Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 49, Issue 12, pp 4571–4586 | Cite as

The Status of Water in Swelling Shales: An Insight from the Water Retention Properties of the Callovo-Oxfordian Claystone

  • Hamza Menaceur
  • Pierre Delage
  • Anh Minh Tang
  • Jean Talandier
Original Paper


The Callovo-Oxfordian (COx) claystone is considered in France as a possible host rock for the disposal of high-level long-lived radioactive waste at great depth. During the operational phase, the walls of the galleries and of the disposal cells will be successively subjected to desaturation induced by ventilation followed by resaturation once the galleries are closed. To better understand this phenomenon, a sound understanding of the water retention properties of the COx claystone is necessary. Following a previous study by the same group, this paper presents an investigation of microstructure changes in COx claystone under suction changes. Microstructure was investigated by means of mercury intrusion porosimetry tests on freeze-dried specimens previously submitted to various suctions. Along the drying path, the initial microstructure, characterised by a well-classified unimodal pore population around a mean diameter value of 32 nm, slightly changed with the same shape of the PSD curve and slightly moved towards smaller diameters (27–28 nm) at suctions of 150 and 331 MPa, respectively. The infra-porosity too small to be intruded by mercury (diameter smaller than 5.5 nm) reduced from 4.3 to 3.3 %. Oven drying reduced the mean diameter to 20 nm and the infra-porosity to 1 %. Wetting up to 9 MPa suction leads to saturation with no significant change in the PSD curve, whereas wetting at zero suction gave rise to the appearance of a large pore population resulting from the development of cracks with width of several micrometres, together with an enlargement of the initial pore population above the mean diameter. The concepts describing the step hydration of smectites (by the successive placement within the clay platelets along the smectite faces of 1, 2, 3 and 4 layers of water molecules with respect to the suction applied) appeared relevant to better understand the changes in microstructure of the COx claystone under suction changes. This also allowed to better define the status of water in claystones and shales containing smectite, with a distinction made between the water adsorbed within the clay platelets, and the free inter-platelet water involved in hydromechanical couplings through changes in pore pressure and water transfers.


Claystone Microstructure Water retention properties Mercury intrusion porosimetry Free water 



The authors are indebted to Andra, the French agency of radioactive waste disposal, who financially supported this research through the Ph.D. thesis of the first author and who provided the specimens of Callovo-Oxfordian claystone.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hamza Menaceur
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pierre Delage
    • 1
  • Anh Minh Tang
    • 1
  • Jean Talandier
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratoire Navier, CERMESEcole des Ponts ParisTechMarne-la-ValleeFrance
  2. 2.LEMTAUniversité de LorraineNancyFrance
  3. 3.AndraChatenay-MalabryFrance

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