Grain crushing and pore collapse are the dominant compaction mechanisms in high porosity clastic rocks. These micromechanical processes control the evolution of strain hardening during cataclastic flow, and they can also result in embrittlement of the rock. The mechanics of the transition from brittle fracture to homogeneous cataclastic flow for the Berea and Kayenta sandstones were investigated in the laboratory. The mechanical data show that the transition is sensitively dependent on the stress state as well as the porosity. In the stress space, the complete locus for brittle failure by shear localization can be determined by tests on normally consolidated and overconsolidated samples along different loading paths. Using porosity as the hardening parameter, the evolution of the inelastic yield locus with strain hardening can be mapped out in the stress space. This yield locus expands with decreasing porosity. Scanning electron microscope and acoustic emission measurements were used to elucidate the micromechanics. The onset of grain crushing and pore collapse was marked by a surge in acoustic emission activity. A Hertzian fracture mechanics model was formulated to analyze the roles of porosity, grain size and fracture toughness in controlling the onset of hydrostatic and shear-enhanced compaction. Stereological measurements of the microcrack density show that significant stress-induced anisotropy was induced by shear-enhanced compaction, with preferred orientations of the stress-induced microcracks subparallel to the maximum compression direction.

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