Legacy crushed rock analysis, as applied to unconventional formations, has shown great success in evaluating total porosity and water saturation over the previous three decades. The procedure of crushing rock into small particles improves the efficiency of fluid recovery and grain volume measurements in a laboratory environment. However, a caveat to crushed rock analysis is that water and volatile hydrocarbon evaporate from the rock during the preparatory crushing process, causing significant uncertainty in water saturation assessment. A modified crushed rock analysis incorporates nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements before and after the crushing process to quantify the volume of fluid loss. The advancements improve the overall total saturation quantification. However, challenges remain in the quantification of partitioned water and hydrocarbon loss currently derived from NMR spectrum along with its uncertainty. Furthermore, pressure decay permeability from crushed rock analysis has been reported to have two to three orders of magnitude difference between different labs. The calculated pressure decay permeability of the same rock could even vary several orders of magnitude difference with different crushed size, which questions the quality of the crushed pressure decay permeability. In this paper, we introduce an intact rock analysis workflow on unconventional cores for improved assessment of water saturation and enhanced quantification of fast pressure decay matrix permeability from intact rock.

The workflow starts with acquisition of NMR T2 and bulk density measurements on the as-received state intact rock. Instead of crushing the rock, the intact rock is directly transferred to a retort chamber and heated to 300 °C for thermal extraction. The volumes of thermally-recovered fluids are quantified through an image-based process. The grain volume measurement and a second NMR T2 measurement are performed on post retort intact rock. The pressure decay curve during grain volume measurement is then used for calculating pressure decay matrix permeability. Total porosity is calculated using bulk volume and grain volume of the rock. Water saturation is quantified using total volume of recovered water. In addition, the twin as-received state rocks are processed through the crushed rock analysis workflow for an apple-to-apple comparison. Meanwhile, pressure decay permeability is cross-validated against the steady state permeability of the same sample.

The introduced workflow has been successfully tested on different formations, including Bakken, Bone Spring, Eagle Ford, Cotton Valley, and Niobrara. The results show that total porosities calculated from intact rock analysis are consistent with total porosities from crushed rock analysis, while water saturations from the new workflow are average 8%SU (0.2–0.7%PU of bulk volume water) higher than those from the prior crushed rock workflow. The study also indicated that for some formations (e.g., Bone Spring) the fluid loss during crushing process is dominated by water, however, for some other formations (e.g., Bakken), hydrocarbon loss is significant. Pressure decay permeability quantified using intact rock analysis is also confirmed within an order of magnitude of steady state matrix permeability.

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