Effect of confining pressure unloading on strength reduction of soft coal in borehole stability analysis
Underground borehole drilling usually causes instability in the surrounding coal due to in situ stress redistribution (including stress concentration and stress release). However, the mechanisms of unloading-induced coal strength reduction are still poorly understood. The primary objective of this study is to investigate the effect of confining pressure unloading on soft coal strength reduction for borehole stability analysis. A series of mechanical tests were conducted on both the traditionally and newly reconstituted coal samples under two different experimental stress paths, including conventional uniaxial/triaxial compression and triaxial compression with confining pressure unloading. The unloading stress path was obtained by analyzing the stress redistribution around a borehole, to capture a more accurate coal mechanical response. According to our experimental results, plastic deformation generated before failure under the unloading stress path is smaller than that generated under the conventional loading stress path. Furthermore, the cohesion of the traditionally and newly reconstituted samples diminishes approximately by 44.77 and 29.66%, respectively, with confining pressure unloading, indicating that there is a significant reduction in coal strength due to confining pressure unloading. The mechanism for unloading-induced coal strength reduction comes from confining pressure unloading-induced increase in shear stress on the fracture surface and a decrease in shear strength. This effect increases the shear slipping potential, whose driving force generates tension fractures at both ends of the preexisting fractures.