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Factors Affecting Gas Slippage in Tight

Sandstones of Cretaceous Age in the Uinta Basin


K. Sampath, * SPE, Ins!. of Gas Technology
C. William Keighin, SPE, USGS

Summary
The gas penneability of some sandstones from Uinta
County, UT was measured in the laboratory. The effect
of confining pressure and partial water saturation on gas
penneability was investigated. Measurements were conducted at pressures of up to 34.5 MPa and partial liquid
saturations of up to 60 %. We noted that the slope of the
straight line relating apparent gas penneability to
reciprocal mean pore pressure decreased with increasing
net confining pressure and with increasing partial water
saturation. Gas penneabilities extrapolated to infinite
pore pressure were often higher than liquid
penneabilities under the same confining pressure conditions; scanning electron microscopic (SEM) observations indicated rocklfluid interactions.
Geologic studies of end pieces cut off from core plugs
revealed that porosity is reduced by quartz overgrowths,
authigenic clays (kaolinite, illite, and minor quantities of
chlorite), carbonate cements (calcite and dolomite), and
physical compaction of labile rock fragments. In some
samples, organic-rich laminae were found to lie parallel
to bedding surfaces. Apparently, microporosity had been
fonned by partial leaching of feldspars and rock
fragments. Most of the pores were lined with authigenic
clays that fonn highly irregular pore walls. Thin film intergranular pores, which were observed in samples impregnated with blue epoxy at ambient pressure, were not
found in samples in which the epoxy was cured under a
confining pressure of 34.5 MPa.

Introduction
The concept of slip during gas flow through capillaries
with diameters small enough to be comparable to the
mean free path of the gas was used by Klinkenberg 1 to
explain the discrepancies between gas and liquid
Now with Mobil R&D Corp.
0149-2136/82/0011-9872$00.25

NOVEMBER 1982

penneabilities of porous media. He presented the following equation, which relates the apparent gas penneability, kg, of a gas flowing at a mean pore pressure, p, to the
true penneability of the porous medium, k oog .
kg =koog(l +blp).

. ........................ (1)

In this equation, b is a constant and is a function of the


capillary radius, r b, and of the mean free path of the gas,
A, at pressure p.
b =4cAplr b .

. .............................

(2)

In Eq. 2, c is a constant approximately equal to one.


Loeb 2 showed that Poiseuille's law for viscous flow can
be modified to account for slip and defined a coefficient
of slip that can be shown equal to the tenn CA in Eq. 2.
As is evident from Eq. 2, the contribution resulting
from slip is inversely proportional to the capillary radius.
At mean pore pressures usually employed in the
laboratory measurements of penneability, the slip effect
is significant in the case of tight sands because of the
small pore sizes. 3,4
The dependence of tight sandstone penneability on
confining pressure and partial water saturation has been
documented by numerous investigators. 4 -9 It appears
reasonable, therefore, that the slip effect also would be
affected by confining pressure and water saturation. A
series of experiments was conducted in conjunction with
petrographic observations in an attempt to understand the
possible alterations in pore dimensions that result from
confining stress and partial water saturation. Samples investigated were from Well MAPCO RBU 11-l7 F (Section l7, TlOS, R20E) in the Uinta Basin, UT. They are
petrographically similar to other low-penneabilit~: sandstones of late Cretaceous age from the region. ,4,10.11
They are fine- to very fine-grained, moderately well
2715

TABLE 1-SUMMARY OF MODAL MEASUREMENTS OF


SELECTED SANDSTONE SAMPLES,
COREHOLE MAPCO RBU-11-17-F
Number of samples a
Depth range, m

13
2512.6 to 2549.9

Mean b

Standard
Deviation c

49.1

5.9

8.1
3.9

2.8
2.3

12.7
8.2

4.2
2.4

1.5
1.8
4.4
5.7
2.7
1.9

1.8
1.0
3.4
2.8
2.2
2.6

Quartz
Feldspar
Plagioclase
Potassium
Rock Fragments
Chert
Other d
Carbonates
Calcite
Other e
Matrix
Claysf
Void
Other g

a Does not include two samples, one at 2509.8 m that


contains 200;0 calcite, and one at 2510 m that contains
b 42% calcite.
Based on a count of approximately 300 paints per thinsection.
~Standard deviation from the mean.
Primarily fine-grained sedmentary rock fragments.
~ Primarily dolomite.
Authigenic greater than detrital.
9 Includes minor quantities of anhydrite, organic matter,
silt laminae, and unidentified grains.

sorted, and rich in detrital quartz and rock fragments.


Locally, calcite accounted for as much as 40 % of the
rock volume, although the amount was much lower in
general. Core depths ranged from 2512.6 to 2549.9 m.

Experimental Methods
Permeability measurements were conducted with
Hassler-type core holders in which samples (approximately 0.025 m in diameter and 0.05 m long) were subjected to net confining pressures of up to 34.5 MPa. At
each confining pressure, gas permeabil~ty was measured
at at least three different mean pore pressures to obtain a
straight line plot that would relate apparent gas
permeability and reciprocal mean pore pressure.
Samples were dried at temperatures of from 80 to 90C
before these measurements were taken. Dry nitrogen was
used in gas flow measurements. After gas flow
measurements, the cores were saturated with brine (2 %
KCl+2 % NaCl). Porosity values were determined from
the change in weight on saturation. Liquid flow
measurements then were conducted. Liquid flow was
maintained by applying gas pressure on liquid that was
contained in a cylinder but separated from the gas by a
movable piston. A differential pressure of 0.689 MPa
was used to maintain flow. After the liquid flow
measurements, different saturations were established in
the core samples by allowing the liquid to evaporate
from the core. At different levels of saturation, gas flow
measurements were made at three different mean pore
pressures to obtain a "Klinkenberg plot." The samples
were weighed before and after each set of measurements
to ascertain that there had been no change in saturation.
However, there was no check on the saturation distribution in the sample.
2716

QV~R TZ

FElDSP~R

ROCK FRAGMENTS

Fig. 1-Triangular diagram showing modal composition of


selected samples.

Mineral composition was determined by X-ray diffraction; modal analyses of 300 points per thin-section were
made to define mineral distribution. Thin-sections were
prepared after epoxy injection. In some cases the epoxy
was allowed to set under a confining pressure of 34.5
MPa so that any changes in pore structure that would
result could be observed.

Petrographic Properties
The samples studied were rich in detrital quartz and rock
fragments; feldspars accounted for less than 8% of the
rock volume. Clay minerals, both authigenic and
detrital, that were found included kaolinite, illite, and
minor quantities of mixed-layer clays and chlorite. A
summary of the modal characteristics is given in Table 1;
sample classification is shown in Fig. 1. Two samples,
from depths of 2509.8 and 2510 m, contained 20% and
42 % calcite cement and were not included in the data
given in Table 1.
The basic porosity characteristics of the sandstones are
determined by the physical characteristics of the
sediments. The initial porosity of unconsolidated, finegrained, moderately well sorted sand is variable but
probably averages about 40%.12 The initial porosity
characteristics are modified, often extensively, by subsequent diagenetic processes, both physical and chemical.
Most of the porosity in these sandstones is secondary and
results from leaching-partial to extensive-of carbonate
cement, rock fragments (especially chert), and, to a
minor extent, feldspar grains. Rarely do pores reach 150
/tm; they are typically 10 /tm or less in cross section.
Fig. 2 illustrates the general distribution of the porous
and nonporous mineral components of the sandstones;
the lack of large pores is obvious. Dissolution of mineral
JOURNAL OF PETROLEUM TECHNOLOGY

TABLE 2-SUMMARY OF CORE MEASUREMENTS

(k~g), *

Sample

Core
Depth
(m)

8243.3
8243.9
8290.4
8290.9
8298.4
8298.8
8358.3
8358.7
8365.4
8365.9

2512.6
2512 .7
2526.9
2527.1
2529.4
2529.5
2547.6
2547.7
2549.8
2549.9

0.0081
0.0138
0.0421
0.0536
0.022
0.116
0.056
0.134
0.0252
0.0143

(md)

(kd, *
(md)

b,
(MPa)

(k~gh *

0.0025
0.0103
0.0063

0.583
0.274
0.236
0.246
0.147
0.076
0.158
0 .068
0.084
0.298

0.0112
0.0334
0.0606t
0.0319
0.0067
0.0121t

(kd2 *.
(md)

b 2 .*
(MPa)

0 .0005
0 .0014
0.0048
0.0028

0.0005
0 .0005
0.0005

1.674
0.970
0.256
0.83

0.0124
0.0087
0.0238
0.0004
0.0017

0.0034
0.0041t
0.0045
0.0004
0.001t

0.176
0 .285
0.160
2.66
0.558

(md)

0 .098
0.111
0 .067
0.066
0 .063
0.077
0 .079
0 .058
0.059

Measured at a confining pressure of 6.89 MPa .


.. Measured at a confining pressure of 34.5 MPa.
tDecane was the liquid used . Brine (20,.0 KCI + 20,.0 NaCI) was used in all other cases.

grains or cement creates the only relatively large (up to


approximately 150 Ilm) pores observed. However, these
pores are not common, and the communication between
them appears to be severely limited, especially under
stress conditions similar to those expected under reservoir conditions. They also typically are filled, at least
partially , with kaolinite and/or illite. More typical in the
sandstones examined are "micropores" (less than 10
Ilm), usually formed by a complex intergrowth of
various clay minerals (Fig. 3). The development and
distribution of these pores are influenced strongly by the
quantity of rock fragments, especially chert, present in
the sandstones. Leaching and the growth of authigenic
clays (principally kaolinite and illite) have produced the
tortuous pore network typically seen in these sandstones .
Although thin-film intergranular pores (less than 3 Ilm
across) often are observed in sandstones that have been
impregnated with blue-dyed epoxy at ambient pressure,
this type of potential fluid pathway is very rare in sandstones that have been epoxy-impregnated and cured
under a confining stress of 34.5 MPa . It is highly unlikely that thin-film pores exist in significant quantities
under most reservoir conditions.
The connecting pore throats are typically less than 1
Ilm in cross section and are very sensitive to plugging by

migrating fines, to reduction in cross section because of


mechanical compaction, and to the presence of formation fluid .

Fig. 2-SEM illustrating abundance of fine-grained, commonly altered rock fragments (R) containing
numerous micropores. Depth of sample is 2512.6 m.

Fig. 3-lntergranular area largely filled with booklets of


kaolinite (K), fibrous illite (I), and other clay minerals
(C). Depth of sample is 2547.1 m.

NOVEMBER 1982

Permeability and Gas Slip


The phenomenon of gas slip is of special importance in
tight sands because of the large number of connected
small pores that are present. It is evident from Eqs. 1 and
2 that at a mean pore pressure of 0.24 MPa, the contribution resulting from slip becomes significant (at least 10%
of total flow) when the flow channels are smaller than 1
Ilm. Tight sands investigated here as well as
elsewhere 3,4 appear to have a large number of pores
smaller than 1 Ilm.
Fig. 4 shows a plot of apparent gas permeability vs.
reciprocal mean pore pressure at different confining
pressures for Core 8358 .3 from a depth of2547.6 m. It is
evident from the figure that the slope of the line
decreases as confining pressure increases. From the
slope of the line and the value of the y intercept, k oog' the
constant b was calculated. The data are summarized in
Table 2 for the cores upon which experiments were conducted . The reduction in the extrapolated gas permeability resulting from net confining pressure is shown for
Core 8358.3 in Fig. 5. The data for the other core

2717

0.20.

CORE NO. 8358.3

'"E
>-"

NET C<NINING PRESSURE,


MP.
0. 3.45

0.16

l-

:;

t!. 689

m
<!
w

::;;

0.12

cr
w

0(j)

<!

COO

<!)

IZ

cr

Ci0-

0.0.4

<!

0.

0.

RECIPROCAL MEAN PORE PRESSURE, IIMPo

Fig. 4-Effect cf confining pressure on gas slip.


Fig. 6-SEM of partially disso.lved bocklet of intergranular
kaclinite (K). Isclated arrow indicates chloride
precipitate that fcrmed when the sample was dried.
Depth of sample is 2547.1 m.
010. , - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ,
CCRE NO. 8358.3

~
>"

t:i

IE
0-

0..0.8

1!l
<!
W

a.

0..0 6

0..020

l!.

(j)

<>

0
142

329
42 .7

0.015

<!
L'l
W

>

o 0.04
w

Eiw

i:i
...J

0.

::E
cr
w

;3

<!

CCRE NO. 8358.3

WATER SATURATION %

:;

(j)

cr

~ 0 . 0 . 2 5 , - - - - -- -- - - - - - -- - -- - - - ,
>"

I-

0.010

u.
u.
W

0..02

IZ
W

l-

W
c~_~

0.

_ _...J__ _ _ _

L __

10.

15

_ L_ _ _ _...J__ _ _L __ _

20.

25

30.

35

NET CONFINING PRESSURE, MPo

Fig. 5-Effect .of ccnfining pressure cn extrapclated gas


permeability.

samples also are summarized in Table 2, For Cores


8234.4 and 8234.9, the initial permeabilities were very
low, and no further measurements were made.
Petrographic studies show that these samples have up to
40% calcite. It appears that the reduction in permeability
is at least in part a result of the sealing off of some flow
paths because of confining stress . This hypothesis is
borne out by thin-section observations on samples that
were injected with epoxy and then were cured at a high
confining pressure. These observations indicate that a
large number of intergranular pathways are closed off.
It is evident from Eq, I that the extrapolated gas
permeability values should be identical to liquid
permeability values under similar stress conditions.
Brine (2 % KCI + 2 % NaCl) was flowed through the core
samples at different confining pressures. The measured
liquid permeabilities, kL' are shown in Table 2 and are
compared with extrapolated gas permeability values at
confining pressures of 6.89 and 34 .5 MPa. There are
some discrepancies between the gas and liquid
permeabilities. Decane was flowed through Cores
8358.3 and 8365.9, and, although the difference between k oog and k L was small at a net confining pressure
2718

0..0 05

cr

It
0<!

c~

____- L_ _ _ _ _
2

~L_

_____

_ _ __...J

RECIPRCCAL MEAN PORE PRESSURE, IIMPo

Fig. 7-Effect cf partial water saturation cn gas slip.

of 6.89 MPa, the difference was significant at 34.5 MPa .


Brine permeabilities were significantly lower at all confining pressures.
SEM observations on the effects of dilute (2 %) NaCI
and KCI brines indicate significant time-dependent reactions between the brine and the rock material. Fig. 6
clearly indicates that intergranular kaolinite is, at least in
some instances, highly modified by immersion in dilute
brine. The disposition of the dissolved kaolinite is not
yet known. In addition, it was noted that after treatment
with brine, illite was no longer traceable in the samples.
Therefore, it appears that rockltluid interaction and
possible fines movement together are responsible for
the noted discrepancies between gas and liquid
permeabilities.

Relative Gas Permeability and Slip


Fig . 7 shows the straight lines relating apparent gas
permeability and reciprocal mean pore pressure at different partial water saturations for Core 8358.3. The
slopes of the lines decrease with increasing partial water
saturation. Rose 13 has recorded similar observations for
JOURNAL OF PETROLEUM TECHNOLOGY

10r-----------------------------------~

>-

r
:J

o
o

as

w
"-

0 00

01

(f)

<!l

>

fi...J
W

cr
001

001 '--_____--'-_ _ _ _-L._ _ _ _.l..-_ _ _---l

10

20

30

40

50

60
WETTING PHASE SATURATION, %

70

80

0.001

0.01

0.1

10

Fig. 8-Effect of partial water saturation on relative gas


permeability.

Fig. 9-Correlation of the constant b with the permeability/porosity ratio.

the flow of gas through higher-permeability porous


media.
Byrnes et al. 7 showed that relative gas permeability
can be expressed as a function of partial water saturation
by a modified form of an equation originally proposed by
Corey. 14 The data in this investigation were best approximated by the following equation.

from Eqs. 2 and 3 and noted that the line with the best
slope had a slope of unity. They thought this was
because porosity had been taken into account in the latter
case. In essence, this means that a correlation, if it exists, should be between band k</>g/ rather than between
band k oog .
A plot of b vs. koogl for all the samples under different conditions of confining stress and partial water
saturation is shown in Fig. 9. In the case of relative
permeability data, gas-filled porosity was used in place
of . The line of best fit, determined by linear regression, was

_(1 -Sw)
-

k rg -

1.5

2
(l-Sw),

............... (3)

0.7
where S w is the fractional water saturation, and k rg is the
relative gas permeability values of the samples extrapolated to infinite gas pressure. The data for all the
core samples and the line calculated by using Eq. 3 are
shown in Fig. 8.
Note that although a value of 1.5 for n appears to fit all
the data best, the value of n for individual core relative
permeabilities ranged from 1.1 to 1.6. The data point out
the necessity of obtaining reliable values of partial water
saturation to aid in the measurement of in-situ
permeability.

Discussion
If we assume that flow through tight sands can be modeled by a bundle of parallel capillaries, a comparison of
Poiseuille's law for viscous flow and Darcy's law indicates that
r=8.886xlO- 6 (kl)0.5,

................... (4)

where r is the capillary radius in centimeters, k is the


permeability in millidarcies, and the porosity, , is
assumed to account for the arrangement of the capillary
tubes to form a bundle. 15 The radius of the capillary also
can be calculated from Eq. 2.
Heid et at. 16 and, more recently, Jones and Owens 8
attempted to correlate band k oog' The correlations yielded relations of the type
b=akoog m, ............................... (5)

where m, the exponent, was different from the


theoretical value of -0.5. However, Heid et al. 16 went
on to correlate the values of the capillary radius obtained
NOVEMBER 1982

b=0.0955(koogl) -0.53.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6)

The observed change in permeability resulting from confining pressure or partial water saturation can be rationalized on a physical basis. As a result of increasing
confining pressure, a number of small capillaries are
closed off, and the effective flow paths are reduced both
in size and number. This is clear both from flow
measurements and from petrographic observations. In
the case of partial water saturation, water, being the wetting phase, tends to collect in smaller pores because of
capillary effects. Consequently, some of the flow paths
are no longer available for gas flow, and permeability is
lower. Nevertheless, the slip effect persists because the
effective size of flow paths available for gas flow is
lowered as a result of the presence of the wetting phase.

Conclusions
1. The extrapolated gas permeability of tight sandstones is affected significantly by confining pressure.
The constant in the relationship describing the slip
phenomenon during gas flow, b, was found to correlate
with the permeability/porosity ratio in a manner much
like that predicted from simple models.
2. Because of confining pressure, a number of small
intergranular pores that were pre~ent under surface conditions were sealed off. This also was verified by
petrographic studies.
3. The relative permeability behavior of the samples
investigated can be described approximately by a simple
empirical correlation.
2719

4. There was some discrepancy between extrapolated


gas permeability values and liquid permeability values.
This is attributed to fines movement and rocklfluid
interactions.

Nomenclature
a
b

c
kg
kL
k rg
k oog
m

fJ
r,rb

Sw

constant In Eq. 5
constant in Eq. I, MPa (psi)
constant in Eq. 2
apparent gas permeabil ity, md
liquid permeability, md
relative gas permeability, ratio
extrapolated gas permeability, md
constant in Eq. 5
mean pore pressure, MPa (psi)
capillary radius, cm (in.)
partial water saturation, %
porosity fraction
mean free path of gas, cm (in.)

Acknowledgments
We acknowledge the financial support from Bartlesville
Energy Technology Center and the DOE-Nevada Operations Office that made this work possible. We also
acknowledge the contributions of K.C. Wei and R. Hernandez, who helped in the data acquisition, and ofW.D.
Rose, whose discussions were very helpful.

5. Vairogs, J., et al.: "Effect of Rock Stress on Gas Production


From Low-Permeability Reservoirs," 1. Pet. Tech. (Sept. 1971)
1161-67; Trans., AI ME, 251.
6. Thomas, R.D. and Ward, D.C.: "Effect of Overburden Pressure
and Water Saturation on Gas Permeability of Tight Sandstone
Cores," J. Pet. Tech. (Feb. 1972) 120-24.
7. Byrnes, A.P., Sampath, K. and Randolph, P.L.: "Effect of
Pressure and Water Saturation on Penneability of Western Tight
Sandstones," ProC'., DOE Fifth Annual Symposium on Enhanced
Oil and Gas Recovery and Improved Drilling Technology, Tulsa
(1979) 34, L-51l-L-5/16.
8. Jones, F.O. and Owens, W.W.: "A Laboratory Study of Low
Permeability Gas Sands," 1. Pet. Tech. (Sept. 1980) 1631-40.
9. Walls, J.D., Nur, A.M., and Bourbie, T.: "Effects of Pressure
and Partial Water Saturation on Gas Permeability in Tight Sands:
Experimental Results," J. Pet. Tech. (April 1982) 930-36.
10. Keighin, C.W.: "Characteristics of Pores in Some Upper
Cretaceous Non-Marine Sandstones, Uinta Basin, Utah," Scanning Electron Microscopy (Jan. 1980) 1, 559-64.
II. Keighin, C.W. and Fouch, T.: "Depositional Environments and
Diagenesis of Some Non-Marine Upper Cretaceous Reservoir
Rocks, Uinta Basin, Utah," Recent and Ancient NOll-Marine Environments, R. Etheridge and R. Flores (eds.), Soc. of Economic
Paleontologists and Mineralogists special publication No. 31,
Tulsa (1981).
12. Beard, D.C. and Weyl, P.K.: "Influence of Texture on Porosity
and Penneability of Unconsolidated Sand," Bull., AAPG (Feb.
1973) 57, No.2, 349-69.
13. Rose, W.O.: "Permeability and Gas Slippage Phenomena,"
Drill. and Prod. Prac., API (1948) 209-17.
14. Corey, A.T.: "The Interrelation Between Gas and Oil Relative
Penneabilities," Prod. MOil. (Nov. 1954) 38-41.
15. Amyx, J.W., Bass, D.M. Jr., and Whiting, R.L.: Petroleum
Reservoir Engineering, McGraw Hill Book Co. Inc., New York
City (1960) 96.
16. Heid, J.G. et al.: "Study of the Permeability of Rocks to
Homogeneous Fluids," Drill. and Prod. Prac., API (1950)
230-46.

References
I. Klinkenberg, L.J.: "The Permeability of Porous Media to Liquids
and Gases," Drill. and Prod. Prac., API (1941) 200-13.
2. Loeb, B.L.: The Kinetic 771'ory of Gases. third edition, Dover
Publications Inc., New York City (1961) 281-85.
3. Keighin, C. W.: "Influence of Diagenetic Reactions on Reservoir
Properties of the Ncslen, Farrer, and Tuscher Formations, Uinta
Basin, Utah," paper SPE 7919 presented at the 1979 SPE LowPenneability Gas Reservoirs Symposium, Denver, May 20-22.
4. Keighin, C.W. and Sampath, K.: "Evaluation of Pore Geometry
of Some Low-Permeability Sandstones-Uinta Basin." J. Pet.
Tech. (Jan. 1982) 65-70.

2720

SI Metric Conversion Factors


ft
OF
micron
psi

x 3.048*
(OF-32)/1.8
x 1.0*
x 6.894 757

"Conversion factor is exact.

E-OI

C
Jim

E-03

MPa

JPT

Original manuscript received in Society of Petroleum Engineers office March 30,


1981, Paper accepted for publication July 6, 1982. Revised manuscript received
Sept. 14, 1982. Paper (SPE 9872) first presented at the 1981 SPE/DOE Low
Permeability Symposium held in Denver May 27-29.

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