Impact of pore fluid chemistry on fine-grained sediment fabric and compressibility

Journal of Geophysical Research
By: , and 



Fines, defined here as grains or particles, less than 75 μm in diameter, exist nearly ubiquitously in natural sediment, even those classified as coarse. Macroscopic sediment properties, such as compressibility, which relates applied effective stress to the resulting sediment deformation, depend on the fabric of fines. Unlike coarse grains, fines have sizes and masses small enough to be more strongly influenced by electrical interparticle forces than by gravity. These electrical forces acting through pore fluids are influenced by pore fluid chemistry changes. Macroscopic property dependence on pore fluid chemistry must be accounted for in sediment studies involving subsurface flow and sediment stability analyses, as well as in engineered flow situations such as groundwater pollutant remediation, hydrocarbon migration, or other energy resource extraction applications. This study demonstrates how the liquid limit‐based electrical sensitivity index can be used to predict sediment compressibility changes due to pore fluid chemistry changes. Laboratory tests of electrical sensitivity, sedimentation, and compressibility illustrate mechanisms linking microscale and macroscale processes for selected pure, end‐member fines. A specific application considered here is methane extraction via depressurization of gas hydrate‐bearing sediment, which causes a dramatic pore water salinity drop concurrent with sediment being compressed by the imposed effective stress increase.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impact of pore fluid chemistry on fine-grained sediment fabric and compressibility
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research
DOI 10.1029/2018JB015872
Volume 123
Issue 7
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 20 p.
First page 5495
Last page 5514