Nanopore imaging in vaca muerta mudrocks to evaluate controls on complex resistivity spectra in unconventional reservoirs

Jan H. Norbisrath, G. Michael Grammer, Beth Vanden Berg, Max Tenaglia, Gregor P. Eberli, Ralf J. Weger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nanopore geometry and mineralogy are key parameters for effective hydrocarbon exploration and production in unconventional reservoirs. This study describes an approach to evaluate relationships between low-frequency complex resistivity spectra (CRS), nanopore geometry, and mineralogy to use CRS to provide estimates of reservoir parameters concerning hydrocarbon saturation, storage, and producibility. For this purpose, the frequency dispersion of CRS was analyzed in 56 mudrock core plugs from the Vaca Muerta Formation (VMF) (Jurassic/Cretaceous) in Argentina, along with cementation factors (m), carbonate content (CO3), and total organic carbon (TOC). To quantify the nanoporosity, a subset of 23 samples was milled with broad ion beam (BIB) and imaged with scanning electron microscopy (SEM); the image grids of these samples were stitched together into high-resolution BIB-SEM mosaics and analyzed with digital image analysis (DIA) techniques. Results show that porosity is the dominant control on electrical properties in the mudrocks analyzed as part of this study. There is no conclusive evidence that pore geometry influences the electrical properties in the analyzed mudrocks. Pore-geometry parameters [dominant pore size (DOMsize) and perimeter over area (PoA)] do not correlate with electrical properties. Instead, mineralogy shows a first-order correlation with electrical properties, where cementation exponents are higher in rocks with high TOC and low CO3 content. CRS can be used to estimate porosity and cementation factors with high correlation coefficients of R2=0.71 and R2=0.95, respectively. Estimates of the 2D interfacial surface area (ISA2D), which is a function of both pore geometry and porosity, achieve an R2=0.59. The results of this study suggest that low-frequency dielectric rock properties, if measured downhole, could be useful to identify primary producing intervals in unconventional reservoirs, and to accurately determine cementation factors independent of formation fluids and porosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1044
Number of pages17
JournalSPE Reservoir Evaluation and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geology


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