Swelling of Clay Under Pressure

Paul G. Nahin
Union Oil Company of California

Abstract: An experimental technique for studying the swelling of clay under constraint and some preliminary results for the swelling of Wyoming bentonite in several media are presented and discussed. Fractionated, powdered clay is mixed with an equal weight of non-swelling microporous porcelain, which serves to distribute the swelling agent rapidly and uniformly. The mix is compacted in a cell at high pressure and permitted to imbibe fluid through a porous porcelain plate under simultaneously applied almost equal pressures from 0 to 10,000 psig on both sides of the fluid-gel interface. The unidirectionally constrained volume change of the sample is measured by displacement of mercury in a steel buret. Degree of swelling is taken as the volume ratio of gel to 105° C dry clay.

In the range of pressure from 0 to 10,000 psig, the colloidal magnesium sodium montmorillonite swells from about 93 to 231 percent (volume ratio 1.93 to 3.31) depending on the composition of imbibed fluid. Aqueous 0.171N sodium chloride and magnesium chloride solutions produce 14 and 11 percent, respectively, more swelling at 1,500 than at 0 psig. Swelling in calcium chloride solution is insensitive to this pressure change. At 10,000 psig these solutions, and hydrochloric acid, produce less swelling than at 1,500 psig and, in fact, produce almost equal swellings of 130± 4 percent. It is inferred that swelling in chloride solutions at this pressure may be essentially cation-independent. Within the concentration range of 0 to 1.71N there appears to be little practical difference in the degree of swelling of the clay by sodium chloride and calcium chloride solutions; the swelling is a linear function of the logarithm of the salt concentration.

Comparison of d(001) spacings calculated from swelling ratios with those obtained by X-ray diffraction lead to the conclusion that the method measures crystalline swelling in contradistinction to osmotic swelling.

Clays and Clay Minerals; 1954 v. 3; no. 1; p. 174-185; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1954.0030115
© 1954, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)