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Permeability Determination

2017
Permeability Determination

The "gold" standard for permeability is to make measurements on


core samples and to determine permeability with the methods
outlined in API RP 40. All other techniques are calibrated back to
core measurements. However, because core measurements sample
such a minute part of the reservoir, we must rely on techniques that
can be applied in a widespread fashion across the reservoir.

These methods rely on measurements on:


1.Sidewall samples
2.Correlation to wireline logging responses
3.Interpretation of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) logs,
4.Wireline formation tester pressure responses
5.Drillstem tests.
Measurement approaches
Sidewall samples
This technique is valid for slightly to
unconsolidated sandstone rock types. Carbonate
rock types are generally too heterogeneous for
small samples to provide any meaningful
reservoir-wide value for permeability. Sidewall
samples of sandstone rock types are inherently
contaminated with drilling mud particles and are
of little use for direct measurement of
permeability. However, we can inspect the rock
sample with a binocular microscope to estimate
median grain size, sorting, and degree of
consolidation, and to characterize pore fills. With
these data, we can develop correlations to
permeability on the basis of whole core
measurements. An alternative is to disaggregate
the sample and determine a grain size analysis
with laser light scattering, which can then be
correlated to permeability on the basis of whole
core analysis.
Wireline logging correlations

Permeabilities measured in cores can be correlated to wireline


measurements taken in the cored borehole. At various times and
places, almost every wireline log has been used to correlate to
permeability. The porosity-permeability crossplot is, perhaps, the
most used; however, it is subject to considerable error. In select
basins, the GR log response can be used to correlate to permeability
while, in other basins, the neutron log or acoustic log seems to
provide the correlation with least statistical scatter.

NMR logs
Interpretation of NMR logging responses provides a volumetric
distribution of pore sizes. If the pores are assumed to be spherical in
shape, a value for permeability can be computed. These size-
dependent data have been coupled with NMR pore volumes and NMR
fluid saturations to produce an NMR permeability log. The chapter on
NMR logging in this section of the Handbook shows examples of these
techniques.
Wireline formation testers

All wireline tester vendors provide answer products


that take the drawdown and buildup pressure vs.
time responses and compute mobility. Mobility can
be converted into permeability if a value of fluid
viscosity is assumed. This permeability must be
used with some caution. First, the pressure
measurements are made on the borehole wall that
has suffered possible drilling damage and pore
throat plugging from mud solids. Second, one must
take note if the measurement is in an invaded zone
with two phases and, hence, the permeability
determined is an effective permeability, not an
absolute permeability. Depending on rock type and
fluid saturations, the effective permeability may be
an order of magnitude too small. The chapter on
fluid sampling in the General Engineering section
of this Handbook presents examples of wireline
formation tester responses and derived
permeability and the use of these pressure
measurements to determine fluid gradients.
Pressure-controlled DST string.

A DST string is a complex array of downhole


hardware used for the temporary completion
of a well. DSTs provide a safe and efficient
method to control flow while gathering
essential reservoir data in the exploration,
appraisal, and development phases of a
reservoir or to perform preconditioning or
treatment services before permanent well
completion. Fig. 1 shows a typical DST string
with its essential components. In exploration
well testing in particular, the DST string usually
includes tubing-conveyed perforating (TCP)
guns, which are shot underbalanced (i.e.,
wellbore pressure is less than reservoir
pressure) at the initial well completion.

Fig. 1
DST strings include gauge carriers, which are collars that normally contain up
to four pressure gauges bundled together, affording redundancy in long tests
in which one or more gauges are likely to fail. These gauges perform only DHR
measurements.
Most modern DST strings are fullbore strings, which means they have a flush
opening running completely through the string of tools. The opening enables
running pressure gauges and other slim tools (typically 1 11/16 in.) in SRO mode.
The DataLatch system is a DST string component that combines the
advantages of DHR (typically during flow periods) with the advantages of SRO
(typically during shut-in periods). Pressure data are recorded in the tool’s
memory boards. In suitable conditions, a latched inductive coupling (LINC) tool
is run with an electric cable and latched into the DataLatch mandrel. This
combination is used to read out the memories, reprogram the gauge
acquisition schedule if necessary, and monitor the test in real time.
The DataLatch system is unique for bottomhole pressure measurement
applications. It allows simultaneous and continuous acquisition of three
different measurements during the course of a DST test:
Rathole or reservoir pressure
Cushion or tubing pressure
Annulus pressure
Wireline pressure testing is conducted using tools
Openhole wireline pressure testing lowered on an electric cable or coiled tubing in
deviated wells. The tools consist of function-
specific modules selected for a specific operation.
Fig. 2 shows the modular arrangement of a
modern wireline pressure tester.[2] In a complete
configuration, the tools may include a single-
probe module for basic pressure testing and
sampling, a dual-probe module for permeability
applications, a flow-control module for flexible
schedule testing, a fluid analyzer module for
optical fluid properties monitoring in real time,
multisample module for representative fluid
sampling at reservoir pressure-volume-
temperature (PVT) conditions, sample modules
for large-volume fluid sampling, a pumpout
module that can recirculate mud filtrate and
other unrepresentative fluids out of the tool flow
system before representative sampling, and a
dual-packer module for very large area sampling,
Fig. 2
interference testing, and DST emulation.
Determining permeability
Point-by-point permeability values are needed over the reservoir interval
at the wellbores for several purposes.
First, the distribution and variation of the permeabilities are needed by
the engineers to develop completion strategies.
Second, this same information is needed as input to the geocellular
model and dynamic-flow calculations (e.g., numerical reservoir-
simulation models). For both of these, the first consideration is the
location of shales and other low-permeability layers that can act as
barriers or baffles to vertical flow.
A second consideration is the nature of the permeability variation (i.e.,
whether the high-permeability rock intervals occur in specific layers and
the low-permeability intervals occur in other layers, or that there is so
much heterogeneity that the high- and low-permeability intervals are
intimately interbedded with each other).
When good-quality core data are not available, estimates of permeability
can be made from empirical equations. Permeability is controlled by such
factors as pore size and pore-throat geometry, as well as porosity. To take
some account of these factors, the widely used Timur equation [1] relates
permeability to irreducible Sw and porosity, and therefore can be applied
only in hydrocarbon-bearing zones.
This form of his equation[1] applies to a medium-gravity oil zone:

where k = absolute permeability in millidarcies, ϕe = effective (not total)


porosity as a bulk volume fraction, and Sw = effective water saturation
above the transition zone as a fraction of PV. Estimates that are based
only on porosity are likely to have large prediction errors, especially in
carbonate reservoirs.

Equations of the following form, or a logarithmic-linear form,


are useful particularly in sandstones:

where parameters C and D are very approximate and equal to about 7,


and k and ϕe are as defined following Eq. 1. They should be adjusted
according to local knowledge.
In field evaluation, the starting point for calculations of permeability is the
routine-core-analysis data.

These data, and the associated SCAL measurements of permeability and


porosity as a function of overburden stress, are input to calculations to
develop permeability values at reservoir conditions and the permeability
vs. porosity correlation.

The permeability vs. porosity correlation is often taken as semilogarithmic


but usually with a steeper slope at low-porosity values. Figs. 1 and 2
demonstrate the characteristics of these relationships. Fig. 1 presents a
typical permeability vs. porosity relationship from routine-core-analysis
data (the scatter in these data increases at the lower-porosity levels). Fig. 2
shows the permeability ratio (stressed permeability divided by unstressed
permeability) vs. unstressed permeability.

This ratio is much smaller for low-permeability values and approaches a


value of 1.0 for the high-permeability values.
Fig. 1 Core permeability vs. core porosity crossplot;
data from an Asian gas field.
Crossplots of core
permeability at stressed vs.
surface conditions and core
permeability ratio vs. core
permeability at surface
conditions; data from an
Asian gas field. “Stressed”
refers to the rock being
subjected to simulated
overburden pressure of
approximately 4,500 psia.
The permeability correction
is larger at low
permeabilities.

Fig. 2
In developing the permeability vs. porosity relationships, the technical
team needs to identify the extent to which the reservoir interval needs to
be subdivided into zones or layers.
The subdividing of the core data over the reservoir interval should be into
logical subdivisions that are strongly influenced by the geologists’
understanding of the depositional environment.

This will naturally account for major differences in grain size, sorting, and
key mineralogical factors. Alternatively, a sufficiently thick reservoir
interval can be subdivided into layers of 50 to 100 ft each. A superior
petrophysical methodology will be developed if a thick reservoir is
appropriately subdivided, compared with treating the full reservoir
interval with a single permeability vs. porosity correlation.

A single permeability vs. porosity correlation for a reservoir interval with


different depositional environments can lead to underprediction of
permeability by an order of magnitude in an interval of better-sorted
rocks compared with poorly sorted rocks (see Fig. 3). Identifying the
location and correct values of highest-permeability rocks is very
important for reservoir flow modeling.
Fig. 3 Typical reservoir permeability vs. Sw crossplot;
data from an Asian gas field.
The result of modeling the relationship with the least-squares
regression method is that the range of predicted permeability values
is smaller than that of the original routine-core permeability data. This
loss of range is made worse when the logarithm of permeability is
used as the y -variable because the logarithmic model is a predictor of
the geometric-average permeability. While the permeability vs.
porosity relationship is developed from the routine and SCAL core-
analysis data, the application to the point-by-point well-log database
requires the use of porosity values calculated from the logs. It is
preferable to model the prediction equation directly with core
permeability and the basic log values (see Fig. 4 and the calibration
line-fitting on the core/log calculation approaches page). The y-on-x
(dashed) line-fit in Fig. 4 follows a curved trend on the logarithmic-
linear plot and uses an arctangent function as the transformation. The
solid line gives arithmetic average permeabilities at various bulk-
density values. The arithmetic averages, which may be more
appropriate in some reservoirs, are 2 to 3 times larger than the
geometric averages. Alternative predictions of permeability may also
be estimated using two-log or multiple regression analysis methods.
Nonlinear regression relationships for core permeability and
bulk density log (South Morecambe gas field, offshore U.K.).
After Woodhouse. The two lines illustrate the significant
difference between geometric and arithmetic averages
After the permeability values have been calculated point-by-point
over the reservoir interval from the various wells’ logs, these
permeability values need to be compared with those derived at each
well from the pressure-transient analysis (PTA) of the pressure-
buildup (PBU) or falloff data. The PBU permeability values are average
values for the interval open to flow into the wellbore.

The type of average (arithmetic, geometric, harmonic, or somewhere


in between) to use with the point-by-point permeability values
depends on the nature of the depositional environment and whether
the perforated intervals are a small fraction of the full reservoir
interval.

If there are significant differences between the two sets of average


permeability values, then the technical team needs to determine the
likely cause of the differences—small-scale fractures, relative
permeability effects, or some other geological factors. The point-by-
point permeability values may need to be adjusted on the basis of the
technical teams’ conclusions.
Estimating permeability based on surface area
and water saturation

Estimating permeability has been approached using a variety of


models considering different rock characteristics. This page discusses
methods for estimating permeability considering surface area and
water saturation.

Kozeny-Carman equations

Two ideas inherent in Kozeny-Carman are important for later


developments: the dependence of k on a power of porosity and on the
inverse square of surface area. The various forms of Eq. 1 have been used
as a starting point for predicting permeability from well log data by
assuming that residual water saturation is proportional to specific surface
area, Σ.
Basic equation:

Specific surface as ratio of pore surface area to rock volume:

Specific surface area as ratio of pore surface to grain volume:

With tortuosity eliminated:


Granberry and Keelan’s chart
Granberry and Keelan published a set of curves relating permeability,
porosity, and "critical water" saturation (Sciw) for Gulf Coast Tertiary
sands that frequently are poorly consolidated.

Their chart, originally presented with Sciw as a function of permeability


with porosity as a parameter, is transposed into log(k)-Φ coordinates in
Fig. 1. The Sciw parameter is taken from the "knee" of a
capillary pressure curve and is greater than irreducible water
saturation, Swi. It is said that if the water saturation in the formation is
less than this critical value, the well will produce water free.

Because Sciw is taken from the capillary pressure curve, it is a function


of the size of interconnected pores. Fig. 1 cannot be used to estimate
permeability from porosity and water saturation as determined from
well logs because it reflects only the critical water saturation. It was
determined from reservoirs in which oil viscosity was approximately
twice that of water and requires adjustment for low- or high-gravity
oils.
Empirical chart relating permeability to
porosity with critical interstitial water Sciw as a
parameter, after Granberry and Keelan
Timur’s model
Timur used a database of 155 sandstone samples from three oil fields
(Fig. 2) . The three sandstones exhibit varying degrees of sorting,
consolidation, and ranges of porosity. Timur measured irreducible
water saturation (Swi) using a centrifuge and then held k proportional
to Swi−2 in the general power-law relationship,

Coefficients a and b were determined statistically. Timur’s statistical


results show that the exponent b can range between 3 and 5 and still
give reasonable results. Results for b=4.4 produced a fit somewhat
better than other values; it was obtained by taking the logarithm of
both sides of Eq. 3 and testing the correlation coefficient with respect
to Φb/Swi2. For b=4.4, the value of a is 0.136 if Φ and Swi are in percent
and 8,581 if Φ and Swi are fractional values. There is no theoretical
basis for the substitution of Swi for specific surface area Σ, so although
the form of Eq. 2 is similar to that of Eq. 1, it is strictly an empirical
relationship. The effectiveness of Eq. 2 as a predictor of permeability
is shown in Fig. 3, and its form on a log10(k)-Φ plot is shown in Fig. 4.
Permeability data from three US oil fields as a
function of ϕ4.4/Swi2, after Timur.
Two bounding lines represent the standard error
band that includes 68% of the sample points.

Permeability/porosity data from three


US oil fields by Timur.
Permeability/porosity relationship with irreducible water
saturation as a parameter, after Timur
It is not easy to apply Eq. 2, which is based totally on core data, to
an oil reservoir. The Swi core data used to establish Eq. 2 were
obtained for a fixed value of capillary pressure (Pc).

In a reservoir, Pc varies with height, and because Swi varies with Pc, it
is necessary to assume a functional dependence of Swi on Pc.

There are also some practical difficulties in establishing the


coefficients a and b in a reservoir in which the oil/water contact
cuts across lithologies because of regional dip or structure.

In particular, within the transition zone, only part of the water is


irreducible (Swi); the remainder is movable. Thus, a log-based
estimate of saturation immediately above the oil/water contact will
overestimate Swi.
Dual water model
An algorithm discussed by Ahmed et al. is attributed to Coates.
An extension of Eq. 2 and Fig. 4, it assumes that permeability
declines to zero as S wi increases to fill the entire pore space:

A further refinement incorporates the presence of clay minerals and is


based on the dual water model. It requires log-based estimates of the
total porosity (Φt) and either effective porosity (Φe) or bound water
saturation (Sbw). Effective porosity is defined as Φe=Φt(1-Sbw). The
fractional volume of bound water, Vbw=SbwΦt, is computed, and an
estimate of a parameter Vbi=SwiΦt called the (fractional) bulk volume
irreducible water in clean wet rock must also be provided.

Then, computed as a function of depth is the total immovable water

and the permeability,


The algorithm of Eqs. 5 and 6 uses a pair of parameters, Vbi and Vbw, which in
effect sweep out a broad region of the log(k)-Φ crossplot (Fig. 5).

For the solid curves, Vbw has been set to 0.0 as if the rock were entirely clay free.
As irreducible water Vbi increases, the curves shift downward and to the right,
into the regime populated by fine-grained rock.

The dashed curve is drawn for Vbw and Vbi each equal to 0.05, thereby
representing one of a second family of curves for a fine-grained dirty sandstone.
Note how Sbw increases with decreasing Φ.
Fig. 5 –
Permeability/porosity
relationship based on the
dual-water model
incorporating irreducible (Vbi
) and bound water (Vbw) as
parameters. Four solid
curves show effect of
increasing Vbi with Vbw = 0.0.
Two dashed curves show
effect of increasing Vbw with
Vbi = 0.05.

This algorithm produces reasonable results in sandstones if Vbi is


chosen judiciously. One difficulty is choosing a value for Vbi in coarse-
grained and gravel-bearing sandstones.
"Tight" sandstones

Predicting permeability becomes much more difficult in


formations with small grain size and an abundance of clay
minerals.

Such rocks are called "tight gas sands" or "submillidarcy


reservoirs" (see example in Fig. 6).

Kukal and Simons[5] show that the Timur equation produces k


values much too high in such formations and establish some
predictive equations that decrease the porosity by multiplying
Φ by 1-Vcl, where Vcl is the clay fraction.

They show that the water saturation term Swi is not so


important in these high-clay rocks. Although their predictive
equation is a welcome improvement, the scatter shows the
difficulty in dealing with such low-porosity systems.
Fig. 6 – Permeability/porosity plot showing newly deposited
beach sands and three sample suites from wells in oil and gas
fields. Permeability scale ranges from 1,000 darcies to 0.1 μd.
Nuclear magnetic resonance
Eq. 1a indicates that other measures of specific surface area could
be correlated with permeability.

A study by Sen et al.[6] provides laboratory data on 100 sandstone


samples on exchange cation molarity (Qv), nuclear magnetic
resonance (NMR) longitudinal decay time (t1), and pore-surface-
area-to-pore-volume ratio (Σp) from the gas adsorption method.

Borgia et al.[7] provide data on Σp and t1 on 32 samples. Both


studies include measurements of k, Φ, and formation factor (F) on
their samples.

Both sample suites are made up of samples from different


formations, so the log(k)-Φ plots exhibit scatter, as shown by Fig. 7.
Permeability/porosity data from Sen et al. Inserts show log (k) plotted
agains log (ϕm/Σp) and against log(ϕmt1).
Both groups of experimenters found that k correlated best with
measures of specific surface when it formed a product with Φm or Φ2.

For example, Sen et al.found k to be strongly correlated (R around 0.9)


with (Φm/Σp)2.08, with (Φmt1)2.15, and with (Φm/Qv)2.11.

Two of these correlations are shown as insets in Fig. 7. Borgia et al. did
not incorporate m into their regression equations but found k to be best
correlated with (Φ4/Σp2)0.76 and with (Φ4t12)0.72.

As an example of these statistical fits, the expression from Sen et al.,

where k is in millidarcies, t1 is in milliseconds, and Φ is fractional


porosity, is plotted in Fig. 8.

Because the porosity exponent is very close to that established by


Timur (see Estimating permeability considering mineralogy), the curves
in Fig. 8 are quite similar to those in Fig. 4.
Empirical relationship among permeability, porosity,
and t1 from NMR measurement by Sen et al.
Later work showed that the transverse decay time t2, which is a more
practical parameter to detect with a logging tool than t1, could also be used
to estimate permeability

where:
k is in millidarcies
t2gm is the geometric mean of t2 in milliseconds
c= 4.5 in sandstones and 0.1 in carbonates.

The value of k obtained from Eq. 1 is referred to as kSDR. Better results are
obtained if a cutoff can be selected for t2L so that only the pores
contributing to permeability are included.

Kenyon notes that the NMR measurement is inherently responsive to


pore size, whereas permeability depends on pore throat size. He suggests
that the experimentally determined Φ4 dependence somehow accounts
for the way in which the ratio (pore throat size to pore size) varies with
porosity.
The Coates equation for estimating permeability is

where:
k is in millidarcies
Vbvi is the bulk volume irreducible fluid fraction
Vf is the free fluid fraction and is equal to Φ-Vbvi
Porosity Φ is taken from the NMR tool.

Eq. 9 closely resembles Eq. 4, which is written in terms of irreducible water


saturation; Vbvi is computed from the portion of the t2 spectrum with the
smallest times.
Except for the porosity term Φ4, there is little obvious resemblance between
Eqs. 8 and 9. However, Sigal argues that a t2 cutoff time is implicit in Eq. 9 and
that its value is incorporated in the constant c.

Even so, the two equations are not equivalent because the two choices of t2
result in different weightings of the pore size distribution spectrum. Sigal relates
the two choices of t2, one explicit in Eq. 8 and the other implicit in Eq. 9, for
different distributions of t2 and for several experimental data sets.
As Sigal points out, the problem of selecting a value of t2 from NMR
data is analogous to the problem of selecting a value of R from
capillary pressure data (See
Estimating permeability based on pore dimension) : One must capture
the length scale appropriate to the estimation of permeability.
Summary
Timur’s equation and its corresponding chart offer a viable method
of permeability estimation in which porosity and irreducible water
saturation can be estimated.

Difficulties arise if there is uncertainty in Swi, as there is within an


extensive transition zone. The dual water predictor is an interesting
embellishment that can include a clay content parameter.

Laboratory data show that, when combined with Φm, the following
all correlate well with k:
Specific surface area
Cation exchange molarity
NMR decay time
Nomenclature Subscripts
f = shape factor e = effective
F = formation factor l = liquid
g = gravitational acceleration o = oil
k = permeability t = total
m = Archie cementation exponent w = water
p = pressure
rh = hydraulic radius
Sbw = bound water saturation
Swi = irreducible water saturation
t1 = NMR longitudinal decay time
t2 = NMR transverse decay time
Vffi = free fluid fraction
Vbw = volume of bound water, fraction
Vbi = bulk volume irreducible water, fraction
Σp = ratio of pore surface area to pore volume
Σ = specific surface area
τ = tortuosity
Φ = porosity
Φt = total porosity
Φe = effective porosity