Another Fascinating Exhibit To Help You See Through The Dust


New settling and sedimentation exhibit at the Damen Dredging Experience
New settling and sedimentation exhibit at the Damen Dredging Experience

Sometimes, explaining a part of the dredging process can be as simple as seeing through the mixture. In this exhibit we can demonstrate what happens beneath the surface of the cargo in the hopper1,2,3. Along the way, we explain some quirky behaviour in other phases of the dredging process, also. The exhibit consists of five tubes in a frame, that can rotate around a horizontal axis. In the tubes are various types of soils. Each with their own settling behaviour. The exhibit was recently added to the Damen Dredging Experience. One more reason to highlight it here.

Samples in the settling and sedimentation exhibit
Samples in the settling and sedimentation exhibit

One major part in the dredging process is the hydraulic transport of particles in a carrier fluid. Pickup and transport have been touched upon in previous posts4,5. Here we concentrate on the end of the process: settling and deposition. This can be either in a hopper or on the discharge area. In both cases you will only see the fluid surface during the process and at best the top of the deposited sediment. How the material came there, was deposited and stacked up can’t be readily seen. As the tubes allow these processes to be observed from the side, we can follow the events.

Multi fraction sediment after settling
Multi fraction sediment after settling

The exhibit can be started by upending the frame with the tubes. The material that sat in the lower end gets now on the top end. They all are released at the same time and we see immediately see the differences in settling velocity for the different particle sizes6. The gravel falls down within ten seconds. The sand is slower and the clay even has problems getting started. One nice observation is the mixture of soils. Against the height of the tube, the fractions in the sample are released simultaneously. Still, the fractions separate over the fall height and stack up again in their original order. This not only happens in the tube. In the hopper or the discharge area, a widely graded sediment will sort itself to the various fractions.

Table of irregular shapes (Source: Wikipedia)
Table of irregular shapes (Source: Wikipedia)

Although for all the samples the particles are released simultaneously, you can still see a slight difference in settling velocity within each sample. This can be either due to slight variations in size that are possible within each mesh size used for sieving. Another cause for the differences might be the differences in shape. A perfectly spherical particle will have a faster settling velocity than an oddly shaped potato7.

Explanation of terminal velocity and hindered settling
Explanation of terminal velocity and hindered settling

And even then, the initial particles that fall down have a greater velocity than the particles in the bulk of the sample, even when having the same particle size and shape. This is due to the water flowing up around the particle. The upward flow is slowing down an adjacent particle. This interaction is called ‘hindered settling’. At high concentrations this can contribute to the efficiency of pipe line transport8. But for the settling it is really hindering the loading time.
At the very end of the settling, the particle gets deposited at the bottom, or on top of another. The water that is caught in between has to escape. This causes one last puff of fluid to flow upward and take the very find dust present upward. This happens with each particle that settles and causes the layer of dust to lift to the surface of the deposited sediment. So even when loading a cargo of gravel, you will always end up with a layer of dust on top. So, don’t judge the quality of the cargo just by the dust you see on top. Take a deeper sample or base your evaluation on the signals from the sensors from the screening tower.

Full cargo load of gravel, covered with dust. And the seagulls know that the dust layer also collects all the snacks
Full cargo load of gravel, covered with dust. And the seagulls know that the dust layer also collects all the snacks


  1. Hopper Loading: What Happens Beneath the Surface, Discover Dredging
  2. Graduation of Ben Sloof: Hopper Loading Model and Overflow Losses, Discover Dredging
  3. IADC Young Author Award for 1DH Hopper Loading Model of Jordy Boone, Discover Dredging
  4. Loose Sand, How Hard Can it Be? Discover Dredging
  5. Graduation of Arend van Roon: Detecting Flow Regime And Optimising Transport Efficiency, Discover Dredging
  6. Terminal velocity, Wikipedia
  7. Sphericity, Wikipedia
  8. Slurry Transport Fundamentals, Limit Deposit Velocity Framework – 2nd Edition, SA Miedema

See also

Ben Sloof Nominated For KIvI Best Offshore Graduate Student

3D simulation of a hopper loading process

Ben Sloof was one of the best graduate students we had here at our company. For his thesis1, he tackled a complex problem and managed to model this in a reliable simulation. Now he is nominated for best Offshore Graduate Student. Today, there will be a KIvI Offshore lecture evening with a ceremony to award the prize2. Once again3, Ben will deliver a capturing pitch on his thesis. So, let’s review what he has achieved.

Van Rhee and similar ‘Euler’ models

At the chair of Dredging Technology of professor van Rhee, a lot of effort is put in describing the hopper loading in so called ‘Euler’ models. This is where you calculate the flow of the fluid and derive the flux of material that is carried within. Ben is standing on the shoulders of giants here, as by now there are a lot of models available4. We opted to use an existing simulation platform: OpenFOAM. One of the plugins for this open source program is DriftFlux, where the valuable grains are treated as a continuum fluid moving through the rest of the fluid. The extra effort of Ben, was to modify this DriftFlux plugin to account for settling and scour. This is in itself is already an unprecedented feat. Complicated by the unstructured calculations within DriftFlux and OpenFOAM. Nonetheless, after careful verification, he was able to perform interesting simulations of the hopper loading process.

Concentration and Velocity

After careful examination of the simulations, Ben started to see patterns in the flow. These set him on a track to build a whole new model. This new layer model credibly describes the process as well, without the complexity of a CFD simulation. As the development of a multi-fraction version of the OpenFOAM platform is still in progress, final verification is still pending. At least, the differences we see between the single fraction model and reality can be explained by what can be expected. It is open to further expansion with future research and can be used as a starting point for the next improvement.

Introduction to the key components of the proposed new ‘Layer Model’ (1DV)

And that is an insight worthy of extra appraisal: finally cracking the riddle of the sands settling in the hopper. We hope you will receive the prize. You deserve it.

Good luck Ben, we wish you all the best on your future voyages to unknown destinations. We are sure you’ll be blessed and a blessing, wherever you go.

Setting sail to distant shores


  1. Graduation of Ben Sloof: Hopper Loading Model and Overflow Losses
  2. KIvI Evening: Johan Sverdrup Platform Installatie
  3. Hopper Loading: What Happens Beneath the Surface
  4. IADC Young Author Award for 1DH Hopper Loading Model of Jordy Boone

See also


Graduation of Ben Sloof: Hopper Loading Model and Overflow Losses

Ben Sloof signing his Master of Science degree

Do you remember Ben Sloof? Our young bright graduation student presenting at the Young CEDA Pitch Talks? Last week he graduated (with honours!) on ‘Numerical modelling of overflow losses and flow in Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers’. You may have noticed that hopper loading was already a topic for previous posts about Ben Sloof and Jordy Boone at the CEDA Dredging Days. It results from the great interest in this part of the dredging process. And it still is a very dynamic field of research indeed, as in a short time frame various new models are presented. Who would ever think that dredging technology is a boring business? We are already dredging for ages, so what innovation could ever contribute to the progress of dredging? Well, I’ll explain what this new kid on the block found out now.

Overview of a hopper loading process with OpenFOAM simulation

Due to time constraints on a graduation project, Ben was limited to work on only a part of the hopper loading process. He worked only on the internal interface between mixture and sediment. Moving free surfaces of a filling hopper or a lowering water table from a reduced overflow height were left out of the scope. Still, it quite accurately describes the observed phenomena in the hopper loading process. We see a negative buoyant jet, we see the jet scour pit, recirculation and mixing in the fluid body and a ‘clear’ top layer which carries away the fines as it is skimmed away through the overflow weir. Deviation from the measurements can be explained by the difference in single fraction particle size.

Introduction to the key components of the proposed new ‘Layer Model’ (1DV)

With the observations from the CFD, Ben Sloof made his new ‘Layer Model’ with specifically a single fraction of particles. Then, he made an effort to correct the ‘Layer Model’ for physics of multiple fractions, with not too much improvement. Later on, he introduced a ‘fiddle factor’, that magically happened to be spot on. Further research and development of the model is currently under way to build a better foundation for this. Who knows, even Einstein had to introduce the ‘Cosmological Constant’ to fit his Theory of General Relativity to reality. Years later he was proved to be right1.

Comparison of van Rhee, Boone and Sloof

The performance of the models by van Rhee and Boone were already discussed2. Now, the validation of the Sloof ‘Layer Model’ is also included. Only after adjustment for the multi fraction in the results, the model nears the performance of the van Rhee model. Difference here is calculation speed. Sloof manages to estimate the hopper performance in seconds. This is why he rightfully received his degree with honours. He improved the speed AND accuracy of the calculation in a method, that would normally take the better part of a PhD study. I am looking forward to his future achievements.

Although this graduation assignment really helps us in refining our design process and gave some insight in the loading and overflow process, it still is an academic exercise. And any scientific model is just as good as the assumptions that were made at the beginning. In reality, the circumstances might be very different from what the model assumed, resulting in quit some different performance.

Heavy weather dredging (Retrieved from YouTube 18/10/2012, unknown source)


  1. Cosmological Constant Confirmed
  2. IADC Young Author Award for 1DH Hopper Loading Model of Jordy Boone

See also

Overview of hopper loading models by Ben Sloof
Nice report with an overview of the various hopper loading models

Dredging Engineering (lectures)

Dredging Engineering (papers)

Damen Standard TSHD

Damen MAD