Fluvial sedimentary successions represent porous media that host groundwater and geothermal resources. Additionally, they overlie crystalline rocks hosting nuclear waste repositories in rift settings. The permeability characteristics of an arenaceous fluvial succession, the Triassic St Bees Sandstone Formation in England (UK), are described, from core-plug to well-test scale up to ~1 km depth. Within such lithified successions, dissolution associated with the circulation of meteoric water results in increased permeability (K~10−1–100 m/day) to depths of at least 150 m below ground level (BGL) in aquifer systems that are subject to rapid groundwater circulation. Thus, contaminant transport is likely to occur at relatively high rates. In a deeper investigation (> 150 m depth), where the aquifer has not been subjected to rapid groundwater circulation, well-test-scale hydraulic conductivity is lower, decreasing from K~10−2 m/day at 150–400 m BGL to 10−3 m/day down-dip at ~1 km BGL, where the pore fluid is hypersaline. Here, pore-scale permeability becomes progressively dominant with increasing lithostatic load. Notably, this work investigates a sandstone aquifer of fluvial origin at investigation depths consistent with highly enthalpy geothermal reservoirs (~0.7–1.1 km). At such depths, intergranular flow dominates in unfaulted areas with only minor contribution by bedding plane fractures. However, extensional faults represent preferential flow pathways, due to presence of high connective open fractures. Therefore, such faults may (1) drive nuclear waste contaminants towards the highly permeable shallow (< 150 m BGL) zone of the aquifer, and (2) influence fluid recovery in geothermal fields.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 10, 2017
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