high (230 kg/m 3) cementitious content RCC mix, of which 70% was to be flyash, required a total flyash consumption of roughly 225,000 t during a planned 20 month construction period. This would have required an average flyash supply of approximately 11,000 t/month, with peaks on the order of 21,000 t/month and 1,100 t/day. In depth market investigation showed that, even monopolizing the flyash supply available from several Spanish and Italian thermal power plants, it was very uncertain to fulfill the target. Therefore an alternative using a second type of mineral admixture that would reduce the need for flyash was carefully studied.

The chosen option was to use a limestone filler that complies with the European Standard EN 197-1 as a suitable mineral admixture with required cementitious properties, which could be used by cement manufacturers to produce certain types of common cements. The use of this limestone dust in the RCC mix for La Breña II, in a proportion of 20% by weight with respect to the total cementitious materials, resulted in satisfactory long term concrete strengths that met the project requirements and exceeded all expectations.

La Breña II RCC dam is owned by AcuaSur, the designer for the Construction Design was Idom, the site engineer Initec Infraestructuras, and the contractor Dragados S.A.


Flyash as a mineral admixture to replace a certain amount of cement has been widely used for decades, due to the favorable properties that it provides to the concrete, whether it be in its fresh state, making the placement easier, or in its hardened form reducing the heat of hydration and providing greater strength in the long term. All of these benefits are

1 Head Hydraulic Works Division, Dragados S.A., Avda. Camino de Santiago, 50, 28050 Madrid, Spain, ribanezl@dragados.com [Member of SPANCOLD]

2 Portugues RCC Dam Construction Manager, Dragados-USA, Road PR10, km 5.5, Ponce, PR 00731, gnoriega@dragados-USA.com [La Breña II RCC Dam Construction Manager]

3 Water Supply and Irrigation Technical Manager, acuaSur, Pza. Cuba, 9, 41011 Seville, Spain, antonio.sandoval@acuasur.es [La Breña II RCC Dam Project Manager]

4 Hydraulic Works Division, Dragados S.A., Avda. Camino de Santiago, 50, 28050 Madrid, Spain, msanzs@dragados.com

very adequate to mass concrete for dams. In addition to those technical advantages, the use of flyash often reduces the overall cost for cementitious material.

In Europe, the Standard EN 197-1 “Composition, Specifications and Conformity Criteria for Common Cements”, gathers the classifications of the common cements. In such classifications there appear various types of cement that incorporate, in different proportions, flyash obtained from electrostatic precipitation in the thermal power plants fed with pulverized coal. These cements include CEM II/A-V, CEM II/B-V, CEM II/A- M, CEM II/B-M, CEM IV/A, CEM IV/B, CEM V/A, CEM V/B, etc. Since the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the use of flyash as a substitute for the clinker in the cementitious material for concrete dams has broadened. This substitution started at the order of 30%, and over time it reached up to 50% in conventional concrete dams. Unless noted otherwise, all percentage values shown in this paper are by weight. The incorporation of flyash in the cementitious content could take place in the concrete batch plant of the project or at a cement factory, adopting in this second case, one of the on- factory cements previously mentioned.

In the early and mid 80’s the technique of roller compacted concrete for dam construction was introduced in some countries, including Spain. In this type of dam the substitution of the clinker using flyash was even greater, common percentages of flyash being from 60% to 70% above the total of the bonding material.

Flyash, a by-product of coal thermal power plants, was a relatively inexpensive product and available in “unlimited” quantities meeting the needs of a huge concrete dam. However, with time it became an expensive product and hard to get in large quantities, due to the fact that most of the Spanish coal thermal power plants (as probably in many other countries too) have much of their production engaged, directly or through an intermediary, with the companies producing cement. The benefits mentioned previously from using flyash have enormously increased the employment of the type II, IV and V cements that incorporate flyash, in a variety of uses besides building concrete dams.

Upon undertaking the construction of La Breña II Dam in Cordoba, the largest RCC Dam in Europe and due to the problem of not having enough flyash available to satisfy the required high consumptions, the search for alternative solutions was compelling.


After scheduling of the job, which involved a very strict deadline, the specific needs of most important materials that dictated the critical path of the job were determined. Based on the required RCC volume and construction schedule, the need for flyash was estimated as follows:

Total volume of RCC =1,400,000 m 3 Execution time = 20 months Typical dosage of cementitious material = 230 kg per cubic meter of concrete Flyash percentage of total cementitious material (by weight) = 70%

Average monthly consumption of flyash = 11,000 t/month Peak monthly consumption = 21,000 t/month Peak daily placement of RCC = 7,000 m 3 /day Peak daily flyash consumption = 1,100 t /day

Given the extent of the needs of flyash an extensive market investigation was undergone which showed that even supplying ash from various Spanish thermal power plants and supplementing with ash from Italian power plants, it would be very uncertain to meet the project requirements.

In addition, some of the thermal power plants we relied on as our main sources of supply of flyash could not guarantee a minimum supply since production was impacted by unpredictable factors such as the climate. In years where the hydrology is favorable the needs of production of electrical energy with thermal power plants diminishes and vice versa. Additionally, the power plants have mandatory maintenance stops, and in some cases these stops coincided with the months of highest RCC placement at La Breña II.

Therefore we were forced to seek alternatives to reduce the need of flyash for the job, without altering the planned schedule of RCC placement.


We proceeded with another extensive market investigation of cement manufacturers to search for other possible admixtures besides flyash. The study focused on two main aspects including use of commercially available cement “customized” to meet specific requirements of the project, and use of natural pozzolans, ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS), or limestone filler as a second admixture to reduce the need for flyash.

In principle, customizing cement for a large-sized job like La Breña II is feasible. However, the solution of using a sole product like cement type CEM II, III, IV or V supplied from a cement factory was not economic for various reasons. For instance, the composition of the cement “customized” for the requirements of our case did not agree with the standard production of cement factories, and a high level of consumption (nearly 30,000 t/month during peak months) posed problems of supply to their regular customers. Those problems could be solved, but always at extreme cost. Therefore, the approach to customize a single type of cement was not studied further.

The other possible solution was to mix a cement type CEM I with two mineral admixtures on site. This approach was perfectly acceptable since some factory- manufactured cements already incorporate two or even more admixtures, as it is the case of cement types CEM II-composed, CEM IV and CEM V (from European Standard EN


The second aspect of the study was to find a second source of mineral admixture that would decrease the need of flyash. The sources of supply for natural pozzolans, GGBFS or limestone filler were searched and evaluated. Of the first two materials no conclusive

possibilities of reliable supplies were found. However, some potential limestone filler sources were found.

The investigation then focused on locating a limestone filler source that would comply with the properties required for it to be considered as an active mineral admixture with cementitious properties. The possible use of limestone filler for such endeavor was based on the following published standards and practices:

Standard EN 197-1 contemplates limestone filler as a possible component of a common cement, as long as it meets predetermined technical requirements; Standard EN 197-1 contemplates cements with limestone filler additions of up to 35% (e.g. types CEM II/A-L and LL, and types CEM II/B–L and LL); Standard EN 197-1 contemplates cements with limestone filler additions together with other additions, including flyash (e.g. types CEM II/A-M and CEM II/B-M); ICOLD Bulletin N o 126 “State of the Art of RCC Dams”, Section 3.2 “Cementitious Materials” cites limestone filler as a possible source for admixture; and The use of limestone filler as an active mineral admixture was considered by the Joint Venture which Dragados was part of in the laboratory tests performed for the RCC dam of Sa Stria, in Sardinia, Italy. [3]

Based on the supply availability and previous study results, we chose limestone filler as a possible source of second admixture to be further tested and investigated.


The limestone filler that was finally chosen came from an industrial installation in the vicinity of Estepa, in the province of Seville, about 105 km away from the damsite. The following are the main characteristics of the chosen limestone filler (the values shown in parenthesis are those required in Standard EN 197-1):

CaCO 3 content = 99% by mass (75%) Clay content 0.7 g/100 g (< 1.20 g/100 g) Total Organic Carbon (TOC) content 0.10% mass (< 0.20% for cements type LL and < 0.50% for type L) Density = 2.822 g/cm 3 Fineness (Blaine) = 454 m 2 /kg

Although the material very comfortably complied with the Standard EN 197-1, it was decided to do particular additional tests, with the objective of determining if the limestone filler complied with specific requirements of a flyash for its use as an active mineral admixture in a common cement. The following were the tests made for this purpose (the values in parenthesis are those required in European Standard EN 450-1 for flyash):

Fineness, retained in # 0.090 mm = 16% (not specified) Fineness, retained in # 0.063 mm = 20% (not specified) Fineness, retained in # 0.045 mm = 30% (< 40%) Strength Activity Index at 7 days = 76.7% (not specified) Strength Activity Index at 28 days = 83.5% (> 75%) Strength Activity Index at 90 days = 86.7% (> 75%)

Additionally, the tests for the Strength Activity Index were also made in compliance with Standard ASTM C-618 in which, as a bonding material, a mixture of 80% clinker + 20% flyash (limestone filler in this case) must be used instead of the 75% clinker + 25% flyash specified in the European Standard. The results are (the values in parenthesis are those required in Standard ASTM C-618):

Strength Activity Index at 7 days = 81.8% (> 75%) Strength Activity Index at 28 days = 85.7% (> 75%) Strength Activity Index at 90 days = 87.2% (not specified)

The test results demonstrated that the strength activity of the chosen limestone filler met the requirements specified for a flyash, and therefore it was proved that the filler material would make its contribution to the development of RCC strength.


The concrete plant, consisting of two twin batching-mixing plants for a joint production of 500 m 3 /h of RCC, was at the beginning designed to work with two different cementitious materials. The storage capacity foreseen for the bonding materials was planned with 6 silos of 1000 t capacity each, enough so as to have a reserve on the job equivalent to 5 days of peak placement of RCC. In principle we had foreseen 2 silos for cement and 4 silos for flyash.

Working with three different cementitious materials we changed the above approach; we assigned 2 silos for cement, 3 for flyash and 1 for limestone filler. But the main problem that turned up was the transportation of the bonding materials to the concrete plants, which at the beginning were to be three lines of pneumatic conveyors, one for every two silos, designed for a unitary performance of 50 t/h.

Each of the two concrete plants was arranged with 2 silos of 100 t and 2 weighing scales to work with only two cementitious materials. Therefore, two of the three bonding materials had to be pre-dosed and pre-mixed before arriving to these silos. To establish the process, tests were made with the three products, verifying their density, fluidity, etc. Those results allowed us to assign a supply line for the cement and the other two lines for the flyash+filler mix, with a dosage for these, by flow, in the required proportions.

The synoptic chart Fig. 1, showes the fittings and operation of the system to feed from the 6 big master silos of 1000 t to the four small 100 t silos above the concrete plants. Fig. 2 shows an aerial view of the concrete production facilities.

Figure 1. Synoptic chart of th e cementitious materials pneumatic transport system Coarse aggregate silos

Figure 1. Synoptic chart of the cementitious materials pneumatic transport system

Coarse aggregate silos (3 x 3600 t) Fine aggregate silos (2 x 1300 t) Wet
Coarse aggregate silos (3 x 3600 t)
Fine aggregate silos
(2 x 1300 t)
Wet belts
Water cooling plants
Cementitious silos (6 x 1000 t)
Mixing plants 4 mixers x 4 m 3
Ice flakes plants (2 x 90 t/day)
Batching plants 2 x 250 m 3 /h

Figure 2. Aerial view of the plant for RCC production

The mixture of flyash and limestone filler is produced in the bins of two of the pneumatic transport lines, acting over the speed of the corresponding screw conveyor feeders whose values are adjusted by means of a variable-frequency drive. The proportions of the mixture depend on the respective speed of each screw conveyor of flyash and filler that feed the bin. Once the dosage to use is known, these speeds depend on the bulk density of the two products. Reliability of the mixture is controlled by means of swing detectors for the screw conveyors and material flow detectors at the drop toward the bins.


First of all, indicate that the design age for the RCC strengths was established at 180 days. Concrete with high mineral admixture content (depending on the mineral admixture) usually continue gaining strength well beyond the age of 90 days. This control age of 90 days is typical for conventional concrete dams, in which the proportion of cement substituted by mineral admixture is usually lower than in RCC dams, and was of common use in RCC dams some years ago. But in modern RCC projects the control age has been expanded to at least 180 days, and preferably one year.

Taking into account the high increase in strength obtained from 180 days to one year, further discussed in the next section, it would have been more appropriate for this project to have selected one year for the design age instead 180 days. We have to recognize that when developing the Construction Design for the job, it was to be the first dam design in Spain in which a design age beyond 90 days was to be implemented, and we remained a bit conservative in this respect.

The required strengths in the Specifications of the Construction Design of the project were the following:

Direct tensile strength of RCC cores across lift joints = 0.875 MPa at 180 days

This value was derived from the maximum value of the vertical tension obtained in a finite elements thermal stress-strain analysis [5] [Fig. 3] which resulted in 0.75 MPa (discarding isolated higher values located in singular areas, as in the corners of the galleries), allowing for a rounded safety margin of +15%. This margin could seem very strict, but we counted also on the certainty of the RCC strength improvement beyond 180 days and, additionally, the damsite is located in an area with very low seismicity.

Compressive strength of RCC cylinders = 17.5 MPa at 180 days

Other large RCC dam projects were considered where the actual ratio between the two aforementioned strengths was found to be mostly in the range of 16 to 18 (e.g. Beni Haroun in Algeria [6] and Porce II in Colombia [2], among others). To be on the safe side, we adopted a value of 20 for such ratio, which led to a compressive strength of 0.875 x 20 = 17.5 MPa for the design age.

It should also be mentioned that at the time of elaborating the Construction Design, the possibility of using a mineral admixture other than flyash in the RCC mix was not considered at all.

other than flyash in the RCC mix was not considered at all. Figure 3. Figures from

Figure 3. Figures from the finite elements thermal stress-strain analysis


Based on review of the results from the previous laboratory tests, the Full-Scale Trial (FST) placement that was carried out in November 2006 used an RCC mix with 220 kg/m 3 of total cementitious materials of which 40% was pure cement (EN 197-1 CEM I/42,5 R-SR), 40% flyash, and 20% limestone filler. Concrete set retarders were also tested during the Trial placement.

Fig. 4 shows cores 3 m-long and 120 mm in diameter extracted from the FST. Afterwards they were prepared to perform direct tensile strength tests across lift joints [Fig. 5].

direct tensil e strength tests across lift joints [Fig. 5]. Figure 4. Cores 3 m-long, 120

Figure 4. Cores 3 m-long, 120 mm-diameter, extracted from the Full Scale Trial

Figure 5. Direct tensile streng th test on jointed core perf ormed at laboratory on

Figure 5. Direct tensile strength test on jointed core performed at laboratory on site

The RCC compressive strengths obtained at 90 days at the Trial Placement were lower than those inferred from the previous laboratory tests. Although it was estimated that at 180 days the strengths would surpass the target value established in the Specifications, it was decided to begin the placement of the RCC in the body of the dam with a slightly richer dosage of cement, with the idea of eventually adjusting the cement content downward as we obtained more consistent statistical results of the strengths during the course of RCC placement.

The three most significant mixes used were:

Mix 1: 230 kg/m 3 total cementitious, with 43.5% cement + 43.5% flyash + 13% filler Mix 2: 230 kg/m 3 total cementitious, with 35% cement + 45% flyash + 20% filler Mix 3: 230 kg/m 3 total cementitious, with 30% cement + 50% flyash + 20% filler

The compressive strengths obtained with each one of them are shown in Fig. 6.

Emphasis must be made on the high compressive strength values attained at 365 days. For example, Mix 3, the mostly used for construction, showed the amazing improvement of strength from 90 days (R 90 ) to one year (R 365 ), resulting in:

R 365 /R 90 = 29.5/18.6 = 1.59

or an increase of nearly 60% from the 90-day strength.

From 90 days to the design age of 180days, the RCC strength increase was:

R 180 /R 90 = 24.5/18.6 = +32%

From the design age of 180 days to one year, the RCC strength increase was:

R 365 /R 180 = 29.5/24.5 = +20%

The similar ratios for Mix 2 were:

R 365 /R 90 = 31.1/21.4 = +45%

R 180 /R 90 = 28.0/21.4 = +31%

R 365 /R 180 = 31.1/28.0 = +11%

= +31% R 3 6 5 /R 1 8 0 = 31.1/28.0 = +11% Figure 6.

Figure 6. Compressive strengths of the different RCC mixes

Regarding the direct tensile strength of RCC cores across lift joints corresponding to dam construction, all the tests were performed at approximately the design age of 180 days. The results were, on average:

Mix 2: 1.47 MPa at approx. 180 days

Mix 3: 1.12 MPa at approx. 180 days

For comparison, the RCC mix used in construction of Beni Haroun RCC Dam in Algeria [6] had:

225 kg/m 3 total cementitious, with 36% cement + 64% flyash (+ 0% limestone filler)

that was very similar in cement and mineral admixture contents to Mix 2 of La Breña II Dam. The aforementioned ratios for Beni Haroun Dam were:

R 365 /R 90 = 33.1/23.8 = +39%

R 180 /R 90 = 29.0/23.8 = +22%

R 365 /R 180 = 33.1/29.0 = +14%

Although the sources of materials (e.g. cement, flyash, aggregates, etc.) were different for the two projects, a preliminary comparison indicate that Mix 2 of La Breña II (45% of flyash and 20% of limestone filler) produced compressive strengths similar to those of Beni Haroun (64% flyash and without limestone filler), with comparable increase of strength from 90 days to 180 days and a year. In fact, the strengths were slightly higher in the case of the mix with limestone filler.

The above comparison between the compressive strengths of the two dams is quite consistent, due to the fact of the similarities of both mixes evaluated. In Table 1 there is a summary of the main characteristics of both mixes, in order to have a better evaluation of the similarities and differences between them.

The direct tensile strength of RCC cores across lift joints in Beni Haroun, where all the test were performed at approximately 90 days (the design age for that dam), was in average 1.50 MPa, similar to that of Mix 2 of La Breña II, but at a lower age (90 days instead 180 days).

Nevertheless, it is difficult to compare results of direct tensile strength tests of RCC cores across lift joints from two different dams, even having similar RCC mixes, because bonding at the joint is influenced by multiple factors apart from the mix itself (and within this mainly the cementitious content and the volumetric paste/mortar ratio compared with the compacted sand void content), for example the RCC placement temperature, the air temperature and weather conditions during the exposure time, the exposure time, the conditions of surface curing during the exposure time, the conditions of surface cleanliness prior to next lift placement, the spreading and compaction process (e.g. occurrence of segregation, type of compactor and number of passes), the lift thickness (although it is extensively standardized to 30 cm), etc.

Table 1. Summary of main characteristics of RCC mixes used at La Breña II and Beni Haroun dams

of RCC mixes used at La Breña II and Beni Haroun dams In summary, RCC mixes

In summary, RCC mixes with 20% limestone filler in compliance with European Standard EN 197-1 were mostly used in construction of La Breña II Dam. The chosen limestone filler as a substitution of the same quantity of the flyash led to long-term RCC strengths very similar to those expected of only flyash.


At present in several countries, including Spain, the high demand coming from cement manufacturers for the flyash produced by coal thermal power plants makes it increasingly difficult to purchase huge quantities of flyash to be used in construction of large concrete dams, although such practice has regularly resulted in technical and economic benefits during the past decades.

This has promoted a search for alternative admixtures that will reduce the need for the flyash. In the case of La Breña II RCC Dam, a limestone filler which is in compliance with European Standard EN 197-1 has been found and used for substituting portion of the flyash as a mineral admixture for RCC.

The results obtained using the chosen limestone filler with a proportion of 20% of the total cementitious material, together with 50% flyash (45% in certain phase of the job), have been as satisfactory as those expected with the use of 70% flyash as the only mineral admixture.

It is important to point out that difficulties of adapting the batch plant for concrete production could arise when trying to work with three different cementitious products.

trying to work with three different cementitious products. Figure 7. Aerial view of the completed La

Figure 7. Aerial view of the completed La Breña II RCC Dam



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