Mathematical modelling of compaction and diagenesis in sedimentary basins
Sedimentary basins form when water-borne sediments in shallow seas are deposited over periods of millions of years. Sediments compact under their own weight, causing the expulsion of pore water. If this expulsion is sufficiently slow, overpressuring can result, a phenomenon which is of concern in oil drilling operations. The competition between pore water expulsion and burial is complicated by a variety of factors, which include diagenesis (clay dewatering), and different modes (elastic or viscous) of rheological deformation via compaction and pressure solution, which may also include hysteresis in the constitutive behaviours. This thesis is concerned with models which can describe the evolution of porosity and pore pressure in sedimentary basins. We begin by analysing the simplest case of poroelastic compaction which in a 1-D case results in a nonlinear diffusion equation, controlled principally by a dimensionless parameter lambda, which is the ratio of the hydraulic conductivity to the sedimentation rate. We provide analytic and numerical results for both large and small lambda in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4. We then put a more realistic rheological relation with hysteresis into the model and investigate its effects during loading and unloading in Chapter 5. A discontinuous porosity profile may occur if the unloaded system is reloaded. We pursue the model further by considering diagenesis as a dehydration model in Chapter 6, then we extend it to a more realistic dissolution-precipitation reaction-transport model in Chapter 7 by including most of the known physics and chemistry derived from experimental studies. We eventually derive a viscous compaction model for pressure solution in sedimentary basins in Chapter 8, and show how the model suggests radically different behaviours in the distinct limits of slow and fast compaction. When lambda << 1, compaction is limited to a basal boundary layer. When lambda >> 1, compaction occurs throughout the basin, and the basic equilibrium solution near the surface is a near parabolic profile of porosity. But it is only valid to a finite depth where the permeability has decreased sufficiently, and a transition occurs, marking a switch from a normally pressured environment to one with high pore pressures.