Comparison between fresh and exposed swelling elastomer

T. Pervez*, S. Z. Qamar, Mark Van De Velden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Last decade has seen growing use of swelling elastomers in various applications by the oil and gas industry. Elastomers with special properties have been developed to sustain the specific downhole conditions of temperature, pressure, and chemical environment in different wells. Apart from targeted short-term tests conducted by rubber developers and drilling application companies, little is known about material characterization of such elastomers. Even these test results are not generally available in the public domain due to proprietary rights. In particular, an important factor that has not been previously explored is the effect of exposure on material response of swelling elastomers. Zonal isolation packers and other forms of elastomer-mounted tubulars are often stacked in open yards for a long time before their deployment in wells. Properties of elastomers may significantly change due to their exposure to air, sunlight, and humidity. Some results from a comparative study of the behavior of fresh and exposed samples of an ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM)-type water-swelling elastomers are reported here. Methodology of the swelling test was developed in consultation with petroleum engineers and rubber manufacturers. Other experiments were designed and performed in line with standard ASTM test methods. Properties of elastomers that are investigated are hardness, compression set, tensile set, tensile properties, and swelling behavior. Elastomer samples were allowed to swell for a total test duration of 1000 h. Two specimen geometries were tested for swelling: unconfined disc samples to study the behavior of free elastomer and plate samples (elastomer vulcanized on steel plate) to emulate the actual seal performance. Swelling was carried out in salt solutions of different concentrations and at different temperatures. Hardness of exposed elastomer samples (EPDM1) was generally higher than that of fresh samples (EPDM2). Similarly, exposed elastomer showed significantly higher amount of compression set when compared with fresh elastomer. Short-duration tensile set values (10 min test) were almost the same for both sample types. However, tensile set results for the longer-duration tests (10 h and 20 h) were higher for exposed samples. Surprisingly, stress-strain graphs for both fresh and exposed elastomers were almost linear, while rubber-type materials typically show a highly nonlinear behavior. Values of modulus of elasticity and stress at fracture were considerably higher for exposed samples. In contrast, percentage elongation results were higher for fresh samples. Amount of swelling against swelling time showed an up-and-down trend for both the sample types. At the same temperature and under brine solution of the same concentration, fresh elastomer generally swelled far more than the exposed one. The overall observation from the variety of experimental results is that exposure to sun and moisture for extended periods of time reduces the flexibility and swelling capacity of these elastomers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-250
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Elastomers and Plastics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • EPDM
  • Water-swelling elastomer
  • compression set
  • fresh and exposed samples
  • hardness
  • material response
  • tensile properties
  • tensile set
  • thickness change
  • volume change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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