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Effects of Clay Content on Permeability Damage, Capillary Pressure

and Wettability Characteristics of Saudi Reservoir Rocks


Reprinted from
(Journal of The Japan Petroleum Institute)
Vol. 36, No.3, May, 1993
:Oier'1':~~t Sekiyu Gakkaishi, 36. (2), 197-203 (1993) 197

[Regular Paper]

I Effectsof Clay Content on Permeability Damage, Capillary Pressure

,; and Wettability Characteristics of Saudi Reservoir Rocks


Petroleum Engineering Dept., King Saud University, Riyadh 11421, Saudi Arabia

(Received July 13, 1992)

The objective of this work is to correlate the distribution of clays with the pore space and the
mineralogy of authigenic clays in Saudi Arabian reservoir rocks with permeability damage, capillary
pressure and wettability characteristics. The physical movement of authigenic kaolinite crystals and
pore lining clays blocked pore throats causing permeability reductions as much as 50% in the best quality
core to more than 80% in low permeability sandstone. These clays affected the shape of capillary pressure
curves at low pore volumes.

1. Introduction in permeability reduction, determining shape of

capillary pressure curves and wettability charac-
Over the past decades, the scanning electron teristics of cores from Saudi Arabian reservoirs.
microscope has frequently been used as a tool in
the study of reservoir rocks in terms of pore 2. Materials and Procedures
geometry, pore-size distribution and the presence
of dispersed claysl)-S). The production behavior A total of fifteen sandstone and limestone fresh
of a reservoir can be affected by clay crystals cores were obtained from producing areas in the
developed within rock pores. Several papers have north-eastern part (Alkhafji) and eastern part
described the importance of dispersed clays in (Aramco) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Five
sandstones and carbonates2)-4),9H2). Since dis- samples of Berea sandstone cores were also used
persed clays generally occur as a rock pore filling because of their universally acquired position in
component and have a variety of crystal sizes and petroleum research. The mineralogical analyses
shapes, they may exhibit adverse effects on fluid of the cores and the relative abundance of clay
flow properties, minerals were carried out by X-ray diffraction and
This work discusses the role of authigenic clays binocular microscope. The results are reported

Table I Mineralogical Analysis of Cores

Core type Berea sandstone Alkhafji sandstone Safaniya sandstone Carbonate cores
Number of samples 5 5 5 5
Quartz [%] 75 90 85 traces
Feldspars [%] 10 4 3.5
Rock fragments traces 4
Clays [%] 10 6 7.5 6
Dolomite [%] 5 94
Average porosity [%] 19.92 16.75 19.35 850
Ki') [md] 324 360 125 9.23
Base exchange capacity 17 8 25
[meq/lOO gms]
Data concerns one set of cores.
a) K, average initial permeability.

Table 2 Relative Abundance of Clay Minerals in the Cores

Core type Kaolinite Chlorite Illite Monunorillonite
Berea sandstone 63 II 25 traces
Alkhafji sandstone 65 35
Safaniya sandstone 53 27 15 6
Carhonate cores 98 lraces

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Eill1~~M:: SekiyuGakkaishi,Vol. 36, No.3, 199:1


in Tables I and 2. It is seen from the tables that immersed in the aqueous solution in a glass
Alkhafji cores contain the least amount of clay. container. The oil droplet was photographed at
Safaniya cores contain a higher percentage of different time intervals to investigate the change of
montmorillonite than Berea sandstone cores. contact angle with time, until equilibrium was
Core plugs were cut from the center of the drilled reached. Equilibrium is judged to have been
cores using simulated formation water as the attained when no change in the shape of oil drop is
cutting fluids to reduce possible mud contamina- observed. Equilibrium time was about 20 h.
tion and to preserve the original state of the cores. The contact angle measured in the water phase was
Formation water analysis is given in Table 313). determined by making a tangent to both sides of
The displacement procedure, used for measuring the oil droplet. The precision obtained when
permeability damage, was started by saturating evaluating the contact angle through the tangent
and displacing the cores with a 5 wt% water obtained on the photograph was within ::!:l°.
solution. The cores were then displaced with The Ruska mercury injection capillary pressure
solutions of decreasing concentration till arriving apparatus was used in the measurement of the
at use of pure water. Permeability measurements capillary pressure of the used cores. A core
were conducted at 1,000 psi overburden pressure sample was evacuated from air in the pycnometer
and at different temperatures (30, 50, 70 and 90°C) chamber. Mercury was injected into the
for each core sample. Displacement runs were pycnometer until its level reached the reference
carried out using 20, IS, 10, and 5 wt% NaCI mark (the level at which the sample would be
solutions, respectively. completely covered with mercury). The bulk
The wettability was measured by the contact volume of the sample was read directly on the
angle method in the absence of air, with no metal movable pump scale and handwheel dial. The
parts used in the apparatus. It was found pressure was increased until the mercury level was
previously that wettability tests are extremely reduced 3 to 5 mm below the reference mark.
sensitive to air and contamination, especially Mercury was injected again until its level raised to
aeration and introduction of trace metalsI4). the reference level; the applied pressure and the
Samples 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) in diameter and I inch corresponding volume reading were recorded.
(2.54 cm) long with highly smoothed surfaces were This last step was repeated several times until the
used. Toluene saturated with water and pore volume of the sample was reached. Using
methanol plus toluene mixtures were used for the calibration data of the instrument, the mercury
cleaning the samples. Drying was conducted capillary pressures were calculated against per-
under controlled humidity. The samples were centage of mercury saturation.
then evacuated and saturated with the bine
aqueous solution. 3. Results and Discussions
An oil droplet was put in contact with the
downward surface of a core sample and then Saudi sandstone reservoirs mainly belong to

Table 3 Formation Water Analysisl3)

Ions Milligrams per liter Equivalent weight Milliequivalent/liter Reacting value [%]
A. Cations:
I. Alkali:
Sodium, Na+ 67,000 23.000 2,9\3.04 36.150
Potassium, K+ 0 39.102 0.00 0.000
2. Alkaline earth:
Calcium, Ca++ 18.600 20.040 928.14 11.518
Magnesium, Mg++ 2,270 12.560 186.74 2.317
Barium, Ba++ 0 68.670 0.00 0.000
Strontium, Sr++ 0 43810 0.00 0.000
3. Metals:
Aluminum, AI+++ 0 8.733 0.00 0.000
Iron, Fe+++ 0 18.616 0.00 0.000
Manganese, Mn++ 0 27.469 0.00 0.000
B. Anions:
\. Strong acid:
Chloride, cr 142.500 35.453 4.019.41 49.879
Sulfate, SO.-- 260 48032 5.41 0.067
2. Weak acid:
Bicarbonate, HC03- 340 61.000 5.57 0.069
Carbonate, C03u 0 30.000 0.00 0000
Sulfide, SU 0 16.032 0.00 0.000
Total 230,970 8,058.31 100.000%

Dii!JCj!:~Jlt Sekiyu Gakkaishi, Vol. 36, No.3, 1993


Wasia Formation of Lower Cretaceous age. They same type of cores show pore walls extensively
form the major producing sands in the north- coated with clay crystals, yet the intergranular
eastern part (Alkhafji) and eastern part (Safaniya) pores remain relatively open (Fig. 3). Such cores
in Saudi fields. They consist of coarse-to-fine have relatively good permeability. The micro-
grained, moderately sorted quartz and graywake, graphs of low permeability sandstone show clay
characterized by the alteration of authigenic clays. crystals attached to sand grain surfaces and
Dispersed clay is richer in Safaniya sandstone. bridging across intergranular pore space (Fig. 4).
Examination of the cores with the Scanning The percentage of clays in carbonate cores was too
Electron Microscope (SEM) showed that Safaniya low to be detected by the scanning microscope
and Alkhafji sandstones core grains are cemented (Figs. 5 and 6).
by partial grain coatings of clays (Figs. 1 and 2). SEM examination of Saudi sandstones after flow
Kaolinite, which is the dominant clay mineral in tests with NaCI solutions showed that the clay
the cores, develops as pseudohexagonal, platy coating on the sand grains had become detached
crystals scattered throughout the pore system in a and had migrated into pore throats. Sample is
random arrangement. It effects rock petrophysi- given in Fig. 7. The formation damage
cal properties by reducing intergranular pore represented by partial blocking of openings due to
volume and by migrating with flow in the pore dispersed clays reduced permeability ratio, i.e.
system rather than changing crystal lattice measured permeability/initial permeability (Figs.
structure by swelling when contacted by injected 8 through 10). Safaniya cores exhibited the
water. Other SEM photo-micrographs for the maximum damage. They contain a higher
percentage of montmorillonite, which is one of the
reasons that causes them to acquire a higher ion-
exchange capacity as shown in Tables 1 and 2.

Fig. I SEM PhotOgraph of a Fresh Core from Safaniya

SandstOne Reservoir

Fig. 3 SEM Photograph of a High Penneability Alkhafji

SandstOne Core

Kaolinite develops as pseudohexagonal, platy crystals

scattered throughout the pore system.

Fig. 2 SEM Photograph of a Fresh Core from Alkhafji Fig. 4 SEM PhotOgraph of a Low Permeability Safaniya
Sandstone Reservoir SandstOne Core

Etlll''jf:~~ Sekiyu Gakkaishi, Vol. 36, No.3, 1993

-- ---.--




~ 40.0
70 'c
'" 50.C
* 30 't

0 10 15 20 25
Con«ntra1ion of Satura';on Brine, '/, wI. NaCI

Fig. 8 Permeability Ratio vs. Concentration at 1,000 psig

Fig. 5 SEM Photograph of a Fresh Carbonate Core Overburden Pressure and Different Tempera-
(magnification: 400 times) tures for Alkhafji Sandstone



Ji 60.0

D 90.C
~ 40.0
0.. D 70.C
'" 50.C
* 30 't

0 10 15 20 25
Con«nt'ation of Satu,a';on Brine. 'I. wi. NaCI

Fig. 9 Permeability Ratio vs. Concentration at 1,000 psig

Fig. 6 SEM Photograph of a Fresh Carbonate Core Overburden Pressure and Different Tempera-
(magnification: 2,000 times) tures for Safaniya Sandstone


_/ 80.0

£ 60.0
D 90.C
:;; 0 70 't
a '" 50 't
* 30 'c


0 10 15 20 25
Concentration of Sotu'o' ion Brine,'f, wt.NoCI

Fig. 10 Permeability Ratio vs. Concentration at 1,000 psig

Fig. 7 SEM Photographs of Flooded Alkhafji Sand-
Overburden Pressure and Different Tempera-
stone Core
tures for Berea Sandstone

This could be attributed to the fact that they had Alkhafj i cores was the reason for showing less drop
higher percentage of dispersed clays and higher in permeability. Dispersed clays readily contact
base exchange capacity compared to Alkhafji cores the passing fluids because they commonly occur
which had lower base exchange capacity, as shown within pores. In contrast, laminae of clays are
in Table 1. The lower dispersed clay content in less affected by the passing fluids.

:.fijlli'-7'f;;~t Sekiyu Gakkaishi, Vol. 36, No 3, 1993


Variation of temperature had a clear effect on the 22°C. The conract angle attained equilibrium
permeability ratio, as shown in Figs. 8 to 10. after abou t 20 h. The rock surfaces of the different
Higher permeability ratio was obtained at higher samples were water-wet. This figure indicates
temperatures for all sandstone cores used. This that the highest contact angle was obtained when
may be attributed to the effects of temperature on Safaniya sandstone core was used.
the mineralogy of the cores containing clays. Figure 12 shO\\'s the contact angle V5. time for
The effect of water sensitivity on the per- Safaniya crude oils in distilled water and in 10%
meability of a set of carbonate cores was studied NaCI solution. The contact angle increases with
experimentally as shown in Table 4. It is seen addition of NaCllO distilled water at 22°C. These
that the carbonates show no water sensitivity. results show that sandstone core surfaces become
This could be due to the following factors: (I) the oil-wet when using NaCI solutions.
absence of swelling clay; the core analysis using X- Due to the presence of NaCl, adsorption of ions
ray diffraction had proved the complete absence of (inorganic) at the water-oil interface may occur
swelling clays. In fact the only observable clay in leading to a layer of pure water, the thickness of
the core was kaolinite, (2) the fines occurring in the which is inversely proportional to the ionic
carbonate core were very strongly attached to the concentration. .-\s a result, electrostatic effects
pore surface. This may be due to the fact that the and, consequemlv, adsorption of surface active
core was very well consolidated and this was agents may become more pronounced as the ionic
obvious from the small porosity, (3) the absence of
chemical reactions within the cores due to the
scarcity of clay in the carbonate cores. Hence, 140

they are less water sensitive. This was evident

from the constant reading of pH and resistivity of ""
the e££luent. It is also obvious from Table 2 that 0.
" 100
the carbonate cores have no montmorillonite,
which is one of the reasons that causes them to "
acquire a lower ion-exchange capacity. -0:
Figure II represents the results of contact angle 0
measurements for different Saudi rock surfaces c0 40
c D;stilled Water
u . 10'/, NaCISolution
using Safaniya crude oil and distilled water at .. 3.5'/. NaCI SaluHan

Table 4 Permeability Ratio vs. NaCI Concentration of 0 -

Saturated Brine for Carbonate Core 0 10 20 30

Time. Hr
NaCI concentration Cumulative pore Permeability
[wt%] volumes injected ratio
Fig. 12 Contact.-\ngle V.I.Time for Safaniya Crude Oil
5 50 1.0
3 100 in NaCI Solution Using Safaniya Sandstone
1 200 Core
05 350 1.05

° Seeea Sandstone
° Sataniya Sandstone
,OO \ .
AI- Khatii Sandstone
Cacbonate Coce


\ \
"0. x
. 1SO
co .. 0
". 80
a. \
0 ""
u x
0 ;: 100r
0 C",bonate Co," x
. Be'ea- Sandstone 50\\
20 . S.,(..n;y., -
0 AI-Khat;; - Sandstone "--'-...-
0 0
0 10 20 30 100 80 60 40 20
Time, Hr
PY Occupied By Hg ('I.)

Fig. 11 Contact Angle V.I.Time for Safaniya Crudc Oil Fig. 13 Cap;llaI\ Pressure Curves for the Studied Core
in Distilled Water at 22°C

Drllj:Of:%ittSekiyuGakkaishi, Vol. :j6, No.3, ]993



concentration is increased.
increased the contact angle.
Discrete particle, pore lining and pore bridging 5) Higher permeability ratio was obtained at
clays show basic difference in capillary pressure higher temperature for all sandstone cores used.
curves indicating their pore network properties15). 6) Safaniya sandstone have low permeability in
The curves differ distinctly in shape and location relation to high permeability damage, high
(Fig. 13).
contact angle, low area under the capillary
The low initial mercury injection pressures pressure curve and low clay properties.
shown by Berea sandstone and Safaniya sandstone
cores are similar to values for sandstones with References
discrete particles, suggesting the influence of
discrete kaolinite particles at low pore volumes.
I) Neasham, J. W., Scanning Electron Microscopy, I, 101
The shape of Alkhafji sandstone curve, however, (1977).
indicates the strong influence of pore lining clays. 2) Wilson, M. D., Pittman, E. D., ]. Sed. Petrol., 47, (I), 3
The shape of the capillary curves may indicate the (1977).
3) McHardy, W. J., Wilson, M. J., Tait, N. M., Clay Minerals,
absence of pore bridging clay for the three types of 17,23 (1982).
sandstone cores tested. From Figs. 11 and 13, one 4) Neasham, J. W., SPE Annual Technical Conference and
can notice that, as the contact angle increases, the Exhibition, Denver, Oct. 9-12, 1977, SPE 6858.
capillary pressure decreases. A similar result was 5) Pittman, E. D., Thomas, J. B.,]. Pet. Technology, 31, (II),
stated in reference16). 1375 (1979).
6) Timur, A., Hempkins, W. B., Weinbrandt, R. M., ].
4. Conclusions Geophys., 76, 4932 (1971).
7) Weinbrandt, R. M., Fatt, 1.,]. Pet. Technology, 21, (5), 543
Based on the experimental results obtained in 8) Pittman, E. D., Duschatko, R. W.,]. Sed. Petrol., 40, 1153
this work, the following conclusions are achieved. (1970).
9) Pittman, E. D., Bull. AAPG, 55, 1873 (1971).
I) A great part of permeability reduction to water
10) Swanson, B. F.,]. Pet. Technology, 31, (1),10 (1979).
can be attributed to the adsorption and migration II) Pallatt, N., Wilson, J., McHardy, B.,]. Pet. Technology, 36,
of pore-lining clays. (13), 2225 (1984).
2) Dispersed clays occurred in the cores as 12) Heaviside, J., Langley, G. 0., Pallatt, N., SPWLA
intergrown crystal linings on pore walls before European Formation Evaluation Symposium, London,
March, 1983.
displacement runs and as crystals bridging across
13) Dahab, A. S., Omar, A. E., EI-Gassier, M. M., Awad el
pores after displacing the cores.
Kariem, H., Revue de l'Institut Francais de Petro Ie, 44, 5,
3) Discrete kaolinite and pore lining clays greatly (1989).
affected the shape of capillary pressure curve at low 14) Sayyouh, M. H., Dahab, A. S., Omar, A. E.,]. Petrol. Sci.
pore volumes. and Engg., 4, 119 (1990).
15) Neasham, J. W., Soc. Petrol., Engrs. of AIME, Denver, 1977,
4) The presence of sodium chloride in the aqueous SPE 6858, p. 7.
solution and a higher percentage of swellable clays 16) Anderson, W. G.,]. Pet. Technol., 1283 (1987).


:fjitlJ"f:f:;i\t Sckiyu Gakkaishi, Vol. 36, No.3, 1993

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Clay content, Permeability damage, Capillary pressure, Wettability, Saudi rock

1JidJ'*:~ft Sekiyu Gakkaishi, VoL 36, No" 3. 1993