Coupled Reservoir Simulation of Geomechanics and Fluid Flow in Organic-Rich Rocks: Impact of Gas Desorption and Stress Changes on Permeability during Depletion

Shovkun, I. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Espinoza, D. N. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Ramos, M. J. (The University of Texas at Austin)



Reservoir depletion results in changes in effective stresses, which may lead to significant changes in reservoir permeability. These changes are associated with matrix compaction, fracture closure and potential slip. A depletion-induced increase in effective stresses often leads to a decrease in permeability. However, the opposite is observed to happen in some fractured gas reservoirs with an organic rock matrix that exhibits strong sorption-mechanical coupling. During depletion, an adsorbed portion of the gas desorbs from micropores resulting in shrinkage of the organic components in the rock matrix, effective stress relaxation and a potential increase in fracture permeability. The objective of this study is to develop a reservoir simulator with a full mechanical coupling accounting for sorption-induced change of stresses. This paper aims to estimate the influence of the parameters affecting reservoir permeability and to predict its evolution during reservoir depletion. We compare two natural gas fields with strong (San Juan coal basin) and weak (Barnett shale formation) sorption-mechanical coupling. The results of the study highlight the interplay between mechanical moduli, swelling isotherm parameters, and fracture compressibility in determining the impact of desorption on fracture permeability evolution during depletion.


Natural gas consumption currently constitutes a fifth of the total energy sources [1]. About a half of nonassociated gas accrues to non-conventional gas reservoirs, mainly organic shales and coal seams [1]. Non-conventional tight reservoirs have an extremely low permeability, a fair portion of which pertains to fractures as main fluid conduits. The openings of these fractures are dictated by lithology and the reservoir stresses, which may alter during reservoir development [2-5]. Two competitive geomechanical processes are known to affect stresses during depletion in organic-rich rocks: pressure drawdown and desorption-induced shrinkage. The latter is of significant importance in coals because sorbed gas constitutes more than 50% of total gas in place and desorption induces a substantial amount of rock shrinkage [6-8]. Sorbed gas in hydrocarbon-bearing shales constitutes 5-15% of the total gas in place. Sorption capacity is usually proportional to total organic carbon (TOC) in shales [9]. Decreases in pore pressure associated with reservoir depletion cause increases in effective stresses, which often leads to fracture closure and a decrease in permeability. In contrast, desorption and matrix shrinkage result in a drop in effective stresses and an increase in permeability [8, 10, 11].