Articles | Volume 372
12 Nov 2015
 | 12 Nov 2015

On the possible contribution of clayey inter-layers to delayed land subsidence above producing aquifers

G. Isotton, M. Ferronato, G. Gambolati, and P. Teatini

Abstract. In recent years, measurements of land subsidence above pumped aquifers by permanent GPS and InSAR have exhibited some delay relative to drawdown ranging from months to years. The current modeling approaches accounting for water fluid dynamics and porous medium geomechanics may fail to predict such a delay and may underestimate the land settlement after the well shutdown. In the present communication, an investigation is made on the residual compaction of the intervening clayey formations as a possible contribution to retarded land subsidence. The pore pressure variation within the aquifer and its propagation in the clay are simulated by a finite element flow model, with the resulting pore pressure decline used as input data in a hypo-plastic geomechanical model. A proper sensitivity analysis on (i) aquifer depth, (ii) ratio between the sandy and the clayey layers thickness and hydraulic conductivity, (iii) oedometric compressibility in first and second loading cycles, is performed for a typical geology of a Quaternary sedimentary basin. The results show that a certain fraction, up to 20 % of the overall land subsidence, can take place after the shutdown of the producing wells depending on actual basin, litho-stratigraphy and parameter values.