2011 – Finite Element Transient Thermal Analysis of the Enlarged Cotter Dam

 Craig Messer, Francisco Lopez, and Manoj Laxman

The Enlarged Cotter Dam is a new 80m high Roller Compacted Concrete Dam being constructed to augment the water supply for the Canberra region. Due to the size of the main dam and the extreme climatic variations in the ACT, where temperatures range from sub zero in winter to in excess of forty degrees in summer, it is expected that significant stresses will be generated during the cooling of the structure. For this reason it is essential that an understanding of the magnitude of these stresses is developed through the initial strength development period and at critical periods such as the first and second winter when the temperature differential between ambient conditions and the core of the structure may be greatest. The development of thermal stress within the structure has critical impacts on both the RCC mix design and the dam construction equipment and methodology.

For the Enlarged Cotter Dam, thermal stresses were investigated using both two and three dimensional finite element transient heat transfer analyses, making use of the thermal properties derived from laboratory testing including instrumented thermal blocks, as well as established literature. Modelling of the thermal stresses in the dam required the development of time dependent concrete properties, such as strength, stiffness and heat generation, with the latter based on test results and calibrated to actual measured values. Additionally, site dependent conditions for ambient temperature, external conduction, convection and radiation factors, dam foundation temperatures and restraint, dam construction sequence, formwork, joint spacing, insulation and timing of reservoir filling were also modelled.

Initial thermal modelling of the dam demonstrated that significant tensile stresses and potential cracking could develop within the structure, at both early and mature concrete ages. Subsequent analyses were developed to investigate methods of reducing these stresses to within acceptable limits. This paper presents the results of the thermal analyses, including the methods to be employed during and after construction to minimise cracking without impacting construction costs and even optimising the speed of construction.

Finite Element Transient Thermal Analysis of the Enlarged Cotter Dam


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