This paper presents a mathematical method for analysis of time-dependent swelling-softening process in clay shale around a drilled hole subjected to fresh water invasion. The model is derived from a set of governing equations involving equilibrium and mass balances for fluid and ions components. Flow laws according to hydraulic, repulsive and osmotic pressure heads are required. Effect of modulus reduction due to swelling must be also taken into consideration. The proposed method was used to simulate the experimental results observed in hollow cylinder tests on Colorado Group shale. Computer tomography scanning method was used to examine the deformation of the hole for a period of 72 days. In addition, the amount of sodium chlorine ions released from the shale specimen into the water was monitored continually. Analysis of the test results show that swelling and softening mechanism is a coupled mechanical-hydraulic-chemical coupled process.


Shale (mudstone), the most common of all rocks, has long been known for its tendency to swell upon adsorption of water and lose its structural integrity due to swelling. Water sensitive shale formations cause costly and time consuming problems in drilling and completion of wells in petroleum industry (O'Brien and Chenevert 1973). In the past, extensive efforts in characterizing engineering properties of swelling shales have been conducted by many researchers (e.g., Yew et al. 1989; Lo and Lee 1990; Steiger 1993; Wong 1998; Wong 1999). Most of the previous research on shale were performed based on element tests in which the stress-strain relationship or swelling properties were determined. Few attempts seem to have been made to conduct special tests simulating stress paths encountered in drilling. This paper presents test results of Colorado shale around a drilled hole subjected to fresh water invasion. In addition, a mathematical framework has been developed for analysis of the complex boundary-valued problem, i.e., the timedependent swelling and softening mechanism around the drilled hole. The parameters defined in this framework must represent the swelling physics within the shale-water system, and these parameters are measurable in laboratory. Interpretation of the testing results provide critical insight into the response of shale subjected to environmental changes.


The shale cores for this experimental study were recovered from an observation well DDOB5 (3-7-65- 3W4M) at a site near Cold Lake, Alberta. Core sampling was carried out using a conventional rotary core barrel of 89 mm inside diameter. The shale cores were from a drilled section (24A) of a depth of 210 m from the surface, and 40 m into the Colorado group. This group of formation has widespread exposure along the eastern base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Further east, the Alberta Shale of central and southern Alberta includes the Colorado group and the overlying Lea Park Shale. In northern Alberta the Colorado Formation is represented by all but the uppermost beds of the Smokey Group, and the Dunvegan, Shaftesbury and Paddy Formations, and essentially all of the Labiche Formation (Glass 1990).

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