Understanding water uptake of gas shales is critical for designing fracturing and treatment fluids. Previous imbibition experiments on unconfined gas shales have led to several key observations. The water uptake of dry shales is higher than their oil uptake. Furthermore, water imbibition results in sample expansion and microfracture induction. This study provides additional experimental data to understand the effects of rock fabric, complex pore network, and clay swelling on imbibition behavior.

We systematically measure the imbibition rates of fresh water, brine and oil into the confined and unconfined rock samples and crushed packs from different shale members of the Horn River Basin. We also measure the ion diffusion rate from shale into water during imbibition experiments. The results show that confining the shale samples decreases the water imbibition rate of samples tested parallel to the bedding. However, it has a negligible effect on water uptake of samples tested perpendicular to the bedding and on ion diffusion rates. The comparative study suggests that, for both confined and unconfined samples, water uptake is higher than oil uptake. The liquid imbibition and ion diffusion rates along the bedding are higher than those against the bedding. Surprisingly, the crushed samples show a completely different behavior. The oil uptake of crushed packs is higher than their water uptake. The data suggest that the connected pore network of the intact samples is water wet while the majority of rock including poorly connected pores is oil wet. This argument is backed by complete spreading of oil on fresh break surfaces of the rock.

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