March 1, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer
Rusty Morgan, P. Eng. is chief materials engineer with AMEC in Burnaby, B.C. He is also a renowned expert in shotcrete and has helped to share the technology with countries around the world. He is an ...
Rusty Morgan, P. Eng. is chief materials engineer with AMEC in Burnaby, B.C. He is also a renowned expert in shotcrete and has helped to share the technology with countries around the world. He is an author, a lecturer, and was a founding member of the American Shotcrete Association, which last year published a book of his papers in celebration of his 33-year consulting career.
Q. WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO WORK WITH SHOTCRETE IN THE BEGINNING?
I’m a civil engineer and did my Masters and doctoral thesis studies in concrete technology. Shotcrete really is just a subset of concrete technology.
I taught for seven years at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, but I had married a Canadian so we came to Vancouver in 1976 and I joined what was then R.M. Hardy and Associates.
I had a client — Target Products in Burnaby here. The owner of the company had heard of something called steel fibre reinforcement, so he asked us to look at its potential for use in shotcrete for lining tunnels.
The work was in its infancy at that time. Shotcrete had been used here in the mid-1960s for lining some tunnels, but it was just a plain, or mesh-reinforced shotcrete.
Q. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TYPES?
With mesh you have to attach it to the rock and then spray a plain shotcrete through it to get everything to adhere. The mesh gives it the tensile reinforcement.
With the fibre reinforcement you add the fibre directly to the shotcrete mixture at the batch plant. So the reinforcement is in the system when it is sprayed out of the nozzle.
Fibre reinforcement caught on and started to be widely used here in the West with our Rocky Mountains and the like. BC Rail, the BC Ministry of Highways, BC Hydro, all these organizations started using it and with considerable success.
From that I found I was getting invited to participate in transferring the technology to other countries. I worked, for example, on mining projects in Australia with an engineer from Ontario, David Wood. We went to Queensland and put on a week-long shotcrete training session there for about 60 miners from all over Australia.
At the time Australian mines were having a lot of deaths from falling rock. The government was concerned and came down heavily on the mining companies, saying that the next time someone was killed from fallen rock in the mining environment, the directors were going to jail. So there was a massive safety program to line all the drifts, declines, haulage ways and other underground openings. The companies found the technology so effective they almost eliminated injuries and certainly deaths by this process. And they found it economical because they weren’t having to go back to fix the mesh-lined rock.
Subsequently I had the opportunity to introduce the technology around the world. For example it is used throughout India on many of the hydroelectric and other underground civil engineering projects.
In the 1980s we introduced silica fume into shotcrete technology in North America, which makes the shotcrete stick better.
Q. IT MUST BE SATISFYING TO THINK THAT YOU HAVE SAVED THE LIVES OF PEOPLE BY DEVELOPING THIS TECHNOLOGY.
Yes. In Australia I saw the number of injuries and deaths plotted on the same graph as the volume of consumption of shotcrete. As the increasing consumption of shotcrete appeared in the Australian mines, so the numbers of deaths and injuries dropped dramatically in the opposite direction. It was quite striking.