Microphysics of Inelastic Deformation in Reservoir Sandstones from the Seismogenic Center of the Groningen Gas Field

Ronald P.J. Pijnenburg*, Christopher J. Spiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Physics-based assessment of the effects of hydrocarbon production from sandstone reservoirs on induced subsidence and seismicity hinges on understanding the processes governing compaction of the reservoir. Compaction strains are typically small (ε < 1%) and may be elastic (recoverable), or partly inelastic (permanent), as implied by recent experiments. To describe the inelastic contribution in the seismogenic Groningen gas field, a Cam–clay-type plasticity model was recently developed, based on the triaxial test data obtained for sandstones from the Groningen reservoir (strain rate ~ 10−5 s−1). To underpin the applicability of this model at production-driven strain rates (10−12 s−1), we develop a simplified microphysical model, based on the deformation mechanisms observed in triaxial experiments at in situ conditions and compaction strains (ε < 1%). These mechanisms include consolidation of and slip on µm-thick clay films within sandstone grain contacts, plus intragranular cracking. The mechanical behavior implied by this model agrees favourably with the experimental data and Cam–clay description of the sandstone behavior. At reservoir-relevant strains, the observed behavior is largely accounted for by consolidation of and slip on the intergranular clay films. A simple analysis shows that such clay film deformation is virtually time insensitive at current stresses in the Groningen reservoir, so that reservoir compaction by these mechanisms is also expected to be time insensitive. The Cam–clay model is accordingly anticipated to describe the main trends in compaction behavior at the decade time scales relevant to the field, although compaction strains and lateral stresses may be slightly underestimated due to other, smaller creep effects seen in experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5301-5328
Number of pages28
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2020


  • Groningen gas field
  • Induced seismicity
  • Intergranular clay films
  • Mechanism
  • Microphysics
  • Reservoir
  • Sandstone


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