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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Alteration and Erosion of Rock Matrix Bordering a Carbonate-Rich Shale Fracture

  • Author(s): Deng, H
  • Voltolini, M
  • Molins, S
  • Steefel, C
  • DePaolo, D
  • Ajo-Franklin, J
  • Yang, L
  • et al.

© 2017 American Chemical Society. A novel reactive transport model has been developed to examine the processes that affect fracture evolution in a carbonate-rich shale. An in situ synchrotron X-ray microtomography experiment, flowing CO2saturated water through a single fracture mini-core of Niobrara Shale provided the experimental observations for the development and testing of the model. The phenomena observed included the development of a porous altered layer, flow channeling, and increasingly limited calcite dissolution. The experimental observations cannot be explained by models that consider only mineral dissolution and development of an altered layer. The difference between the fracture volume change recorded by the microtomography images and what would be expected from mineral dissolution alone suggest that there is erosion of the altered layer as it develops. The numerical model includes this additional mechanism, with the erosion rate based on the thickness of the altered layer, and successfully captures the evolution of the geochemical reactions and morphology of the fracture. The findings imply that the abundance (with a threshold of approximately 35%) and reactivity of the rapidly reacting mineral control the development and erodibility of the altered layer on the fracture surfaces, and therefore fracture opening.

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