Course Outline

Petrological analysis of clay-rich soil and rock can be critical to the success of civil engineering or geo-environmental site investigation. In the vast majority of cases the materials recovered from the ground are seen only briefly and it is in this very short space of time that the geo-scientist and engineer, and the logger/sampler must decide whether mineralogical analysis would be of benefit, and if so, how many samples and which methods of analysis should be used. The methods to use will depend upon the information required from the samples.

The analysis of fine particles (<10 µm) is important in health and safety assessments at a wide variety of sites and this course will provide the means to understand how to analyse these fine particles and how to interpret the resulting data. This course will describe the techniques used to analyse fine-grained materials of all kinds, including soils and rocks, the type of information these techniques can provide, their accuracy and appropriate sampling strategies. We will also discuss the reasons why petrological analysis is carried out and the relative merits of mineralogical and chemical analysis. Who should attend

The course will be of direct relevance to geologists, environmental scientists and civil engineers with little or no experience of working with fine grained materials, their health or engineering implications or of the analytical methods required for clay and other fine particle analysis.

Course Structure

The course will involve group and personal tuition designed to equip the participants with an understanding necessary to develop a programme of petrological analysis and to understand the resulting data.

Session 1 – 0900-1000

Registration and introduction
Introduction to clay minerals, coal dust, asbestos and other fine particles Clay-size particles are defined as <4 µm, however not all clay size particles are clay minerals and vice versa. Respirable particles are <10 µm, muds and shales <~60 µm. We will focus on how clay mineralogy, structure and chemistry control field behaviour of smectite and other common clay minerals.


Tools for the job Techniques used to characterise clays and fine particles in general: e.g. X-ray diffraction (XRD), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), particle size analysis. What to expect from these techniques, how many samples you should take, how big they should be, how to prepare samples, what the results really tell you and how accurate they are.
The composition of fine grained soils and rocks Fine-grained rocks are not just clay! A lecture introducing the other components of mudrocks, and other fine grained rocks such as chalk. The talk will highlight aspects of potential engineering importance. This will be illustrated using high resolution back-scattered SEM images of the London Clay and Lambeth Group. We will also look at lateral and vertical variability in the Tertiary sediments of the London and Hampshire Basins.
The composition of dusts, detection of asbestos and asbestiform particles Dusts are highly variable and usually a direct reflection of the surrounding environment. We will look at what can be in them and how to identify the components.

Session 2 – 10.15-12.45


Session 3 – 13.45-14.45

Tools for the job Visit to the X-ray diffraction laboratory in the Natural History Museum to see how samples are prepared and analysed. This will give participants an invaluable insight into the practical side of fine particle analysis.

Session 3 – 15.00-16.30

Case studies and practical A number of case studies, both geotechnical and health-related will be described. This part will be interactive with participants encouraged to attempt interpretation of data and make predictions.

Using a real example we shall discuss the analytical tools that should be used to investigate the problem. Participants will then be provided with the actual data set to interpret.

Session 4 – 16.30-17.00

General discussion and questions

Course Presenter

Jenny Huggett is proprietor of Petroclays, a consultancy specialising clay mineralogy and clastic rock petrology. She has a PhD in geology from Imperial College and has extensive experience of clastic rock analysis for both geotechenical site investigations and the petroleum industry.

For details of course dates and other courses see:

To reserve a place or for more information contact:

Christine Butenuth at or call 0207 589 7394.

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