Experimental observations of mechanical dilation at the onset of gas flow in Callovo-Oxfordian claystone

Cuss, Robert; Harrington, Jon; Giot, Richard; Auvray, Christophe. 2014 Experimental observations of mechanical dilation at the onset of gas flow in Callovo-Oxfordian claystone. In: Norris, S., (ed.) Clays in natural and engineered barriers for radioactive waste confinement. London, UK, Geological Society of London, 507-519. (Geological Society Special Publication, 400).

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Understanding the mechanisms controlling the advective movement of gas and its potential impact on a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste is important to performance assessment. In a clay-based GDF, four primary phenomenological models can be defined to describe gas flow: (i) diffusion and/or solution within interstitial water; (ii) visco-capillary (or two-phase) flow in the original porosity of the fabric; (iii) flow along localized dilatant pathways (micro-fissuring); and (iv) gas fracturing of the rock. To investigate which mechanism(s) control the movement of gas, two independent experimental studies on Callovo-Oxfordian claystone (COx) have been undertaken at the British Geological Survey (BGS) and LAEGO–ENSG Nancy (LAEGO). The study conducted at BGS used a triaxial apparatus specifically designed to resolve very small volumetric (axial and radial) strains potentially associated with the onset of gas flow. The LAEGO study utilized a triaxial setup with axial and radial strains measured by strain gauges glued to the sample. Both studies were conducted on COx at in situ stresses representative of the Bure Underground Research Laboratory (URL), with flux and pressure of gas and water carefully monitored throughout long-duration experiments. A four-stage model has been postulated to explain the experimental results. Stage 1: gas enters at the gas entry pressure. Gas propagation is along dilatant pathways that exploit the pore network of the material. Around each pathway the fabric compresses, which may lead to localized movement of water away from the pathways. Stage 2: the dendriticflow path network has reached the mid-plane of the sample, resulting in acceleration of the observed radial strain. During this stage, outflow from the sample also develops. Stage 3: gas has reached the backpressure end of the sample with end-to-end movement of gas. Dilation continues, indicating that gas pathway numbers have increased. Stage 4: gas-fracturing occurs with a significant tensile fracture forming, resulting in failure of the sample. Both studies clearly showed that as gas started to move through the COx, the sample underwent mechanical dilation (i.e. an increase in sample volume). Under in situ conditions, the onset of dilation (micro-fissuring) is a necessary precursor for the advective movement of gas.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0305-8719
Date made live: 24 Sep 2014 08:45 +0 (UTC)

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