Structure, Mechanics and Flow Properties of Fractured Shale: Core-Scale Experimentation and In-situ Imaging

Monday, 15 December 2014
Botros Fouad Abdelmalek, Zuleima Karpyn and Shimin Liu, Pennsylvania State U, University Park, PA, United States
Over the last several years, hydrocarbon exploitation and development in North America has been heavily centered on shale gas plays. However, the physical attributes of shales and their manifestation on transport properties and storage capacity remain poorly understood. Therefore, more experimentally based data are needed to fill the gaps in understanding both transport and storage of fluids in shale. The proposed work includes installation and testing of an experimental system which is capable of monitoring the dynamic evolution of shale core permeability under variable loading conditions and in coordination with X-ray microCT imaging. The goal of this study is to better understand and quantify fluid flow patterns and associated transport dynamics of fractured shale samples. The independent variables considered in this study are: mechanical loading and pore pressure. The mechanical response of shale core is captured for different loading paths. To best replicate the in-situ production scenario, the pore pressure is progressively depleted to mimic pressure decline. During the course of experimentation, permeability is estimated using the pulse-decay method under tri-axial stress boundary conditions. Simultaneously, X-ray microCT imaging is used with a tracer gas that is allowed to flow through the sample as an illuminating agent. In the presence of an illuminating agent, either Xenon or Krypton, the X-ray CT scanner can image fractures, global pathways and diffusional fronts in the matrix, as well as sorption sites that reflect heterogeneities in the sample and localized deformation. Anticipated results from these experiments will help quantify permeability evolution as a function of different loading conditions and pore pressure depletion. Also, the X-ray images will help visualize the change of flow patterns and the intensity of sorption as a function of mechanical loading and pore pressure.