Shale Micromodel Experiments: Fluid Flow and Mobilization using Supercritical CO2

Monday, 15 December 2014
Mark L Porter, James W Carey and Hari Viswanathan, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States
In recent years, use of engineered micromodels to investigate pore-scale fluid flow and transport phenomena to better understand and model field-scale observables has steadily increased. Micromodels are thin porous structures in which flow is restricted to two-dimensions and have become common since they are effective, relatively inexpensive tools for visualizing and quantifying complex flow phenomena. We describe a unique micromodel experimental system recently developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The system consists of a pressure chamber, which allows us to conduct experiments at geologic conditions. The maximum working pressure and temperature is 1500 psig and 80° C, respectively, allowing for supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) to be used as a working fluid. Additionally, we have developed micromodels fabricated in geomaterials (e.g., shale and Portland cement), whereas typical micromodels are fabricated in engineered materials such as glass or silicon. The use of geomaterial micromodels allows us to better represent the fluid-rock interactions including wetting angles and chemical reactivity at conditions representative of natural subsurface environments.

In this work, we present experimental results in simple fracture systems (e.g., straight channels, pore doublets) with applications to hydrocarbon mobility in hydraulically fractured shale. We use both shale and glass micromodels, allowing for a detailed comparison between flow phenomena in different materials. In the straight channel micromodels, we investigate interfacial velocities and compare the results with theoretical models. In the pore doublet micromodels, we investigate mobilization of oil blobs and contrast the effectiveness of water and scCO2 in the extraction of hydrocarbon from fracture networks. Next, we present experimental results in complex fracture network patterns derived from 3D x-ray tomography images of actual fractures created in shale rock cores. We discuss preliminary analysis aimed at developing quantitative relationships between fluid mobility and interfacial phenomena and the effectiveness of scCO2 as a working fluid.