Neutron imaging is used for direct observation of evolving water–air and deuterated water–normal water exchanges in flow experiments performed on a laboratory-deformed, microporous laminated limestone, an extremely fine-textured rock altered by arrays of superposed fractures generated in a rock mechanics apparatus. The neutron images document significant, evolving, water speed and flow direction variability at the deci-micron scale and spatially complex patterns of both increasing and decreasing water saturation. We infer that capillarity-driven and pressure-driven water movement occurs concurrently, in close proximity and in competition, and that as local and global water saturations evolve these two drivers can change their dominance in both matrix and deformed elements. Thin sections are used to obtain sub-micron resolution SEM images that provide multi-scale information on the textural features’ spatial arrangements. The textural characteristics are consistent with the inferences made from the coarser flow imaging. Alternating lamina types provide the primary lithological heterogeneity, while the experimentally created deformations lead to quasi-planar zones of highly comminuted matrix and fracture-like voids, each with lengths ranging from sub-mm to cm. Together deformation features delineate a partially connected array. The interplay between fluid movement through deformation features, and flow into (and out of) the laminae, implies near-equivalence of local driving pressure- and capillary-related energies, with subtle shifts in this balance as water saturation increases. The insights gained invite a re-examination of common rules-of-thumb for multi-phase fluid flow often adopted in fractured, low-permeability microporous rocks.
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- Geofysisk teknik