Oil and Gas

Reconciling past and future worlds: geology and ground engineering



Lecture by Jackie Skipper given at the Geological Society on 9 January 2013 as part of the 2013 Shell London Lecture series.

Planning for and constructing our built environment and infrastructure for today and for the future is an immensely complex process – but ‘the ground’ is still what keeps our buildings up, and is what we cut or tunnel through to construct roads, train networks, fuel, water and sewage pipelines. We ignore it, and it’s future behaviour at our peril — it can also fail, be washed away, slip, collapse or erode. The ground, in all its complexity, is the geotechnical engineer’s principle raw material, and yet is it usually much less well understood than the concrete or steel used to construct our walls and foundations.

As engineers plan the shape of our future world, it is clear that we also need to develop the geological skills to reconcile the nature and behaviour of the ground that was deposited millions of years ago with how that same ground is going to behave, not only in relation to our newly constructed built environment, but also in 50, 100, 150 years time.

This talk looks at how the most basic of services that we use every day work in relation to the ground and how developing this infrastructure requires an increasingly sophisticated geological understanding in order to be successful for years to come.

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