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Very Slow Creep Tests on Salt Samples

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Abstract

The objective of this paper is to assess the creep law of natural salt in a small deviatoric stress range. In this range, creep is suspected to be much faster than what is predicted by most constitutive laws used in the cavern and mining industries. Five 2-year, multistage creep tests were performed with creep-testing devices set in a gallery of the Altaussee mine in Austria to take advantage of the very stable temperature and humidity conditions in this salt mine. Each stage was 8-month long. Dead loads were applied, and vertical displacements were measured through gages that had a resolution of 12.5 nm. Loading steps were 0.2, 0.4, and 0.6 MPa, which are much smaller than the loads that are usually applied during creep tests (5–20 MPa). Five salt samples were used: two samples were cored from the Avery Island salt mine in Louisiana, United States; two samples were cored from the Gorleben salt mine in Germany; and one sample was cored from a deep borehole at Hauterives in Drôme, France. During these tests, transient creep is relatively long (6–10 months). Measured steady-state strain rates (\(\dot {\varepsilon }\) = 10−13–10−12 s−1) are much faster (by 7–8 orders of magnitude) than those extrapolated from relatively high-stress tests (σ = 5–20 MPa). When compared to n = 5 within the high-stress domain for Gorleben and Avery Island salts, a power-law stress exponent within the low-stress domain appears to be close to n = 1. These results suggest that the pressure solution may be the dominant deformation mechanism in the steady-state regime reached by the tested samples and will have important consequences for the computation of caverns or mines behavior. This project was funded by the Solution-Mining Research Institute.

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(after DeVries 1988)

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Abbreviations

A, A 0, A 1, A 2 :

Constants of the constitutive law

c :

Constant of the transient constitutive law

E :

Elastic modulus

d :

Cylindrical sample diameter

D :

Grain diameter

h :

Cylindrical sample height

K 0 :

Constant of the transient constitutive law

k salt :

Salt thermal diffusivity

K salt :

Salt thermal conductivity

m :

Constant of the transient constitutive law

n :

Exponent of the power law

P atm :

Atmospheric pressure

q :

Constant of the hygrometry-sensitive constitutive law

t :

Time

u 1, u 2, u 3, u 4 :

Relative displacements of the upper and lower platens

w :

Constant of the hygrometry-sensitive constitutive law

Q 1, Q 2 :

Activation energy

R :

Universal gas constant

T :

Absolute temperature

α th :

Thermal expansion coefficient of salt

α :

Rotation angle of the upper plate

β :

Rotation angle of the upper plate

ε :

Strain

ε el :

Elastic strain

ε vp :

Viscoplastic strain

\(\dot {\varepsilon }\) :

Strain rate

\({\dot {\varepsilon }_{\text{s}}}\) :

Steady-state strain rate

\({\dot {\varepsilon }_{\text{t}}}\) :

Transient strain rate

\(\varepsilon _{{\text{t}}}^{*}\) :

Cumulated transient strain

η :

Viscosity

θ :

Characteristic transient time

σ :

Deviatoric stress

σ v :

Stress level

Φ :

Hygrometry

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Mr. Steve Bauer (Sandia National Laboratories), the Solution-Mining Research Institute (SMRI) project sponsor, for his comments and Mr. Caspar Sinn (University of Utrecht) who measured grain size in the salt samples. The authors are most grateful to Stefan Simentschitsch, engineer at the Altaussee mine, whose help has been instrumental. Most of the results described in this paper were obtained in the frame of the cooperative research program RR-2017-1 that was funded by the SMRI. The research report (Bérest et al. 2017) is available through the SMRI website (http://www.solutionmining.org).

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Correspondence to Pierre Bérest.

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Bérest, P., Gharbi, H., Brouard, B. et al. Very Slow Creep Tests on Salt Samples. Rock Mech Rock Eng 52, 2917–2934 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00603-019-01778-9

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Keywords

  • Salt creep
  • Slow creep rate
  • Pressure solution
  • Dislocation creep