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SUMO Engineering Solutions Issue No.20 - Geological Applications

Updated: Feb 19

Geotechnical investigation image

Geology Rocks, but it still has its faults!

Prior to starting a construction and infrastructure project, it can be worthwhile characterising the site’s subsurface as part of a wider geotechnical investigation, to avoid any unexpected problems and associated costs.

This can include anything from the depth of drift cover to bedrock to the extent of sinkhole formation. As a first step, a non-invasive survey can therefore provide invaluable information, prior to intrusive (and expensive) site investigation works involving boreholes and sampling. SUMO’s engineering geophysics team utilise a combination of the latest survey techniques, including Ground Conductivity, Magnetic Survey, Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to understand more about the natural features below the ground, including:

  • Alluvial channels/paleochannels

  • Bedrock depth

  • Large discontinuities i.e. faults, major joints/fractures

  • Mineralised veins

  • Mineshafts (in mineralised areas)

  • Sinkholes/solution features

Ground Conductivity

Ground conductivity surveys are well suited to some of these applications, notability sinkholes/solution features. The example below shows a solution feature in weathered chalk on the site of a former quarry. The feature has been filled from the ground above, causing the ground to collapse.

Solution feature in weathered chalk

Above – Photograph of a solution feature in weathered chalk.


The data identified a further three anomalies potentially associated with solution features C4, C5 and C6 shown below.

Ground Conductivity data

Above – Ground Conductivity data showing potential sinkholes - C4, C5 and C6. Anomaly C1 is likely to be related to a buried metal pipeline. The cluster of three very strong discrete anomalies C2 are associated with the rusting remnants of a scrap car abandoned on the site. C3 is a high value negative conductivity anomaly that is also likely to be associated with a buried metal feature.


Magnetic Survey

Magnetic Surveys are quick and cost effective, but useful tool for geological applications.

Magnetic Survey data

Above left – Magnetic Survey data collection and right – Magnetic Survey data showing the underlying dykes and sills of the bedrock geology on a site in Cornwall. This provided a greater understanding of the complex geology of the site.


Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT)

This technique is suited to locating larger features at depth and can penetrate to depths of 20-30m.

Resistivity Imaging section view

Above – A Resistivity Imaging section view showing near surface geological faults/fissures penetrating to approximately 9m depth (low resistance in blue) and bedrock (High resistance – brown and red areas) at depths between 2m and 20m.


Ground Penetratng Radar (GPR)

GPR has the capacity to work through a wide variety of surface materials, from soft landscaping, to hard surfaces such as tarmac and concrete. Ground Penetrating Radar is particularly adept at not only mapping buried features but approximating their depth, which provides an all-important extra level of detail.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey

Above – A Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in progress using a dual frequency system consisting of 300MHz and 800MHz antennas.

A GPR Section view

Above – A GPR Section view showing areas of granite at approximately 2m depth


With a range of methodologies and techniques penetrating to depths of 30m+, SUMO has a solution to help you understand more about your site’s geology without the need for intrusive investigations.

So, why not contact SUMO, before starting your next construction or infrastructure project and make sure that you take the subsurface features of your site into account at the design stage, and thereby avoid any costly surprises?

Want to learn more?

Please pick up the phone and speak to Simon Haddrell or Richard Fleming on

01684 592266

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