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J Coast Conserv (2008) 12:11–17

DOI 10.1007/s11852-008-0023-x

Geosynthetics in protection against erosion for river

and coastal banks and marine and hydraulic construction
A. Koffler & M. Choura & A. Bendriss & E. Zengerink

Received: 13 March 2008 / Accepted: 4 September 2008 / Published online: 25 September 2008
# Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008

Abstract Geosynthetic products offer owners, engineers, Keywords Geosynthetics . Reinforcement .

and contractors a safe and economical solution to everyday Environmental protection . Coastal protection .
engineering challenges and construction requirements. Used Offshore engineering
as replacements to natural materials, geosynthetic products
include a wide range of functions such as filtration, drainage,
separation and reinforcement requirements. The wide range Introduction
of geosynthetic use includes landfill caps and base liner
applications, environmental protection under roads and The use of geotextile in civil engineering applications is
railways, containment structures, dams, canals, ponds, rivers large and has expanded very rapidly worldwide especially
and lakes, coastal and offshore protection. However, their during the last decade. Supported by the technological
potential in other applications is only limited by convention. boom, geotextiles have invaded a large variety of domains
With the use of geosynthetics, most geotechnical structures and won trust and esteem around the world because of
can be improved and the design lifetime can be dramatically the advantages they guarantee in terms of easiness and
increased. Additionally new modern design approaches are flexibility of use, softness (as compared to monolithic and
often only possible with the use of geosynthetics. Because of rock constructions), rapidity of installation and long-term
the strong development of the various industries all around efficacy. As the use of geotextile fabrics has expanded,
the world the development and challenge of the use of there has been the introduction of geotextile composites
geosynthetics in geotechnical, hydraulic, coastal and off- and the development of products such as geogrids and
shore engineering should be of special interest. Based on meshes.
engineering approaches and installed projects, this paper will Surveying some types of geotextile and related products
cover the state-of-the-art of geosynthetics use in environmen- and their application in concrete sites in different parts of the
tal applications, as well as in hydraulic, coastal protection world provides a better idea about the product and its
and offshore engineering structures and also discuss the applicability to various areas of civil and marine engineering.
benefits of geosynthetics to modern building technology.

Erosion in marine and hydraulic engineering

Geosynthetics appeared as early as in 1953 after the

A. Koffler : A. Bendriss : E. Zengerink
collapse of protection dykes of the Netherlands shore;
Ten Cate Geosynthetics Europe, which led to a great material loss as well as the death of a
Paris, France big number of people. To avoid recurrence of such a
disaster, the Netherlands hydraulic engineers thought of new
M. Choura (*) methods and materials to build a solid coastal protection
URGMC-National School of Engineers, University of Sfax,
Sfax, Tunisia among which was introduced the use of geosynthetics. The
e-mail: chouramed@yahoo.fr first generation of woven geosynthetics was developed as a
12 A. Koffler et al.

contained soil. According to field applications, these

envelopes take one of the following geometrical shapes:
– A tubular long structure, filled through injection on
site, or geotube
– A submarine structure with a large volume installed
with a split bottom hopper barge with a very large-
sized geotextile bag or geocontainer
– Bags of a small volume or geobag

Fig. 1 Geotube equipped by a scour apron Tubular structure or geotube

A tubular structure is a structure in the form of a tube made

means of filtration to reinforce the soil and fight erosion for of a highly-resistant geotextile woven envelope filled with
the sake of coastal structure protection. Innovative solutions materials. Sand is the best filling material, mostly thanks
have continued during the past twenty years especially to its incompressibility; but other types of pumpable inert
targeting erosion problems caused by waves actions, tides, materials can also be used.
streams, and all other types of water movements (French The structure is built on site and filled through hydraulic
2001, 141–164). pumping of local materials inside the envelope. Geotubes
The consequence of erosion can range from simple loss allow the creation of a structure that is flexible, monolithic,
of coastal areas to scouring and break down of structures. continual, and very resistant to water forces.
As a reaction to the great danger of this natural phenom- The tube is made of a special geotextile produced to suit
enon, a variety of preventing measures are used to reduce specific types of applications. The geotextile has small pores
the power of water which acts on erodable structures. These capable of retaining the injected materials and allowing, due to
measures are mostly: a great permeability, the flow out of water during the pumping
phase. In addition, the geotextile, as well as the seam, is highly
– Geometric measures where the form of the structure is
strong, to resist the high tensions occurring during the
modified to reduce the power of water below a
hydraulic filling and maintain its geometrical shape.
minimum level.
The tubes are custom-made and supplied in various sizes
– Stability measures, where the exposed structure is
and lengths to suit design and installation requirements,
protected against erosion through the stabilization of
with a great variety of diameters and lengths according to
the erodable soil. Revetment by means of geosynthetics
specific applications. The structure is normally dimen-
filters can serve as a good example for this measure.
sioned by the theoretical diameter, the circumference and
– External measures, where the exposed structure is
the length. The theoretical diameter of the tube normally
preserved against erosion with a protection construction
ranges from 1.50 m to 5 m. Each tube is produced according
placed at a specific location depending on its response.
to the technical properties of the sewing technology which
Some examples are submarine breakwaters, groins,
dykes, dams, artificial islands, etc (Dean and Dalrymple
2002, 406–407).
This paper considers principally the last type of
measures. Field applications are described and conclusions
concerning the economical, environmental and technical
benefits of geosynthetics are drawn.

The use of geosynthetics for soil confinement

The woven geosynthetics, most of the time made of

polypropylene, are used for the confinement of soils in a
variety of marine and hydraulic structures (Reiffsteck 2003
33–37, 81–96). In this type of technique, the local soil,
generally sand, is placed in a geosynthetic envelope which
procures an external protection avoiding the loss of the Fig. 2 A split bottom hopper barge dropping a geocontainer
Geosynthetics in protection against erosion for river and coastal banks and marine and hydraulic construction 13

Fig. 3 Aerial view of the artificial islands under construction

Fig. 5 Installation of a geotube

guarantees that the envelope is strong enough all along its A mixture of sand and water is pumped into the tube. The
area. Filling is carried out on site through a series of inlet sand settles inside the geotube and the water “bleeds” from
ports placed on a regular basis along the tube. the pores of the geotextile and the filling progresses. So, the
The various projects carried out by TENCATE NICOLON inlet ports that are not used during the filling operation
during the last decade led to the deduction that after filling, should be left open to allow the evacuation of excess water.
the structure does not reach the same height as the theoretical When the tube is filled to the required height, the inlet ports
diameter; but a maximum height of 60 to 70% of the di- are seamed.
ameter, depending on filling methods and whether filling
occurs below or above water surface. In special cases where Envelope or “geocontainer”
a greater contact area between the tube and the ground is
needed, only partial filling is carried out. Envelopes are large-sized geotextile bags containing a great
This structure can also be equipped by a scour apron volume of dredged soil or inert materials. They are sank in
(Fig. 1). The scour apron protects the base of the tube and water by means of a split bottom hopper barge (Fig. 2). The
reinforces its stability on ground. The scour apron may be envelope is made of a geotextile especially manufactured
placed under the tube and on both sides or just on one side, for that kind of application (Lenze and Klompmoker 2005).
depending on the type of structure and the placement site. It The geotextile has a high strength allowing it to resist the
is placed before settling the tube structure then two little different solicitations engendered by filling and installation.
anchor tubes are installed on both sides and filled hydrau- The envelopes are prefabricated in factory according to the
lically to serve as a ballast at the edge of the scour apron. split barge size. The geocontainer's volume is between
Different types of pumps are used to carry out the filling, 100 m3 and 600 m3. The filling and installation process
ranging from unsophisticated sinkable pumps to huge goes through different steps: The empty envelope is placed
dredging pumps according to the needs. The type of in the barge. The barge is then filled with materials, and
pumping system depends on the importance and complexity after that, the envelope is closed with special sewing. The
of the project and the specificity of the site. The hydraulic split barge goes to the sinkage point and sinks the envelope
pump is connected to local inlet ports placed along the tube. to a depth of −5 m to −20 m.

Fig. 4 Cross section of a geotube containment dyke Fig. 6 Installation of an upper geotube
14 A. Koffler et al.

Fig. 7 Installation of a geotube (during the filling) Fig. 9 Wave and surge attacking geotube during construction

Bag or “geobag” The project was carried out in two stages. The first stage
involved the installation of the structure at an approximate
Geobag elements are big geotextile bags filled with sand. height of 2.6 m followed by hydraulic filling of sand behind
Geobags are also custom-made and supplied in various the geotube (Fig. 5). The second stage involved the
forms and sizes. Each unit may typically contain from 1 m3 installation of another geotube (Fig. 6) followed by further
to over 10 m3 of soil. The bag is made of a high-strength hydraulic filling of sand to achieve the finished platform
geotextile designed according to installation requirements. level of CD + 3.60 m. Upon completion of the project, a
A special geotextile, capable of retaining the sand materials rock armour of 60 kg to 300 kg was placed in front of the
and allowing at the same time a great permeability, is geotube dyke. Eventually, submerged reef breakwaters
manufactured for that type of application. were constructed about 300 m from the geotubes to create
perched artificial beaches.

Concrete examples of application Protection dyke - Sea Isle City, New Jersey, USA

TENCATE NICOLON is considered as one of the leading With each hurricane season, Sea Isle City, on the Atlantic
firms in the field of geotextile. The following chapter is a coast, would be subjected to strong winds and waves that
review of some of its projects realised in different parts of would cause extensive flooding along coastal areas. Damaged
the world using the above mentioned innovative techniques. costs were continually large. For this reason, Geotubes were
used to internally reinforce a frontal sand dune to protect the
Amwaj Islands, Bahrain coastal road and properties in Sea Isle City from flooding.
The geotubes (construction steps illustrated in Figs. 7, 8,
About 30 km of geotubes were used to build the 9 and 10), buried within the frontal sand dune, prevent the
containment dykes (Fig. 4) to settle artificial islands for protection dyke from breaching during heavy storms. They
the Amwaj Islands Project (Fig. 3) in Bahrain. (Fowler et are also placed inside the dune in order to protect the dyke
al. 2002). structure from erosion.

Fig. 10 Since the installation of the protection dyke, no further

Fig. 8 Installation of a geotube (filling completed) flooding has occurred
Geosynthetics in protection against erosion for river and coastal banks and marine and hydraulic construction 15

Fig. 11 Placing of sand fill into geocontainer

Fig. 13 Dropping of filled geocontainer

Buttress support -Zoutkamp, The Netherlands The construction of the different hydraulic works con-
sisted of:
Geocontainers were used to build submerged containment
– The demolition of the drain off-work and construction
dykes in order to reconstruct a failed underwater slope that
of a new one.
was threatening to undermine an adjacent gas pipeline.
– The building of a new tower for the drinkable water
The reconstruction of the slope involved several tiers
and a connecting gallery (700 m, diameter 3 m).
of geocontainer dykes and backfilling combinations. The
– The building of another tower and an emptying gallery
containment dykes were constructed using geocontainers
(240 m, diameter 5.50 m).
with sand used as the fill material (settlement steps illustrated
in Figs. 11, 12, 13 and 14). The lowest tier of geocontainers The project obviously needed protection on the upper
was founded about 20 m below water surface level. The side of the channel. For this reason, a temporary protection
results were totally positive: the project was extremely cost– dam with a height of 6 m was installed. It had to be stable
effective and successful. The slope has been stabilized with and submersible in cases of high water level during the
the innovative use of geocontainers. construction period.
Initially, a solution was proposed to build a dam made of
Construction of a dam, near Rabat, Morocco soil and rock materials. Then, the contractor, supported by
the firm, proposed an alternative solution suggesting the use
The dam of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, near Rabat of geotubes and geomembranes, which offered numerous
(Figs. 15 and 16) is an important source of potable water advantages and avoided difficulties in particular access and
for about 30% of the Moroccan people living in the Atlantic subaqueous filling up ones.
coastal zone, from Rabat to Casablanca. It was inevitable to The suggested solution was principally based on the use
increase the dam's height in order to double its size and of geotubes (Figs. 17 and 18), filled with sand by means of
capacity (from 480 Mm3 to 1,025 Mm3) to be able to fulfil hydraulic pumping to build a stable dam of 60 m length.
the needs up to 2025. Three geotubes had to be installed: two on the bottom

Fig. 12 Opening of split bottom barge Fig. 14 Cross section of geocontainer dyke
16 A. Koffler et al.

Fig. 17 Floating platform for the laying of geotube

Fig. 15 Initial site of the dam of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah

The new technique allowed the project to be completed

and one on top, covered with a geomembrane securing
within a period of two months in spite of technological and
the impermeability.
logistical difficulties. It was however possible to do the
The operation needed the following dispositions:
same in only one month in normal conditions.
– Three geotubes of 65 m length and 15 m circumference
with a filling height of 3 m.
– A geomembrane of 34 m×80 m, delivered in two
pieces, welded together on site.
When geotextile was first introduced, its application was
– 4,000 m3 of sand coming from beaches in the region.
extremely limited. However, it is now used worldwide and
– 1,000 bags for ballasting.
for different aims. In fact, it is today famous, among others,
– Ropes.
as an efficient means for fighting erosion and protecting
– TOYO DP50B pump with capacity of 400 m3/h and
marine and hydraulic constructions thanks to its highly
elaborate composition and the development of its tech-
– 15 floating platforms, built on site.
niques of realisation and makeup. Its application in concrete
– Two cranes with top-mast of 50 m length.
sites proved its merits in terms of easiness (use of sand
– Prefabricated concrete elements to put on the sides
as a construction material substituting rock and other
against the rock walls.
quarry materials), cost-effectiveness (transportation, im-
– Sectional iron HEB 180, screw bolts.
plementation...) rapidity and durability.
– Team of divers.
Certainly, the previously realised projects, as well as their
The Geomembrane was anchored at the bottom on both monitoring will take part in the prediction of the medium and
sides of the dam and against the prefabricated concrete long term performance of geosynthetic structures and the
element on the two sides. broadening of their application.

Fig. 16 Dam of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah finished Fig. 18 Filling of geotubes
Geosynthetics in protection against erosion for river and coastal banks and marine and hydraulic construction 17

References Lenze B, Klompmoker J (2005) Geotextile containers- successful

solutions against beach erosion and scour problems under
hydrodynamic loads; ICCCM'05 “International Conference On
Dean RG, Dalrymple RA (2002) Costal processes with engineering Coastal Conservation and Managment in the Atlantic and
applications Mediterranean; Tavira, Portugal: 17–20 April
Fowler J et al (2002) World Dredging. Min Constr 10(38) Reiffsteck P (2003) Recommandations pour l”utilisation des géo-
French PW (2001) Coastal defences processes, problems and solutions synthétiques dans la lutte contre l'érosion, Janvier