The Small-Drillhole Minipermeameter Probe for In-Situ Permeability Measurement
- Cynthia L. Dinwiddie (Southwest Research Institute)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering
- Publication Date
- December 2005
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 491 - 501
- 2005. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 1.5 Drill Bits, 5.7.2 Recovery Factors, 5.1.3 Sedimentology, 5.5.2 Core Analysis, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 5.6.2 Core Analysis, 5.1.5 Geologic Modeling, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing
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Laboratory measurement of permeability using a Hassler cell is the industrystandard; however, consistently removing undisturbed rock samples from friableoutcrops is difficult. Although various conventional surface-sealingmini-permeameters are developed as an alternative for permeability measurement,these devices generally suffer from difficulties in maintaining optimal forceson the tip seal when dealing with outcrop irregularities in the field; outcropweathering is also problematic. Because a reliable field method is needed forstudies of friable geological units, this paper presents an innovativetechnique for measuring permeability in situ. The design of the small-drillholeminipermeameter probe is discussed, as well as the accompanying analyticaltechnique and the size and shape of the instrument's averaging volume.Small-diameter holes [i.e., 1.8 cm (0.7 in.)] are drilled into an outcrop witha masonry drill, followed by drillhole vacuuming, probe insertion, sealexpansion, gas injection, and calculation of the intrinsic permeability throughmeasurement of the injection pressure, gas-flow rate, and knowledge of thesystem geometry. Advantages of this approach include access to a nonweatheredsurface, an operator-independent sealing mechanism around the air-injectionzone, and the potential for permeability measurement at multiple depths belowan outcrop surface. To date, data have been collected from four diverse porousmedia: upper and lower shoreface sandstone (Escalante, Utah), saprolitic soils(Clemson, South Carolina), nonwelded and sintered ignimbrite (Bishop,California), and fluvially reworked tuffaceous sedimentary rock (Bishop,California). The probe has proved durable and robust, with a single probesufficient for making thousands of measurements in a variety of environments.Data quality supports the conclusion that the drillhole probe is a practicalfield instrument.
Small-scale permeability heterogeneity plays a substantial role in petroleummigration and reservoir performance; this parameter commonly ranges over manyorders of magnitude (e.g., 0.01 to more than 10,000 md). Permeabilityheterogeneities on the meter-to-micrometer scale associated with beds, laminae,internal sedimentary structures, and variations in pore morphology are thesource of most retrieval difficulties during enhanced-oil-recovery operations,thus negatively affecting reservoir recovery efficiency.
Considerable heterogeneity is evident when permeability measurements aremade on small scales, either in the field or on field samples in a laboratorysetting. Traditionally, small-scale permeability measurements are made byinducing 1D gas flow through a cylindrical core plug in a Hassler sleeve orcell. Recently, such measurements also are made by inducing multidimensionalgas flow through a sample with various configurations of the conventionalsurface-sealing gas minipermeameter.
Cylindrical plugs generally are extracted from continuous core at 30-cmintervals for Hassler-cell permeability measurement, preserving a majority ofthe core while minimizing associated costs. Except for relatively homogeneousformations, this scale of permeability measurement is in an ill-definedgeologic region, falling within the range of laminae and lamina sets.Furthermore, core-plug samples tend to be biased toward the more consolidated,less permeable, and less friable core sections. As an example, the effect ofthis arbitrary sampling density on Hassler-sleeve measurements for the case oftight gas sands is that magnitudes of permeability less than 100 md frequentlyresult, even when coarser-grained beds that would operate as preferential flowchannels or "thief zones" are clearly present. Currently, the scale ofsedimentary heterogeneity is best resolved by use of the minipermeameter, whichallows investigation of permeability heterogeneity at much greater (andstatistically significant) sampling densities and on much smaller scales thanis possible with the traditional technique.
The literature documents use of the conventional surface-sealingminipermeameter probe for measurements made on outcrop surfaces, core plugs,slabbed cores, or large-cut blocks. One motivation for using cores, plugs, orblocks of rock is that natural weathering processes may greatly affectpermeability values obtained from exposed outcrop surfaces. The weatheringeffect has been shown to extend up to several inches below the rock surface.Beyond the issue of weathering, there are other rationales for discouraging useof the conventional surface-sealing minipermeameter probe in a field setting.When applying this probe geometry to natural rock outcroppings in the field, asopposed to cut specimens in an automated laboratory setting, seal-qualityproblems are often encountered because of irregular, rough surfaces anddifficulties associated with manually holding the probe stationary whileapplying a uniform normal force of the optimal magnitude on the tip seal.
To enable in-situ measurements of friable geologic units and to overcomeweathering and seal-quality problems, a new minipermeameter probe has beendeveloped that is specifically intended for application inside a small drilledhole. The design of the small-drillhole minipermeameter probe is discussed inwhat follows, as well as the accompanying analytical technique and the size andshape of the instrument's averaging volume. This article concludes with briefreviews of data collected using the technique.
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