The effect of in situ formed silica gel on the permeability of a porous material was investigated experimentally. Gelling solutions of tetra-methyl-ortho-silicate (TMOS) and methanol in water were imbibed into dry sandstone plates and cured for several days. The permeability of the untreated sandstone is on the order of 1 μ m2, whereas the intrinsic permeability of the silica alcogel is 5-6 orders of magnitude lower. The method of beam bending was employed to measure concurrently the permeability D and Young's modulus Ep of cylindrical gel rods, prepared from the TMOS-based sol-gel solutions. Second, the permeabilities and moduli of the treated sandstones were measured. For both types of samples the gel structure was varied by varying the concentration of the TMOS in a solution and the pH of the water used. The parameters D and Ep follow from a detailed analysis of the measured relaxation of the load that is applied to the sample under constant deflection. In case of the gels, the relaxation was interpreted using common expressions for hydrodynamic relaxation and viscoelastic (VE) relaxation. It was found that the permeability of the gels decreases with increasing silica content and that acid-catalyzed gels exhibit a significantly lower permeability than base-catalyzed gels. The modulus Ep increases with increasing silica content and aging time. The relaxation data of the sandstone-treated with gel-exhibited a more complex behavior. The normalized load curves showed hydrodynamic relaxation as well as strong and fast VE relaxation. The relaxation data for the rock samples treated with the lowest concentration gel was fitted successfully with the predictions. For higher concentrations the fit was less accurate, but the permeability estimates were within an order of magnitude. The overall permeability of the treated rock is higher than the intrinsic permeability of the gels; this indicates that the gel does not completely fill the pore space. Nevertheless, the permeability is reduced by a factor 104 with respect to untreated sandstone, and therefore the gel adequately blocks the pores.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy