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Project Name: Enel-Emgesa Hydroelectric Plant Infrastructure Project

Project Location: Huila, Colombia

Project Background

Because of Colombia’s abundant water resources, hydropower has become a vital national energy source, accounting for almost 70% of the nation’s electricity. To help improve the reliability of the energy supply and increase energy security, Enel-Emgesa built a new hydroelectric plant in Colombia’s Huila Department.

The construction of the hydropower plant required the implementation of a large-scale infrastructure project that included new roads and bridges. To promote development in the region surrounding the facility, and in conjunction with the post-conflict rural rebuilding efforts, the power company committed to building an 11.8-kilometer (km) road between the Municipality of Agrado and El Muelle Guaraní. The project also included a 40-meter-long bridge over the Buenavista ravine, seven box culverts, and 56 culverts.

Due to its tropical climate, transportation infrastructure in Colombia is vulnerable to weather-related stressors, which can cause costly disruptions and repairs. For this reason, it was imperative the project owners take a climate-resilient approach.

New Geocell-Reinforced Concrete Technology Paves the Way for More Resilient Infrastructure

The Huila-based engineering firm, Masseq Proyectos e Ingeniería S.A.S., co-managed the project with a leading geosynthetics expert in Colombia, Soil Protection S.A.S., and sought an innovative pavement solution that could withstand extreme climate conditions.

They chose the GEOWEB® Geocell Reinforced Concrete (GRC) system—a pavement innovation that combines the strength characteristics of traditional concrete slabs with the flexible and adaptable advantages of modern geosynGEOWEB concrete geocellsthetic technology. The GEOWEB® 3D Confinement System confines and stabilizes the concrete infill material in the system’s high-strength network of interconnected cells, allowing for quick-to-deploy, cost-effective, and more resilient roads.

With the flexibility of articulating paver blocks, the compressive strength of hard-armored concrete slabs, and the ease of a single-layer deployment, the GEOWEB GRC system creates economic, resilient roads and pavements. The GRC system accomplishes this with less concrete cross-section and less overall construction time and cost, resulting in 15-25% overall project savings—all without the need for heavy machinery or complex tools to install.

Installation of the GEOWEB GRC System

As with any paving project, site preparation is to key to the installation of the GEOWEB GRC system. Depending on traffic loading and subgrade conditions, the addition of a base layer and/or geotextile underlayment may be required.

Once the surface is prepared, installation of the GEOWEB system entails placing the panels directly over the prepared ground surface, and expanding across the project footprint to achieve the desired coverage. Specialized connectors known as ATRA® Keys are used to mechanically join individual panels together in the field. Once in place, the entire system is pre-tensioned in preparation for the concrete pour. Single-lane panel widths allow for roadway projects to be completed using a phased approach, as equipment can traverse one lane while the other is being constructed.

GEOWEB geocells road

Benefits of GEOWEB GRC System

GEOWEB GRC pavements are quick to deploy, require no steel reinforcement or extensive formwork, and offer a high degree of flexibility for complex construction schedules, or unexpected delays due to weather or material shortages. GRC system installation rates are typically 600 to 800 square meters per day with a crew of 8, or approximately 15 days per kilometer to construct a typical secondary roadway, start to finish. The system’s first implementation was carried out in 2011 for an intermodal yard that remains fully operational to this day.

GEOWEB Geocells Road

Supported by Industry-Leading Experts

Design methodology for the GEOWEB GRC system was developed by the University of Kansas under the direction of Dr. Jie Han, who has been researching geocells for more than 20 years. The GEOWEB GRC system is supported by laboratory and field research, including studies by the Universidad de Cartagena, the Universidad de Los Andes, the Department of Engineering of ENEL EMGESA, by Soil Protection, Ernesto Melano, and Semai Corporation. The GRC technology was presented in the first round of innovation and technologies with INVIAS and is currently in the process of federal road standardization

Design Assistance for the GEOWEB GRC System

The engineering team at Presto Geosystems works closely with engineers and project planners, offering free project evaluation services and installation guidance. System design and installation considerations are influenced by loading, subgrade soils, traffic frequency, site-specific constraints, and desired construction phasing. Our recommendations will deliver a technically sound, cost-effective solution based on over four decades of accredited research and testing. Please contact our knowledgeable staff and network of qualified distributors and representatives to discuss your project needs today.