Time-dependent brittle creep in Darley Dale sandstone

M. J. Heap, P. Baud, P. G. Meredith, A. F. Bell, I. G. Main

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The characterization of time-dependent brittle rock deformation is fundamental to understanding the long-term evolution and dynamics of the Earth's crust. The chemical influence of pore water promotes time-dependent deformation through stress corrosion cracking that allows rocks to deform at stresses far below their short-term failure strength. Here, we report results from a study of time-dependent brittle creep in water-saturated samples of Darley Dale sandstone (initial porosity, 13%) under triaxial stress conditions. Results from conventional creep experiments show that axial strain rate is heavily dependent on the applied differential stress. A reduction of only 10% in differential stress results in a decrease in strain rate of more than two orders of magnitude. However, natural sample variability means that multiple experiments must be performed to yield consistent results. Hence we also demonstrate that the use of stress-stepping creep experiments can successfully overcome this issue. We have used the stress-stepping technique to investigate the influence of confining pressure at effective confining pressures of 10, 30, and 50 MPa (while maintaining a constant 20 MPa pore fluid pressure). Our results demonstrate that the stress corrosion process appears to be significantly inhibited at higher effective pressures, with the creep strain rate reduced by multiple orders of magnitude. The influence of doubling the pore fluid pressure, however, while maintaining a constant effective confining pressure, is shown to influence the rate of stress corrosion within the range expected from sample variability. We discuss these results in the context of microstructural analysis, acoustic emission hypocenter locations, and fits to proposed macroscopic creep laws.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberB07203
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberB7
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2009


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