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Lugeon Test / Packer Test / Water Pressure Test


The Lugeon test (or Packer Test) is an in-situ testing method widely used to estimate the
average hydraulic conductivity of rock formations. The test is named after Maurice Lugeon
(1933), a Swiss geologist who first formulated the test. The test is also referred to as a Water
Pressure Test. The Lugeon test is a constant rate injection test carried out in a portion of a
borehole isolated by inflated packers. Water is injected into the isolated portion of the borehole
using a slotted pipe. Water is injected at specific pressure “steps” and the resulting pressure is
recorded when the flow has reached a quasi-steady state condition. A pressure transducer is
also located in that portion of the borehole to measure the pressure with a help of reading
station on the surface. The results provide information about hydraulic conductivity of the rock
mass including the rock matrix and the discontinuities. (Royle, 2010)

Test Description

The following is a general description of the test. There are several variations and
interpretations of the Lugeon test. Readers are encouraged to consult the supporting materials
in the References section. A more thorough description of the field procedure can be found in
ISO 22282-3. (Geotechnical investigation and testing -- Geohydraulic testing -- Part 3: Water
Pressure Tests in Rock)

Based on the drill core, an assessment of the expected injection rates and pressure can be
made. The tester will need to have an idea of the pressures to be tested. The expected
pressure range will be based on the estimated permeability of the rock and the expected intake
of injected water. These will have to be assessed based on previous experience in the
borehole(s), and correlated to the pumping equipment available. A maximum test pressure
(Pmax) is defined so that it does not exceed the in-situ minimum stress, thus avoiding hydraulic

The following figure shows a typical field setup:

Scenario 1: Deployment using Borehole Transducer to measure pressure data.

Scenario 2: Deployment using pressure data measured in a Pressure Gauge station. For this
scenario, you must provide the "Gauge Position" in the Lugeon Test tab in AquiferTest
The test is typically conducted in five steps (or stages). At each step, a constant water pressure
is applied for a duration of 10 minutes (or until steady state flows are measured). Readings of
water pressure and flow rate are measured every minute. Flow readings may be recorded as
Flux or Volume, and this will depend on the meter type that is being used. This setting is defined
in the Lugeon Test tab, under "Flow Meter Type".

The first step typically uses a low water pressure. For the second step, the pressure is
increased and flow readings are again recorded for 10 minutes (or until steady-state conditions
are achieved). This is repeated for subsequent steps until reaching Pmax. Once Pmax is
reached, pressures are then decreased for subsequent steps following the same pressures
used on the way up, thus describing a “pressure loop”. (For example, Step 1 Pressure = Step 5
Pressure; Step 2 Pressure = Step 4 Pressure). The table below shows a description of this
concept along with example pressure factors typically used during the five test steps.

Step Description Pressure Pressure

Factor (PSI)
1 Low 0.50 * Pmax 40
2 Med 0.75 * Pmax 60
3 P max Pmax 80
4 Med 0.75 * Pmax 60
5 Low 0.50 * Pmax 40

In some cases, the test may involve only 3 pressure steps, in which case Pmax is at step 2 and
the step 1 pressure should equal the step 3 pressure.

The Gauge Pressures and recorded Flow Meter Readings are entered into the Lugeon Test
Data & Analysis tab as shown below.

From the recorded data, AquiferTest calculates the Average Flow Reading, the Hydraulic
Conductivity, and Lugeon value (all values in the yellow cells shown above). These values are
used in the analysis diagrams shown at the bottom of the Lugeon Test Data & Analysis tab.
Once a Lugeon value has been computed for each of the five steps, a representative value of
hydraulic conductivity can selected based on the trend observed throughout the test. For more
details, see the Analysis and Interpretation sections below.
The test is typically conducted along several vertical intervals in a single borehole. After the test
is complete, the packers are deflated, then moved into the new position in the borehole, re-
inflated and the test procedure is repeated as described above. In AquiferTest, a single
borehole can have multiple Lugeon Tests at various intervals. Use the "Duplicate Test" option,
to create a copy of the current Lugeon Test. Then change the test interval geometry, and enter
the new test data. A summary of interpretations from multiple tests is included in the reports


The equation to calculate the conductivity is:


K = hydraulic conductivity
Q = injection rate
Ro = Radius of influence (L is typically used in this scenario)
R = Radius of the borehole
H = net injection head
L = length of test section


The Lugeon Value is calculated as follows:


Q = injection rate
L = length of test section
Po = reference pressure of 1 MPa (equivalent to 10 bar or 145 psi)
P = net injection pressure (at the specific step)

The conversion of pressure (P) into injection head (H) is calculated as follows:

g = acceleration due to gravity, default value 9.81 m/s²

p = density of water, default value 999.7 kg / m³

These constants may be adjusted in the Tools / Options, Constants tab.

Under ideal conditions (i.e., homogeneous and isotropic) one Lugeon is equivalent to 1.3 x 10 -
cm/sec (Fell et al., 2005).

Data Requirements in AquiferTest

The following data are required for conducting a Lugeon Test Analysis in AquiferTest

Borehole Geometry (defined in the Lugeon Test tab)

• Pressure Reading Type: Borehole Transducer or Surface Gauge
• Top of Test Interval (measured as a depth from the ground surface)
• Bottom of Test Interval (measured as a depth from the ground surface)
Depth to GW (groundwater); if this is not known, it is generally recommended to enter the
• center of the test interval as a default.
Radius of Test Section: can be explicitly defined or use the Borehole radius (B) value defined
• for the Test bore
Radius of Influence; generally this assumed to be the same as the length of the test interval,
however it can be overridden with another value (note the assumptions of the Radius of
• Influence as explained below).
• Flow Meter type: flow readings can be recorded and entered as flux or volume

Test Data (defined in the Lugeon Test Data & Analysis tab)
• # of Pressure Steps
• # of Flow Readings
• Recorded Gauge Pressure for each step
Flow meter reading for each step (recorded as either Flux or Volume, as determined by the
• specified "Flow Meter Type" in the Lugeon Test tab)
Data Analysis

In order to simplify the interpretation of the results, AquiferTest provides a set of diagnostic plots
representing typical flow behaviours that can be encountered in fractured rock. AquiferTest
includes the typical Lugeon diagrams as proposed by Houlsby (1976), and also includes the
additional typical curves for flow loss vs. pressure space, as described by Quiñones-Rozo

Pressure Diagram

The Gauge Pressure data are read from the grid and plotted on a simple Pressure vs. Step
diagram as shown below

Lugeon Diagram

For each step, the Lugeon value is calculated using the equations described above and plotted
on a simple bar chart as shown below.

The trends from the Lugeon Diagram can be compared to the diagnostic plots as described
below to identify typical behaviour and choose a suitable Lugeon value.
Flow vs. Pressure Diagram

It is also possible to analyze the Lugeon test results using the flow loss vs. pressure space, with
flow loss defined as the flow rate divided by the length of the test interval (Q/L). For each step,
the Average Flow Rate is calculated from the defined readings and displayed in the table (in the
column after the last flow reading). The Gauge Pressure and Average Flow Rate for each step
are then plot on the "Flow vs Pressure" diagram as shown below.

Each orange point corresponds to one step, consisting of an average flow reading at a given
pressure. A line is drawn starting at the origin and connecting each data point in sequence of
the order of the steps (with the directional arrows corresponding to the sequence of the steps),
thus forming the pressure loop. The slope of each line segment is indicative of the Lugeon value
as the test proceeds. A shallow slope corresponds to a low Lugeon value, a steep slope
corresponds to high Lugeon value. This interpretation technique makes it useful to do real-time
monitoring and interpretation of the test data in the field. The shape of these curves can be
compared to the diagnostic plots as explained below.
Lugeon Test Interpretation

The following table summarizes the typical flow behaviours and corresponding diagnostic
Lugeon Pattern and Representative Lugeon Value (based on Houlsby (1976) and Flow vs.
Pressure Patterns based on Quiñones-Rozo, (2010).

Flow vs. Pressure Representative Lugeon

Behaviour Lugeon Pattern
Pattern Value

Average of Lugeon
Laminar Flow
values for all steps

Lugeon value
Turbulent corresponding to the
Flow highest water pressure
(3rd step)
Lowest Lugeon value
corresponding either to
low or medium water
pressures (1st,2nd, 4th,
5th step)
Highest Lugeon value
Wash-out recorded
(5th step)

Final Lugeon value

Void Filling
(5th step)

Typical Lugeon Behaviours

Based on Houlsby (1976)

Laminar Flow: The hydraulic conductivity of the rock mass is independent of the water
pressure employed. This behavior is characteristic of rock masses with low hydraulic
• conductivities, where seepage velocities are relatively small (i.e., less than four Lugeons).
Turbulent Flow: The hydraulic conductivity of the rock mass decreases as the water pressure
increases. This behavior is characteristic of rock masses exhibiting partly open to moderately
• wide cracks.
Dilation: Similar hydraulic conductivities are observed at low and medium pressures;
however, a much greater value is recorded at the maximum pressure. This behavior – which is
sometimes also observed at medium pressures – occurs when the water pressure applied is
greater than the minimum principal stress of the rock mass, thus causing a temporary
dilatancy (hydro-jacking) of the fissures within the rock mass. Dilatancy causes an increase in
• the cross sectional area available for water to flow, and thereby increases the hydraulic
Wash-Out: Hydraulic conductivities increase as the test proceeds, regardless of the changes
observed in water pressure. This behavior indicates that seepage induces permanent and
irrecoverable damage on the rock mass, usually due to infillings wash out and/or permanent
• rock movements.
Void Filling: Hydraulic conductivities decrease as the test proceeds, regardless of the
changes observed in water pressure. This behavior indicates that either: (1) water
progressively fills isolated/non-persistent discontinuities, (2) swelling occurs in the
discontinuities, or (3) fines flow slowly into the discontinuities building up a cake layer that
• clogs them.

In AquiferTest, when you click on the icon that corresponds to the observed behaviour, the
program will determine which is the appropriate Representative Lugeon value from the
calculated values, and place this in the "Interpretations" box.

The following table describes the conditions typically associated with different Lugeon Values,
as well as the typical precision for reporting these values (Quiñones-Rozo, 2010).
Example Interpretation

The following is an example of a Lugeon Test interpretation with 5 pressure steps. The image
below is from the "Lugeon Test Data & Analysis" tab in AquiferTest.

Once the data have been entered, AquiferTest will automatically calculate the Average Flow
Rate, Hydraulic Conductivity, Lugeon value, and plot all of this data in the diagrams at the
bottom of the window. The interpretation involves assessing the trend of the bar charts in
the Lugeon Diagram, and both the shape and direction of the pressure loop in the Flow vs.
Pressure diagram.

In this example, the trend of data in the Lugeon Diagram indicates conditions of Wash-Out. The
shape of the Flow vs. Pressure diagram also indicates Wash-Out behaviour. The shape of the
flow vs. pressure diagram for Wash Out is similar to Void Filling, however the directional arrows
of the pressure loop are in opposite directions. If you click on the "Wash-Out" icon below the
main diagrams (for either the Lugeon Diagram or the Flow vs. Pressure Diagram), AquiferTest
will retrieve the Representative Lugeon value recommended in the summary table above, and
place this into the "Test Result Interpretation" section. In the case for Wash-Out behaviour, it is
recommended to use the highest Lugeon value (5th step), which corresponds to a Lugeon value
of 7.5, and you will see this value defined in the Interpretations text box. Often the test may
exhibit multiple behaviours. For this reason, the "Test Results Interpretation" text box is fully-
editable, where you can type in any other comments or Lugeon value that you wish to see
appear in the final report.



There are two example projects demonstrating a Lugeon Test included in the "Examples" folder

LugeonTest1.HYT: multiple Lugeon tests at various depths for a single borehole

LugeonTest2.HYT : simple Lugeon Test with just three pressure steps

Assumptions and Limitations

One of the main drawbacks of the Lugeon test is that only a limited volume of rock around the hole is actually affected by the test. It has been
estimated that the effect of the Lugeon tests – with a test interval length of 10 feet - is restricted to an approximate radius of 30 feet around the
borehole (Bliss and Rushton, 1984). This suggests that the hydraulic conductivity value estimated from this test is only representative for a cylinder of
rock delimited by the length of the test interval and the radius given above. The test can be applied for both vertical and slanted/angled
boreholes. AquiferTest assumes that flow meter readings are taken every one minute.

References and Suggested Readings

• Wikipedia:
Standard Operating Procedures for Borehole Packager Testing, Michael Royle, SRK
• Consulting.
Quiñones-Rozo, Camilo (2010):Lugeon test interpretation, revisited. In: Collaborative
Management of Integrated Watersheds, US Society of Dams, 30th Annual Conference, S.
• 405–414.
Bliss, J., Rushton, K. (1984). The reliability of packer tests for estimating the hydraulic
• conductivity of aquifers. Q. J. Eng. Geol. Vol. 17, pp. 81-91.
Houlsby, A. (1976). Routine Interpretation of the Lugeon Water-Test. Q. J. Eng. Geol. Vol. 9,
• pp. 303-313.
Fell, R., MacGregor, P., Stapledon. D., Bell, G. (2005). Geotechnical Engineering of Dams.
• Taylor & Francis. London. UK.