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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

GCAGS Transactions


Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions
Vol. 31 (1981), Pages 238-238

Abstract: Permeability and Microfabric of Clayey Sediments

William R. Bryant (1), Louis Thompson, Wen-An Chiou (2)


Most clayey marine sediments being deposited in today's oceans will eventually make excellent seals for hydrocarbons. Extensive consolidation testing of marine sediments indicate that most fine-grained marine deposits of the oceans are underconsolidated indicating the presence of excess pore water pressures. This condition is attributed to the low permeability of the sediments and indicates the potential of these sediments as seals for hydrocarbons.

Analyses of the consolidation, permeability and microstructure characteristics of clayey marine sediments from most of the world's oceans show that the permeability decreases under an imposed load 7 to 8 order of magnitude faster than porosity. This decrease in permeability is controlled by the amounts and type of clay present as well as its microstructure. Clay microstructure refers to two important properties of a sediment - the fabric and physiocochemistry. The fabric, a geotechnical property of the sediment is defined as the orientation and arrangement of the solid particles and the particle to particle relationship. The relationship between depth of burial, porosity, permeability and fabric of marine clays will be discussed in relationship to seals for hydrocarbons.

The consolidation tests have shown that the compressibility and permeability of the three clay types: kaolinite, illite and bentonite, can be represented by power law functions of the porosity (n). They are ^sgr = AnB (psi) for the vertical stress supported by the mineral grains and K = CnD (millidarcys) for the absolute permeability measured in the vertical direction with sea water. For these different clay types the following table lists the constants A, B, C and D.

                         A          B          C          D
          Kaolinite     8.10      -5.43      0.296       5.71
          Illite        3.07      -5.10      0.836       7.34
          Bentonite     5.45      -6.09      0.0098      8.64
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(1) Department of Oceanography, Department of Civil Engineering,

(2) Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Copyright © 1999 by The Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies