Deformation Behavior of Reservoir Sandstones from the Seismogenic Groningen Gas Field: An experimental and mechanistic study

Ronald Petrus Johannes Pijnenburg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Oil- or gas production can lead to surface subsidence and earthquakes, such as seen in the Groningen gas field in the Netherlands (earthquake magnitude up to 3.6). In this field, subsidence (max. 36 cm) is caused by compaction of the 3 km deep, gas-bearing sandstone. In turn, compaction is caused by lowering the gas/fluid pressure in the sandstone pores and with that the back pressure to the weight of the overlying rock on the sandstone grains. Such pressure/stress changes and associated compaction can lead to centimeter-sized movements along old faults, which possibly generate earthquakes. Understanding the sandstone compaction behavior is therefore essential for understanding such earthquakes. It is often assumed that compaction is fully reversible, which is relatively easily described. However, compaction can also be permanent, which may imply temporary continuing compaction, even after stopping gas production. Permanent compaction is understood far less. I performed laboratory experiments on sandstones from the Groningen gas field, in which gas production is simulated at subsurface temperature and pressure. The results show that 30 to 50% of compaction is permanent. Microscope analyses show that permanent compaction is largely caused by compression of clay rims between sand grains. It is further shown that: a) The pressure/stresses in the sandstone and on faults are better described if permanent compaction is accounted for; b) The energy potentially available in the sandstone for earthquakes is less by 30 to 50% than would be expected if compaction were to be fully reversible; and c) Any temporary continuing sandstone compaction after stopping gas production is expected to be very limited.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Spiers, Chris, Primary supervisor
  • Peach, C.J., Co-supervisor
  • Hangx, Suzanne, Co-supervisor
Award date25 Oct 2019
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Print ISBNs978-90-6266-552-5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2019


  • Sandstone
  • Reservoir
  • Deformation
  • Triaxial experiments
  • Groningen gas field
  • Induced seismicity
  • Earthquake
  • Elastic
  • Plastic
  • Clay


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