We assert that a classification of gas flow regimes in shales that is widely accepted in the petroleum industry, may be inconsistent with the physics of high-pressure gas flow in capillaries. This classification follows from the 1946 work by
In the small-scale, low-velocity flows of gases, failure of the standard Navier-Stokes description (the standard Darcy law in petroleum engineering) can be quantified by the Knudsen number, ratio of the mean free path, λ, of gas molecules at the reservoir pressure and temperature to the characteristic pore radius,
For example, in Barnett mudrocks, naturally occurring pores are predominantly associated with organic matter and pyrite framboids. In organic matter, the median pore length is 100 nm,
The generally accepted "Knudsen-diffusion" in shales is based on a mistranslation of the flow physics and may give theoretically unsound predictions of the increased permeability of shales to gas flow. This increase of permeability is real, and it comes from the micropores, fine-scale microfractures and cracks. The nanopores in shales provide gas storage by sorption and capillary condensation of heavier gas components. In the smallest nanopores even methane molecules are increasingly ordered and resemble more liquid than gas. These nanopores feed the macroscopic flow paths in ways that are not captured well by the generally accepted equations.