Core measurements are used for rock classification and improved formation evaluation in both cored and noncored wells. However, the acquisition of such measurements is time-consuming, delaying rock classification efforts for weeks or months after core retrieval. On the other hand, well-log-based rock classification fails to account for rapid spatial variation of rock fabric encountered in heterogeneous and anisotropic formations due to the vertical resolution of conventional well logs. Interpretation of computed tomography (CT) scan data has been identified as an attractive and high-resolution alternative for enhancing rock texture detection, classification, and formation evaluation. Acquisition of CT scan data is accomplished shortly after core retrieval, providing high-resolution data for use in petrophysical workflows in relatively short periods of time. Typically, CT scan data are used as two-dimensional (2D) cross-sectional images, which is not suitable for quantification of three-dimensional (3D) rock fabric variation, which can increase the uncertainty in rock classification using image-based rock-fabric-related features.

The methods documented in this paper aim to quantify rock-fabric-related features from whole-core 3D CT scan image stacks and slabbed whole-core photos using image analysis techniques. These quantitative features are integrated with conventional well logs and routine core analysis (RCA) data for fast and accurate detection of petrophysical rock classes. The detected rock classes are then used for improved formation evaluation. To achieve the objectives, we conducted a conventional formation evaluation. Then, we developed a workflow for preprocessing of whole-core 3D CT-scan image stacks and slabbed whole-core photos. Subsequently, we used image analysis techniques and tailor-made algorithms for the extraction of image-based rock-fabric-related features. Then, we used the image-based rock-fabric-related features for image-based rock classification. We used the detected rock classes for the development of class-based rock physics models to improve permeability estimates. Finally, we compared the detected image-based rock classes against other rock classification techniques and against image-based rock classes derived using 2D CT scan images.

We applied the proposed workflow to a data set from a siliciclastic sequence with rapid spatial variations in rock fabric and pore structure. We compared the results against expert-derived lithofacies, conventional rock classification techniques, and rock classes derived using 2D CT scan images. The use of whole-core 3D CT scan image-stacks-based rock-fabric-related features accurately captured changes in the rock properties within the evaluated depth interval. Image-based rock classes derived by integration of whole-core 3D CT scan image-stacks-based and slabbed whole-core photos-based rock-fabric-related features agreed with expert-derived lithofacies. Furthermore, the use of the image-based rock classes in the formation evaluation of the evaluated depth intervals improved estimates of petrophysical properties such as permeability compared to conventional formation-based permeability estimates. A unique contribution of the proposed workflow compared to the previously documented rock classification methods is the derivation of quantitative features from whole-core 3D CT scan image stacks, which are conventionally used qualitatively. Furthermore, image-based rock-fabric-related features extracted from whole-core 3D CT scan image stacks can be used as a tool for quick assessment of recovered whole core for tasks such as locating best zones for extraction of core plugs for core analysis and flagging depth intervals showing abnormal well-log responses.

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