American Chemical Society
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Sealing Shales versus Brittle Shales: A Sharp Threshold in the Material Properties and Energy Technology Uses of Fine-Grained Sedimentary Rocks

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-10-13, 00:00 authored by Ian C. Bourg
Fine-grained sedimentary rocks (shale and mudstone) play important roles in global CO2 abatement efforts through their uses in carbon capture and storage (CCS), radioactive waste storage, and shale gas extraction. These different technologies, however, rely on seemingly conflicting premises regarding the sealing properties of shale and mudstone, suggesting that those rocks that lend themselves to hydrocarbon extraction may not be optimal seals for CCS or radioactive waste storage, and vice versa. In this paper, a compilation of experimental data on the properties of well-characterized shale and mudstone formations is used to demonstrate that clay mineral mass fraction, Xclay, is a very important variable the controls key material properties of these formations and that a remarkably sharp threshold at Xclay1/3 separates fine-grained rocks with very different properties. This threshold coincides with the predictions of a simple conceptual model of the microstructure of sedimentary rocks and is reflected in the uses of shale and mudstone formations for CCS, radioactive waste storage, and shale gas extraction.