Deformation-assisted fluid percolation in rock salt

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1069-1072
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8747

You are currently viewing the abstract.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Salted away no longer?

Rock salt deposits are thought to be impermeable to fluid flow and so are candidates for nuclear waste repositories. Ghanbarzadeh et al. found that some salt deposits in the Gulf of Mexico are infiltrated by oil and other hydrocarbons. If these salt domes are not completely isolated from the surrounding environment, they will not be suitable for deep geological waste storage sites.

Science, this issue p. 1069


Deep geological storage sites for nuclear waste are commonly located in rock salt to ensure hydrological isolation from groundwater. The low permeability of static rock salt is due to a percolation threshold. However, deformation may be able to overcome this threshold and allow fluid flow. We confirm the percolation threshold in static experiments on synthetic salt samples with x-ray microtomography. We then analyze wells penetrating salt deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. The observed hydrocarbon distributions in rock salt require that percolation occurred at porosities considerably below the static threshold due to deformation-assisted percolation. Therefore, the design of nuclear waste repositories in salt should guard against deformation-driven fluid percolation. In general, static percolation thresholds may not always limit fluid flow in deforming environments.

View Full Text