Direct Push and Rotary Percussion Sounding System

The direct push and rotary percussion sounding system is used in geological, hydrogeological, geotechnical, and geothermal characterization studies on groundwater resources and contaminated sites.

Terrain d'hydrogéologie à Ste-Hélène de Jean-Sébastien Gosselin, étudiant au doctorat avec Richard Martel

2010; Foreuse; Hydrogéologie; Montérégie; Projet PACES; Terrain;

The Geotech 605D geotechnical drill rig and sounding equipment can be used to conduct direct push soundings such as piezometer tests, a type of cone penetration test (CPTU), as well as rotary percussion soundings in soils or rocky massifs. The system can be used to sample soil and water and conduct permeability tests without installing permanent observation wells. Light-weight piezometers can also be installed using this system.

Direct push and rotary percussion sounding facilities include a number of types of equipment:

  • Geotech 605D drill rig
  • Two interchangeable drill heads
  • Percussion drill head Maximum capacities: torque 2.5 kN, drive-down force 72 kN, extraction force 132 kN, rotation speed 80 rpm
  • Rotary drill head Maximum capacities: torque 2.5 kN, rotation speed 80 rpm.
  • A rotary percussion sounding system (RPSS) with hydraulic hammer
  • Two air compressors for rotary percussion soundings
  • A high-pressure water injection system with a 900-litre tank for rotary percussion soundings
  • Sensors for recording push load,rotation pressure and speed, the depth and number of hammer blows, and hammer pressure
  • A multi-screw anchoring system for direct push soundings (CPT)

NOTE The system can be used to install observation wells by driving a threaded sleeve equipped with a lost tip (to minimize disturbance of granular environment), or to install 1 to 2 in. diameter perforated sleeves or perforated sleeves pre-installed with sand filters (prepack).


Vertek sounding systems

  • Data acquisition system for RPSS and CPT
  • Sensors for RPSS measurements
  • CPT with inclination and SMR (soil moisture resistivity)
  • ConeSipper for sampling air or water (other water samplers available)
  • Bladder pump
  • Sampling system equivalent to the Geoprobe Profiler

Note: Other sensors can be rented to take more specialized direct push measurements (seismic cone for mechanical properties, natural gamma logging for identifying formations, a video cone for identifying materials and detecting non-aqueous phase liquids).


Geoprobe Systems

  • Hydraulic perforated tip profiling system for sampling water or conducting permeability tests
  • System for conducting pneumatic permeability tests
  • System for cementing holes


CPT/SMR (Cone Penetration Test/Soil Moisture Resistivity)

Parameters measured

  • CPT: sleeve friction, tip resistance, water pressure, inclination
  • SMR: resistivity, water content (in unsaturated zone)

When the ramming stops, water pressure dissipates and returns to normal in the material. This makes it possible to measure static water pressure and determine the hydraulic load. In fine materials (silt, clay), pressure dissipation tests can be conducted to estimate the material’s hydraulic conductivity.

Applications: Determining mechanical properties (strength) of materials, identifying materials (stratigraphy) with vertical centimetric resolution, measuring soil water pressure, determining hydraulic conductivity of fine materials in pressure dissipation tests, identifying fluids with distinctive salinity (resistivity).


RPSS (Rotary Percussion Sounding System)

The parameters measured during sounding are used to determine the required energy based on the speed of penetration and identify the geological formations encountered. This drilling method has mainly been applied to the characterization of rocky massifs, but it is also used to identify units in unconsolidated deposits, particularly in formations that are difficult to drill (gravel with boulders, till, etc.).

The RPSS can also be used to make preliminary holes in the unsaturated zone in which direct push soundings can then be made.


Geoprobe hydraulic profiling system with permeability testing system

The Geoprobe hydraulic profiling system can be used to drive a perforated section to different depths to conduct permeability tests. Geoprobe’s pneumatic permeability testing system allows permeability tests to be performed once the interval in which the hydraulic profiling system is located has been developed.


Water sampling

Water can be sampled in the saturated zone with the Vertex ConeSipper alone or in combination with CPT soundings. Water sampling can also be done with the Geoprobe hydraulic profiling system.

A number of technical services are available, including:

  • Cone penetration test stratigraphy
  • Determination of hydraulic properties (hydraulic gradient and conductivity)
  • Water sampling

See other options available with this system (PDF)


  • Determining stratigraphy by CPT and RPSS requires that the results of the soundings first be checked against conventional drilling with soil sampling (at least two different locations) to identify the signature of the different formations.
  • CPT and RPSS measurements and results from the permeability tests using the hydraulic profiling system require professional analysis.
  • A number of constraints can prevent direct pushing (bedrock, till, gravel with boulders, etc.).

The direct push and rotary percussion sounding system can be used by staff, faculty, and students of the Eau Terre Environment Research Centre, the Québec Geoscience Centre, and other research institutions for their own projects.

Our resources and expertise are also available for external collaborative projects and research and development contracts.

Please contact us for more information on our technical services.

Here are a few examples of how the direct push and rotary percussion sounding system can be used:

  • Direct push installation of observation wells (without drilling) with pre-installed well screens made of tubing that allows direct installation in the granular formation, i.e., without a gravel filter around the well screen.
  • Determining the mechanical properties (strength) of materials, identifying materials (stratigraphy) with very good vertical resolution, measuring soil water pressure, determining the hydraulic conductivity of fine materials during pressure dissipation tests, and identifying fluids with distinctive salinity (resistivity)

The direct push and rotary percussion sounding system was purchased with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec.

Paradis, D., Lefebvre, R., Gloaguen, E. et Rivera, A. (2015). Predicting hydrofacies and hydraulic conductivity from direct-push data using a data-driven relevance vector machine approach: Motivations, algorithms and application. Water Resour. Res., 51 (1) : 481-205.
DOI : 10.1002/2014WR015452

Paradis, D., Tremblay, L., Lefebvre, R., Gloaguen, E., Rivera, A., Parent, M., Ballard, J. M., Michaud, Y. et Brunet, P. (2014). Field characterization and data integration to define the hydraulic heterogeneity of a shallow granular aquifer at a sub-watershed scale. Environ. Earth Sci., 72(5): 1325-1348.
DOI : 10.1007/s12665-014-3318-2

Tremblay, L., Lefebvre, R., Paradis, D. et Gloaguen, E. (2014). Conceptual model of leachate migration in a granular aquifer derived from the integration of multi-source characterization data (St-Lambert, Canada). Hydrogeol. J., 22 (3) : 587-608.
DOI : 10.1007/s10040-013-1065-1


René Lefebvre

Professor and Scientific Director

Carole Parent

Partnerships and Development Advisor

Direct Push and Rotary Percussion Sounding System

Institut national de la recherche scientifique

Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre

490 rue de la Couronne

Quebec City, Quebec G1K 9A9

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