Proper characterization of reservoir quality of tight shales is critical for evaluating reservoir potential. These reservoir quality properties typically include hydrocarbon filled porosity, permeability, organic content and maturation, and pore pressure. Of these, permeability measurements are among the most complex to obtain, and have been subject to much discussion. Key concerns are the lack of analytic modeling, poor reliability, poor consistency, and ignoring stress sensitivity in the measurements. This paper reviews the pressure decay permeability method using crushed rock, and includes laboratory test results to validate the findings. Part of the review is a numerical model for the pressure decay method. This model includes significant processes of pipe flow in the equipment, thermal effects, diffusion into rock fragments, Klinkenberg effects, and size, shape and anisotropic permeability of the fragments.

The paper shows that the measured permeability stress dependence, in tight shales, arises from coring induced microcracks. These result from failure of weak contact planes that are naturally occurring within tight shales and fail during coring and core retrieval. Permeability stress dependence in-situ is slight, as is show by compression test measurements to greater than thirty thousand psi. Crushing the rock to create small fragments for permeability measurements effectively removes these microcracks, and allows evaluation of real in-situ properties. Alternatively, closing microcracks by applying confining stress on plug samples, as routinely done for steady state and pulse decay measurements, is possible, but problematic because the critical stress required for microcrack closure changes from rock to rock facies.

The pressure decay permeability method on crushed rock is shown to provide very consistent results that agree with other measurement techniques. The numerical model relates specific ranges of fragment sizes and testing conditions, to measured ranges of permeability. This allows permeability measurements and numerical model analysis for a broad range of variability in permeability that can be measured in heterogeneous tight shales. With some exceptions (e.g., Cui 2009), the fundamental understanding of the petrophysical properties of tight shales have not previously included rigorous confirmation of experimental measurements by analytical methods.

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