Electromagnetic (EM) heating has been proposed to recover heavy oil due to its great environmental friendliness. Previous studies focused on investigating the feasibility and enhancing the oil recovery of such non-aqueous method. However, the effect of EM heating on the variations of formation rock properties is still elusive. Detailed experiments/measurements are required to understand the effect of EM heating on changing the petrophysical properties of formation rocks.

A commercial microwave oven is used to conduct the EM heating experiments. Different types of formation rocks (shale, Berea-sandstone, tight sandstone, and Indiana-carbonate) are investigated. Various techniques, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray (EDX), N2 adsorption/desorption, and X-Ray fluorescence (XRF), are used to characterize the properties of shale samples before/after experiments. The porosity and permeability measurement are performed to Berea sandstone, tight sandstone, and Indiana carbonate. An infrared thermometer is used to measure the samples’ surface temperatures. Furthermore, oven-heating experiments are conducted to distinguish the effects of conductive-heating and EM heating on the property changes of rock-samples.

Results show that different types of rocks exhibit different responses to EM heating; shale samples exhibit a higher temperature compared with sandstone and carbonate because of the better EM energy absorbance of clays and pyrite. The shale samples are crumbled into pieces or fractured after EM heating, while the sandstone and carbonate samples remain almost unchanged after EM heating. The SEM results reveal that EM heating causes tensile failure, shrinkage of clay, and release of volatile organic content to the shale sample. The N2 adsorption/desorption measurements demonstrate that the pore volume significantly increases due to clay shrinkage, while part of the pore can be blocked by the converted bituminous kerogen after EM heating. EM heating has almost no effect on Berea sandstone and Indiana carbonate due to the transparency of quartz and calcite to EM waves. However, the EM heating can fracture the tight sandstone that is saturated with water because of the rapid rise of pore pressure under EM heating.

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