Experimental quantification of the seismoelectric transfer function and its dependence on conductivity and saturation in loose sand

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Under certain circumstances, seismic propagation within porous media may be associated to the conversion of mechanical energy to electromagnetic energy, which is known as a seismo-electromagnetic phenomenon. The propagation of fast compressional P-waves is more specifically associated to the manifestations of a seismoelectric field linked to the fluid flows within the pores. The analysis of seismoelectric phenomena, which requires the combination of the theory of electrokinetics and Biot's theory of poroelasticity, provides us with transfer function Symbol that links the coseismic seismoelectric field E to the seismic acceleration Symbol. To measure the transfer function, we have developed an experimental setup enabling seismoelectric laboratory observation in unconsolidated quartz sand within the kilohertz range. The investigation focused on the impact of fluid conductivity and water saturation over the coseismic seismoelectric field. During the experiment, special attention was given to the accuracy of electric field measurements. We concluded that, to obtain a reliable estimate of the electric field amplitude, the dipole from which the potential differences are measured should be of much smaller length than the wavelength of the propagating seismic field. Time-lapse monitoring of the seismic velocities and seismoelectric transfer functions were performed during imbibition and drainage experiments. In all cases, the quantitative analysis of the seismoelectric transfer function Symbol was in good agreement with theoretical predictions. While investigating saturation variations from full to residual water saturation, we showed that the Symbol ratio undergoes a switch in polarity at a particular saturation Symbol, which also implies a sign change of the filtration, traducing a reversal of the relative fluid displacement with respect to the frame. This sign change at critical saturation Symbol stresses a particular behaviour of the poroelastic medium: the dropping of the coseismic electric field to zero traduces the absence of relative pore/fluid displacements representative of a Biot dynamically compatible medium. We concluded from our experimental study in loose sand that the measurements of the coseismic seismoelectric coupling may provide information on fluid distribution within the pores and that the reversal of the seismoelectric field may be used as an indicator of the dynamically compatible state of the medium.

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