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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Analysis of time-dependent strain heterogeneity in shales using X-ray microscopy and digital volume correlation


In this article, we report the results of a 4-dimensional (3 spatial dimensions plus time) in-situ creep experiment on a milli-core shale plug from Barnett formation in Texas. An outstanding challenge in shale mechanics is connecting observable characteristics to predictable mechanical and hydraulic behavior. We employ novel imaging and analysis techniques to statistically link sample mineralogy and structure to observed deformation. In particular, we focus on mechanisms of porosity reduction during transient response to step changes in stress, analogous to the aseismic deformation that occurs after an episode of fracturing. Our main goal in this study is to take the first steps to visualize and capture the small-scale deformation mechanisms involved in creep of shales, using imaging techniques. To do so, we conducted a uniaxial creep experiment inside an Xradia Versa 520 micro-CT system for 12 h at room temperature under a constant uniaxial stress of 25 MPa. We employed a Digital Volume Correlation (DVC) method to measure micro-scale deforspmation of the sample by comparing the resulting volumetric images with a high-resolution scan of the sample obtained prior to the creep experiment. The results indicate that the time-dependent deformation in the compliant clay plus kerogen matrix constituents facilitates rigid grain rotation and compaction of intergranular porosity at the boundary between rigid grains and matrix.

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