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Geotechnical and geological Responses to climate change: Exchanging Approaches and Technologies on a world-wide scale

Final Report Summary - GREAT (Geotechnical and geological Responses to climate change: Exchanging Approaches and Technologies on a world-wide scale)

European Commission - FP7
Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES)

Geotechnical and geological Responses to climate change: Exchanging Approaches and Technologies on a world-wide scale

GREAT has been an International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) project funded from 7th Framework Programme of the EC under Grant Agreement PIRSES-GA-2013-612665 (2014-2017). The GREAT project has focused on the geotechnical and geological responses to the global challenge of climate change. It aimed to promote, on a world-wide scale, sharing of mitigation and adaptation strategies in this area. The project involved five major European institutions and six ICPC institutions from three BRICS countries (China, India, and Brazil) to facilitate access of Europe to research and innovation carried out in emerging economies and, at the same time, to promote Europe as a pole of attraction for research and innovation on a global scale.

GREAT has stimulated long-term collaboration between European and BRICS institutions via the secondment of 83 Early-Stage Researchers and 29 Experienced Researchers. The Early-Stage Researchers were involved in mini-projects carried out at the Host institution under the guidance of a Host supervisor. This mechanism is put in place with the aim of ensuring a ‘hands-on’ exchange of knowledge between ICPC and EU partners.

Geotechnical engineering and engineering geology play a pivotal role in addressing the climate change challenge. Changing climate is accompanied by more intense and longer droughts and increase in frequency of heavy precipitation events. Major geotechnical infrastructure (road and railway embankments, dams, flood embankments, excavations, cut slopes) and natural geostructures such a slopes are exposed to the atmosphere and are strongly affected by climatic loading. Adaptation measures need to be developed and implemented to enhance the climate-resilience of geo-infrastructure.

On the other hand, construction is one of the main sectors responsible for carbon emissions and accounts for 10% of the carbon footprint globally. Geotechnical engineers will be challenged to design carbon-efficient geo-infrastructures by making use of environmentally-friendly geomaterials and reinforcements and developing new design concepts. These include for example the incorporation of heat exchangers in ‘conventional’ structural components of geothermal energy extraction.

Finally, in addition to ‘passive’ countermeasures, active measures such as carbon capture and geological storage have significant potential as mitigation techniques for climate change, both within Europe and internationally. Geological characterisation of storage site and identification of potential leakage pathways, particularly faults, are critical steps in the implementation of this technology.

The GREAT project has activated 155 secondments for a total of 392 secondment-months involving 112 researchers, from younger early-career researchers to senior members of staff.
Part of the knowledge transfer activities have been disseminated via the GREAT YouTube channel to reach a wider audience. Knowledge transfer through secondments has involved

• Advanced techniques for characterising and monitor the response of materials to climate, thermal, and gas loading (Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry, High-Capacity Tensiometers, Time Domain Reflectometry, Thermal Imaging, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, Nitrogen adsorption)
• Approaches to predict the response of geostructures to climate, thermal, and gas loading (Material Point Method, FOSM-based probabilistic approach)
• Techniques for low-carbon geomaterials (Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation, Enzyme Induced Carbonate Precipitation, fibre-reinforcement, lime treatment)
• Numerical models to predict the performance of geothermal structures to thermal loading, and the performance of geological structures to gas loading

The joint research activities have resulted in 35 papers published, and 18 papers currently under review. Major contributions have addressed the following areas:

• Response of geomaterials (clay, sands, and concrete) to environmental loading (temperature, pore-water chemistry, drying & wetting)
• Interplay between microstructure and response of clay and concrete at the macro-scale
• Response of geo-structures (flood embankments, transport infrastructure embankments) to environment (flood, drought, heavy rainfall)
• Reinforcement via chemical, biological, and physical processes of marginal geomaterials (to be used in new structures) and degraded geomaterials (forming existing structures subject to environmental exposure).
• Reuse/recycle of waste materials for geotechnical applications
• Incorporating heat exchangers in conventional geo-structures

The project will have an impact on four core aspects in the combat to climate change a) approaches and technologies for climate change adaptation of geotechnical infrastructure; b) novel low-carbon geomaterials; c) approaches and technologies for shallow energy extraction; and d) approaches and technologies for deep carbon storage.

For more information about the GREAT project, email the Network Coordinator, Professor Alessandro Tarantino from the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, UK ( or visit the following links: