Mechanical properties of organic matter in shales mapped at the nanometer scale

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:10 PM
Moshe Eliyahu1, Simon Emmanuel1, Ruarri James Day-Stirrat2 and Calum Macaulay2, (1)Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel, (2)Shell Houston, Houston, TX, United States
The mechanical properties of organic matter strongly influence the way in which shales deform and fracture. However, the response of organic matter to mechanical stresses is not well understood, representing a critical obstacle to assessing oil and gas production in shale formations. Little is known about the mechanical properties of organic matter in fine grained rocks primarily because it often occupies tiny nanometer-scale voids between the mineral grains which cannot be accessed using standard mechanical testing techniques. Here, we report on the use of a new atomic force microscopy technique (PeakForce QNM) to map the mechanical properties of organic and inorganic components at the nanometer scale. We find that the method can identify different phases such as pyrite, quartz, clays, and organic matter. Furthermore, within the organic component Young's modulus values ranged from 0 - 25 GPa; in 3 different samples - all of which come from thermally mature Type II/III source rocks in the dry gas window - a modal value of 15-16 GPa was measured, with additional peaks measured at ≤ 10 GPa. In addition, the maps suggest that some porous organic macerals possess a soft core surrounded by a harder outer shell 50 – 100 nm thick. Our results demonstrate that the method represents a powerful new petrographic tool with which to characterize the mechanical properties of organic-rich sedimentary rocks.