Helium release during shale deformation: Experimental validation

Stephen J. Bauer, W. Payton Gardner, Jason E. Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This work describes initial experimental results of helium tracer release monitoring during deformation of shale. Naturally occurring radiogenic 4He is present in high concentration in most shales. During rock deformation, accumulated helium could be released as fractures are created and new transport pathways are created. We present the results of an experimental study in which confined reservoir shale samples, cored parallel and perpendicular to bedding, which were initially saturated with helium to simulate reservoir conditions, are subjected to triaxial compressive deformation. During the deformation experiment, differential stress, axial, and radial strains are systematically tracked. Release of helium is dynamically measured using a helium mass spectrometer leak detector. Helium released during deformation is observable at the laboratory scale and the release is tightly coupled to the shale deformation. These first measurements of dynamic helium release from rocks undergoing deformation show that helium provides information on the evolution of microstructure as a function of changes in stress and strain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2612-2622
Number of pages11
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • helium release
  • hydrology
  • physical properties of rocks
  • shale deformation
  • structural geology
  • tectonophysics


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