Nanoscale Experimental Characterization and 3D Mechanistic Modeling of Shale with Quantified Heterogeneity

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Kane C Bennett and Ronaldo I Borja, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States
Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting primarily of clay and silt, and is of particular interest with respect to hydrocarbon production as both a source and seal rock. The deformation and fracture properties of shale depend on the mechanical properties of its basic constituents, including solid clay particles, inclusions such as silt and organics, and multiscale porosity. This paper presents the results of a combined experimental/numerical investigation into the mechanical behavior of shale at the nanoscale. Large grids of nanoindentation tests, spanning various length scales ranging from 200-20000 nanometers deep, were performed on a sample of Woodford shale in both the bedding plane normal (BPN) and bedding plane parallel (BPP) directions. The nanoindentions were performed in order to determine the mechanical properties of the constituent materials in situ as well as those of the highly heterogeneous composite material at this scale. Focused ion beam (FIB) milling and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used in conjunction (FIB-SEM) to obtain 2D and 3D images characterizing the heterogeneity of the shale at this scale. The constituent materials were found to be best described as consisting of near micrometer size clay and silt particles embedded in a mixed organic/clay matrix, with some larger (near 10 micrometers in diameter) pockets of organic material evident. Indented regions were identified through SEM, allowing the 200-1000 nanometer deep indentations to be classified according to the constituent materials which they engaged. We use nonlinear finite element modeling to capture results of low-load (on the order of milliNewtons) and high-load (on the order of a few Newtons) nanoindentation tests. Experimental results are used to develop a 3D mechanistic model that interprets the results of nanoindentation tests on specimens of Woodford shale with quantified heterogeneity.