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Elias Raul Acosta D. 1 and Ernesto Rosales Z. 2
1Applied Petrophysics and Formation Characterization Independent Consultant. Lecheria, Venezuela
2Integrated Reservoir Studies Consulting Services. Rosales Zambrano Ingenieria (RZI). Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.

© Copyright 2017.
Rosales Zambrano Ingenieria (RZI).


For many years, it has been common practice to use tortuosity and cementation parameters as pre-established
values. Nevertheless, is the importance of these parameters really understood? Do we know the effect on
water saturation calculations of these parameters?

Over the years and having worked Petrophysics for different environments and variable data sets, have notice
how careless or easy selected these parameters are determined. Many times based on the first set of wells of
the field or just by analogy.

Interesting was to find a series of technical papers and studies regarding this topic and how a variety of
techniques and values are available.

This paper will review the determinations of these parameters and research their effect on water saturation


Recently published articles on this topic(1),(2),(3),(4) propose a change in our concept and vision regarding the
determination of tortuosity (a) and cementation factor (m). These articles suggest new methods for
determining these values.

As it is known, a and m can be obtained from core analysis by plotting the porosity (PHI) and the formation
Factor (F), where PHI is in the abscissa and F in the ordinate. The interception of the straight line trend with
the ordinate represents a and the slope of the line yields, m.

Since Archie´s first publication on a and m in 1942(5), many researchers have reported different values for
different types of formations (Table 1).

Table 1. Different coefficients and exponents used to calculate formation factor (F). (Modified after Asquith, 1980)(6)
a: Tortousity factor m: Cementation exponent Comments
1.0 2.0 Carbonates*
0.81 2.0 Consolidated sandstones*
0.62 2.15 Unconsolidated sands (Humble Formula)*
1.45 1.54 Average sands (Carothers, 1968)
1.65 1.33 Shaly sands (Carothers, 1968)
1.45 1.70 Calcareous sands (Carothers, 1968)
0.85 2.14 Carbonates (Carothers, 1968)
2.45 1.08 Pliocene sands, southern California (Carothers and Porter, 1970)
1.97 1.29 Miocene sands, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast (Carothers and Porter, 1970)
1.0 φ(2.05-φ) Clean granular formations (Sethi, 1979)
*Most commonly used.

As seen in Table 1, the most common values used in the industry are the first three listed. An important
consideration to note is that the majority of these values were obtained without fixing the value of a to 1 as
commonly done in the PHI vs. F chart (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Gulf Coast. Relation of porosity and permeability to formation factor F for consolidated sandstone cores.(5)

Pirson(7) also proposed some values for m, but in this case a = 1 (Figure 2). Some may ask the question, when
must a = 1 be fixed? This is very important as it changes the trend of the slope of the plotted values and the m

Figure 2. Formation factor F versus percent porosity for various reservoir characters or cementation classes. Recreation from Pirson(7)

The content that follows will offer a case study of the importance of determining a, m and their impact on the
water saturations calculations. In addition, the paper will discuss the impact of complex lithology and review
some of the principals of Sw equations.


Case Study: The Oficina Formation in the Eastern Basin. Venezuela.

Hedberg et al(8), described the Oficina Formation as alternating gray, dark gray and gray-brown shales,
interspersed and interbedded with light-colored sandstones and siltstones from fine to coarsely grained.
Minor, though important, components are thin layers of lignite and shale lignite, green and gray claystones
with spherules of siderite, siderite-glauconitic sandstones and limestones with thin cone-to-cone structures.
The carbonaceous material is common, in some wells as many as 40 or 50 layers of lignite are present,
varying from a few centimeters (cm) to 60 cm thick and are of considerable value in correlations. Many of the
sandstones can be called grits; others are conglomeratic with quartz and chert pebbles. In general, the
sandstones become more abundant, thicker and coarser towards the base of the formation. Sedimentation
began from fresh or brackish water conditions, continuing with repeated alternations of shallow marine
environments, and brackish marshes, in general, more marine conditions prevail from west to east and from
south to north. Gonzalez de Juana et al.(9) and Mendez(10), suggest that the Oficina Formation was deposited in
a vast fluvial-deltaic complex where lenticular sands are common and fill river channels.

The Oficina Formation has sandstones layers with very low log response in resistivity that initially were
evaluated as water zones. Most of these layers have become very good hydrocarbon producers. To avoid
improper interpretations, a new petrophysical model was developed to characterize these reservoirs,
integrating information of well logs, core samples analysis and sidewalls samples and production data.(11)

It was found that the main cause for inaccurate interpretations was the selection of a and m parameters and the
water saturation (Sw) equation for these reservoirs. The saturation exponent (n) was assume to be 2, as only
one reservoir had core data and the value obtained was very close to 2. For example, in two of the reservoirs
with core data, Carothers’ values for shaly sands (Figure 3) and average sands (Figure 4) were determined to
be best fit for a and m.

Figure 3. Oficina Formation, Eastern Basin of Venezuela. Example of Carothers shaly sands values.(11)

Figure 4. Oficina Formation, Eastern Basin of Venezuela. Example of Carothers average sands values.(11)

In this area, certain common values (Table 1) were used. A sensitivity study was conducted to measure the
effect of the values in water saturation calculations. Three Sw models were used for this study: Acosta &
Rosales (based on Modified Simandoux), Simandoux and Archie.

We can conclude from this sensitivity study that Sw is overestimated by almost 10% when a and m values are
different from shaly sand values (Carothers) (Table 2). These results are similar to the ones obtained by Lang
in 1972(12).

Table 2. Oficina Formation, Eastern Basin of Venezuela. Sensitivity study for Sw.(11)
Parameters Sw Models
Acosta &
Simandoux Archie
a m Rosales 4
(%) (%) (%)
1 2 39 38 63
0.62 2.15 36 36 56
0.81 2 36 36 56
1.45 1.54 32 34 45
1.65 1.33 29 32 45

Most reservoirs in this formation don´t have core analyses that can be used to estimate a and m values. For
these cases, we used an algorithm based on a relationship found between a volume of shale (Vsh)
classification(13) and some parameters from Table 2 (Table 3 and Figure 5).

Table 3. Relationship between Vsh classification and some a and m values.

Classification a m
≤5 Clean sands 1 2
5 to 15 Lightly shaly 1.45 1.54
(average sands)
15 to 35 Shaly sands 1.65 1.33

Figure 5. Tortuosity (a) and Cementation Factor (m) as a function of Volume of Shale (Vsh).(14)

With these equations a and m can be determined:

a = 0.285*Ln(Vsh)+2.069, ….........………………(1)

m = -0.29*Ln(Vsh)+0.899, ………...........………..(2)

Both equations were used in many thesis works(15, 16) and integrated studies(17) with good correspondence with
core and/or production data in the Oficina Formation.

a and m in complex lithologies.

As seen before, heterogeneities associated with fluvial-deltaic environments result in variable values of a and
m. We can infer that in very complex lithologies these variations in a and m values should be even more

For example, the Chicontepec Formation (Chicontepec Paleocanyon, Mexico) can be defined as a submarine
canyon where slope depositional systems act as conduits for sediments from shelf to deep marine areas. The
canyon was filled with gravity-flows deposits (mainly turbidites, debris flows and slumps) and suspension
fallout of hemipelagic/pelagic shales. These canyon deposits often show alternating phases of erosion and
deposition.(18) This resulted in highly heterogeneous reservoirs that must be characterized carefully to achieve
a good petrophysical model. This Formation is strongly cemented as seen in core samples and occurs at a
variable grade both horizontally and vertically.

Some studies done in different fields in this formation suggests that a and m values are the same for the entire
3,900 km2 area and more than 2,000 m of thickness.

Other analogous formations or fields (19) are:

Pembina "E" Lease (Pembina Carium Field, Canada)

Cardium A and Cardium B (Garrington Cardium Field, Canada)

Tensleep Sandstone (Wertz Field, USA)

Long Beach Unit (East Wilmington Field, USA)

Priobskoye Field, Russia

Malobalykskoe Field, Russia.

When to use fixed a or not.

After reviewing previous technical articles(20,21,22,23) and results of studies done in Mexico(18) we observed the

- If the core data being analyzed does not have a clear trend (porosity vs. formation factor plot), not even
splitting or filtering it, in this case a should be fixed to 1.

-Some double water saturation equations (e.g. Waxman and Smith, and Dual Water) are very sensitive to non
a = 1 values and will not produce good results as was obtained in Mexico(18).

-Non-fixed a values are recommended for equation where a can be considered a variable value (e.g. Archie,
Simandoux and Indonesia).


Research on this topic is ongoing. Yet, in the meantime, only limited conclusion are presented:

- a and m values are codependent on each other and the fixing of a will determine the value of m.

- These values (a and m) should not be considered average values for heterogeneous formations as they were
found to vary in less complex lithologies.

- A relationship between a and m with Vsh can be found. For complex lithologies, the consideration of other
elements, like calcite, can help find this relationship.

- a = 1 should be fixed when a trend cannot be easily found, even when splitting or filtering does not help.

- Some equations like Waxman and Smith or Dual Water may be sensitive for non a = 1 values; in these cases
a = 1 should be used.

- Use variable a values in equations like Archie, Simandoux or Indonesia.


The authors would like to thank Danilo Pineda for his initial collaboration in the research and writing of this
article. Special thanks to Khaled Hashmy for his contribution and review.


(1) Adisoemarta, P.S.; Anderson, G.A.; Frailey, S.M. and Asquith, G.B. Historical Use of m and a in Well
Log Interpretation: Is Conventional Wisdom Backwards? SPE 59699. Center for Applied Petrophysical
Studies, Texas Tech. University, 2000.
(2) Knackstedt, M.A.; Arns, C. H.; Sheppard, A.P.; Senden, T. J.; Sok, R. M.; Cinar. Y.; Pinczewski,
W. V.; Ioannidis, M. and Padhy, G. S. Archie’s exponents in complex lithologies derived from 3D
digital core analysis. SPWLA 48th Annual Logging Symposium. June 3-6, 2007.

(3) Hamada, G.M and Al-Awad, M.N. Evaluating Uncertainty in Archie's Water Saturation Equation
Parameters Determinations Methods. SPE 68083. Middle East Oil Show. Bahrain. March 17-20, 2001.
(4) Merkel, R. and Lessenger, M. Advance Log Interpretation in field Development. Petrophysics, Vol. 57,
No 5. pp 479-491. October 2016.
(5) Archie, G.E. The Electrical Resistivity Log as an Aid in Determining some Reservoir Characteristics.
SPE 942054-G. Trans AIME. 1942.
(6) Asquith, George and Krygowski, Daniel. Basic Well Log Analysis 2nd Edition. AAPG. Tulsa, USA.
(7) Pirson, Sylvain J. Oil Reservoir Engineering. McGraw-Hill. 1958.
(8) Hedberg, H. D.; Sass, L. C. and Funkhouser, H. J. Oil fields of the greater Oficina area, central
Anzoátegui, Venezuela. AAPG Bull., 31(12): 1089-2169. 1947.
(9) González de Juana, C.; Iturralde de Arozena, J. and Picard Cadillat, X.. Geología de Venezuela y sus
cuencas petrolíferas. Primera edición. Ediciones Foninves, 2 tomos, pp. 1031. Caracas, Venezuela. 1980.
(10) Méndez, O. Historia geológica graficada de la cuenca oriental de Venezuela. S.V.G VI Cong. Geol.
Venez. Caracas. pp. 1.000-1.040. 1985.
(11) Acosta, Elias Raul. Petrophysical Model for High Irreducible Water Saturation Reservoirs in Oficina
Formation. Master Thesis. La Universidad del Zulia. Maracaibo. 2006.
(12) Lang, William H. Porosity-Resistivity Cross-Plotting. SPWLA Thirteenth Annual Logging Symposium.
May 7-10, 1972.
(13) Perozo, Americo. Petrophysics. Personal notes and presentations. 1991.
(14) Acosta, Elias Raul and Rosales Z., Ernesto. Petrophysical Interpretation Handbook - Petrophysical
Model for High Irreducible Water Saturation Reservoirs in Oficina Formation. PDVSA E y P. San Tomé.
(15) Liu, Dong. Feasibility Study of Implementation of Electro-submergible Pumps in Bare Field, Orinoco
Oil Belt. Grade Thesis. Universidad Simon Bolívar. 2007.
(16) Fernandez, Angelis. Geological reinterpretation of R1, 3 sand from reservoirs R1,3 ORM-35 and R1,3
ORM-73 belonging to LU exploitation unit. Oritupano Field, Project A, Monagas State. Grade Thesis.
Universidad de Oriente. 2008.
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U. E. Y. Liviano. PDVSA E y P. Distrito Social San Tomé. 2007.
(18) Weatherford. Development plan for the Presidente Aleman Field Integrated Laboratory. Part 1 –
Geology and Geophysics. 2010.
(19) Gachuz-Muro, Heron and Sellami, Hedi. Analogous Reservoirs to Chicontepec, Alternatives of
Exploitation for this Mexican Oil Field. SPE 120265. EUROPEC/EAGE. Netherlands. June 8-11, 2009.
(20) Waxman, M. H. and Smits, L. J. M., “Electrical Conductivities in Oil-Bearing Shaly Sands”, SPE J.
June, 1968.
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Eau, Etude du Comportement des Massifs Argileux”, Revue de I’Imtitut Francais du Petrole,
Supplementary Issue. 1963.
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Model for Interpretation of Shaly Sands. SPE. April, 1984. 153-164


Elias Raul Acosta Applied Petrophysics and Formation Characterization Independent Consultant. He
earned a Bachelor degree in Petroleum Engineering in 2001 from Universidad de Oriente and joined the Oil
Business as Reservoir Engineer assigned to PDVSA though a service company. In 2006, he obtained a Master

degree in Petroleum Engineering from La Universidad del Zulia, specializing in Petrophysics. He worked
since then in different PDVSA´s projects as Reservoir Engineer and Petrophysicist until March 2009 when he
joins Weatherford. In July, was transferred to Poza Rica, Mexico in the role of Senior Petrophysicist; leading
the local Geoscience team. In 2011, he took the challenge to introduce Weatherford’s Geoscience in Brazil,
participating in several SPWLA meetings and SPE student chapter workshops. During 2014, Weatherford
transferred him to Houston getting more involved in Unconventional´s Evaluation and Completion
Petrophysics. His most recent appointment with Weatherford, was in Saudi Arabia (May to November 2016)
as the Manager for Interpretation and Evaluation Services in Wireline Services.

Ernesto Rosales Z. earned a Bachelor degree in Petroleum Engineering in 1961 from La Universidad del
Zulia. In 1964, entered a Post Degree Program for the Humble Oil & Refining Company held through the
Oklahoma State University. Ernesto’s experience of more than 40 years in the oil industry covers a vast
portion of Petroleum Engineering. One of his most remarkable achievements was to be named Geology
Manager in Anaco, Venezuela, which was a reward to his wide knowledge of this discipline. Starting the 90’s
he became the Chief Specialist in charge of Geology, Petrophysics and Reservoir Engineering for the
Reserves Estimations and Development Plan of the North Monagas Project. He was concerned about
coaching and mentoring. He participated in numerous Thesis as Advisor. His most recognized publication is
the PVT Correlations for Eastern Venezuela Crude Oils with J. Mannucci. Ernesto past away early 2016, but
his legacy will live through all the professionals he touched with his wisdom.


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