To evaluate the exploration potential of tight oil reservoirs in the Upper Triassic Yanchang Formation, a combined research was done to investigate the source rock distribution, diagensis, pore systems, petrophysical parameters. To begin with, the horizontal distribution and vertical thickness of the reservoir were clarified with data from well drilling and regional geological background. After that, X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy experiments were conducted to study the pore types and morphologies. Then the pore size distribution was calculated based on mercury injection capillary pressure data. Finally, porosity and permeability were tested. Also, the causes of the tight sandstone, the controlling factor of petrophysical parameters and the fracability were discussed.

The Upper Triassic Yanchang Formation is rich in tight oil reserves and shows good exploration potential. Horizontally, reservoir is accumulated at the centre of the lake deposit with an area of 7.5×103 km2; vertically, reservoir is in Chang 6, Chang 7 and Chang 8 member with total depth 25–80m, among which Chang 7 member acts as the main source rock. Sediments are mainly fine grained sand, cements including clays, calcite and dolomite. After early stage mechanical compaction and late stage cementation, the reservoir becomes quite tight. Pores are classified into four types, residual interparticle pores, intraparticle grain pores, clay dominated pores, and micro fractures. Residual interparticle pores and clay dominate pores are main pore types for storage and flow; existence of micro fracture can improve permeability and is a good indication of fracturing potential. Porosity is between 6.12–13.80% and air permeability normally smaller than 0.3 mD, the early stage compaction is the main reason of porosity reduction, while combination of compaction and cementation results in dramatic decreasing in permeability. This reservoir can be commercially developed with horizontal well and hydraulic fracturing stimulation.

This study provides a workflow to fully characterize the storage and transport properties of a tight oil reservoir, and the workflow can act as reference to other similar reservoirs.

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