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SPE 70043

Saturation Exponent n in Well Log Interpretation: Another Look at the Permissible

Paulus S. Adisoemarta, George A. Anderson, Scott M. Frailey, and George B. Asquith
Center for Applied Petrophysical Studies, Texas Tech University

Copyright 2001, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

Measurement Methods
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Permian Basin Oil and Gas Recovery Several methods to determine the value of n are as follows:
Conference held in Midland, Texas, 15–16 May 2001.
core measurement, combination of core measurement and log
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
data, and log data only.
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to Core measurement. This method can resolve the value of
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at n by varying core water saturation and correlate it against the
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
rock resistivity. The slope of a log-log plot yields n. It is
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is important to note that for water-wet core samples, the various
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300
words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous saturations must be derived during the drainage process not
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. the imbibition process. The core starts out 100% saturated
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
with water and oil is used to displace the water. At various
water saturations resistivity measurements are taken.
Abstract Combination of core and log. This method combines
Saturation exponent n in Archie’s water saturation equation is core derives Sw with Rt values from log. One technique in this
the exponent value in water saturation that establishes the method is to log-log crossplot Rt versus Swirr and the slope of
relationship between water saturation of the rock to the ratio the line is saturation exponent n.
of fluid filled rock resistivity to the actual rock resistivity. Another technique is to determine Swirr, porosity,
Most theoretical derivations show that there is no exponent or cementation exponent m and tortuosity factor a from a core
that n is equal to one. However, decades of results from core sample, and solve for n using Rt values from log. The Swirr is
analyses and openhole log analyses show n greater than one from capillary pressure data. A variation of this technique is
and most often assumed to be two. to use Swirr from relative permeability data [Asquith et al.,
Most of the literature is in agreement that the saturation 1997].
exponent is affected by wettability and saturation history Log data only. Dielectric logs can independently solve
(drainage or imbibition). Furthermore, the saturation exponent for Sxo. Using the values of Rxo from resistivity tools, a log-
depends on rock type, primarily the manner in which the log plot of Rxo versus Sxo yields a slope of the line equal to the
conductive water is connected and configured. Several saturation exponent n.
authors quote values of n ranging from as low as 1 to over 20
for strongly oil wet rocks. Too often an assumed value is Field Observed Factors Affecting n
accepted as correct. Several factors has been observed in the field that affects the
value of n. These factors are:
This paper reevaluates the relationship between water • wettability
saturation and rock resistivities in order to determine the
• texture roughness
significance of n and make recommendations on improving an
• microporosity
assumed value for n.
Each of these factors is discussed briefly.
Wettability. The preference of grains to contact with a certain
The quest to determine and understand n began shortly after
fluid defines wettability. In water-wet rocks, water coats each
Archie’s earliest work correlating water saturation to
grain and provides a continuous path for ion at any saturation.
resistivity (or resistivity index). Surprisingly theoretically
As the path is relatively unobstructed the resistivity is low
based derivations show that n does not exist (or arguably is
hence n is small. On the other hand, water is trapped in the
one). This paper identifies some of the features that are
middle of oil in the pore space for the case of oil-wet rock. As
influence n and core and logging methods of estimating n.
water saturation decreases water is separated from neighboring
2 Paulus Adisoemarta, George Anderson, Scott Frailey, and George Asquith SPE 70043

pores and hence breaking the path for ionic conduction, for a porous sample 100% saturated with water:
creating a very high resistivity and so the value of n is high. r A
Keller [1953] showed the comparison of resistivity-saturation Ro = o
measurements of water-wet and oil-wet sandstones that proved where ro is
the effect of wettability on n. Sweeney and Jennings [1960] R L
did the same but on carbonates. ro = w a
Texture Roughness. Diederix [1982] observed the effect of because only water is considered conductive. The subscript
texture roughness on the value of n. On the North Sea sample “a” represents the apparent cross-sectional area and length.
that has clean smooth grains the resistivity-saturation plot Substituting the last equation into the previous yields:
shows a constant value of n. For the case of samples that have R ( L / L)
rough grains, the plot shows a knee where the value of n Ro = w a
(A a / A)
changes as a function of Sw. A confirmation of this field
observation was made thorough a sandpack modeling where By analogy, the same sample saturated with less than 100%
smooth beads and rough beads was used. The resistivity- water saturation yields the definition of Rt:
R ( L / L)
saturation plot of this bead models show the same trend as the R t = w at
field data, where the smooth bead shows a constant value of n, (A at / A)
and the rough bead has a varying value of n. The subscript “at” designates the apparent cross-sectional area
and length in the case of Sw<100%. Substituting the Rt and Ro
Microporosity. Microporosity is defined as pore size of less equation into the definition of I yields:
than 0.5 micron in diameter [Keith and Pitmann, 1984]. The (A a / A at )
effect of microporosity to saturation exponent is a change of I=
(L a / L at )
slope on the log-Rt vs. log-Sw [Diederix, 1982]. Diederix
commented that by using a constant value of n across the Representing the cross-sectional area, Aat as
whole range of Sw will make the water saturation calculation Aat = φ SwA
too high on the lower end of Sw. Swanson [1985] observed gives the final theoretically derived relation between water
this phenomenon on both shales, where the micropores occur saturation and resistivity as
between the clay crystals, and clean sands such as chert. L R
S w = at o
Swanson’s observation showed that a decreasing Sw will La R t
increase the value of n until at a certain Sw where n starts to
(Other derivations show Lat and L instead of La.)
Water saturation-resistivity derivations of this type do not
show Sw with an exponent. Only the statistical approach of
Theoretical Derivation
Wyllie and Spangler shows a saturation exponent, but it is
The early literature on correlating water saturation to electrical
through the derivation of the cementation exponent, m.
measurements (Wyllie and Spangler, 1952; Cornell and Katz,
An unanswered questions remains. Why do measured Sw-
1953; Bassiouni, 1994) provides derivations of the general
Rt data require an n-exponent to form an equality?
Sw ∝ o Basic Problem of Relating Sw to Resistivity
Rt There is a fundamental problem with Sw-R relationships that
Only laboratory and field observations suggest that this Sw basic to the description of porous media. A series of
relationship should have an exponent to become an equality. interconnected pore bodies and pore throats describes many
Archie’s formula for water saturation equation can be used in types of porous media. Water saturation is dominated by the
any of the general forms below: largest volume of water in porous media, which is the pore
R FR w aR bodies. Resistivity is dominated by the smallest restrictions in
S nw = o = = mw the ion path within the porous media, which is the pore
Rt Rt φ Rt throats.
No matter which parameters are used to find water saturation, The observations that concluded the necessity of n>1 may
n is required. be due to relating a pore body dominated property (water
Most derivations start with the definition of the resistivity saturation) to a pore throat dominated property (resistivity).
index, I: This has been noted with φ-R and k-φ relationships, also.
R (Adisoemarta, et al., 2000, Kumar and Frailey, 2001)
I= t
and the relationship between resistivity and resistance: Effect of n on Sw
Using one of the variations of Archie’s saturation equation
R= without n (or n=1) as theoretical derivations suggest results in
L Sw that is too small compared to observations. In other words,

n>1 increases the predicted value of Sw from Archie’s the water in the pore bodies; this is the case of a oil-wet rock
equation. Figure 1 shows Sw as a function of Ro/Rt for n = 1, at low water saturation. The estimated n value for the simple
2, and 4. n has the largest correction to Sw at the lower range geometric shaped porous media shows a higher value for all
of Sw. cases of Lp/Lpt.
As an example, for Ro/Rt = 0.20, theory (n=1) predicts Sw =
20%, while the commonly accepted value of n=2 predicts Sw Conclusions
= 44.7%. The pore throat dominated resistivity only requires Historical observation and the theoretical development of this
20% of the pore space to be occupied by water to measure paper are in general agreement. Factors that have been
Ro/Rt = 0.20, while the pore may have a large proportion of observed to influence n can be simplified and explained in
water present (another 24.7% in this example) that does not terms of variations of cross-sectional area of the water.
influence the resistivity significantly. Again, the difference Many laboratory and field observations observe that
relates to the pore body vs. pore throat influenced properties. wettability and saturation history (drainage and imbibition)
change n.
Range of n Because Lat/La disappears from Archie’s water saturation
To quantify and understand the physical meaning of n, a equation (when comparing theoretical vs. observation based
comparison of the theoretical relation to observation is derivation), n must compensate for variation in pore throat and
necessary. This is difficult for two reasons: 1) n does not body size and Lat/La. This makes estimating n for simple
appear in the theoretically derived equation and 2) Lat/La geometric difficult without assuming Lat/La of one.
disappears completely from the equation developed from A fundamental inconsistency in Archie’s water saturation
observation. In a previous publication that quantified and and formation resistivity factor is that water saturation and
explained the physical meaning of m and a (Adisoemarta, porosity are pore body properties, while resistivity
2000), theory could only provide a value of a but not m. In measurements are pore throat properties. Consequently, any
comparison, theory does not predict the exponent m and m changes or manipulations to Archie’s equation may be
only exists to correlate theory to observation. n correlates applicable only to a specific formation. In this sense, Archie’s
theory to observation and replaces the term Lat/La. This is equations are truly correlations.
understandable because these terms cannot be measured;
however, a is proportional to La/L which is cannot be Nomenclature
measured but is not dropped from the Fr relationship. a = tortuosity factor
Consequently to identify a range of n by comparing A = area
observation to theory, Lat/La is assumed to be close to one. Aa = apparent cross-section area, Sw=100%
The introduction of Sw into the derivation is to approximate Aat = apparent cross-section area, Sw<100%
the cross-sectional area to ion movement as φSwA. Because φ Ap = cross-section area of a pore
and Sw are dominated by pore bodies, and Ro and Rt are Apt = cross-section area of a pore throat
dominated by the pore throats, n may be correcting the d = grain diameter
measured resistivities to the measured Sw due to the difference F = formation resistivity factor
in φSw in the pore bodies and pore throats. I = resistivity index
From the previous derivation, m = cementation factor
S w = A at / A a or A at = S w A a n = saturation exponent
r = resistance of the material
but observation suggests R = resistivity
A at = S nw A a Ro = formation resistivity when 100% saturated with water
Following the example and simple geometric configuration of resistivity Rw, Ω.m
of porous media that Adisoemarta, et al. (2000) used to Rt = formation resistivity when Sw<100%, Ω.m
quantify m, similar results are obtained for n. Because the Rw = water resistivity, Ω.m
only factors that influence resistivity are the apparent length L = length
and cross-sectional area, the results for m and n are identical. La = apparent length, Sw=100%
(Table 1 is a duplicate of table 2 of Adisoemarta et al (2000) Lat = apparent length, Sw<100%
for the case of n.) This provides a theoretical based Lp = pore length
explanation of why historical observations have seen n and m Lpt = pore-throat length
of similar value (and equal to 2). Sw = water saturation, a fraction of the pore volume
Fractured porosity, (Ap=Apt) appears to have the same α = angle between fluid path and the bulk fluid direction,
affect on n as it does on m. n decreases and approaches one as degrees
Apt approaches Ap. A simple data set shows this, also. τ = tortuosity
wettability effects may be inferred from this table, also. φ = porosity
The larger values of Ap/Apt represent decreased cross-sectional
area of the water in the pore throats with respect to the area of
4 Paulus Adisoemarta, George Anderson, Scott Frailey, and George Asquith SPE 70043

Adisoemarta, P.S., Anderson, G.A., Frailey, S.M., and Asquith, G.B.: TABLE 1. VALUES OF n AS A FUNCTION OF Ap / Apt
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