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Advanced Imaging and Characterization of Shale rocks – Critical Role in Unconventional Development

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Course Credit: 0.15 CEU, 1.5 PDH

In conventional exploration, shales are important as sealing lithologies and as source rocks. As such, their strength and geochemical properties have been the object of much study. In unconventional exploration, the shale formation acts as source, seal, and reservoir so that we examine shales by focusing on their reservoir properties. In particular, total organic carbon (TOC) and porosity (storage capacity) are important reservoir quality indicators. With that in mind, characterization of the organic matter in these rocks is of prime importance.

Characterization workflows start with the imaging of the core using a host of imaging modalities. These include, but are not limited to the following: whole-core (single- and dual-energy) helical computed tomography; micro-CT scans (of 1-in. core plugs obtained from the whole core, selected on the basis of whole-core CT, and ties to well log data); standard sedimentary petrography for characterization of sedimentary structures; organic petrology (reflected and fluorescent light imaging); Raman spectroscopy; high-resolution, two-dimensional scanning electron microscopy of polished (argon ion milled) samples; three-dimensional scanning electron imaging (using image reconstruction); and transmission electron imaging of organic matter to gain a detailed understanding of the organic matter with respect to storage capacity and morphology. TEM analysis follows the earlier nondestructive techniques/analyses used to characterize the organic matter. Imaging studies are run in parallel with shale rock properties (SRP) measurements made on both intact and crushed material. Imaging and image analysis tied to the physical property measurements allow for the development of predictive rock properties models.

Increased activity in unconventional (shale) reservoirs has prompted advances in electron microscope imaging and it has resulted in formulation of protocols for shale reservoir characterization. We will discuss characterization workflows and illustrate results.

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  • 1Advanced Imaging and Characterization of Shale rocks – Critical Role in Unconventional Development - Chapter 1
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Earn credits by completing this course0.15 CEU credit1.5 PDH credits


Kultaransingh (Bobby) Hooghan
Lori Hathon