Effect of electrostatic forces on the porosity of saturated mineral powder samples and implications for chalk strength

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Electrostatic forces acting at the particle scale can be an important drive behind water weakening of chalk. Upon the replacement of oil with brine, ions present in the imbibing brine can exchange with ions already adsorbed to the calcite surface, leading to a change in the surface potential. This can cause an increase in the disjoining pressure between particles, either reducing the cohesion of particles connected via contact cement or decreasing friction between free particles. We have assessed the effect of electrostatic forces by measuring pore-water effects on porosity in sediment columns using nuclear magnetic resonance relaxometry. Samples of calcite, quartz, or kaolinite powder were saturated with brines containing ions found in seawater (Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl, and SO42−) at varying ionic strengths and as a nonpolar reference, with ethylene glycol. The difference in porosity between samples saturated with glycol and with brines reflects the disjoining pressure. For calcite samples, saturation with solutions containing divalent cations (Ca2+ and Mg2+) lead to higher repulsive forces between the grains, whereas adsorption of SO42- counteracts the initially positive surface charge, lowering the repulsive forces. Calcium-based brines induced the highest repulsion, probably due to higher surface coverage of Ca2+ than that of Mg2+ due to its smaller hydrated radius. For kaolinite, differences in potential between the silica and alumina faces as well as the edges can either lead to repulsion between particles or to flocculation, depending on the ionic strength and ionic species of the fluid. Our results indicate that low-salinity water flooding may lead to kaolinite mobilization within reservoirs. A comparison of the results from our calcite powder experiments with results from mechanical tests performed on chalk samples indicates that electrostatic double layer-related forces can contribute to the weakening of chalk. Saturating brines for which the repulsion between grains in powder experiments was larger corresponds to weaker chalk samples.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to) MR37–MR50
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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