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Advanced Imaging and Characterization of Shale rocks – Critical Role in Unconventional Development

Recorded On: 03/20/2018

In conventional exploration, shales are important as sealing lithologies and as source rocks. As such, their strength and geochemical properties have been the object of much study. In unconventional exploration, the shale formation acts as source, seal, and reservoir so that we examine shales by focusing on their reservoir properties. In particular, total organic carbon (TOC) and porosity (storage capacity) are important reservoir quality indicators. With that in mind, characterization of the organic matter in these rocks is of prime importance.   

Characterization workflows start with the imaging of the core using a host of imaging modalities. These include, but are not limited to the following: whole-core (single- and dual-energy) helical computed tomography; micro-CT scans (of 1-in. core plugs obtained from the whole core, selected on the basis of whole-core CT, and ties to well log data); standard sedimentary petrography for characterization of sedimentary structures; organic petrology (reflected and fluorescent light imaging); Raman spectroscopy;  high-resolution, two-dimensional scanning electron microscopy of polished (argon ion milled) samples; three-dimensional scanning electron imaging (using image reconstruction); and transmission electron imaging of organic matter to gain a detailed understanding of the organic matter with respect to storage capacity and morphology. TEM analysis follows the earlier nondestructive techniques/analyses used to characterize the organic matter. Imaging studies are run in parallel with shale rock properties (SRP) measurements made on both intact and crushed material. Imaging and image analysis tied to the physical property measurements allow for the development of predictive rock properties models. 

Increased activity in unconventional (shale) reservoirs has prompted advances in electron microscope imaging and it has resulted in formulation of protocols for shale reservoir characterization. We will discuss characterization workflows and illustrate results.

Kultaransingh (Bobby) Hooghan


Bobby has a Master’s degree in Physics from Mumbai University and one in Engineering Technology from University of North Texas.  He has been doing SEM imaging work since college focusing on FIB/SEM since 1995.  He taught courses in FIB at Microelectronic conferences from 1990 to 2012 and has extensive experience in imaging, including Cryo and Environmental Imaging.  He has contributed to FIB related handbooks and been awarded three (3) US patents for Microelectronic.  For seven years, Bobby worked exclusively on geologic application for Weatherford Labs, where he primarily carried out electron imaging of shales and organic matter characterization using a multitude of techniques and modalities. He has authored several publications in this field and earned one US and one Australian patent for Oil & Gas applications.   

Lori Hathon

Assistant Professor of Petroleum Engineering, University of Houston.

Dr. Hathon received a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, from Michigan State University, and a PhD in Sedimentary Petrology from the University of Missouri.  After finishing her education, she spent six years in Exploration and Production with Amoco Production Company, and 20 years in fundamental rock properties research at Shell International E&P, Inc.  Her areas of research include forward modeling of clastic reservoir properties (diagenesis, porosity, permeability), imaging and image analysis linked to rock properties measurements (digital rocks),  and modeling of geomechanical properties (compressibility and strength).  The last several years of her tenure at Shell were devoted to understanding organic matter catagenesis and porosity evolution in shale reservoirs.  

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03/20/2018 at 9:30 AM (EDT)   |  90 minutes
03/20/2018 at 9:30 AM (EDT)   |  90 minutes
0.15 CEU/1.5 PDH credits  |  Certificate available
0.15 CEU/1.5 PDH credits  |  Certificate available