Studying the thermal conductivity of a deep Eocene clay formation: Direct measurements vs back-analysis results

Xiang Ling Li, Enrique Romero, Nuria Sau, Analice Lima, Hervé Van Baelen, Xavier Sillen

    Research outputpeer-review


    An experimental study on Ypresian clays – one of the potential deep and sedimentary clay formations in Belgium for the geological disposal of heat-emitting radioactive waste – has been undertaken to systematically study its thermal conductivity using different experimental techniques. As a first step, a new experimental setup with heat flux measurement has been used and careful pre-conditioning protocols have been followed to directly measure this thermal property. The aim of these pre-conditioning tests has been ensuring a very high degree of saturation and the closure of fissures / gaps along bedding planes before the thermal tests are run under low stress conditions. Thermal tests have shown to be particularly sensitive when the thermal conductivity is determined along a direction orthogonal to these bedding planes. The study is then complemented by using a constant volume heating cell, in which heating pulse tests have been carried out under fully saturated conditions that have been ensured with a high water back-pressure. Numerical models have been used to interpret this pulse test, to exploit all the information provided by temperature measurements and to back-analyse the thermal conductivity. Direct thermal conductivity data with the improved pre-conditioning protocol allowed obtaining results consistent with the values reported when using back-analysis in the constant volume cell. The article discusses the importance of restoring full saturation conditions, particularly on retrieval of deep sedimentary clays, which may undergo opening of fissures along bedding planes that may affect the correct determination of the thermal conductivity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)62-75
    Number of pages14
    JournalGeomechanics for Energy and the Environment
    StatePublished - 3 Oct 2016

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