A facility for digital imaging, visualizing and calculation of reservoir rock properties in three dimensions (3D) is described. The facility includes a high resolution X-ray micro-computed tomography system capable of acquiring 3D images made up of 20003 voxels on core plugs up to 5 cm diameter with resolutions down to 2 μm. Subsets of four sandstone reservoir core plugs (5 mm in diameter) from a single well of a producing gas field are imaged in this study. The four cores exhibit a broad range of pore and grain sizes, porosity, permeability and mineralogy. Computational results made directly on the digitized tomographic images are presented for the pore size distribution, permeability, formation factor, NMR response and drainage capillary pressure. We show that data across a range of porosity can be computed from the suite of 5 mm plugs. Computations of permeability, formation factor and drainage capillary pressure are compared to data from a comprehensive SCAL laboratory study on 70 cores from the same well. The results are in good agreement. Empirical correlations between permeability and other petrophysical parameters are made and compared to common correlations. The results demonstrate the potential to predict petrophysical properties from core material not suited for laboratory testing (e.g., drill cuttings, sidewall core or damaged core) and the feasibility of combining digitized images with numerical calculations to predict properties and derive correlations for individual reservoir rock lithologies.


The petroleum industry is increasingly reliant on more effective reservoir characterization to reduce the risks associated with new field development, better delineate producing fields and identify new reserves. The primary tools for reservoir characterization are wellbore logging and limited core derived laboratory measurements for calibrating field logs and establishing relationships between log responses and the petrophysical properties of interest. These relationships are necessarily empirical and introduce considerable uncertainty in the interpretation of logging measurements and in the resulting reservoir description. A major source of the uncertainty is related to the present inability to effectively characterize complex rock microstructure at the pore scale. A significant reduction in the level of uncertainty requires the development of techniques to accurately characterize rock microstructure and to relate this information to measured petrophysical properties.

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