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A Note on the Intrinsic Porosity of Organic Material

in Shale Gas Reservoir Rocks


Richard F. Sigal, MPGE, University of Oklahoma
Introduction
In dealing with organic shales the information about the rock composition is generally
supplied in a mix of volume percentages and weight percentages. Total organic carbon
TOC is typically supplied as a weight percentage of the total sample weight, FTIR
mineralogy as a weight percentage of the samples inorganic weight, and porosity is
defined as a volume percentage. In building regressions and combining data sets it is
generally necessary to convert to a consistent composition reference system.
In this note k, the porosity due to the organic material is expressed in terms of the
intrinsic porosity of the organic material ki, the mass fraction of the organic material Fo,
the matrix density of the organic material, k, and the bulk density of the inorganic
material ib. This expression is used with experimental data of the methane porosity,
TOC, and realistic estimates for k and ib to estimate the intrinsic organic porosity. Five
Barnett samples from a single well all had intrinsic organic porosity of approximately
30%. A high porosity is consistent with ion milled SEM images of Barnett samples
(Passey et al., 2010, Sondergeld et al., 2010).

Theory
The desired relationship is derived from the definitions of the various quantities.
The total sample volume V is
V = Vo + Vi .(1)
Vo = Vpk + Vk .(2)
Vo is the volume of the organic material Vi the inorganic, Vk the organic matrix volume,
and Vpk the organic material pore volume.
From the definition of porosity

k = Vpk /V ...(3)
ki = Vpk /Vo (4)
so that

k = ki /(1+Vi/Vo) (5)
Vk /Vo =1 ki ..(6)
Fo is defined as
Fo = Mo /(Mo +Mi) ...(7)
Mo is the mass of the organic matter and Mi the mass of the inorganic matter. Introducing
the appropriate densities leads to
Vi /Vk = (k / ib)(1-Fo )/Fo ..(8)

Substituting Eqs. (8) and (6) into Eq. (5) provides the desired result

k = ki /(1 + (k / ib)(1-ki)((1-Fo )/Fo )) (9)


Eq. (9) provides the desired relationship of relating intrinsic organic porosity to organic
porosity using a set of independent parameters that can be measured or reasonably
estimated.
The organic matrix density generally is reported to lie between 1 and 1.4 g/cc (Passey et
al., 2010). For organic shales such as the Barnett the bulk density of the organic materials
probably lies between 2.6 and 2.8 g/cc. A reasonable estimate can be computed by using
the samples mineralogy composition, and mineral densities. Since this is a bulk volume
the clay densities used should be for clay at 100% humidity. Fortunately the Eq. (9) is not
very sensitive to the exact values chosen. Figures 1 shows k for intrinsic organic
porosities of 50%, 25% and 10%, when k = 1.2 g/cc, and ib = 2.6 g/cc. Figure 2 is the
same chart for k = 1g/cc.

Figure 1. Porosity due to intrinsic organic porosities of 50 %, 25%, and 10% assuming
organic matrix density of 1.2 g/cc and inorganic bulk density of 2.6 g/cc.

Figure 2. Porosity due to intrinsic organic porosities of 50 %, 25%, and 10% assuming
organic matrix density of 1.0 g/cc and inorganic bulk density of 2.6 g/cc.
As can be seen from the charts a 20 % difference in organic density produces about a
10% difference in the porosity contribution from pores in the organic material. For lower
weight percentages of organic materials this falls into the routinely accepted error on
porosity measurements. Although Eq. (9) is non-linear in Fo the relationship is close
enough to linear that linear regressions between organic content expressed as a weight
percentage and the gas porosity due to intrinsic organic porosity should be successful.
These relationships though depend strongly on the intrinsic organic porosity. which is not
well known. For a TOC gas porosity relationship to be robust would require a limited
range for the intrinsic organic porosity.

Barnett Example
The relationship in Eq. (9) has been used to estimate intrinsic organic porosity for five
Barnett samples from the same well. Sample 1 is from the upper Barnett and the other
four are from the lower Barnett. Each sample has TOC and gas porosity measurements on
companion plugs. TOC was measured by the LECO method.
The gas porosity was measured by NMR measurements on a one-inch ( 2.54 cm diameter
and 2.54 cm length) horizontal plug. In the measurement the plug was saturated with
methane at 4000 psi. The confining stress was 5000 psi. Detailed analysis of NMR
measurements strongly suggests that after correction for gas in stress release cracks, the
large majority of the methane is located in the organic pores, and the NMR porosity
contains little of no contribution from adsorbed methane. A detailed report on the NMR
measurements (Sigal and Odusina, 2010) has been submitted for publication. In applying
Eq. (9) TOC has been used as a surrogate for Fo, and it has been assumed that the NMR
gas porosity is the contribution to the total porosity from the organic pores. That is there
is no gas in inorganic pores, and all the free gas in the organic pores is contained in the
NMR signal.
Table 1 provides the intrinsic organic porosity calculated under these assumptions for
sample 3 for different values of the organic matrix density k and the inorganic bulk
density ib.
Table 1. Estimate of intrinsic organic porosity for sample 3.
Sample ID

NMR Gas
Porosity (%)

TOC
(weight %)

Organic
Matrix
Density
(g/cc)

Inorganic
Bulk
Density
(g/cc)

Intrinsic
Organic
Porosity (%)

4.72

5.27

2.6

28

4.72

5.27

1.2

2.6

32

4.72

5.27

1.4

2.6

35

4.72

5.27

1.2

2.7

31

4.72

5.27

1.2

2.8

30

Table 2 presents the estimates of ki for all five samples assuming k equal to 1.2 g/cc and
ib equal to 2.7 g/cc.
Table 2. Estimate of intrinsic organic porosity for the five Barnett samples.
Sample ID

NMR Gas
Porosity (%)

TOC
(weight %)

Organic
Matrix
Density
(g/cc)

Inorganic
Bulk
Density
(g/cc)

Intrinsic
Organic
Porosity (%)

3.47

4.17

1.2

2.7

29

3.92

4.48

1.2

2.7

30

4.72

5.27

1.2

2.7

31

3.61

4.00

1.2

2.7

30

2.70

2.84

1.2

2.7

31

There is a remarkable consistency in the estimates of the intrinsic organic porosity. The
samples are all from the same well but sample 1 is from the upper Barnett and samples 2
through 5 are distributed over 200 feet in Lower Barnett section. It is clear that for this
well the uncertainty in the densities contributes far more to the uncertainty in ki than
geologic scatter. The uncertainty in densities introduces about 10% variability in the
estimate of intrinsic organic porosity of 30%.
For any given values of the densities the use of NMR gas porosity and the use of TOC for
k and Fo can only introduce a systematic over estimate of intrinsic organic porosity. It is
felt that this systematic error is small. The only assumption, that if wrong, could
significantly increase the intrinsic organic porosity is the assumption that the intrinsic
organic porosity is connected. If some is isolated than this estimate applies to the
connected intrinsic organic porosity.
The estimate of 30% organic porosity is for the organic porosity at 5000 psi confining
pressure and 4000 psi pore pressure at laboratory temperatures. The organic porosity is a
function of pore pressure, confining pressure and temperature. The pore walls of an
organic pore adsorb methane. As has been pointed out (Ambrose et al., 2010) this
adsorbed methane has volume so it decreases volume of the organic pore. The volume of
adsorbed methane increases strongly with pressure and decreases modestly with
temperature. Pore volume compressibility leads to an increase in porosity with pore
pressure.
Neither adsorption isotherms nor pore volume compressibility are available for these
samples. In this area 50 scf/ton is typically used for maximum methane adsorption. The
Langmuir pressure is taken as 1500 psi. This results in about .026 g stored in a one-inch
plug. There is not universal agreement on the density of the methane in an adsorbed state,
but .45 g/cc is not unreasonable. If these values are assumed to apply to sample 1 the
adsorbed state methane has an apparent porosity of about 5%. That is the pore space

occupied by the free methane combined with the adsorbed state methane is roughly 35%.
This should be closer to what would be observed in an SEM image.
This result provides the hope that intrinsic organic porosity may be a regional property.
In which case a measurement of organic material weight percentage or volume
percentage would provide a very strong correlation to the gas porosity contribution form
the organic pores.

Acknowledgements
Most of the work reported here was supported by very generous grants from Devon
Energy Corporation as part of a large multi-component study of the Barnett Shale.
Discussions with Ray Ambrose, and Jerry Youngblood both with Devon have proved
very helpful in understanding issues involved in organic gas reservoirs.
Daniel Jarvie, Brian Cardott, and Richard Philp provided useful discussions on the
relationship of TOC to total weight of organic material.

References
Ambrose, R. J., Hartman, R. C., Diaz-Campos, M., Akkutlu, I. Y., and Sondergeld, C. H.,
2010, New Pore-scale Considerations for Shale Gas in Place Calculations, SPE
Unconventional Gas Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, SPE 131772
Passey, Q. R., Bohacs, K. M., Esch, W. L., Klimentidis, R., and Sinha, S., 2010, From
Oil-Prone Source Rock to Gas Producing Shale Reservoir Geologic and Petrophysical
Characterization of Unconventional Shale-Gas Reservoirs, CPS/SPE International Oil &
Gas Conference and Exhibition in China, Beijing, China, SPE 131350
Sigal, R.F., and Odusina, 2010, Laboratory NMR Measurements on Methane Saturated
Barnett Shale Samples, submitted for publication
Sondergeld, C.H., Ambrose, R. J., Rai, C.S., Moncrief, J., 2010, Micro-Structural Studies
of Gas Shales, SPE Unconventional Gas Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, SPE 131771