Modeling shale reservoirs: a joint project with Stanford University (Standford University)

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Modeling shale reservoirsA joint project with Stanford University

A collaborative project between Stanford University and TOTAL began in 2014 with the aim of progressing in the understanding and the modeling of shale reservoirs.


Shales in the direction of the geological formation rather than a lithology can show marked variations in rock type from clays, marlstones and mudstones to sandstone and carbonate. Differing from conventional resources, host shale formations of gas, oil accumulations or kerogen (the source rock) act as source, reservoir and sealed rock. In these singularities, where fluids in very tight rocks coexist with organic kerogen residues (organic matter in sedimentary rocks), fluid mobilization is difficult without fracturing to enhance transport properties.

The scope of this research is to develop our understanding of the endogenous mechanisms of formations: from the birth of oil and gas to the production process. The expected benefits are terms of new green production processes of oil and gas, but also the development of advanced methods which could find many other applications in porous media.

The University of Pau and the Pays de l'Adour (UPPA) joined the project in 2015 with the objective of developing specific experimental methods to advance the understanding and the modeling of pore scale mechanisms in shale formations.

New innovative methods have been developed or are being developed with the goal of providing novel and relevant information from pores, measuring 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, filled by fluids on a micrometric or multi-centimetric scale.

The use of spatially resolved electromagnetic radiations techniques in the visualization and the in-situ characterization was chosen to reduce interpretative methodology in favor of a determinist methodology.

The joint research associates the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkely), and a team lead by Jonathan Ajo-Franklin in ultra-fast imagin of rock samples constrained in a high temperature traixial cell imaged by 4D x-ray microtomography with synchroton radiation. We focused our attention on hydrocarbon generation and expulsion in sealed rocks forming conventional or unconventional reservoirs. The results are also used in geomechanical modeling by Josh White from Lawrence Livermore National Lab to model the mechanical properties of porous media.

This work resulted in a pending patent between UPPA, Stanford and Total, and an American start-up focused on a system designed for nano-micro scale characterization capable of doing a complete porous media characterization in a couple of hours.

These preliminary results comfort a productive collaboration between Pr Hamdi Tchelepi (Stanford), Pr Tony Kovscek (Stanford) and Pr Patrice Creux (UPPA) opening new horizons in the field of formation evaluation and the understanding of flows in porous media. The collaboration includes Master students, PhDs candidates and post-docs in the USA, but is also at the origin of research exchanges between Stanford and Pau (Hamdi Tchelepi, one month in Pau, 2017; Patrice Creux three months in Stanford in 2017). The first students from Pau will be recruited in 2017 to try push the limits of one developed experimental technique.

This important joint research effort between Stanford, Lawrence Berkely National Lab and Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the UPPA will have a large impact in the geoscientific community, not only for its applications in shale reservoirs, but also for energy storage such as CO2 or geothermal characterization of fractured rocks.