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ASTM D6914/D6914M-16

Standard Practice for Sonic Drilling for Site Characterization and the Installation of Subsurface Monitoring Devices

Standard Practice for Sonic Drilling for Site Characterization and the Installation of Subsurface Monitoring Devices D6914_D6914M-16 ASTM|D6914_D6914M-16|en-US Standard Practice for Sonic Drilling for Site Characterization and the Installation of Subsurface Monitoring Devices Standard new BOS Vol. 04.09 Committee D18
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Significance and Use

5.1 Sonic drilling is a rapid, primarily dry drilling method (see 5.2), used both in geotechnical applications to avoid hydraulic fracturing, and in environmental site exploration. Geotechnical applications include exploration for tunnels, underground excavations, and installation of instrumentation or structural elements. Sonic drilling methods are used in rocky soils with large diameter casing to obtain continuous samples in materials that are difficult to sample using other methods. It is well suited for projects of a production-orientated nature with a drilling rate faster than most all other drilling methods (Guide D6286). Sonic drilling is used for environmental explorations because sonic drilling offers the benefit of significantly reduced drill cuttings, a major cost element, and reduced drill fluid use and production. Sonic drilling offers rapid formation penetration thereby increasing production. It can reduce fieldwork time generating overall project cost reductions. The continuous core sample recovered provides a representative lithological column for review and analysis. Sonic drilling readily lends itself to environmental instrumentation installation and to in-situ testing. The advantage of a clean cased hole without the use of drilling fluids provides for increased efficiency in instrumentation installation. The ability to cause vibration to the casing string eliminates the complication of monitoring well backfill bridging common to other drilling methods and reduces the risk of casing lockup allowing for easy casing withdrawal during grouting. The clean borehole reduces well development time. Pumping tests can be performed as needed prior to well screen placement to allow for proper screen location. The sonic method is readily utilized in multiple cased well applications which are required to prevent aquifer cross contamination. The installation of inclinometers, vibrating wire piezometers, settlement gauges, and the like can be accomplished efficiently with the sonic method.

5.2 The cutting action, as the sonic drilling bit passes through the formation, may cause disturbance to the soil structure along the borehole wall. The vibratory action of directing the sample into the sample barrel and then vibrating it back out can cause distortion of the specimen. Core samples can be hydraulically extracted from the sample barrel to reduce distortion. The use of split barrels, with or without liners, may improve the sample condition but may not completely remove the vibratory effect. When penetrating rock formations, the vibration may create mechanical fractures that can affect structural analysis for permeability and thereby not reflect the true in-situ condition. Sonic drilling in rock will require the use of air or fluid to remove drill cuttings from the face of the bit, as they generally cannot be forced into the formation. Samples collected by the dry sonic coring method from dense, dry, consolidated or cemented formations may be subjected to drilling induced heat, which could be a concern if core sampling for volatile organic compounds using Practice D6640. Heat is generated in these dry formations by the impact of the bit on the formation and the friction created when the core barrel is forced into the formation. The sampling barrel is advanced without drilling fluid whenever possible. Therefore, in very dense formations, drilling fluids may have to be used to remove drill cuttings from the bit face and to control drilling generated heat. In dry, dense formations precautions to control drilling generated heat may be necessary to avoid affecting contaminant presence. The effects of drilling generated heat can be mitigated by shortening sampling runs, changing vibration level and rotation speed, using cooled sampling barrels, collecting larger diameter samples to reduce effect on the interior of the sample, and using fluid coring methods or by using alternate sampling methods such as the standard penetration test type samplers at specific intervals. Heat generated while casing the borehole through dense formations after the core sample has been extracted can be alleviated by potable water injection and/or by using crowd-in casing bits that shear the formation with minimal resistance. Should borehole wall densification be a concern it can be alleviated by potable water injection, by borehole wall scraping with the casing bit, by using a crowd-in style bit, or by injecting natural clay breakdown compounds.

5.3 Other uses for the sonic drilling method include mineral investigations. Bulk samples can be collected continuously, quite rapidly, in known quantities to assess mineral content. Aggregate deposits can be accurately defined by using large diameter continuous core samplers that gather representative samples. A limited amount of rock can be effectively penetrated and crushability determined. In construction, projects include freeze tube installations for deep tunnel shafts, piezometers, small diameter piles, dewatering wells, foundation anchors with grouting, and foundation movement monitoring instrumentation. Sonic drills can be used to set potable water production wells. However, production may not equal more conventional potable well drilling techniques because of the need to transport drill cuttings to the surface in short increments. Sonic drill units presently in use are in various sizes and most are truck mounted. Sonic drills can be skid or all-terrain vehicle mounted to access difficult areas.

5.4 Sonic drills can be adapted to such other drill methods as conventional rotary (Guide D1583, Guide D5782), down hole air hammer work (Guide D5782), diamond bit rock coring; conventional and wireline (Practice D2113), direct push probing (Guide D6001, Guide D6286), thin wall tube sampling (Practice D1587), and standard penetration test split barrel sampling (Practice D1586). The sonic drilling equipment offers more adaptability than most existing drilling systems. However, it is important to keep in mind that the technique the machine is designed for is the one at which it will be the most efficient. Long term use of sonic drills for other drilling methods may not be cost effective.

Note 1: The quality of the result produced by this standard is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection/etc. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors. Practice D3740 was developed for agencies engaged in the testing and/or inspection of soils and rock. As such, it is not totally applicable to agencies performing this practice. However, user of this practice should recognize that the framework of Practice D3740 is appropriate for evaluating the quality of an agency performing this practice. Currently there is no known qualifying national authority that inspects agencies that perform this practice.


1.1 This practice covers procedures for using sonic drilling methods in the conducting of subsurface exploration for site characterization and in the installation of subsurface monitoring devices.

1.2 The use of the sonic drilling method for exploration and monitoring-device installation may often involve preliminary site research and safety planning, administration, and documentation.

1.3 Soil or Rock samples collected by sonic methods are classed as group A or group B in accordance with Practices D4220. Other sampling methods (Guide D6169) may be used in conjunction with the sonic method to collect samples classed as group C and Group D. Other drilling methods are summarized in Guide D6286.

1.4 Units—The values stated in either inch-pound units or SI units [presented in brackets] are to be regarded separately as standard. The values stated in each system may not be exact equivalents; therefore, each system shall be used independently of the other. Combining values from the two systems may result in non-conformance with the standard. Reporting of test results in units other than in-pound shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this practice.

1.5 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026, unless superseded by this standard.

1.6 This practice offers a set of instructions for performing one or more specific operations. It is a description of the present state-of-the-art practice of sonic drilling. It does not recommend this method as a specific course of action. This document cannot replace education or experience and should be used in conjunction with professional judgment. Not all aspects of this practice may be applicable in all circumstances. This ASTM standard is not intended to represent or replace the standard of care by which the adequacy of a given professional service must be judged, nor should this document be applied without consideration of a project's many unique aspects. The word “Standard” in the title of this document means only that the document has been approved through the ASTM consensus process.

1.6.1 This practice does not purport to comprehensively address all the methods and the issues associated with drilling practices. Users should seek qualified professionals for decisions as to the proper equipment and methods that would be most successful for their site investigation. Other methods may be available for drilling and sampling of soil, and qualified professionals should have the flexibility to exercise judgment as to possible alternatives not covered in this practice. This practice is current at the time of issue, but new alternative methods may become available prior to revisions, therefore, users should consult manufacturers or sonic drilling services providers prior to specifying program requirements.

1.7 This practice does not purport to address all the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use and may involve use of hazardous materials, equipment, and operations. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory requirements prior to use. For good safety practice, consult applicable OSHA regulations and drilling safety guides.2,3,4

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.09
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.21
Pages: 12
DOI: 10.1520/D6914_D6914M-16
ICS Code: 13.080.05