Development of source-rock resources relies on the rigorous knowledge of their petrophysical properties such as porosity, permeability, and hydrocarbon saturation. In parallel, a concise description of the wettability and pore structures is commended. This paper presents a detailed Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) T2 study of the wetting characteristics and pore structure in organic-rich source rocks from different locations including the Eagle Ford formation. Although these rocks are highly laminated and calcite dominated, our studies indicated that they have distinct different pore structure and connectivity, and differ in how TOC is dispersed within the rock fabric. We believe that the entailed findings could influence our thinking on how best to produce these shales, wellbore stability, drilling fluid selection and other asset development actions.
Source-rock samples with varied amount of total organic content (TOC) were drilled perpendicular or parallel to the laminations. The samples were cut into twin plugs which were sequentially saturated by spontaneous imbibition of 5% KCl brine and diesel (oil). The NMR T2 measurements were used to determine the fluid imbibition rate and amount, as well as the porosity associated with organic and inorganic components of the source rocks. The fracture apertures were obtained via an application of characteristic T2 cutoff times to the NMR T2 distributions. The mineral elements, phases and TOC of the rocks were measured using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF), X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and HAWK pyrolysis, respectively.
The prevalence of surface relaxation on the NMR dynamics was prominent as the transverse relaxation took place at time scales (T2 ≤ 100 ms) much shorter than their bulk values. The overall wettability of the samples showed a mixed character as the brine and the oil had been intimately imbibed. Nevertheless, the details of the wetting behavior of the Eagle ford samples and the other samples were different. For instance, Eagle Ford samples imbibed larger volumes of brine and faster than oil, on the contrary the other samples imbibed larger volumes of oil and faster than brine.
The apparent preference of oil on the other samples is attributed to their high TOC compared to the Eagle Ford samples. Upon imbibition in these samples, brine is observed to flow along the clay rich bedding planes. In fact, the interaction between brine and clay is identified to be the potential driver of the rock stability problems especially near the wellbore; however it is constrained by the type of residing clays. The discrepancies in the wetting traits are magnified by the presence of fractures which enhanced the network connectivity of both hydrophobic and hydrophilic pores or even across them. Furthermore, the fractures allowed the fluids to surpass the vertical bedding planes and thus accelerating the fluid distribution processes inside the pore space. The fracture apertures were found to range from 1 μm to 15 μm which are typical values for source rocks (Gale et al., 2007, Slatt and O’Brien, 2011).