Recent Submissions

  • Field data provide estimates of effective permeability, fracture spacing, well drainage area and incremental production in gas shales

    Eftekhari, Behzad; Marder, M.; Patzek, Tadeusz (Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, Elsevier BV, 2018-05-23) [Article]
    About half of US natural gas comes from gas shales. It is valuable to study field production well by well. We present a field data-driven solution for long-term shale gas production from a horizontal, hydrofractured well far from other wells and reservoir boundaries. Our approach is a hybrid between an unstructured big-data approach and physics-based models. We extend a previous two-parameter scaling theory of shale gas production by adding a third parameter that incorporates gas inflow from the external unstimulated reservoir. This allows us to estimate for the first time the effective permeability of the unstimulated shale and the spacing of fractures in the stimulated region. From an analysis of wells in the Barnett shale, we find that on average stimulation fractures are spaced every 20 m, and the effective permeability of the unstimulated region is 100 nanodarcy. We estimate that over 30 years on production the Barnett wells will produce on average about 20% more gas because of inflow from the outside of the stimulated volume. There is a clear tradeoff between production rate and ultimate recovery in shale gas development. In particular, our work has strong implications for well spacing in infill drilling programs.
  • Thermal shale fracturing simulation using the Cohesive Zone Method (CZM)

    Enayatpour, Saeid; van Oort, Eric; Patzek, Tadeusz (Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, Elsevier BV, 2018-05-17) [Article]
    Extensive research has been conducted over the past two decades to improve hydraulic fracturing methods used for hydrocarbon recovery from tight reservoir rocks such as shales. Our focus in this paper is on thermal fracturing of such tight rocks to enhance hydraulic fracturing efficiency. Thermal fracturing is effective in generating small fractures in the near-wellbore zone - or in the vicinity of natural or induced fractures - that may act as initiation points for larger fractures. Previous analytical and numerical results indicate that thermal fracturing in tight rock significantly enhances rock permeability, thereby enhancing hydrocarbon recovery. Here, we present a more powerful way of simulating the initiation and propagation of thermally induced fractures in tight formations using the Cohesive Zone Method (CZM). The advantages of CZM are: 1) CZM simulation is fast compared to similar models which are based on the spring-mass particle method or Discrete Element Method (DEM); 2) unlike DEM, rock material complexities such as scale-dependent failure behavior can be incorporated in a CZM simulation; 3) CZM is capable of predicting the extent of fracture propagation in rock, which is more difficult to determine in a classic finite element approach. We demonstrate that CZM delivers results for the challenging fracture propagation problem of similar accuracy to the eXtended Finite Element Method (XFEM) while reducing complexity and computational effort. Simulation results for thermal fracturing in the near-wellbore zone show the effect of stress anisotropy in fracture propagation in the direction of the maximum horizontal stress. It is shown that CZM can be used to readily obtain the extent and the pattern of induced thermal fractures.
  • Large-Scale True Triaxial Apparatus for Geophysical Studies in Fractured Rock

    Garcia, A. V.; Rached, R. M.; Santamarina, Carlos (Geotechnical Testing Journal, ASTM International, 2018-05-12) [Article]
    The study of fractured rock masses in the laboratory remains challenging because of the large specimen sizes and bulky loading systems that are required. This article presents the design, structural analysis, and operation of a compact and self-reacting true triaxial device for fractured rock. The frame subjects a 50 cm by 50 cm by 50 cm fractured rock specimen to a maximum stress of 3 MPa along three independent axes. Concurrent measurements include long-wavelength P-wave propagation, passive acoustic emission monitoring, deformations, and thermal measurements. The device can accommodate diverse research, from rock mass properties and geophysical fractured rock characterizations, to coupled hydro-chemo-thermo-mechanical processes, drilling, and grouting. Preliminary wave propagation data gathered under isotropic and anisotropic stress conditions for an assembly of 4,000 rock blocks demonstrate the system’s versatility and provide unprecedented information related to long-wavelength propagation in fractured rock under various stress anisotropies.

    Lei, L.; Santamarina, Carlos (Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2018-04-02) [Article]
    Fine-grained sediments limit hydrate nucleation, shift the phase boundary and hinder gas supply. Laboratory experiments in this study explore different strategies to overcome these challenges, including the use of a more soluble guest molecule rather than methane, grain-scale gas-storage within porous diatoms, ice-to-hydrate transformation to grow lenses at predefined locations, forced gas injection into water saturated sediments, and long-term guest molecule transport. Tomographic images, thermal and pressure data provide rich information on hydrate formation and morphology. Results show that hydrate formation is inherently displacive in fine-grained sediments; lenses are thicker and closer to each other in compressible, high specific surface area sediments subjected to low effective stress. Temperature and pressure trajectories follow a shifted phase boundary that is consistent with capillary effects. Exo-pore growth results in freshly formed hydrate with a striped and porous structure; this open structure becomes an effective pathway for gas transport to the growing hydrate front. Ice-to-hydrate transformation goes through a liquid stage at pre-melt temperatures; then, capillarity and cryogenic suction compete, and some water becomes imbibed into the sediment faster than hydrate reformation. The geometry of hydrate lenses and the internal hydrate structure continue evolving long after the exothermal response to hydrate formation has completely decayed. Multiple time-dependent processes occur during hydrate formation, including gas, water and heat transport, sediment compressibility, reaction rate and the stochastic nucleation process. Hydrate formation strategies conceived for this study highlight the inherent difficulties in emulating hydrate formation in fine-grained sediments within the relatively short time-scale available for laboratory experiments.
  • Solvable Model for Dynamic Mass Transport in Disordered Geophysical Media

    Marder, M.; Eftekhari, Behzad; Patzek, Tadeusz (Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society (APS), 2018-03-29) [Article]
    We present an analytically solvable model for transport in geophysical materials on large length and time scales. It describes the flow of gas to a complicated absorbing boundary over long periods of time. We find a solution to this model using Green's function techniques, and apply the solution to three absorbing networks of increasing complexity.
  • Borehole Tool for the Comprehensive Characterization of Hydrate-bearing Sediments

    Dai, Sheng; Santamarina, Carlos (Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), 2018-02-01) [Technical Report]
    Reservoir characterization and simulation require reliable parameters to anticipate hydrate deposits responses and production rates. The acquisition of the required fundamental properties currently relies on wireline logging, pressure core testing, and/or laboratory ob-servations of synthesized specimens, which are challenged by testing capabilities and in-nate sampling disturbances. The project reviews hydrate-bearing sediments, properties, and inherent sampling effects, albeit lessen with the developments in pressure core technology, in order to develop robust correlations with index parameters. The resulting information is incorporated into a tool for optimal field characterization and parameter selection with un-certainty analyses. Ultimately, the project develops a borehole tool for the comprehensive characterization of hydrate-bearing sediments at in situ, with the design recognizing past developments and characterization experience and benefited from the inspiration of nature and sensor miniaturization.
  • Finite-difference method Stokes solver (FDMSS) for 3D pore geometries: Software development, validation and case studies

    Gerke, Kirill M.; Vasilyev, Roman V.; Khirevich, Siarhei; Collins, Daniel; Karsanina, Marina V.; Sizonenko, Timofey O.; Korost, Dmitry V.; Lamontagne, Sébastien; Mallants, Dirk (Computers & Geosciences, Elsevier BV, 2018-01-17) [Article]
    Permeability is one of the fundamental properties of porous media and is required for large-scale Darcian fluid flow and mass transport models. Whilst permeability can be measured directly at a range of scales, there are increasing opportunities to evaluate permeability from pore-scale fluid flow simulations. We introduce the free software Finite-Difference Method Stokes Solver (FDMSS) that solves Stokes equation using a finite-difference method (FDM) directly on voxelized 3D pore geometries (i.e. without meshing). Based on explicit convergence studies, validation on sphere packings with analytically known permeabilities, and comparison against lattice-Boltzmann and other published FDM studies, we conclude that FDMSS provides a computationally efficient and accurate basis for single-phase pore-scale flow simulations. By implementing an efficient parallelization and code optimization scheme, permeability inferences can now be made from 3D images of up to 109 voxels using modern desktop computers. Case studies demonstrate the broad applicability of the FDMSS software for both natural and artificial porous media.
  • Modeling of Multicomponent Diffusions and Natural Convection in Unfractured and Fractured Media by Discontinuous Galerkin and Mixed Methods

    Hoteit, Hussein; Firoozabadi, Abbas (International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017-12-29) [Article]
    Computation of the distribution of species in hydrocarbon reservoirs from diffusions (thermal, molecular, and pressure) and natural convection is an important step in reservoir initialization. Current methods, which are mainly based on the conventional finite difference approach, may not be numerically efficient in fractured and other media with complex heterogeneities. In this work, the discontinuous Galerkin (DG) method combined with the mixed finite element (MFE) method is used for the calculation of compositional variation in fractured hydrocarbon reservoirs. The use of unstructured gridding allows efficient computations for fractured media when the crossflow equilibrium concept is invoked. The DG method has less numerical dispersion than the upwind finite difference (FD) methods. The MFE method ensures continuity of fluxes at the interface of the grid elements. We also use the local discontinuous Galerkin (LDG) method instead of the MFE calculate the diffusion fluxes. Results from several numerical examples are presented to demonstrate the efficiency, robustness, and accuracy of the model. Various features of convection and diffusion in homogeneous, layered, and fractured media are also discussed.
  • Lattice Model for Production of Gas

    Marder, M.; Eftekhari, Behzad; Patzek, Tadeusz (arXiv, 2017-12-01) [Preprint]
    We define a lattice model for rock, absorbers, and gas that makes it possible to examine the flow of gas to a complicated absorbing boundary over long periods of time. The motivation is to deduce the geometry of the boundary from the time history of gas absorption. We find a solution to this model using Green's function techniques, and apply the solution to three absorbing networks of increasing complexity.
  • Coupled Interfacial Tension and Phase Behavior Model Based on Micellar Curvatures

    Torrealba, V. A.; Johns, R. T. (Langmuir, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2017-11-08) [Article]
    This article introduces a consistent and robust model that predicts interfacial tensions for all microemulsion Winsor types and overall compositions. The model incorporates film bending arguments and Huh's equation and is coupled to phase behavior so that simultaneous tuning of both interfacial tension (IFT) and phase behavior is possible. The oil-water interfacial tension and characteristic length are shown to be related to each other through the hydrophilic-lipophilic deviation (HLD). The phase behavior is tied to the micelle curvatures, without the need for using the net average curvature (NAC). The interfacial tension model is related to solubilization ratios in order to introduce a coupled interfacial tension-phase behavior model for all phase environments. The approach predicts two- and three-phase interfacial tensions and phase behavior (i.e., tie lines and tie triangles) for changes in composition and HLD input parameters, such as temperature, pressure, surfactant structure, and oil equivalent alkane carbon number. Comparisons to experimental data show excellent fits and predictive capability.
  • Comparison of direct shear and simple shear responses of municipal solid waste in USA

    Fei, Xunchang; Zekkos, Dimitrios (Environmental Geotechnics, Thomas Telford Ltd., 2017-10-25) [Article]
    Although large-size simple shear (SS) testing of municipal solid waste (MSW) may arguably provide a more realistic estimate of the shear strength (τ ) of MSW than the most commonly used direct shear (DS) testing, a systematic comparison between the shear responses of MSW obtained from the two testing methods is lacking. In this study, a large-size shear device was used to test identical MSW specimens sampled in USA in DS and SS. Eight DS tests and 11 SS tests were conducted at vertical effective stresses of 50–500 kPa. The stress–displacement response of MSW in SS testing was hyperbolic and a maximum shear stress was reached, whereas a maximum shear stress was not reached in most DS tests. The τ, effective friction angle (ϕ ′) and cohesion (c ′) of MSW were obtained from DS and SS tests by using a displacement failure criterion of 40 mm. τ in SS testing was found to be equal to or lower than τ in DS testing with ratios of τ between 73 and 101%. SS testing resulted in higher ϕ ′ but lower c ′ than DS testing. The shear strength parameters were lower than those obtained in previous studies from DS tests at 55 mm displacement.
  • Soil desiccation cracks as a suction–contraction process

    Cordero, J. A.; Useche, G.; Prat, P. C.; Ledesma, A.; Santamarina, Carlos (Géotechnique Letters, Thomas Telford Ltd., 2017-10-05) [Article]
    Recent macro- and particle-scale advances in unsaturated soil behaviour have led to an enhanced understanding of the effects of moisture changes on soil response. This research examines desiccation cracks as a suction–contraction-coupled process using sand–clay mixtures. Suction–moisture measurements highlight the role of fines on suction potential even at low fines content; on the other hand, oedometer tests exhibit a marked transition from sand-controlled to clay-controlled compressibility. Time-lapse photography of desiccation tests in flat trays show the onset of crack initiation and the subsequent evolution in horizontal strains; concurrent gravimetric water content measurements relate crack nucleation to suction at air entry. Suction and compressibility increase with the soil-specific surface and have a compounded effect on desiccation-driven lateral contraction. Both layer thickness and its lateral extent affect the development of desiccation cracks. The recently proposed revised soil classification system properly anticipates the transitions in compressibility and capillary phenomena observed in this study (between 15 and 35% fines content).
  • Detecting Poor Cement Bonding and Zonal Isolation Problems Using Magnetic Cement Slurries

    Nair, Sriramya D.; Patzek, Tadeusz; van Oort, Eric (SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Society of Petroleum Engineers, 2017-10-02) [Conference Paper]
    There has been growing interest in the use of magnetorheological fluids to improve displacement efficiency of fluids (drilling fluids, spacer fluids, cement slurries) in the eccentric casing annuli. When magnetic particles are mixed with the cement slurry for improved displacement, they provide an excellent opportunity for sensing the presence and quality of cement in the annulus. This work focuses on using sophisticated 3D computational electromagnetics to simulate the use of a magnetic cement slurry for well cement monitoring. The main goal is to develop a new tool, which is capable of locating magnetic cement slurry that is placed behind a stainless steel casing. An electromagnetic coil was used to generate a magnetic field inside the borehole. It was found that when a current was passed through the electric coils, magnetic field lines passed through the stainless steel casing, the cement annulus and the rock formation. Three sensors were placed inside the cased borehole and the magnetic field strength variations were observed at these locations. Various factors that have a significant influence on zonal isolation were considered. These include, effect of debonding between casing and cement annulus, effect of changing annuli thickness, influence of a fracture in the rock formation, effect of changing magnetic permeability of cement and finally influence of annuli eccentricity. Based on the results shown in the paper along with the next generation of supersensitive magnetic sensors that are being developed, the magnetic approach appears to be a viable alternative for evaluating the quality of the cement annulus to ensure good zonal isolation.
  • Improving Chemical EOR Simulations and Reducing the Subsurface Uncertainty Using Downscaling Conditioned to Tracer Data

    Torrealba, Victor A.; Hoteit, Hussein; Chawathe, Adwait (SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Society of Petroleum Engineers, 2017-10-02) [Conference Paper]
    Recovery mechanisms are more likely to be influenced by grid-block size and reservoir heterogeneity in Chemical EOR (CEOR) than in conventional Water Flood (WF) simulations. Grid upscaling based on single-phase flow is a common practice in WF simulation models, where simulation grids are coarsened to perform history matching and sensitivity analyses within affordable computational times. This coarse grid resolution (typically about 100 ft.) could be sufficient in WF, however, it usually fails to capture key physical mechanisms in CEOR. In addition to increased numerical dispersion in coarse models, these models tend to artificially increase the level of mixing between the fluids and may not have enough resolution to capture different length scales of geological features to which EOR processes can be highly sensitive. As a result of which, coarse models usually overestimate the sweep efficiency, and underestimate the displacement efficiency. Grid refinement (simple downscaling) can resolve artificial mixing but appropriately re-creating the fine-scale heterogeneity, without degrading the history-match conducted on the coarse-scale, remains a challenge. Because of the difference in recovery mechanisms involved in CEOR, such as miscibility and thermodynamic phase split, the impact of grid downscaling on CEOR simulations is not well understood. In this work, we introduce a geostatistical downscaling method conditioned to tracer data to refine a coarse history-matched WF model. This downscaling process is necessary for CEOR simulations when the original (fine) earth model is not available or when major disconnects occur between the original earth model and the history-matched coarse WF model. The proposed downscaling method is a process of refining the coarse grid, and populating the relevant properties in the newly created finer grid cells. The method considers the values of rock properties in the coarse grid as hard data, and the corresponding variograms and property distributions as soft data. The method honors the fluid material balance and geological features from the coarse model. A workflow is outlined to address uncertainties in geological properties that can be reduced by integrating dynamic data such as sweep efficiency from interwell tracers. We provide several test cases and demonstrate the applicability of the proposed method to improve the history-match of a chemical EOR pilot. Further, we evaluate the fitness of different heterogeneity measures for grid-ranking of CEOR processes.
  • The influence of the anisotropic stress state on the intermediate strain properties of granular material

    Goudarzy, M.; König, D.; Santamarina, Carlos; Schanz, T. (Géotechnique, Thomas Telford Ltd., 2017-07-20) [Article]
    This paper shows the effect of anisotropic stress state on intermediate strain properties of cylindrical samples containing spherical glass particles. Tests were carried out with the modified resonant column device available at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Dry samples were subjected to two anisotropic stress states: (a) cell pressure, σ′h, constant and vertical stress, σ′v, increased (stress state GB-I) and (b) σ′v/σ′h equal to 2 (stress state GB-II). The experimental results revealed that the effect of stress state GB-II on the modulus and damping ratio was more significant and obvious than stress state GB-I. The effect of the anisotropic stress state was explained through the impact of confining pressure and anisotropic stress components on the stiffness and damping ratio. The results showed that: (a) G(γ) increased, η(γ) decreased and their strain non-linearity decreased with an increase in the confining pressure component σ′vσ′h; (b) G(γ) decreased, η(γ) increased and their strain non-linearity increased with an increase in the anisotropic stress component, σ′v/σ′h. The analysis of results revealed that reference shear strain was also affected by anisotropic stress state. Therefore, an empirical relationship was developed to predict the reference shear strain, as a function of confining pressure and anisotropic stress components. Additionally, the damping ratio was written as a function of the minimum damping ratio and the reference shear strain.
  • Mixed Fluid Conditions: Capillary Phenomena

    Santamarina, Carlos; Sun, Zhonghao (Poromechanics VI, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2017-07-06) [Conference Paper]
    Mixed fluid phenomena in porous media have profound implications on soil-atmosphere interaction, energy geotechnology, environmental engineering and infrastructure design. Surface tension varies with pressure, temperature, solute concentration, and surfactant concentration; on the other hand, the contact angle responds to interfacial tensions, surface topography, invasion velocity, and chemical interactions. Interfaces are not isolated but interact through the fluid pressure and respond to external fields. Jumps, snap-offs and percolating wetting liquids along edges and crevices are ubiquitous in real, non-cylindrical porous networks. Pore- and macroscale instabilities together with pore structure variability-and-correlation favor fluid trapping and hinder recovery efficiency. The saturation-pressure characteristic curve is affected by the saturation-history, flow-rate, the mechanical response of the porous medium, and time-dependent reactive and diffusive processes; in addition, there are salient differences between unsaturation by internal gas nucleation and gas invasion. Capillary forces add to other skeletal forces in the porous medium and can generate open-mode discontinuities when the capillary entry pressure is high relative to the effective stress. Time emerges as an important variable in mixed-fluid conditions and common quasi-static analyses may fail to capture the system response.
  • State of stress in exhumed basins and implications for fluid flow: insights from the Illizi Basin, Algeria

    English, Joseph M.; Finkbeiner, Thomas; English, Kara L.; Yahia Cherif, Rachida (Geological Society, London, Special Publications, Geological Society of London, 2017-05-31) [Article]
    The petroleum prospectivity of an exhumed basin is largely dependent on the ability of pre-existing traps to retain oil and gas volumes during and after the exhumation event. Although faults may act as lateral seals in petroleum traps, they may start to become hydraulically conductive again and enable fluid flow and hydrocarbon leakage during fault reactivation. We constrain the present day in situ stresses of the exhumed Illizi Basin in Algeria and demonstrate that the primary north–south and NW–SE (vertical strike-slip) fault systems in the study area are close to critical stress (i.e. an incipient state of shear failure). By contrast, the overpressured and unexhumed Berkine Basin and Hassi Messaoud areas to the north do not appear to be characterized by critical stress conditions. We present conceptual models of stress evolution and demonstrate that a sedimentary basin with benign in situ stresses at maximum burial may change to being characterized by critical stress conditions on existing fault systems during exhumation. These models are supportive of the idea that the breaching of a closed, overpressured system during exhumation of the Illizi Basin may have been a driving mechanism for the regional updip flow of high-salinity formation water within the Ordovician reservoirs during Eocene–Miocene time. This work also has implications for petroleum exploration in exhumed basins. Fault-bounded traps with faults oriented at a high angle to the maximum principal horizontal stress direction in strike-slip or normal faulting stress regimes are more likely to have retained hydrocarbons in exhumed basins than fault-bounded traps with faults that are more optimally oriented for shear failure and therefore have a greater propensity to become critically stressed during exhumation.

    Santamarina, Carlos; Park, Junghee (AUSTRALIAN GEOMECHANICS, 2016-12-01) [Article]
    Low energy perturbations used in geophysical methods provide insightful information about constant-fabric soil properties and their spatial variability. There are causal links between soil type, index properties, elastic wave velocity, electromagnetic wave parameters and thermal properties. Soil type relates to the stress-dependent S-wave velocity, thermal and electrical conductivity and permittivity. The small strain stiffness reflects the state of stress, the extent of diagenetic cementation and/or freezing. Pore fluid chemistry, fluid phase and changes in either fluid chemistry or phase manifest through electromagnetic measurements. The volumetric water content measured with electromagnetic techniques is the best predictor of porosity if the water saturation is 100%. Changes in water saturation alter the P-wave velocity when Srà100%, the S-wave velocity at intermediate saturations, and the thermal conductivity when the saturation is low Srà0%. Finally, tabulated values suffice to estimate heat capacity and latent heat for engineering design, however thermal conductivity requires measurements under proper field conditions.
  • Simulation Opportunity Index, A Simple and Effective Method to Boost the Hydrocarbon Recovery

    Saputra, Wardana (SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Society of Petroleum Engineers, 2016-09-08) [Conference Paper]
    During periods of low oil prices, profitability of field developments drops drastically. To help with this difficulty, a cost-effective method has been proposed to boost the hydrocarbon recovery by optimizing well locations through the Simulated Opportunity Index (SOI). SOI is an intelligent method to identify zones with high potential for production which is empirically calculated from basic rock and fluid properties, and from reservoir pressure as its energy capacity. In order to obtain the best results, the original SOI formula (Molina et al., 2009) was extended to both oil and gas fields. Based on this modified SOI formula, a software program has been developed to locate the best well locations considering multilayer, existing wells, and fault existences. This paper describes how the SOI software helps as a simple, fast, and accurate way to obtain the higher hydrocarbon production than that of trial-error method and previous studies in two different fields located in offshore Indonesia. On one hand, the proposed method could save money by minimizing the required number of wells. On the other hand, it could maximize profit by maximizing recovery.
  • Rock Crushing Using Microwave Pre-Treatment

    Kim, Seunghee; Santamarina, Carlos (Geo-Chicago 2016, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 2016-08-11) [Conference Paper]
    Crushing and grinding are primary contributors to a high energy demand in the mining industry, yet, both are surprisingly inefficient processes, often with efficiencies as low as 1%. We analyze size reductions during crushing and grinding operations and explore the potential of multiplying internal weaknesses in rock materials by non-mechanical means. In particular, when rock blocks (wet or even dry if polycrystalline) are exposed to microwaves, internal cracks can develop along grain boundaries via differential thermal expansion between grains and volumetric thermal expansion of water in pores. Brazilian tests conducted on granite and cement mortar specimens show that the tensile strength decreases proportional to the duration of microwave treatment. Thermal changes, excessive fluid pressure buildup and induced stresses are analyzed in the context of hydro-Thermo-mechanically coupled processes. Results confirm that both differential thermal expansion of mineral grains and volumetric thermal expansion of water can generate cracks upon microwave exposure. Optimal conditions are suggested to lower the combined consumption of electric and mechanical energy.

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