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Dr. Kelln shares Seequent’s workflow solution for geotechnical engineers faced with the challenge of analysing tailings storage facilities that evolve over time.

In this session, learn the following:

  • The challenges faced by geotechnical engineers dealing with evolving site conditions
  • How a dynamically updated digital twin enables rapid re-interpretation of site conditions
  • Discover the evaluation of design alternatives by enabling the geotechnical engineer to rapidly and easily create numerical models drawn from this ‘single source of truth’.
  • How to uncover valuable insights from data vis-à-vis interpretation in context



Chris Kelln

Director, Geotechnical Analysis – Geostudio – Seequent


32 min

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Video Transcript

<v Host>Hello, and welcome to</v>

the second installment of our webinars series,

Sequence Dynamic Digital Twin Solution

for Modern Tailings Storage Facilities Management.

My name is Chris Kellen and I’m the Director of Engineering

for the GeoStudio business unit here at Seequent.

Today, I will guide you through the second portion

of our proposed workflow for managing

storage tailings facilities,

focusing on the interoperability between a 3D leapfrog

geological model and the geotechnical analysis

conducted in GeoStudio.

Our aim is to explore how geotechnical engineers,

responsible for the analysis, design, and management

of these facilities

can use a dynamically updated digital twin

to overcome challenges around evolving site conditions

and the interpretation of field data in context.

Please note that this presentation

is for informational purposes only,

and is not a commitment to deliver software features

or functionality.

The software products that will be shown in today’s webinar

are the latest versions of Leapfrog, Central, and GeoStudio.

Despite the webinar’s technical connotation,

the presentation is designed for a wide audience,

both from the technical and non-technical domain.

During the webinar,

the audience is muted to ensure that the presentation

does not run over time.

But should you have questions,

please don’t hesitate to write into the question window

in the Go To meeting.

We will make sure that a personalized reply

will be sent to you via email in due time.

After the webinar,

we would like to ask you to remain

for one to two minutes longer

to partake in a short survey that will help us understand

your needs and learn how we can improve our offerings.

And as always,

if you wish to maintain or share a recording

of this webinar, a link to the video

will be sent shortly after the presentation.

Okay, let’s get started.

It’s our mission here at Seequent

to enable customers to make better decisions

about the earth, environment, and energy challenges,

because it is the robust decision-making process

that provides security and longevity in your organization.

Now, arguably, one of the most important decisions

the global mining community recently made

was to commit to an improved due diligence process

regarding the safe and sustainable design,

construction, maintenance, and remediation

of tailing storage facility.

This commitment was formalized

in the global standard on tailings management.

The key thing for this webinar

revolves around transparency and design,

maintenance, and post closure of the dam.

Transparency is particularly important

for the geotechnical engineer

that is also the engineer of record,

because the rationale behind any decisions

must be documented and made clear to all stakeholders.

Transparency in the engineering analysis,

design, and operation of a TSF does not come easy.

A TSF is generally designed and operated

using the observational method,

which adopts a design based on realistic assessment

of natural ground conditions.

The design is not purposely conservative.

And in nearly all cases,

changes to the final facility design

are mandated by operational constraints.

Both the design and our understanding of the site

are constantly evolving.

As such, operators and the engineer of record

are responsible for detecting changes

in the current and future performance

of the facility and then acting to mitigate risk.

But discerning these changes is not trivial.

It requires targeted monitoring data

and a thorough conceptual model of the mechanisms

controlling performance.

Interpretation of new observational data

to characterize the geotechnical processes

controlling performance is difficult.

The data must be readily accessible via dashboard

or some sort of system.

And more importantly,

the data must be interpreted in the context

of the physical system.

In the previous webinar,

Yanina talked about the key elements of the solution,

which included a single source of truth

and the digital twin.

Today, we’re going to draw our attention

to the digital twin and its role

in geotechnical engineering.

Seequent’s geological modeling

and visualization application, Leapfrog,

is designed to provide the core elements of a digital twin

for geotechnical engineers.

A Leapfrog model is constructed

from a wide variety of data sources,

including borehole, structural, GIS,

geophysical, historical cross sections,

other site data, and more.

Engineering designs from a CAD package

can be incorporated directly into the geological model

for rapid visualization of infrastructure,

such as the virtual earthworks, bridges,

dams, tunnels, and more.

For a geo-technical engineer,

a leapfrog could more aptly be called

a subsurface digital twin

because it can be used to model anything

below the ground surface,

including the geotechnical structure.

The challenge for the geotechnical engineer,

then, is ensuring that the geotechnical analysis

is consistent with the evolving site conditions.

In the Seequent ecosystem,

this is accomplished through seamless interoperability

between the geological model

and the geotechnical analysis in GeoStudio.

The sum of these parts form the complete digital twin

of the site.

I will now demonstrate using Leapfrog,

Central, and GeoStudio.

I will start the demonstration by briefly reviewing

the digital twin of the site created in Leapfrog.

First, we can bring in the topography of the site.

This can be point cloud data, mesh data,

and so on.

Then for this particular example,

I brought in the following borehole data.

And then using this borehole data,

we’re able to create a geological model

using a variety of tools.

In this case,

we use the stratigraphic surface chronology approach,

creating this sequence.

And so we can review our various contacts

generated from this borehole data.

And then with this contact data created,

we can then output a full geological model.

This is the geological model that I’m now going to use

to create a 3D finite element-ready geometry

for analysis in GeoStudio.

The first step is to publish the Leapfrog project

into Central.

In this window, I select which objects from the model

to include in the publication.

Naturally, I can include the topography

and the entire geological model, GM.

Once this process is complete,

I can navigate down to the bottom left,

select the button, and launch the Central portal.

Here we are in Central,

where the tailing storage facility

Leapfrog project has been published.

The history is shown, along with a number of tabs

to review files, users, and again,

the history of the project.

In GeoStudio, BUILD3D,

I have already imported a background mesh

for the topography of the site.

I’ll turn off the visibility

and navigate to import background from Central.

In this window, I select the Central server,

then the project name, then the branch,

the ID, and finally, the geological model.

After hitting okay,

I will navigate into the import background window

and change some of the key settings

to create these background meshes.

First off, notice I can select which background mesh

from the geological model I want to include in import.

Further down, we have a transformation section

of the dialog box.

Notice once the import is complete,

that the background meshes are not oriented

with the surface topography.

From the dropdown,

I can select a saved transformation.

This automatically remaps the axes

from Leapfrog coordinates to GeoStudio coordinates

and moves the base points such that the background meshes

are located closer to the 0-0-0 axes.

BUILD3D is a parametric modeling package.

As such, the background meshes need to be converted

to spline surfaces using the fit to surface tool


The surface is selected from the geometry explorer window,

under the background meshes.

The visibility of the background meshes

can be toggled on and off in this view.

I will leave visible the surface representing the contact

between the bedrock and overlying clay unit.

With that done, the fit for surface icon is selected,

and three parameters are adjusted,

including the acceptable difference

between the background mesh and the spine surface,

the resolution, and a parameter controlling

the flexibility of the surface.

For this problem, I will adjust

both the resolution and the flexibility to 0.75.

Rotating the surface in space

reveals an acceptable fit

compared to the original Leapfrog surface mesh.

Next, I will turn off the visibility of the background mesh

and turn on the next stratigraphic layer,

repeating the process of using the fit to surface tool

on each occasion.

The process is repeated for each subsequent contact

along with the ground surface.

It is evident in the geometry explorer

that new surface bodies are added to the list

with each successive operation.

Now that the surfaces have been created,

I will unsuppress a sketch that I created

on the X-Z plane.

I will right click and edit this sketch

to demonstrate that I offset the plane for this sketch

in the y-direction, or vertical direction,

to ensure that it was located

beneath the lower stratigraphic surface in the domain.

The extrude icon is then selected

to push the profile upwards and generate a solid body.

I arbitrarily selected an extrusion distance of 150 meters

to ensure that the top of the block

far exceeds the ground surface elevation.

Clicking on the operation and the design history

reveals a single solid.

The cut tool is now used to turn the cube

into a geometry that is consistent with

the geological model in Leapfrog.

The cut operation that I select

removes the cutting tool,

which in this case are the surface bodies,

after the cutting operation is complete

Inspection of the resulting geometry

reveals a number of individual solids.

The delete body is used to remove

the upper most solid, leaving our four stratigraphic units,

to which I will assign a material.

The bottom most layer is assigned a bedrock material,

and then the overlying units in turn

include, clay, gravel, and aluminum.

Prior to the start of this webinar,

I imported an as-built design drawing

via the import body tool.

In the design history,

I will right click the profile and unsuppress.

The cross section of the downstream tailings dam

and tailings is now visible.

I’m going to click on the profile

and subdivide the tailings into a number of layers.

I’m doing this simply for the purpose

of conducting a geotechnical technical analysis.

For simplicity, I will split the tailings into five raises.

BUILD3D is a feature-based geometry creation tool,

so we can edit this sketch at any time

and all the changes are automatically cascaded

through the entire model’s geometry.

With the drawing complete, I will hit okay.

And the geometry is regenerated.

Notice that the as-built section

is located at the center line of the valley.

In preparation for an extrusion,

the location of the section needs to be offset.

Right clicking the profile and editing

reveals the original location of the plane end profile.

I can change the offset to sit inside the domain,

as shown.

This position moves the profile inside the ground surface.

It will become apparent when I extrude the profile

that our goal here is simply to ensure

that the geotechnical structure traverses the entire valley

in a manner consistent with the actual construction.

With the tailings dam profile

now located inside the upper ground surface,

I will right click the profile and select extrude.

The extrusion distance is arbitrarily set to 50 meters

and then 100 meters, causing the extruded profile

to span the entire valley.

Notice the shadow-like image that shows

the intersection between the structure

and the ground surface.

After rotating the camera angle,

I’m going to select the solids that represent

the tailings dam and create a group.

The material for this group of solids is then changed

and the process is repeated for the tailings layers.

We see the fill material listed in the drop down list.

And then, again, I’ll select these next five solids

for the tailings layers,

create the group and rename it.

Select the group

and then change the material type.

Clicking in the geometry explorer

reveals that the solids extend into the flanks

of the valley wall.

I therefore need to remove this portion of the tailings

and dam geometry using the cut tool.

In this case, the first and second stratigraphic units

are used as the cutting tool

and the option to remove the overlapping solids is selected.

Once the operation is completed,

I can select the upper stratigraphic layer

and note visually that the tailings structure

does not extend into it.

I do this by first toggling off the surface selection tool

and then selecting only solids.

At this point in the workflow,

the analysis ready geometry is complete.

We could now proceed to mesh the domain,

then return to the geometry definition,

apply boundary conditions, and then solve the analysis.

We can see now that the finite element mesh is complete.

I’m switching back to the geometry view,

selecting the surface of the tailings,

and applying a hydraulic boundary condition.

Conversely, we could create a two dimensional analysis

based on the 3D geometry and poor water pressure conditions.

To do this, I select the geometry section tool.

Once the location has been selected,

I can hit okay,

navigate down to the geometry sections area,

right click, and generate 2D GeoStudio geometry.

Closing BUILD3D and going back into GeoStudio,

we now see a 2D geometry in the analysis tree,

to which I will add a slope/w analysis.

Note that the materials are automatically mapped

to the regions.

Accordingly, I can click on define, materials

and the list of materials is populated

by simply defining a material model

such as Mohr-Coulomb,

we see the colors of the materials mapped to the regions.

Now we come full circle to the heart of the issue.

We have a 2D and 3D geotechnical analysis,

which together, with the geological model,

form a comprehensive digital twin.

As noted at the onset,

evolving site conditions and new data

could cause the geological model to change.

We need to ensure that the geotechnical analysis

is based on the most up-to-date site model.

In Leapfrog, the geological model

is dynamically updated by introducing new information,

such as geophysical data, polylines,

design drawings, and more.

For demonstration purposes,

let us simply assume that an error was observed

in the borehole data.

Notice that the stratigraphic layers

are not smooth and continuous in this profile.

I’m going to open the borehole log data

and alter the stratigraphic contact depths.

I’ll quickly do this by changing the depth to the contacts

in boreholes 10 and 12.

After saving the file,

I will reload the borehole data

and then reprocess the geological model.

So first, reload the boreholes.

Then, navigate to the play button on the top left

and select run all.

The geological model is updated

as indicated by the new, smoother geological contacts.

Looking at the slice from the backside

reveals nice, smooth, continuous contacts.

Then, rotating the camera view around to the front

similarly demonstrates that the geological model

has been updated.

After publishing the Leapfrog model to Central,

I can now return to GeoStudio

and reload the background meshes

used at the onset to create the analysis-ready geometry.

I do this by multi selecting three surfaces,

right clicking, and reloading.

We can see in the bottom right of the tray

that the Boolean operations are being recomputed.

This is a key advantage of a feature-based modeling package

like BUILD3D, because any change to the model

is automatically cascaded through the design history.

Once complete, we can switch over to the mesh view,

remesh the domain,

and then I will use the clipping tool

to inspect the updated geology.

The process takes just a couple seconds

to recompute all the contacts and update the model.

Again, the clipping plane tool,

much like a sectioning tool,

allows us to look inside the domain.

Notice that the contacts have all been updated

and they’re now nice and smooth.

With this new clipping plane,

I will change the camera view.

We see the clean geology and the new contacts.

Then I will navigate to the 2D geometry section

back on the geometry window.

First shutting off the clipping plane,

then switching back to geometry view,

scrolling down, selecting our section,

which runs down the center line of the valley,

I’ll right-click, generate a new section

which replaces the old section.

I can then close BUILD3D.

And back in GeoStudio,

when I click on the slope stability analysis,

we see the new geology are reflected

in this cross section.

In summary, teams have to think about

a holistic modeling approach

with the digital twin at its core

in order to manage tailing storage facilities safely

and consider the requirements

of the global tailing standard.

The digital twin becomes the basis for design

used at all phases of the project’s life cycle.

It invites the engineers to participate

in the investigation of the physical system,

to understand the geological constraints,

and make informed decisions about the facility’s

performance as it evolves.

A comprehensive and dynamically updated digital twin

consistently incorporates changing data

and evaluates all spatial, numeric,

and intellectual information in a 3D context.

It can also help design targeted monitoring programs.

Interpreting monitoring data is a significant challenge

as it goes beyond plotting a time series of data.

Again, data is only valuable if it is interpreted

in the context of the digital twin.

Thank you for your time and attention.

We look forward to welcoming you again

in mid-July for the third part of our webinar series.

Dr. Yanina Elliott will discuss an agile workflow

that accommodates stakeholder engagement.

This will bring together all the key components

of the Seequent ecosystem to demonstrate

how owners, analysts, engineers of record, and auditors

can collaborate on the management

of a tailing storage facility.

Thanks again, and have a great day.