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Abstract

Classical Darcy's law assumes that the intrinsic permeability of porous media is only dependent on the micro-geometrical and structural properties of the inner geometry of the medium. There are, however, numerous experimental evidences that intrinsic permeability of shaly and clayey porous material is a function of the fluid phase used in the experiments. Several pore-scale processes have been proposed to explain the observed behavior. In this study, we conduct a detailed investigation of one such mechanism, namely the electrokinetic coupling. We have developed a numerical model to simulate this process at the pore-scale, incorporating a refined model of the electrical double layer. The model is used to conduct a detailed sensitivity analysis to elucidate the relative importance of several chemical-physical parameters on the intensity of the electrokinetic coupling. We found that permeability reduction due to this mechanism is likely to occur only if the effective pore-radius is smaller than 10-6 m. We also observed that electrokinetic coupling is strongly sensitive to electrophoretic mobility, which is normally reduced in clays compared to free-water conditions. Based on these findings, we set up a suite of stochastic pore-network simulations to quantify the extent of permeability reduction. We found that only if the effective pore-radius is ranging from 5 × 10-7 m to 5 × 10-8, electrokinetic coupling can be responsible for a 5-20% reduction of the intrinsic permeability, and, therefore, this mechanism has a minor impact on situations of practical environmental or mining interest

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