Abstract

—Shales have undergone a complex burial diagenesis that involved a severe modification of the pore structure. Reconstituted shales can provide new insights into the nature of the pore structure in natural materials. The effects of diagenesis on the microfabric, pore size distribution, and porosity of Opalinus shale were measured by comparing the behavior of natural and reconstituted specimens. The parent material (Opalinus shale) was reconstituted through multiple grinding operations, sedimentation from a dispersed slurry, and one-dimensional isothermal consolidation. This process produced uniform specimens that were not cemented and had replicable microfabric and engineering properties. The microfabric and mineralogy of the materials were examined using high-resolution scanning/backscattered electron microscopy (SEM/BSEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) for specimens with broken and milled surfaces. Mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) and N2 adsorption were used to assess the pore size distributions and specific surface areas of the materials. The microstructure of natural shale was characterized to be highly heterogeneous with significant concentrations of calcareous microfossils, calcite, and quartz particles embedded within the clay matrix. The microfossils were observed to be locally infilled and rimmed by a calcite cement that showed evidence of dissolution. The reconstituted specimens showed a double-structure microfabric that evolved with the level of consolidation stress and converged into a single-structure material (comparable to the natural shale) at a consolidation stress of more than twice the estimated maximum in situ effective stress. The natural shale had a lower specific surface area in comparison to the reconstituted material, which was consolidated at large effective stresses. These differences can be attributed to cementation at a submicron pore scale and highlight chemical diagenesis effects that were not replicated in the reconstituted specimens.

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