Supporting the teaching of Earth sciences at all levels
Experiment: Mike Tuke              Realised by: Julian & Phillipa Priddle                  Sponsor: PESGB


Permeability is a measure of the ease with which a fluid can flow through a rock, a sediment or other material. Permeability is extremely important in the extraction of water, oil and gas from underground.  If the rocks were not permeable any fluid held in them would not be able to flow through the rock and into the wells.

There are three virtual activities and one paper exercise:

1. Factors affecting the flow of oil and water. 

This allows you to explore the effects of variation in grain size, sorting, pressure and temperature, sediment thickness and cross section area on the speed of flow.

2. The coefficient of permeability. 

This activity allows you to calculate the coefficient of permeability for well sorted sediments of different grain sizes.

3. Darcy’s Laws of permeability. 

This activity recreates the experiments performed by Darcy in 1855. It allows you to vary the hydraulic pressure, cross sectional area and length through which the water flows and to work out Darcy’s Law for the flow of water through porous materials.

4. The paper exercise.

This helps you to understand the reason for fine grained and poorly sorted sediment being less permeable.


It will help you to understand if you write a hypothesis (what you think will happen) for each activity before starting. In your hypothesis should give your expected result and a reason why. Draw a bar graph showing your results for each activity. Try to explain your results if they were not as you predicted in your hypothesis.

Choose which activity you want to do.