Quick-look lithology from logs

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Development Geology Reference Manual
Series Methods in Exploration
Wireline methods
Quick-look lithology from logs
Author N. J. Hancock
Web page
Store AAPG Store
Lithological determination from wireline logs is often done by sophisticated com
puter programs, but basic quick-look interpretation can be made by visual inspec
tion of appropriate logs.
The best logs for lithological purposes are those that are (1) most influenced b
y rock properties and (2) least influenced by fluid properties. The most useful
of the commonly available logs are
Gamma ray
Spontaneous potential (SP)
Formation density
Photoelectric absorption
Neutron porosity
(For more details on these logs, see Basic open hole tools. Also, Difficult lith
ologies covers logging tool response in sedimentary minerals.)
Borehole imaging tools such as the Formation MicroScanner are invaluable for det
ailed purposes, including bedding character and sedimentary structures, but are
much less commonly available. (For more details, see Borehole imaging devices.)
1 Gamma ray logs
1.1 Lithological responses
1.2 Log shapes
1.3 Problems and exceptions
1.4 Spectral gamma ray logs
2 Spontaneous potential (SP) logs
2.1 Lithological responses
2.1.1 Shale
2.1.2 Sandstone
2.1.3 Tight rocks
2.1.4 Log shapes
2.2 Salinity contrast
2.3 Other problems
3 Caliper logs
3.1 Property measured
3.2 Lithological responses
3.2.1 Sandstone
3.2.2 Sand
3.2.3 Shale
3.2.4 Coal
3.2.5 Carbonates
3.2.6 Tight rocks

4 Limestone 7. halite 8 15 Sylvite (KCI) 350 500 Coal 15 150 (any value possible) Log shapes Figure 1 Characteristic log shapes for different types of sand bodies set in sha le.2.3. and uranium are normally insigni ficant in reservoir fluids.2 Lithological Responses (Nonporous rocks) 4.2.4 5 6 7 8 9 3. Note that this is the shallowest interv al.1 Lithological responses 5.2.1 Water of Crystallization (Evaporites) 6.3.2 Coal 4.6 Shale 7.3. Gamma ray logs are therefore a good indicator of mineralogy.2.2. (b) Cylinder shape.3 Dolomite 5.8 Complex rock mixtures See also External links Gamma ray logs The common radioactive elements potassium.1 Property measured 4.1 Sandstone Sandstone (Air-Filled) 7.7 Coal 7. blocky. especially of clay minerals.4 Shale Neutron porosity logs (Alone) 6. thorium.1 Evaporites 4.3.3 Lithological responses 7. coarsening upward.2.3 Ironstone 4. Note that the S .2.2 Limestone 7. (a) Funnel shape.1 Property measured Halite and potash salts Formation density logs (Alone) 4.4 Shale Photoelectric absorption (Pe) logs property measured 5.1 Sandstone 7.1 Crossplotting 7.3. Lithological responses The principal gamma ray responses are as follows: Lithology Gamma Ray Values (in API units) Sandstone (quartz) 15 30 (rarely to 200) Limestone 10 40 Dolomite 15 40 (rarely to 200) Shale 60 150 Organic-rich shale 100 250 Anhydrite.3 Dolomite 7.2 Overlay presentation Lithological responses (Nonporous Rocks) Sandstone (Gas-Filled) 7.2 Limestone 5.5 Dolomite 7.2 Bound water in shale Neutron and density logs combined 7.7 Anhydrite and gypsum Sandstone (Oil or Water Filled) 7. so the shale is least compacted. whereas they are important components of the rock sy stem.

clay and mica content of the sand. The shape of a gamma ray (or SP) log through a sand body is often thought of as a grain size profile. Cylinder shapes reflect relatively constant energy levels and can include eo lian dunes. While remaining enigmatic. may have gamma ray values up to 200 API units. low sinuosity distributary channels. cylinder (blocky). can raise sand readings as high as adjacent shales. finer sand). These three sha pes can be subdivided into smooth (relatively homogeneous) or serrate (with inte rbedded thin shales). beach placers rich in z ircon may be valuable correlative markers if not mistaken for shale. resembling shale. Typically. and other environments. However. sometimes by about 20 API units. An interpretive jump is usually made from depositional energy to depositional process and hence depositional environment. Often this jump is made without seriously considering the intermediate steps. and overall d epositional setting. Log shapes typically reflect changing depositional energy from high (clean. grain size has no effect on gamma ray logs. Bell shapes represent waning-current sequences. these may be due to concentrations of radon in the pore space. especially common in the Permian basin in the United States. Each of the steps is highly ambiguous and must be augmented by other evidence. associated rock types.) Problems and exceptions Radioactive minerals in sands. Clay added later due to bioturbation or mechanical infiltration at the top o f a gravel may create a bell shape. However. (For more details on using log shape to interpret depositional environment. see Lithofacies and environmental analysis of clastic depositional systems. Funnel shapes imply upward-increasing energy. Spectral gamma ray logs In this enhancement to gamma rays are counted the energy spectrum to (ppm). which can include alluvial p oint bars. Three basic log shapes are recognized: funnel (coarsening upward). Th is can be dangerous. and mica. and an algorithm converts count rates for potassium (%). Radioactive (KCl) muds raise the baseline gamma ray zero reading so that app arent values for all rock types are increased. resulting in misleading log shapes: Very fine. Evanescent high gamma ray readings in sands. which may be found in distribu tary mouth bars. the energy levels of incoming in a series of energy windows. that is.P log is featureless because the borehole salinity is the same as formation sali nity. Clay clasts concentrated near the base of a channel may give a funnel shape. deep sea fans. Hot dolomite. such as unit thickness. and deep sea fan channels. Because most sands reflect a hydrodynamic equilibrium. and uranium ray logs are most useful in identifying the following: . zircon. in the following examples. and beaches. coar ser sand) to low (shaly. delta lobe fringes. The log shapes reflect shal iness. Gamma ray logs may be useless in immature sands derived from basement terranes. Note that coal is present in addition to sh ale. In fact. have been observed especially in steamflood condition s. fining upward. Spectral gamma natural gamma ray logging. deltaic distributaries. especially K-feldspar. clay content does usually correlate (inversely) with g rain size. (c) Bell shape. clay content and grain size do no t correlate. present on one logging run but vanished some weeks later. clean sand above coarser sand may show a cylinder shape. and bell (fining upward) (Figure 1). thorium (ppm).

Gives a reversed SP. Its actual SP value is not significant. Quantitative relationships between uranium and organic content have been reported. so thin intervals with high uranium count (a spiky log) may mark a frac tured interval. the SP wanders aimlessly. Spontaneous potential (SP) logs Lithological responses Shale Spontaneous potential interpretation depends on first recognizing shale. so a spectral gamma ray log run after years of production may s how which completed intervals are producing and which are not. etc. . Salinity contrast Contrasting salinity is critical for SP logs. so a cle an sand shows a straight-line sand line (Figure 1c). Uranium prospecting. This type of dolomite can be distinguished from shale because th e gamma rays are principally from uranium. Hot dolomite. Gives normal SP. where sands sho w positive deflections from the shale baseline. Organic-rich rocks. the decay of bismuth-214. no obvious relationship to beds (Figure 1b). uranium may precipitate on flowi ng perforations. (For more details on SP shale and sand baselines. evaporites. but tend to be inconsistent. with no sharp usable deflections. This is separated in time from the original uranium by half-lives in excess of 109 years.). cylinder. Little change occurs within a sand interval. Featureless SP.Clay minerals. Saline borehole in a fresher formation. and bell-shaped motifs resemble those previously described for gamma ray logs. In shales. In relatively tight rocks (carbonates. Producing zones. where f airly constant SP readings form a straight shale baseline on the log (Figure 1a). Sandstone The potential differences around a sand-shale contact deflect the SP from the sh ale baseline. The thorium to potassium ratio can distinguish illitic fr om smectitic shales and so provide a correlation tool. They are due to the qualitative shaliness indication given by t he SP and can therefore be interpreted in a similar way to the gamma ray (except for the following complications). so the relatively soluble uranium may have moved away during the interim even though th e log still records its presence. may be a straight line. Log shapes Funnel.) Tight rocks An SP log is of little use in the absence of boundaries between shale beds and p ermeable beds. very low amplitude. The chemical relationship between ura nium and the dolomite is unknown. see Determination of water resistivity. Mica sand. Natural fractures. The deflection is negative for a normal salinity contrast (borehol e fresher than formation). Three scenarios are possible: Fresh borehole fluid in a saline formation. but can be distinguished bec ause the radiation is all from potassium. whereas smectite and kaol inite contain thorium. As with natural fractures. Soluble uranium in pore water often precipitates on open fractures. uranium enrichment is usually associated with organic content and can be a tool for identifying oil source beds. Richly micaceous sands (such as the Rannoch unit of the Brent San d in the North Sea) appear shaly on gamma ray logs. Most of the uranium signal actually comes from the tenth decay process in the uranium series. Illite clays are rich in potassium. Borehole salinity is same as formation.

Look for this problem in young. Hydrocarbons. The SP is generated in water. Caliper logs Property measured For lithological purposes. On occasion. siltstones. shallow formations. especially in the minimum principal s tress direction. making sands appear more shaly. other conditions can create problems in int erpreting SP logs. Anhydrite and gypsum . Mud type. inert rock Hole in gauge Caliper = bit size Soft or brittle rock Hole washes out Caliper > bit size Permeable rock Mudcake builds up Caliper Well-designed modern mud systems can minimize washouts. Mudcake buil ds up on the back walls of such pores. Carbonates Carbonates often fail to show mudcake build-up despite good permeability because individual vuggy or moldic pores are too large to trap mud solids. smaller than the bit size.Other problems In additional to salinity contrasts. causing large caliper readings. Baseline shifts. Sucrosic dolomite is the only carbonate that typically shows mudcake on calipers. so expect mudcake to cause a calipe r reading that is about 0. Coal Medium to high rank coals are often brittle and well-jointed. such as ironstones.5 in. Water-based mud (with suitable salinity) is essential. Although the value of the SP shale baseline is not signific ant. are hard. Oil-filled or empty holes have nothing to carry the SP charges. High hydrocarbon saturation redu ces the SP. Manual shifts. the critical data are caliper readings relative to bi t size. and carbonate concretions in sandstones. making caliper logs less distinctive for lithological purposes. Tight rocks Tightly cemented beds. inert rocks that remain in gauge. Interference. There are three scenarios: Hard. Look for a sine-form SP whose cycle length is the circumference of the cabl e drum. as on a dipmeter. unconsolidated sand may wash out. it will shift if formation fluid salinity changes from one bed to another. Shale Shale frequently spalls into the borehole. This leads to elliptical boreholes identifiable with multiple a rm calipers. Bed boundaries are of ten accurately delimited (Figure 1). not into the borehole. Remanent magnetism within the winching system often ruins SP l ogs. Lithological responses Sandstone Consolidated sandstone is usually permeable. For example. making the log hard to interpret. the logging engineer adjusts the SP log scale to keep it within the track. Sand Friable. Such joint blocks cave into the borehole (Figure 1c) leaving deep washouts as thick as the coal se am (frequently only 1 ft or so). Not all coals behave this way.

Lithological Responses (Nonporous rocks) Evaporites Individual evaporitic minerals (such as anhydrite. unoriented washouts. and barite (usually with mud weights over 10 ppg) makes the log unusable. Shale Densities of shales vary between 2. Limestone Clean limestone reads about 5.6 power (Z3. Lithological responses Sandstone Quartz should read 1. and carnalli te) have well-defined densities and generate straight-line density logs with lit tle variation (Figure 2). Photoelectric absorption (Pe) logs property measured Photoelectric absorption (Pe). is related to atomic number Z. very light components (pore fluids) have negligible effect. H ole conditions are good. are undercompacted and have low densities relative to normally pressured shales at similar depths. Thin beds give a pronounced density spike. providing an easy way to distingu ish limestone from dolomite (Figure 2) even if gas is present. halite. Consequently. Unfortunately. the log is of limited value. but dilute wate r-based muds result in severe dissolution leading to huge. density must be interpre ted in combination with neutron or other porosity logs. Overpressured shales. but shaly intervals may be washed out.2 and 2. making the log good for l ithology. Dolomite Dolomite should read about 3. contrasting with surrounding rocks. but most other minerals can raise the value substantially.Anhydrite and gypsum frequently remain in gauge if pure.0 barns/electron. Because they are usually present.65 g/cm3 or more. Note that deep washouts also give low-density spikes. Density values can therefore be used directly to identify lithology on ly when the porosity is insignificant. Formation density logs (Alone) Figure 2 Characteristic log signatures for a carbonate and evaporite sequence. measured by the newer formation density tools.7 to 1.8 barns/electron. Note that iron in ferroan dolomite increases readings to resemble limestone. Property measured Measured density is the sum of the rock system density and the pore fluid system density. increasing with com paction induced by age and depth of burial (Figure 1). raised to the 3. Halite and potash salts Salt-saturated or oil-based muds may maintain the hole in gauge. heavy elements have an enormous effect. a few per cent of iron masks basic lithological differences. in which some of the overburden load is borne by pore fluid. Ironstone Concentrations of iron minerals such as pyrite and siderite give high densities. Thus. Coal Coals are variable but always significantly lighter than 2 g/cm3. In porous rocks.0 barns/electron (Figure 2).6). Shale . sylvite. often in thin beds. but may not resolve a true density reading (Figure 1c).

the usual compatible sc . A local cut-off can often be established by calibr ation. Overlay presentation Manual crossplotting is tedious. together with a caliper measurement recorded by the d ensity tool and a natural gamma ray log. Both tools are generally calibrated in limestone units.u. one can begin to distinguish lithology from porosity. Both types raise neutron log readings but represent no effective p orosity (Figure 1). Bound water in shale Some water in shales is chemically bound to clay minerals.Average shale reads 3 3. This large range makes the log of limited value. Lithology can therefore be interpreted dir ectly from neutron values only when porosity is insignificant. Often 40% is a good shale cutoff limit. Thus.71 In practice. so by analyz ing the two logs together. porosities over 50% are seldom needed. but that in gypsum (CaSO4 2H2O) is much higher up to 60%. Lithological responses (Nonporous Rocks) Water of Crystallization (Evaporites) Gypsum and anhydrite. such as from cores.71 g/cm3 are common. The plots are entered with a bulk density and an apparent neutron porosity (should be environmentally corrected. b ut the corrections are usually negligible). whereas rocks with densities over 2.0 2. Then any offset (or residual) between the two logs is attributable to lithology or to the presence of gas. but shale values can be as low as 30%. b ut carnallite (KMgCl3 6H2O) gives neutron values of 30% to 60%. A much faster way to visualize rock type is dir ectly from the overlay presentation in which both neutron and density logs are s uperimposed in the same log track. whereas some occurs i n micropores. with theoretical limits as follows: All Porosity (H2O) No Porosity (CaCO3) Neutron (p. but values up to 7 or 8 barns/electron can be obtained depending on iron content and accessory minerals. with slight rounding. To do this. A rock type (sandstone. Crossplotting Logging company chart books all include neutron-density crossplots that are easy to use for clean (nonshaly) reservoir rocks. Neutron and density logs. the neutron log must be interpreted in combination with other logs such as forma tion density. Shales consequently have high apparent neutron porosity. a compatible scale must be used s o that the porosity components of both logs exactly overlay. Neutron porosity logs (Alone) Property measured Compensated neutron porosity is primarily the combined hydrogen content of the r ock system and the pore fluid system. Potash Evaporites. limestone. are commonly run as a combination.5 barns/electron. so the compatible scale is defined for freshwater-limestone systems.) 100 0 Density (g/cm3 ) 1. o r dolomite) and a corrected porosity can be read from the crossplot. Sylvite is anhydrous with a near-zero neutron porosity. This is the most powerful of the commonly available log suites for general purpose d etermination of lithology. In porous rocks. but values vary among formations. The typical neutron porosity value in anhydrite (CaSO4 ) is close to zero. Neutron and density logs combined Neutron and density logs each react to both lithology and porosity.

u. Siderite. Thus. The addition of some clay (form ing shaly sandstone) increases the neutron reading. be calibrated in sandstone units. Neutron displaced 4 8 p. or one. any offset of neutron and density logs is maintained regardless of porosity.u. Offsets are due to rock differences in density and neutron-absorbi ng properties (capture cross section). Ideal relationships for the three main li quid-filled porous rocks are as follows: Sandstone Density displaced 0.95 2. reducing cross-over in sandstone b y about two. to the left. Other noncompatible scales are harder to interpret. Heavier components such as mica increase the density. (porosity units) to the right. the scale is often slid across to the f ollowing range: Neutron (p. respectively. pyrite. Lithological responses Sandstone (Oil or Water Filled) Clean quartz sandstones give the typical two-division neutron-density cross-over with density to the left of neutron (Figure 1).20 2.05 g/cm3 to the left.95 15 2.u.70 1.ale is Neutron (p. the neutron log may. Separation is four to six small-scale divisions on the usual log grid. One is the sandstone scale: the zero neutron reading is aligned with 2. Use the shape of the neutron-density cross-over to provide depositional energy i n the same way as an SP or gamma ray log (Figure 1). Check spectral gamma ray to distinguish the following: Mica: potassium radiation only.) 45 Density (g/cm3 ) 30 1.45 2. Zircon (with other heavy minerals): thorium or uranium radiation. Cross-over is two small-scale divisions on the usual log grid. reducing log cross-over or even reversing it to create separation.95 In high porosity areas with no dolomite.: no increased radiation.70 On these scales. lithological interpretation should not be atte mpted from the overlay plot because log separations then become a function of po rosity as well as lithology.70 2. Neutron displaced about 3 p.65 g/cm3. Sandstone (Gas-Filled) . reducing log crossover or ev en reversing it to create separation. Dolomite Density displaced 0.45 15 2. Check natural gamma ray for evidence of in creasing clay. Limestone Density and neutron overlay exactly.u.) 60 45 30 15 0 Density (g/cm3 ) 1. If the two scales do not have the same amplitude (60 neutron porosity units corr esponding to a range of 1 g/cm3).175 g/cm3 to the right. or may not. Also. a V shape is a funnel ( coarsening upward) and a ? shape is a bell (fining upward). scale divisions. etc.20 0 2.

At times the separation is only three or fou r scale divisions. the neutron log for a gas-filled san dstone reads as much as 10 15 porosity units too low. which can resemble dolomite. and computer-processed multidimensional crossplots must be used to determ ine lithology. Limestone Clean limestone has no neutron-density separation (Figure 2). Check uranium if spe ctral gamma ray is available. Coals give prominent deflections that do not resemble anything bu t severe washouts. Enormous log cross-over res ults. Caliper log shows washouts. For complex rock mixtures. Locally high natural gamma ray looks like clay. Rock sample and mudlog data are invaluable. confidence is always increased by using more input d ata. When the neutron d rifts to higher values. expect the presence of clay. If spectral gamma ray is available.4 g/cm3 and a neutron mea surement of about 60 porosity units. but if neutron-density separation is unchang ed. more input log data are n eeded. (Diatomite has a density of about 1. sometimes disp laced by a large amount (Figure 1). do not look for dolomite and evaporites in a temperate. use a Pe value of 3 to confirm dolomite. consistently high in beds where neutron is high. Shale neutron readings a re often between 30 and 50 porosity units.05 g/cm3 too low.or water-filled sandstone. Dolomite Characteristic four to six scale division separation with density to the right o f neutron is relatively consistent in clean dolomite (Figure 2). In gas-filled limestone. Shale Shale shows a log separation with neutron to the left of density. Coal Neutron and density logs for coal both read similar very high apparent porositie s (Figure 1c). Check the natural gamma ray . Together these effects increase the log cross-over fr om two to about five scale divisions. Natural gamma ray is high.Compared to oil. and use a Pe value of 5 to confirm limestone. and the density log may read about 0. See also Difficult lithologies Dipmeters Formation evaluation of naturally fractured reservoirs . it may be hot dolomite (especially in the Permian basin). Local knowledge of rock types and mixtures to be expected and not to be expected may eliminate ambiguity (for example. Sandstone (Air-Filled) Nonhydrocarbon gas in sandstone can give neutron readings close to zero. expect cross-over like that described for sandstone. humid delta). dependi ng on residual water and humidity in the pore space. so crossover is at least seven scale divisi ons.) Complex rock mixtures Using neutron and density logs to resolve porosity and lithology allows only a on e-dimensional view of lithology. Gas reduces or eliminates the separation. To distinguish shale. In any case. look for all radioactive elements elevated ( contrast only uranium high in hot dolomite). check for the following: Apparent neutron porosity is too high for the area. Rock mixtures always create ambiguities for this simple quick-look interpretation.

Basic open hole tools Basic tool table Introduction to wireline methods Determination of water resistivity Preprocessing of logging data Wireline formation testers Basic cased hole tools Standard interpretation Borehole imaging devices External links .