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porosity specific yield

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Dr. Pengfei Zhang

Porosity of Earth Materials

The porosity of earth materials is defined as the part of rock or soil that is void space, often

expressed as a percentage:

V

n= v

(4-1)

VT

where n is the porosity, Vv is the void volume, and VT is the total volume. Porosity has the units

L3

of 3voids .

LR. E .V .

To describe porosity, or any other aquifer parameter, it is useful to first define the concept of

representative elementary volume (R.E.V.). The R.E.V. is a volume of aquifer over which the

porosity, for example, is describable by a single value. This concept is necessary because a

volume smaller than the volume that fits the definition of a representative elementary volume

will yield different aquifer parameters depending upon where one places the R.E.V on the

sample. To illustrate, let us take a look at Figure 4-1. Both diagrams represent the same porous

media. In the diagram on the left, the squares, which represent a poor choice for a R.E.V.,

delineate volumes for which very large differences in porosity would be obtained. In the

diagram on the right, the R.E.V.s are sufficiently large that an equivalent porosity is obtained

for both of the R.E.V.s.

Some typical kinds of porosity associated with various rocks are shown in Figure 4-2. The

interstitial porosity of rocks (Figure 4-2 a through d) is referred to as primary porosity, whereas

the fracture or solution porosity (Figure 4-2 e and f) is called secondary porosity.

4-1

Figure 4-2. Relation between texture and porosity. (a) Well-sorted sedimentary deposit having

high porosity; (b) poorly sorted sedimentary deposit having low porosity; (c) well-sorted

sedimentary deposit consisting of pebbles that are themselves porous, so that the deposit as a

whole has a very high porosity; (d) well-sorted sedimentary deposit whose porosity has been

diminished by the deposition of mineral matter in the interstices; (e) rock rendered porous by

solution; (f) rock rendered porous by fracturing (Meinzer, 1923).

Porosity can be determined in a couple of ways in laboratory. One method is to take a known

volume of sediment and dry it in an oven at 105 C until it reaches a constant weight. This

removes moisture in the sample, but not water in the mineral structure. The dried sample is then

added to a known volume of water, and the resulting increase in volume as determined by the

increased water level represents the volume of the sediment itself (no voids). The volume of

sediment plus voids is determined from the height of the sediment and the cross-sectional area of

the chamber to which the sediment is added in the previous step. The volume of the voids is then

found by difference. This method of determining porosity is called volumetric method.

Alternatively, if one determines the bulk density of the sediment, one can calculate its porosity.

The bulk density (b) represents the density of the sediment including its voids. Recall that

density is mass over volume, and the volume used in bulk density is the volume of sediment plus

voids, or R.E.V.:

M

b = 3 sed

(4-2)

LR.E .V

In contrast, the particle density (s) does not include the voids, but represents the density of the

rock itself:

M

s = 3sed

(4-3)

Lsed

For most rock and soil, the particle density is 2.65 gcm-3.

Looking at the units above, one can see that b/s gives the volume of sediment per volume of

R.E.V.:

4-2

b

M sed L3sed

L3sed

=

=

s L3R.E .V . M sed L3R.E .V .

(4-4)

n = 1

b L3R.E .V .

L3

L3

= 3

3 sed = 3voids

s LR.E .V . LR. E .V . LR. E .V .

(4-5)

The porosity of a sediment depends on a number of factors including the roundness of the grains,

the packing of the grains, and the size distribution of the grains. For a sediment of perfectly

round grains of a single diameter (an impossibly narrow size distribution), the porosity will

depend only on the packing, with n= 0.48 for cubic packing, and n= 0.26 for rhombohedral

packing. For sediments consisting of a number of differently sized grains (wider size

distribution), the smaller grains will sit in the pores between the larger grains, and so the porosity

will be lower than it would be in a sand made of only one of the grain sizes. Likewise,

angularity of the grains will tend to cause them to pack less efficiently, and so will increase the

porosity of the sediment. Typical ranges in porosity for a variety of earth materials are given in

Table 4-1 below.

Table 4-1. Range in values of porosity.

Material

Porosity (%)

SEDIMENTARY

Gravel, coarse

24-36

Gravel, fine

25-38

Sand, coarse

31-46

Sand, fine

26-53

Silt

34-61

Clay

34-60

SEDIMENTARY ROCKS

Sandstone

Siltstone

Limestone, dolomite

Karst limestone

Shale

5-30

21-41

0-40

0-40

0-40

CRYSTALLINE ROCKS

Fractured crystalline rocks

Dense crystalline rocks

Basalt

Weathered granite

Weathered gabbro

0-10

0-5

3-35

34-57

42-45

4-3

Grain-Size Distribution

The grain-size distribution expresses the percent of the sediment mass that is finer than a given

grain size, as shown in Figure 4-3 below.

Hence, in the format shown above, the less steeply the curve drops, the greater the grain size

distribution, and the wider the variety of grain sizes in the sediment. An important parameter

used to describe the grain size distribution is the uniformity coefficient, Cu, which is the ratio of

the grain size for which 60% of the sediment is finer by weight, to the grain size for which 10%

of the sediment is finer by weight.

Cu =

d60

d10

(4-6)

A sediment with Cu less than 4 is well sorted. If Cu is more than 6, the sediment is poorly

sorted.

Specific Yield

Specific yield (Sy) is the volume of water that drains from a saturated rock or sediment by

gravity, relative to the total volume of the rock:

4-4

Sy =

L3yield

L3R. E .V .

(4-7)

The water retained by the rock or sediment is called pendular water, and the ratio of this

volume to the total volume of the rock is called the specific retention (Sr).

L3yield

L3pendular

L3voids

Sr = n S y = 3

= 3

LR. E .V . L3R. E .V .

LR. E .V .

(4-8)

Greater specific yields are obtained from medium to coarse sediments. Ranges of specific yield

for a variety of sedimentary rocks are given in Table 4-2 below.

Table 4-2. Specific yields in percent for sedimentary rocks.

Specific Yield

Material

Maximum

Minimum

Average

Clay

5

0

2

Sandy clay

12

3

7

Silt

19

3

18

Fine sand

28

10

21

Medium sand

32

15

26

Coarse sand

35

20

27

Gravelly sand

35

20

25

Fine gravel

35

21

25

Medium gravel

26

13

23

Coarse gravel

26

12

22

Permeability

The porosity of earth materials is known to vary, for example, clays have high porosity relative

to mixtures of sand and gravel (Table 4-1). Although porosity is an important parameter in terms

of characterizing void space in an earth material, the porosity does not describe the ability of the

rock or sediment to transmit water.

The ability of water to be transmitted through a rock or sediment is termed permeability.

Permeability depends on the interconnectedness of the pore spaces rather than the porosity

itself. For example, clays have high porosity, but the pores in clays are not well connected. As a

result, clays do not transmit water well, and hence have low permeability. In contrast, sand and

gravel mixtures may have lower porosity than clays, but the pores in the mixtures are well

connected and can transmit water easily. Therefore, sand and gravel mixtures have high

permeability.

4-5

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