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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

Author(s): Bourg, Ian C.

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Abstract: 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 Xclay ∼ 1/3 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.
Publication Date: 9-Sep-2015
DOI: doi:10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00233
ISSN: 2328-8930
EISSN: 2328-8930
Language: en
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Environmental Science & Technology Letters
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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