Acoustic velocity measurements are an important non-destructive way to investigate dynamic rock mechanical properties. Water content and bedding-plane-induced anisotropy are reported to significantly impact the acoustic velocities of siliciclastic sandstones and laminated carbonates. This relationship in organic-rich shales however is not well understood and has yet to be investigated. The mechanical properties of organic-rich shales are affected by changes in water content, laminations, total organic content (TOC), and microstructures. In particular, kerogen density that accompanies changes in the composition of the TOC during maturity can significantly influence the acoustic responses within source rocks.
To understand how these variables influence acoustic responses in organic shales, two sets of cores from the Eagle Ford shale were investigated: one set cut parallel to bedding and the other perpendicular to bedding. Textures of the samples from each set were characterized using CT scanning. NMR was used to measure the water content, and XRD to analyze the mineralogy. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) was also used to characterize the microstucture. Acoustic velocity measurements were then made on each set at various confining pressures using the ultrasonic pulse transmission technique.
The results show that confining pressure, water content and laminations have significant impact on both compressional (P-wave) and shear wave (S-wave) velocity. Both velocities increase as confining pressure increases. Velocities measured from cores cut parallel to bedding are on average 20% higher than those cut perpendicular to bedding. Increasing water content decreases both velocities. The impact of water content on shear velocity was found to be significant compared to the response with compressional velocity. As a result, the water content was found to lower both Young's modulus and shear modulus, which is opposite to the reported results in conventional reservoir lithology. In addition, both P- and S- wave velocities show a linear decrease as TOC increases, and also they both decrease with increasing of clay content. The mechanisms that lead to water content alternation of rock mechanical properties might be a combined result of the clay-water interaction, the chemical reaction, and the capillary pressure changes.