The time-dependence of compaction localization in a porous sandstone

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 15:00
301 (Moscone South)
Michael John Heap, Université de Strasbourg, Ecole et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre, Strasbourg, France, Nicolas Brantut, University College London, Rock and Ice Physics and Seismological Laboratory, London, United Kingdom, Patrick Baud, EOST École et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre, Strasbourg Cedex, France and Philip G Meredith, University College London, Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory, London, United Kingdom
Compaction bands in sandstone are laterally-extensive planar deformation features that are characterized by lower porosity and permeability than the surrounding host rock. As a result, this form of localization has important implications for both strain partitioning and fluid flow in the Earth’s upper crust. To better understand the time-dependency of compaction band growth, we performed triaxial deformation experiments on water-saturated Bleurswiller sandstone (initial porosity = 0.24) under constant stress (creep) conditions in the compactant regime. Our experiments show that inelastic strain accumulates at a constant stress in the compactant regime, manifest as compaction bands. While creep in the dilatant regime is characterized by an increase in porosity and, ultimately, an acceleration in axial strain rate to shear failure, compaction creep is characterized by a reduction in porosity and a gradual deceleration in axial strain rate. The global decrease in the rates of axial strain, acoustic emission energy, and porosity change during creep compaction is punctuated at intervals by higher rate excursions, interpreted as the formation of compaction bands. The growth rate of compaction bands formed during creep is lower as the applied differential stress, and hence background creep strain rate, is decreased. However, the inelastic strain associated with the growth of a compaction band remains constant over strain rates spanning several orders of magnitude (from 10–8 to 10–5 s–1). We find that, despite the large differences in strain rate and growth rate (from both creep and constant strain rate experiments), the characteristics (geometry, thickness) of the compaction bands remain essentially the same. Several lines of evidence, notably the similarity between the differential stress dependence of creep strain rate in the dilatant and compactant regimes, suggest that, as for dilatant creep, subcritical stress corrosion cracking is the mechanism responsible for compactant creep in our experiments. Our study highlights that stress corrosion is an important mechanism in the time-dependent porosity loss, subsidence, and permeability reduction of sandstone reservoirs.