Sediment microstructure and the establishment of gas migration pathways during bubble growth

Johnson, Michael; Peakall, Jeffrey; Fairweather, Michael; Barnes, Martyn; Davison, Sushma; Jia, Xiaodong; Clare, Michael A ORCID:; Harbottle, David; Hunter, Timothy N.. 2019 Sediment microstructure and the establishment of gas migration pathways during bubble growth. Environmental Science & Technology, 53 (21). 12882-12892.

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Soft sediments exhibit complex and varied deformation behavior during in situ bubble growth, however the sediment microstructure is often neglected when predicting bubble networking or fracture propagation dynamics. This study considers three chemically similar Mg(OH)2-rich sediments, which differ slightly in their particle size distributions and morphologies, but exhibit significant differences in their porosity, stiffness and pore throat dimensions at equivalent yield strengths. At low yield strengths, microstructure greatly influenced the size distribution and connectivity of spherical bubble populations, with narrow sedimentary pore throats promoting coarser bubbles with diminished connectivity. Increased connectivity of the bubble population appeared highly significant in limiting bed expansion, either by establishing pathways for gas release, or by dissipating excess internal bubble pressure thereby diminishing further growth. During in situ gas generation, each sediment demonstrated a critical fracture strength which demarcated the populations with high void fractions (0.27 < ν < 0.4) of near spherical bubbles from a fracturing regime supporting reduced void fractions (ν < 0.15) of high aspect ratio cracks. However, critical fracture strengths varied significantly (in the 60-1000Pa range) between sediments, with coarser-grained and higher porosity sediments promoting fracture at lower strengths. Fracture propagation greatly enhanced the connectivity and diminished the tortuosity of the void geometry, thereby augmenting the continuous gas release flux.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0013-936X
Date made live: 11 Oct 2019 15:59 +0 (UTC)

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