The objective of this work is to present the pore types and their relationship to the main core facies from the Vaca Muerta Formation, Neuquén Basin, Argentina. With an in-house methodology for focused Ion Beam scanning electron microscope (SEM) images and petrographic analysis, a linked to increase the understanding of the pore systems, mineralogy, diagenetic features, grain types and facies variations is carried out. Long continuous cores from two wells were described in detail by standard facies analysis and SEM for semi-quantitatively estimating total porosity, relative abundance of pore types and pore sizes, mineralogy, relative abundance of kerogen and migrated bitumen, type and origin of different clays, and diagenetic quartz abundance among other features. The SEM porosity, organic matter content and mineral distribution correlates favorably with independent measurements obtained by other labs methods. The findings were linked to the core descriptions and the regional sequence stratigraphic framework to predict best reservoir facies. This prediction is done with the production results for each horizontal well in the different landing zones. Finally, the understanding of the pore system can be used to define the best areas and intervals where horizontal wells can be geosteered during the development stage of a block.


The Tithonian-Valanginian (Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous) Vaca Muerta Formation is the main source rock of the Neuquén Basin (Figure 1). The Vaca Muerta Fm. is a lower slope and basinal facies equivalent to the updip Quintuco and Loma Montosa Formations. This formation is a very appealing target for unconventional development due to its vast lateral extent, great thickness (up to 500 m – 1640 ft), relatively high values of total organic carbon (TOC 2-10 %), thermal maturity (oil to dry gas windows), mineralogical composition (less than 30% clay), overpressure and relatively simple structural setting. The study area is located in the center of the Neuquén Basin (Figure 1), north of the Huincul high and mainly in the Añelo depocenter where major activity is taking place. More than 600 horizontal wells have been drilled in the basin in different landing zones resulting in different hydrocarbon production. The EIA (2013) estimated that the technically recoverable resources estimated for this formation are in the order of 300 Tcf of gas and 16 Bbbl of oil and these numbers may be low.

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