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Influence of clay fraction on pore-scale properties and hydraulic conductivity of experimentally compacted mudstones

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew Aplin


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We report the results of a series of hydraulic conductivity tests carried out on seven natural, well-characterised specimens of London Clay mudstone. The clay fractions of the samples range from 27% to 66% and enabled a test of the influence of clay fi action on the hydraulic conductivity, pore size distribution, compressibility and specific surface area of natural mudstones. Hydraulic conductivities were determined at effective stresses between 1.5 and 33 MPa. Hydraulic conductivities of clay-rich samples (49-66% clay fraction) decreased from similar to 10(-11) m s(-1) to similar to 10(-14) m s(-1) over a porosity range of 48% to 25%. At a given porosity the hydraulic conductivities of two silt-rich samples (27 and 33% clay fraction) were 40-250 times greater than those of the five clay-rich samples. Variations in hydraulic conductivity are directly related to pore size distributions and are accurately predicted by a model which uses pore size distribution as its primary input. Clay-rich samples have unimodal pore size distributions with modal throat radii around 60-120 nm. Silt-rich samples have bimodal pore throat size distributions. One modal size is similar to that observed in clay-rich samples with a second modal value at 3-6 mu m. Compaction under effective stresses up to 10 MPa results in the preferential collapse of larger pores, so that the rate of loss of hydraulic conductivity is greater in fine silt-rich samples. Differences in hydraulic conductivity between silt-rich and clay-rich mudstones therefore decline with decreasing porosity. The range of porosity-hydraulic conductivity relationships means that hydraulic conductivity is not easily predicted from porosity alone; additional constraining parameters such as grain and pore size distributions are required.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dewhurst DN, Aplin AC, Sarda JP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Year: 1999

Volume: 104

Issue: B12

Pages: 29261-29274

Print publication date: 01/12/1999

ISSN (print): 1934-8843

ISSN (electronic): 1934-2098


DOI: 10.1029/1999JB900276


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