The relationship developed in soil mechanics between void ratio and vertical effective stress is a simple but practical way of describing the one-dimensional, mechanical compaction of fine-grained, clastic mudstones. The compression coefficients (e100 and ß) that define this relationship are strongly influenced by grain size, which can be simply described by the sediment's clay content. In this paper, data both from the soil mechanics literature and from geological samples from the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico are used to construct the relationship between clay content and compression coefficients. The two datasets yield different values for the coefficients, but the authors believe that the coefficients derived from the large geological database should be used to describe geological compaction. Regression of the geological data generates the following relationships between clay content and compression coefficients:
There is excellent agreement between true porosities and porosities calculated using the standard soil mechanics compaction equation with these coefficients. This indicates that the mechanical compaction of natural mudstones to 40 MPa can be adequately described using the soil mechanics approach. Practical application of the work is a two-stage process which first involves the evaluation of clay content and, thus, compression coefficients directly from wireline log data. These data can then be used to (a) help define effective stress–porosity inputs for basin models and (b) estimate mudstone pore pressures. Examples of pore pressure estimates are shown from west Africa, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.