In carbonate reservoirs, permeability prediction is often difficult due to the influence of various geological variables that control fluid flow. Many attempts have been made to calculate permeability from porosity by using theoretical and empirical equations. The suggested permeability models have been questionable in carbonates due to inherent heterogeneity and complex pore systems. The main objective of this paper is to resolve the porosity-permeability relationships and evaluate existing models for predicting permeability in different carbonate rock types.

Over 1000 core plugs were studied from 7 different carbonate reservoirs across the Middle East region; mainly cretaceous reservoirs. The plugs were carefully selected to represent main property variations in the cored intervals. The data set available included laboratory-measured helium porosity, gas permeability, thin-section photomicrographs and high-pressure mercury injection. Plug-scale X-ray CT imaging was acquired to ensure the samples were free of induced fractures and other anomalies that can affect the permeability measurement. Rock textures were analyzed in the thin-section photomicrographs and were classified based on their content as grainy, muddy and mixed. Special attention was given to the diagenesis effects mainly compaction, cementation and dissolution.

The texture information was plotted in the porosity-permeability domain, and was found to produce three distinct porosity-permeability relationships. Each texture gave unique poro-perm trend, where the extent of the trend was controlled by diagenesis. Rock types were defined on each trend by detailed texture analysis and capillary pressure. Three different permeability equations (Kozney, Winland, Lucia) were evaluated to study their effectiveness in complex carbonate reservoirs. A new permeability equation was proposed to enhance the prediction results of the experimental data.

Rock types were successfully classified based on porosity, permeability, capillarity and textural facies. Conclusive porosity-permeability relationships were obtained from textural rock properties and diagenesis, which were linked to rock types using capillary pressure. The texture-diagenesis based rock types provided more insight into the effects of geology on fluid flow and saturation. Available models may not fully describe permeability in heterogeneous rocks but they can improve our understanding of fluid flow characteristics and predict permeability in un-cored wells.

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