In the last ten years, a new type of advanced polymer known as swelling elastomer has been extensively used as sealing element in the oil and gas industry. These elastomers have been instrumental in various new applications such as water shutoff, zonal isolation, sidetracking, etc. Though swell packers can significantly reduce costs and increase productivity, their failure can lead to serious losses. Integrity and reliability of swelling-elastomer seals under different field conditions is therefore a major concern. Investigation of changes in material behavior over a specified swelling period is a necessary first step for performance evaluation of elastomer seals. Current study is based on experimental and numerical analysis of changes in compressive and bulk behavior of an elastomeric material due to swelling. Tests and simulations were carried out before and after various stages of swelling. Specimens were placed in saline water (0.6% and 12% concentration) at a temperature of 50°C, total swelling period being one month. Both compression and bulk tests were conducted using disc samples. A small test rig had to be designed and constructed for determination of bulk modulus. Young’s modulus (under compression) and bulk modulus were determined for specimens subjected to different swelling periods. Shear modulus and Poisson’s ratio were calculated using isotropic relations. Experiments were also simulated using the commercial finite element software ABAQUS. Different hyperelastic material models were examined. As Ogden model with second strain energy potential gave the closest results, it has been used for all simulations.

The elastomer was a fast-swell type. There were drastic changes in material properties within one day of swelling, under both low and high salinity water. Values of elastic and shear modulus dropped by more than 90% in the first few days, and then remained almost constant during the rest of the one-month period. Poisson’s ratio, as expected, showed a mirror behavior of a sharp increase in the first few days. Bulk modulus exhibited a fluctuating pattern; rapid initial decrease, then a slightly slower increase, followed by a much slower decrease. Salinity shows some notable effect in the first 5 or 6 days, but has almost no influence in the later days. Very interestingly, Poisson’s ratio approaches the limiting value of 0.5 within the first 10 days of swelling, justifying the assumption of incompressibility used in most analytical and numerical models. In general, simulations results are in good agreement with experimental ones.

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