Conceptual site model and risk assessment for coal measures

GGS used a conceptual site model for a client who wanted to understand the risk to their development from coal measures.


GGS used a conceptual site model for a client who wanted to understand the risk to their development from coal measures.

Project description

Conceptual site models (CSMs) are the written or illustrative representation that highlight the physical, biological and chemical processes that underpin a site and the processes that control the migration and transport of contaminants to receptors (contaminant-pathway-receptor pollutant linkages). They are integral to the overall process of ground gas risk assessment. GGS will commonly use CSMs in order to assess the risk of potential harm caused by ground gas contamination to receptors. These are used in conjunction with risk matrixes to consider magnitude, probability and consequence of a contaminant-pathway-receptor linkage occurring, in line with best practice and guidance outlined in DEFRA CLR11. In addition to site specific ground gas hazards, consideration to ground gas migration mechanisms is also important.

Conceptual site model (CSM) in practice

GGS was approached by a client who wanted to understand the risk to their development from coal measures that were identified underlying the site.

Continuous monitoring confirmed in BH3 a maximum concentration of 12.2% v/v carbon dioxide, a minimum of 0.3% v/v oxygen and a maximum flow of 0.54l/hr. This gave the development a Gas Screening Value (GSV) of 0.066 (Characteristic Situation 1 OR CS1) in line with BS8485:2019.

However, due to carbon dioxide exceeding the 5% threshold and the depleted oxygen, consideration was required to decide whether the development should be accelerated to CS2.

Understanding the CSM

The site was underlain by a thin layer of made ground (inert materials and gravels), followed by a sequence of boulder clay, gravels and mudstone containing coal measures.

No carbon dioxide thresholds were exceeded within the made ground (BH2) or the gravels (BH1).

The groundwater level remained steady throughout the monitoring period and did not appear to be a ground gas driver.

GGS conceptual site model

The predominant ground gas driver was atmospheric pressure which during a significant pressure fall, drew carbon dioxide into the monitoring well, displacing oxygen on two occasions.

On inspection of the CSM, GGS was able to understand the ground gas pathways underlying the site i.e. the permeable gravels and boreholes. The borehole logs also confirmed a thick layer (2.5m) of low-permeability boulder clay underlying the site below the inert made ground.

Risk assessing the site

From examination of the CSM in combination with the continuous monitoring data, GGS was able to confidently establish the characteristic situation as CS1 rather than CS2 and the risk to the development as ‘very low’.

it was concluded that the worst-case scenario pressure fall produced a maximum carbon dioxide concentration of 12.2% v/v and oxygen depletion to 0.3% v/v. There were no available pathways towards the receptor in the natural strata, except via the monitoring wells, as the site is protected by a thick layer of boulder clay which will inhibit vertical ground gas migration. Therefore, no gas protection measures were required. However, it was recommended that all monitoring wells, particularly deeper wells extending to the gravel and below, were appropriately over-drilled and then grouted in order to remove the potential pathway.



Through conducting a CSM, GGS was able to accurately pinpoint the conditions and risks at the site rather than taking potentially misleading maximum gas readings at face value. This further assessment saved the client ample time and money through proving that expensive corrective measures were not necessary on this occasion. The clear data that informed GGS’s assessment and guidance also allowed them to make informed decisions regarding the safe development of their site, both for construction workers and future occupants.

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At GGS we provide a range of specialist ground-gas services for our clients within a variety of industries. We undertake a range of ground-gas monitoring methods, factual and interpretive reporting and consultancy.