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CHAPTER 8: CORE CLEANING

Objective

This chapter is dedicated to review basic concepts of coring, core handling, and core cleaning
and aging, and to give basic definitions commonly used in core analysis.

Introduction

Rock samples are recovered from the bottom-hole of wells that are being drilled, taken to surface
and transported many miles away to a core laboratory. These processes must be performed
following strict rules of proper core handling to preserve the original properties of the reservoir
rock.

Ideally, the rock sample recovered from the well will represent the reservoir rock.

However, once the rock is being drilled, exposed to drilling fluids, and taken out of the hole, the
original conditions at which the rock is found in the reservoir will change. This is a drawback
that must be accepted because coring is the only method available to physically perform analysis
on a reservoir rock.

Proper Coring and Wellsite Core Handling

The objective of any coring and core preservation program should be to obtain rock that is
representative of the formation while minimizing physical alteration of the rock during coring
and handling (Skopec-1994). Different coring devices are used depending on the required length
of the sample, the type of rock to be recovered and planned use of the data generated. Table 8-1
shows various types of coring devices and associated core diameters and lengths (Keelan-1972) 1.

Note this reference is from 1972; the current state-of-the art may have change significantly. A more recent
reference has not been found yet.

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Table 8-1. Common Types of Coring Devices and Approximate Core Dimensions. (After
Keelan-1972)

Cable tool cores are suitable for conventional core analysis but are rarely used. Conventional
diamond cores uses diamond bits to recover samples from hard formations and has barrel lengths
in multiples of 30 feet up to 90 feet. It also has been successful in recovering samples from
poorly consolidated formations. Rubber and plastic rubber sleeve cores are used to recover
samples from poorly consolidated and unconsolidated formations protecting and support the core
until removal in the laboratory. It is also useful in highly fractured formations. Rubber and
plastic sleeve coring has been replaced by double-tube core barrels made of fiberglass and
aluminum because their low friction coefficients help preventing jamming. Sidewall cores are
small samples drilled, punched, or recovered from projectiles fired into the side of the wellbore.
Continuous triangular sidewall cores recovers triangular-shaped cores and lengths in 3 feet
multiples. It is suitable for conventional core analysis. Pressure core barrels are rarely used and
only for those formations where knowledge of fluids present in the core as recovered at bottom
hole pressure and temperature is required.

Skopec (Skopec-1994) outlined the main concerns for proper coring and handling as follows: (i)
designing a bottomhole coring assembly and drilling-fluid program to minimize mud invasion
and maximize drilling parameters, (ii) selecting a non-reactive core preservation material and
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method to prevent fluid loss or the absorption of contaminants (e.g., wettability altering drilling
fluid components), and (iii) applying appropriate core handling and preservation methods based
on rock type, degree of consolidation, and fluid type. Core preservation is mostly achieved by
experience in a zone. The cores are unavoidably affected by temperature, pressure, stress
changes and contact with contaminant and oxidizing fluids.

Preferred methods to preserve cores for laboratory analysis include mechanical stabilization,
storage in heat-sealable plastic, use of dips and coatings, sealing in disposable inner core barrels,
and containment is specialized sealed devices such as anaerobic jars (Skopec-1994). Cores are
usually first wrapped in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and finally dipped in molten,
strippable plastic (Auman-1986).

Coring fluids is another critical factor.

For instance,

interpretation of probable hydrocarbons requires no oil to be introduced in the rock, definition of


interstitial water requires no water to be introduced, and unaltered wettability requires exclusion
of surface-active agents (Keelan-1972).

Commonly used coring fluids and their effect on

reservoir fluid saturations can be found in Table 8-2.

Core Analysis Classification

Core analysis may be classified depending on the type of analysis and depending on the type of
sample rock.

Depending on the type of analysis, it can be Conventional or Basic analysis and Special
analysis. The former refers to rock properties measurements that do not depend on the
wettability of the rock such as porosity and absolute permeability. The latter refers to
measurements of rock properties dependent on the wettability of the rock such as wettability
itself, relative permeability, and capillary pressure.

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Table 8-2. Coring Fluid Effects on Reservoir Fluid Saturations.


(After Keelan-1972)

Depending on the type of core in which the analysis is performed, core analysis can be
classified as core analysis in plug, in whole cores, and sidewall cores. Plugs smaller core
samples obtained from the whole core (1 diameter, 1 length) to measure properties of
homogeneous formation rocks (usually sandstones) and it is the most commonly used
technique (Keelan-1972). Whole core analysis uses the whole core as cut during the coring
operation for analyses of more complex lithology rocks such as highly fracture and/or
vugular carbonate formations. Finally, sidewall cores are used to recover rock samples of

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soft formations; however they are rarely used because the sample recovery technique may
significantly alter its properties (Keelan-1972).

Core Classification Depending on the Wettability State

Core samples can be classified depending on the wettability state as Cleaned cores, Native cores,
or Restored cores.

Cleaned Cores: The fluids originally present in the rock are completely removed by a
complete cleaning procedure (explained later in this chapter) using solvent mixtures to render
the rock water-wet. This type of samples is useful for rock property measurements that do
not depend on the wettability of the rock (conventional core analysis) such as porosity and
absolute permeability measurements or as a first step to prepare restored cores.

Native Cores: This samples are kept as extracted from the well in an attempt to preserve the
original wettability of the rock (special core analysis). It has been stated by different authors
(Auman-1986, Gant and Anderson 1986) that native cores are often considered the best
source of certain in-situ reservoir properties. However, it is questionable whether these rocks
reflect the true wettability of the reservoir rock because the rock enters in contact with
drilling fluids, pressure and temperature changes from the bottom of the well to the surface,
and some oxidation may occur in the sample enters in contact with oxygen. Although coring
procedures are design to minimize these factors, in the practice it is extremely difficult to
actually control them. These sample rocks are used to measure rock properties depending on
its wettability such as capillary pressure, relative permeability, wettability itself, fluids
saturation, and waterflooding studies.

Restored Cores: These samples undergo a process of cleaning to render the rock water-wet
and subsequent aging in an attempt to render the rock to its original wettability (special core
analysis). It has been shown that if the proper cleaning and aging procedure are used, the
rock can be closely rendered to its original wettability (Cuiec-1975, Mungan-1966, Mungan1972). It is most desirable to perform wettability dependent measurement on native cores

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because the cleaning process may damage existing clays. However, when reliable native
rocks are not available, restored cores can be used and they will generally give reliable
results (Gant and Anderson 1986).

Core Cleaning and Aging

Changes in temperature, pressure, stress change the actual wettability of the reservoir rock as the
core is being recovered from the bottom of the well and brought to the surface. In addition,
contaminants within the drilling mud and contact with oxygen significantly change the
wettability of the rock. When native cores are known to be significantly disturbed from their
original state (that is from its wettability at reservoir conditions), it is possible to restore them to
its original wettability state by first cleaning the core to render it water-wet and second by aging
them using reservoir fluids.

Different methods have been used to clean cores and render them to strong water wettability.
The most widely methods used are (taken from Gant and Anderson-1986):

Distillation-Extraction (Dean-Stark and Soxhlet): This is the most commonly used cleaning
method. The sample is placed in a soxhlet or Dean-Stark apparatus. Solvents are evaporated
and flowed through the core removing the fluids in place.

Then they condensate and

evaporated again in a continuous closed process. The main drawback of this method is that
the solvent may not contact all of the core especially smaller pores. This is the method that
will be illustrated in this laboratory and the procedure will be explained in more detailed later
in this chapter.

Flow-Through: The core is placed in a core holder and solvents are continuously injected
under pressure into the core.

The injection may be continuous or halted periodically

allowing time for the core to soak in the solvent. Cuiec (Cuiec-1975) stated that this method
is better that the extraction method in the sense that solvents injected under pressure may
contact even the smaller pores of the rock; Gant and Anderson supported this statement (Gant
and Anderson-1986).

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Centrifuge Flushing: A centrifuge is used to spray warm clean solvent against the core. The
centrifugal force causes the solvent to flow through the sample. The main advantage is that it
is a fast method and can be used in tight samples, which are not effectively cleaned by the
extraction method.

Gas-Driven Solvent Extraction: Used for whole cores where fluid saturation are not needed.
The core is cleaned by repeated cycles of internal dissolved-gas drive. Toluene saturated
with carbon dioxide is injected under pressure into the rock and pressure is rapidly released
to expand the carbon dioxide and flush the solvent through the pore space removing the oil
and water.

Other methods include supercritical fluid extraction and critical point drying, steam cleaning,
and firing the core in the presence on oxygen.

Once the rock has been cleaned and rendered to water-wet the aging process takes place. The
rock is usually saturated and then flooded with actual reservoir oil. The flooding takes place at a
small rate and continuous no water can be recovered. Then, the sample is placed in a cell filled
with reservoir oil and pressure and temperature close to the reservoir conditions is applied to the
cell. The cell is left under these conditions for a period of approximately 1000 hours.

Solvents Used for Core Cleaning

The core cleaning process is said to be successful when all the contaminants are removed from
the surface of the rock leaving it strongly water-wet (Gant and Anderson-1986). Core cleaning is
mostly a trial-and error process where the selection of the best solvents to be used greatly
depends on the experience with particular rocks. It has been shown that mixtures of solvents
work better than single solvents (Gant and Anderson-1986, Cuiec). Common solvent mixtures
are chloroform/methanol, toluene/methanol, toluene/ethanol, benzene, and carbon disulphide
among others. Some mixtures work better for different types of rocks and fluids. Sandstones are
known to have a surface of acid type while limestones have a surface of basic type. Because of

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the surface types of this rock surfaces, acidic solvents tend to clean better the sandstones while
basic solvents tend to clean better the limestones (Cuiec-1975).

Distillation-Extraction (Dean-Stark and Soxhlet) Procedure:

Figure 8-1 shows a sketch of the distillation-extraction device. The main components are a
volumetric flask containing the solvents, a heating mantle to heat the solvents in the volumetric
flask, a reflux core chamber where the core is exposed to the boiled solvent, and a condenser to
condense the solvent.

Figure 8-1. Soxhlet - Extraction Device. (Website kimble-kontes.com)

Procedure:

Prepare 200ml of a 50%/50% by volume of a toluene/methanol mixture and place it in the


volumetric flask.

Place the volumetric flask and the solvent mixture in the hating mantle.
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Attach the reflux core chamber to the volumetric flask.

Attach the condenser to the reflux core chamber.

Connect a water source to the lower part of the condenser and attach a hose to the upper part
of the condenser that will serve to evacuate the water.

Turn on the heating mantle in the appropriate setting (depending on the amount of solvent
being used)

Leave the reflux process to continue until no more color change can be seen in the condensed
solvent mixture (this may take many hours or even days)

References

1. Auman, J.B.: A Laboratory Evaluation of Core Preservation Materials, Paper SPE 15381
prepared for presentation at the 16th Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition of the
Society of Petroleum Engineer held in New Orleans, LA October 5-8, 1986.
2. Cuiec, L.E.: Restoration of the Natural State of Core Samples, Paper SPE 5634 prepared
for the 50th Annual Fall Meeting of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME held in
Dallas, Texas, September 28-October 1, 1975.
3. Gant, P.L. and Anderson, W.G.: Core Cleaning for Restoration of Native Wettability,
Paper SPE 14875 prepared for presentation at the Rocky Mountains Regional Meeting of the
Society of Petroleum Engineers held in Billings, MT, May 19-21, 1986.
4. Keelan, D.K.: Core Analysis Techniques and Applications, Paper SPE 4160 prepared for
presentation at the Eastern Regional Meeting held in Columbus, Ohio, November 8-9, 1972.
5. Mungan, N.: Certain Wettability Effects in Waterfloods, J. Pet. Tech. Feb. 1966. 247.
6. Mungan, N.: Relative Permeability Measurements Using Reservoir Fluids, Soc. Pet. Eng.
J. Oct. 1972. 398-402. 243.
7. Skopec, R.A.: Proper Coring and Wellsite Core Handling Procedures: The First Step
Toward Reliable Core Analysis, Paper SPE 28153, JPT, April 1994.
8. Kimble-Kontes.: http://www.kimble-kontes.com/html/pg-585050.html, November 8. 2004.

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