Permeability and Porosity Evolution of Organic-Rich Shales from the Green River Formation as a Result of Maturation
- Tae Wook Kim (Stanford University) | Cynthia M. Ross (Stanford University) | Kelly M. Guan (Stanford University) | Alan K. Burnham (Stanford University) | Anthony R. Kovscek (Stanford University)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- June 2020
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,377 - 1,405
- 2020.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- pyrolysis, porosity/permeability change, visualization of maturation, triaxial condition, oil shale
- 23 in the last 30 days
- 81 since 2007
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Source rocks (oil shale) were matured artificially via pyrolysis under geologically realistic triaxial stresses using a unique coreholder that is compatible with X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning. This study focuses on characterization of porosity and permeability as well as the evolution of shale fabric during pyrolysis. Experiments were conducted using 1-in. diameter vertical and horizontal core samples from the Green River Formation. Prior to pyrolysis, the properties of the source rock were characterized [e.g., porosity, bulk density, mineralogy, and total organic carbon (TOC)]. Samples were then heated from room temperature to 350°C under a nitrogen environment to obtain conversion of organic matter (OM) to oil and gas via pyrolysis. Porosity and permeability after maturation were measured. Micro-CT visualization was applied to investigate the fracture network developed throughout the core. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images were also used to compare the shale fabric and porosity evolution (pre- to post-maturation) at greater resolution.
In-situ observations reveal a decrease in the average CT number (i.e., density) within some volumetric regions of the cores after maturation. In these regions, OM (kerogen and bitumen) was converted into hydrocarbons. Changes in the source rock depend on the original TOC fraction, hydrogen index (HI), and temperature. The permeability prior to pyrolysis for vertical samples is in the undetectable to nanodarcy range. The permeability of all cores increased to the microdarcy range post-maturation. In particular, the permeability of the horizontal sample increased from 0.14 to 50 µd. This improvement in permeability occurred due to the generation of open porosity and fractures (dilation, generation, and/or drainage). Additionally, the porosity after Soxhlet extraction increased proportionally by 20% from pre- to post-pyrolysis depending on pyrolysis time and TOC fraction. Longitudinal deformation depends on the orientation of the sample with respect to the triaxial stress during pyrolysis. The deformation of vertically oriented samples with isostress conditions is larger than that of horizontally oriented samples with isostrain. The measured 3D in-situ porosity distribution indicates that OM has transformed into hydrocarbons by pyrolysis. The development of a fracture and matrix porosity system under stress provides an explanation for transport of hydrocarbon away from its point of origin.
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