Lithofacies Controls on Mechanical Properties and Brittleness in Qusaiba Shale, Rub’ Al-Khali Basin, Saudi Arabia

Mustafa, Ayyaz (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) | Abdulraheem, Abdulazeez (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) | Abouelresh, Mohamed Ibrahim (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals) | Sahin, Ali (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals)



The lower Silurian Qusaiba Shale is one of the major source rocks for Paleozoic petroleum reservoirs in Saudi Arabia and is considered a potential shale gas resource. The study aims to evaluate the prospectivity and improve the production potential of Qusaiba shale by defining the lithofacies and mineralogy as controlling factors for brittleness and other mechanical parameters.

The continuous 30 feet subsurface cores and log data of Qusaiba Shale from Rub’ Al-Khali Basin were utilized for the study. Geological characteristics on the core were fully demonstrated in terms of size, mineralogy, color, primary structures and diagenetic features to identify lithofacies. In addition, 30 thin sections were used to study micro scale geological characteristics. The powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) was used to determined the mineralogical compositions. Surface morphology visualization and elemental analysis were performed using the scanning electron microscope supplemented with energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Acoustic velocity measurements and compressive strength tests were performed on 15 core plugs (5 from each lithofacies).

Based on the above-mentioned analyses, three lithofacies were identified: (1) Micaceous laminated organic-rich mudstone facies (Lithofacies-I), (2) Laminated clay-rich mudstone facies (Lithofacies-II), and (3) Massive siliceous mudstone facies (Lithofacies-III). Mineralogical composition resulted in variable amounts of quartz ranging from 39 to 40, 45-55 and 60 to 78% for Lithofacies-I, II and III, respectively. Lithofacies-I having relatively lower quartz and higher clay percentage and total organic content (12% by volume) exhibited low stiffness. Mineralogy- and elastic parameters-based brittleness indices exhibited ductile behavior of this lithofacies. Lithofacies-II with relatively higher quartz (45 to 55%) and lower clay contents and TOC (3-5%) than Lithofacies-I resulted in relatively higher stiffness and brittleness. The brittleness index exhibited brittle behavior for silica rich Lithofacies-III (low TOC< 3%) as reflected by Young's modulus (average 32 GPa) and low Poisson's ratio (average 0.25). Hence, it is concluded that mineralogy and geological characteristics are the main controlling factors on mechanical properties and brittleness. The integration of three essential disciplines i.e. geology, mineralogy and geomechanics, plays the key role to better evaluate the production potential by highlighting the sweet spots within the heterogeneous shale gas reservoirs.