Even though coring of rocks is the best way to characterize reservoir and source rocks geologically and petrophysically, this method is considered expensive, having a relatively high cost per foot. Alternatively, side-wall cores and cuttings are widely used in reservoir characterization at a relatively low cost. However, this method has limitations related to cuttings bad physical conditions, size, mixed lithological and mineralogical characteristics which make the commonly used conventional evaluation methods not applicable. This study introduces a robust combination of digital and conventional core analysis methods to overcome these limitations and characterize reservoir and shale cuttings derived from two hydrocarbon-bearing formations in New Zealand.

Initially, all cuttings from both formations were screened based on their cutting sizes and later based on the visually observed textures using the stereomicroscope. This helped in selecting representative cuttings for the main identified textures. These cuttings were CT imaged at a resolution ranging from 40 to 4 microns/voxel resolution in order to confirm their rock textures and sedimentary structures for better characterization results. Next, mercury injection capillary pressure (MICP), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and petrographical analysis were conducted on all selected cuttings with different rock textures in order to understand the pore types, textural variations, diagenetic overprints and mineralogy of the cuttings samples. Then, they were scanned at optimum resolutions using Micro CT and 3D FIB-SEM microscopies. Finally, all acquired images were segmented digitally and 3D rock volumes were created. These volumes were used in computing porosity, permeability, formation factor resistivity (FRF) and poroperm trends digitally using numerical simulation techniques.

Conventional and digital rock analysis showed that the cuttings derived from the reservoir interval are composed of an argillaceous sandstone with a very good computed porosity (18% up to 31%) and permeability (30 to 200 mD). On the other hand, the cuttings derived from the shale source rock interval, which were predominately composed of clay minerals, have a computed porosity of 12% to 13% (mainly inorganic pores) and an absolute permeability in the range of 0.5 to 4 Micro-Darcy. The digital poroperm trend analysis identified distinct poroperm trends for each formation which helped in understanding their petrophysical aspects.

This integration between conventional and digital methods provided better geological and petrophysical understanding of both formations using a limited number of cuttings, less cost and time.

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