Abstract: X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy were employed in conjunction with core flooding experiments to investigate clay migration phenomena.
Severe water sensitivity or loss of permeability was observed in a suite of sandstones in spite of the almost total absence of montmorillonite or swelling mixed layer clays. Clay migration was found to cause total or partial plugging even in sandstones of 500 millidarcy permeability. Bacterial plugging was ruled out by prefiltering and bactericide treatments of waters.
X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy analyses were performed on the sandstones and produced effluents. The direct cause of damage was displacement of submicroscopic natural clay crystals of needle-shaped mica and hexagonal-shaped kaolinite (Rex, 1965). The mobile clays were identified as authigenic crystals that are present on the pore walls and are dislodged by changes in water chemistry combined with water movement.
Flooding sandstones with alkali metal brines “sensitized” the cores, i.e. triggered clay dispersion upon subsequent flooding with fresh water. Flooding with divalent calcium brine prevented water sensitivity and suppressed the undesirable effect of alkali metal brines. A double layer expansion effect is suggested as the dispersion mechanism.