Oilfield nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) applications are widely accepted for characterizing reservoir rocks and fluids. All of the downhole applications, and most oilfield NMR lab work, are carried out assuming that the results are independent of the operating frequency. The assumption is generally warranted, since most NMR logging tools and lab devices operate in the 0.5 to 2 MHz range. However, two strong motivations exist for investigating the frequency dependence (that is, dispersion) of NMR of crude oil samples: 1) introduction and acceptance of lower frequency logging while drilling (LWD) and multi- frequency wireline NMR tools, and 2) sensitivity of NMR dispersion to the interaction and dynamics of molecules of varying size in complex fluids.

We report here on a versatile frequency-dependent lab NMR measurement known as fast field cycling (FFC) NMR. The results clearly demonstrate a frequency dependence of the longitudinal relaxation time, T1, for crude oils between 10 kHz and 40 MHz. The study investigates the full T1 distributions for crude oils containing significant amounts of all the SARA (saturates, aromatics, resins, asphaltene) fractions, including a broad range of concentrations for the heavier fractions. For crude oils containing minimal asphaltene and resin fractions, the dispersion is minimal. In contrast, crude oils containing larger concentrations of asphaltene and resins show a clear shift of the T1 distribution to longer times at higher frequencies.

We will discuss the implications and benefits of NMR dispersion for oilfield application. We suggest how the dispersion can be understood in terms of the molecular dynamics of asphaltenes with the rest the oil. Finally, we will provide an overview of the experimental challenges in making these measurements, including the hardware design and the specialized pulse sequences required for acquiring multi-frequency data.

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