May 2016, Vol. 71 No. 5


CIGMAT 2016 Focuses On Further Advancement

The Center for Innovative Grouting Materials and Technology (CIGMAT) and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Houston, hosted its 21st annual, one-day conference and exhibition on at the University of Houston, March 4. More than 330 individuals and 14 invited speakers comprised of owners, consulting engineers, material supplies, contractors and academia participated in the annual conference.

Dr. Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, P.E., professor and director of CIGMAT and the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology (THC-IT) opened the conference with welcoming comments on the need for the CIGMAT conference during the energy sectors challen-ging times, including an ever increasing need for technological advances to meet demands in population growth, complex infrastructure maintenance and industrial expansion.

During the morning’s general session, Jason Pettrey, department head of Beaumont Refinery, ExxonMobil, discussed current and future needs for energy around the world – an increasing need not only due to the growth of related industries, but also growth of the middle-class population around the world, particularly in Asia.

Issues related to the demand for oil and gas, as well as the growth of alternative energy production around the world were discussed. Following Pettrey’s presentation, Dale Rudick, director of the public works and engineering  department for the city of Houston, discussed plans for maintaining and expanding water, wastewater and other infrastructure facilities in a sustainable manner, as well as issues related to maintaining public transportation facilities, parks and streets – noting the increase in community participation in decision making processes.

To close the general session, Bill Brunick, director of planning for the Texas Department of Transportation, discussed several ongoing and new highway projects that will commence in the coming years, valued at more than several billion dollars. Additionally, Brunick discussed issues related to maintenance and funding for the department of transportation, as well as approaches being used to coordinate the efforts to maintain and expand the highways with the Texas Toll Road Authorities.

Technical sessions

Speakers from around the country took part in four technical sessions during the afternoon. The first panel discussion was entitled “Flooding, Maintenance and Geotechnical Issues,” in which Mike Talbott, director for Harris County Flood Control District, discussed successful flood damage reduction projects that work with appropriate regard for community and natural values. Talbott commented on the balancing act between these values, which continues to be a challenge in Harris County – the third most populous county in the U.S. He added that achieving needed flood risk reduction within financial limitations is a major component of the district’s commitment. In addition, Talbott touched on the changes that the district has seen over the past 25 years.

Also in the first session, Paresh Lad, project manager of infrastructure planning for the city of Houston discussed the “ReBuild Houston” initiative, and how funds are used to minimize street flooding. Now in its fifth year, the ReBuild Houston program has worked steadily toward achieving its mission to improve Houstonians’ quality of life by reducing flooding and improving mobility.

Kenneth Tand, president of Kenneth Tand and Associates, discussed the faulting in the Houston area, as well as the possible geological for the faulting, and the damages it has brought to residential buildings and streets. The faults have been intermittently active for hundreds of thousands to millions of years.  Recently measured vertical movements of the faults have ranged from zero, at the end of the faults, to slightly more than one inch per year, for the most active faults. Tand noted that one or more new faults are being discovered each year in Houston. The session was moderated by Daniel Wong of Tolunay-Wong Engineers.

The second session was entitled “Multi Modal Transportation Issues.” In this session, John Tyler, deputy director of Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) discussed the current projects and plans of the HCTRA, including its expansion in the Houston area. He also discussed the challenges in maintaining the heavily used toll roads.

Sanjay Ramabhadran, a Metro-politan Transit Authority (METRO) board member, discussed the growth and challenges in expanding METRO light rail. He also discussed how METRO is using technology, including mobile phones, to allow people to carry their METRO passes. Ramabhadran also highlighted challenges regarding the minimal number of commuters in some parts of Houston, as well as the challenges in acquiring land for light rail system expansion.

Steve Loo, managing engineer for the Street and Drainage Division, city of Houston, held a discussion entitled, “Pavement Management Information System – Optimizing Data Collection.” In his presentation, Loo discussed the major issues related to the pavement condition data sets and related improvements in the systems. He also highlighted the funding mechanisms for the projects. The additional data includes, but is not limited to: providing a better understanding of the street pavement condition; designing pavement treatment programs to extend pavement life and provide better ride ability; and targeting isolated pavement areas for improvement and better utilization of funding. The session was moderated by Stanley Yin from the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston.

The topic of the third panel session was “Water Issues” related to available and limited water resources and delivering systems. Jean Broce Perez, hydrologist II, Texas Water Development Board, discussed challenges and future plans for water management in Texas. He also discussed several topics related to potential for recycling of the wastewater. Aldo Ranzani, from the city of Austin Public Works and Engineering Department, discussed the challenges in maintaining the aging water pipelines in the Austin. Ranzani also discussed the effects of the recent, historic drought over the past few years.

Jeffrey Benjamin, project director, Northeast Water Purification Plant, city of Houston, discussed handling the surface water as the source for drinking water, due to the legislative changes in the Houston area, where the use of groundwater will be substantially reduced. Mandates from the Harris-Galveston and Fort Bend Subsidence Districts require that 60 percent of all water demand be supplied by surface water, no later than January 2025 – and increase from the current requirement of 30 percent. In addition, that requirement will rise to 80 percent in 2035. Unlike groundwater, surface water requires different types of treatment. The session was moderated by Michael Lacy of KIT Professional in Houston.

Mike O’Neill lecture

Stokoe delivered the eleventh Mike O’Neill Lecture entitled “The Increasing Role of Seismic Measurements and Geotechnical Engineering.” During this discussion, attendees learned that in the 1960s, in-situ geophysical measurements began to be employed in geotechnical engineering. This work primarily involved seismic (stress wave) measurements, which were adapted from exploration geophysics. Seismic measurements were used to characterize geotechnical sites – layering, top of bedrock, depth to water table – and geotechnical materials (modulus in shear and compression). The real demand for seismic measurements grew from the need to evaluate the dynamic properties of near-surface soils for use in soil dynamics and geotechnical earthquake engineering. However today, in-situ seismic measurements are used in many more applications, because the measurements have a strong theoretical basis; they can be performed in the field and laboratory, thus forming an important link between field and laboratory measurements; and in recent developments in field testing involving surface waves, they are noninvasive – making them cost effective in comparison to other investigative methods.

This lecture was followed by a presentation from Vipulanandan entitled “Smart Cement System for Real-Time Monitoring of Field Well Installation and Verification of Cemented Well Piezoresistive Behavior”. The smart cement developed at CIGMAT has high sensing and piezoresistive properties, so it can be monitored from the time of placing to the entire service life. After demonstrating the performance of the smart cement in laboratory model tests, now a field well has been installed using the smart cement and it is currently being monitored. Pressure tests have shown the piezoresistive behavior of the smart cement. These type of capabilities will greatly improve the level of monitoring minimize the failures that occur due to cementing failure including what happened at Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010. Additionally, the field test was performed to demonstrate the real-time monitoring of the oil well installation.

A reception followed the technical sessions in the exhibit area where attendees could view posters on research activities at CIGMAT and in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. A number of grouting, pipe manufacturers, material suppliers, pipe condition monitoring and waste water rehabilitation companies participated in the exhibition.

A conference proceeding is available on the CIGMAT web site at The next CIGMAT conference will be held on March 3, 2017, at the University Hilton located on the University of Houston’s main campus. 

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