Infoscience

Journal article

Porosity evolution at the brittle-ductile transition in the continental crust: Implications for deep hydro-geothermal circulation

Recently, projects have been proposed to engineer deep geothermal reservoirs in the ductile crust. To examine their feasibility, we performed high-temperature (up to 1000 degrees C), high-pressure (130 MPa) triaxial experiments on granite (initially-intact and shock-cooled samples) in which we measured the evolution of porosity during deformation. Mechanical data and post-mortem microstuctural characterisation (X-ray computed tomography and scanning electron microscopy) indicate that (1) the failure mode was brittle up to 900 degrees C (shear fracture formation) but ductile at 1000 degrees C (no strain localisation); (2) only deformation up to 800 degrees C was dilatant; (3) deformation at 900 degrees C was brittle but associated with net compaction due to an increase in the efficiency of crystal plastic processes; (4) ductile deformation at 1000 degrees C was compactant; (5) thermally-shocking the granite did not influence strength or failure mode. Our data show that, while brittle behaviour increases porosity, porosity loss is associated with both ductile behaviour and transitional behaviour as the failure mode evolves from brittle to ductile. Extrapolating our data to geological strain rates suggests that the brittle-ductile transition occurs at a temperature of 400 +/- 100 degrees C, and is associated with the limit of fluid circulation in the deep continental crust.

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