The effect of microstructural heterogeneity on pore size distribution and permeability in Opalinus Clay (Mont Terri, Switzerland): insights from an integrated study of laboratory fluid flow and pore morphology from BIB-SEM images
T. Philipp, A. Amann-Hildenbrand, B. Laurich, G. Desbois, R. Littke, J. L. Urai, 2017. "The effect of microstructural heterogeneity on pore size distribution and permeability in Opalinus Clay (Mont Terri, Switzerland): insights from an integrated study of laboratory fluid flow and pore morphology from BIB-SEM images", Geomechanical and Petrophysical Properties of Mudrocks, E. H. Rutter, J. Mecklenburgh, K. Taylor
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Opalinus Clay (OPA) is considered as a potential host rock for the deep geological disposal of radioactive waste. One key parameter in long-term storage prediction is permeability. In this study we investigated microstructural controls on permeability for the different facies of OPA. Permeability and porosity were determined under controlled pressure conditions. In addition, the pore space was investigated by SEM, using high-quality surfaces prepared by broad ion beam (BIB) milling. Water permeability coefficients range from 1.6 × 10−21 to 5.6 × 10−20 m2; He-pycnometer porosities range between approximately 21 and 12%. The sample with the highest He porosity (shaly facies) is characterized by the lowest permeability, and vice versa (carbonate-rich sandy facies). This inverse behaviour deviates from the generally reported trend of increasing permeability with increasing porosity, indicating that parameters other than porosity affect permeability. Visible porosities from SEM images revealed that 67–95% of the total porosity resides within pores smaller than the SEM detection limit. Pore sizes follow a power-law distribution, with characteristic power-law exponents (D) differing greatly between the facies. The carbonate-rich sandy facies contains a network of much larger pores (D(shaly)≈2.4; D(carbonate-rich)c. 2.0), because of the presence of load-supporting sand grains that locally prevent clay compaction, and are responsible for a higher permeability.
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A surge of interest in the geomechanical and petrophysical properties of mudrocks (shales) has taken place in recent years following the development of a shale gas industry in the United States and elsewhere, and with the prospect of similar developments in the UK. Also, these rocks are of particular importance in excavation and construction geotechnics and other rock engineering applications, such as underground natural gas storage, carbon dioxide disposal and radioactive waste storage. They may greatly influence the stability of natural and engineered slopes. Mudrocks, which make up almost three-quarters of all the sedimentary rocks on Earth, therefore impact on many areas of applied geoscience.
This volume focuses on the mechanical behaviour and various physical properties of mudrocks. The 15 chapters are grouped into three themes: (i) physical properties such as porosity, permeability, fluid flow through cracks, strength and geotechnical behaviour; (ii) mineralogy and microstructure, which control geomechanical behaviour; and (iii) fracture, both in laboratory studies and in the field.