Relative permeability (kr) functions are among the essential data required for the simulation of multiphase flow in hydrocarbon reservoirs. These functions can be measured in the laboratory using different techniques including the steady state displacement technique. However, relative permeability measurement of shale rocks is extremely difficult mainly because of the low/ultralow matrix permeability and porosity, dominant capillary pressure and stress-dependent permeability of these formations.
In this study, the impacts of stress and capillary end effects (CEE) on the measured relative permeability data were investigated. The steady state relative permeability (SS-kr) measurements were performed on Eagle Ford and Pierre shale samples. To overcome the difficulties regarding the kr measurements of shale rocks, a special setup equipped with a high-pressure visual separator (with an accuracy of 0.07 cc) was used. The kr data were measured at different total injection rates and liquid gas ratios (LGR). In addition, to evaluate the impacts of effective stress, the kr data of an Eagle Ford shale sample were measured at two different effective stresses of 1000 and 3000 psi.
From the experimental data, it was observed that the measured SS-kr data of the shale samples have been influenced by the capillary end effects as the data showed significant variation when measured at different injection rates (with the same LGR). This suggested that the liquid hold-up (i.e. capillary end effects) depends on the competition of capillary and viscous forces. In addition, it was shown that it is more necessary to correct the experimental kr data measured at the lower LGRs. Furthermore, different relative permeability curves were obtained when the kr data were measured at different effective stresses. This behavior was explained as the capillary pressure was expected to be more dominant at the higher effective stress.
The results from this study improve our understanding of unconventional mechanisms in shale reservoirs. It is evident that the behavior of unconventional reservoirs can be better predicted when more reliable and accurate relative permeability data are available. The outcomes of this study will be useful for accurate determination of such kr data.