Abstract

At a given porosity, mudstone permeability increases by an order of magnitude for clay contents ranging from 57% to 36% (<2 μm). This increase in vertical permeability results from a dual-porosity system that develops through three mechanisms: (1) silt bridging preserves large pore throats, (2) stress bridges inhibit clay particle alignment, and (3) local clay particle compression within stress bridges alters pore throat size distribution. Uniaxial consolidation experiments on resedimented clay-silt mixtures illuminate how permeability varies as a function of clay fraction during burial. Backscattered electron microscope images show that silty mixtures have larger pore throats and fewer aligned clay particles than do more clay-rich mixtures. We describe the permeability of clay-silt mixtures with a geometric mean model. Our method provides a promising framework for modeling of mudstone permeability as a function of clay fraction and porosity. How permeability and consolidation evolve during burial affects the ability of mudstones to seal CO2 and hydrocarbons in the subsurface, how mudstones behave as gas reservoirs, and under what conditions mudstones will be overpressured. Dual-porosity systems have fundamentally different transient flow and solute transport behaviors.

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