Nanostructural control of methane release in kerogen and its implications to wellbore production decline

TA Ho and LJ Criscenti and YF Wang, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 6, 28053 (2016).

DOI: 10.1038/srep28053

Despite massive success of shale gas production in the US in the last few decades there are still major concerns with the steep decline in wellbore production and the large uncertainty in a long-term projection of decline curves. A reliable projection must rely on a mechanistic understanding of methane release in shale matrix-a limiting step in shale gas extraction. Using molecular simulations, we here show that methane release in nanoporous kerogen matrix is characterized by fast release of pressurized free gas (accounting for similar to 30-47% recovery) followed by slow release of adsorbed gas as the gas pressure decreases. The first stage is driven by the gas pressure gradient while the second stage is controlled by gas desorption and diffusion. We further show that diffusion of all methane in nanoporous kerogen behaves differently from the bulk phase, with much smaller diffusion coefficients. The MD simulations also indicate that a significant fraction (3-35%) of methane deposited in kerogen can potentially become trapped in isolated nanopores and thus not recoverable. Our results shed a new light on mechanistic understanding gas release and production decline in unconventional reservoirs. The long-term production decline appears controlled by the second stage of gas release.

Return to Publications page