Production from organic-rich shale petroleum systems is extremely challenging due to the complex rock and flow characteristics. An accurate characterization of shale reservoir rock properties would positively impact hydrocarbon exploration and production planning. We integrate large-scale geologic components with small-scale petrophysical rock properties to categorize distinct rock types in low porosity and low permeability shales. We then use this workflow to distinguish three rock types in the reservoir interval of the Niobrara shale in the Denver Basin of the United States: The Upper Chalks (A, B, and C Chalk), the Marls (A, B, and C Marl), and the Lower Chalks (D Chalk and Fort Hays Limestone). In our study area, we find that the Upper Chalk has better reservoir-rock quality, moderate source-rock potential, stiffer rocks, and a higher fraction of compliant micro- and nanopores. On the other hand, the Marls have moderate reservoir-rock quality, and a higher source rock potential. Both the Upper Chalks and the Marls should have major economic potentials. The Lower Chalk has higher porosity and a higher fraction of micro-and nanopores; however, it exhibits poor source rock potential. The measured core data indicates large mineralogy, organic-richness, and porosity heterogeneities throughout the Niobrara interval at all scale.


Unconventional petroleum systems are highly complex hydrocarbon resource plays both at the reservoir scale and at the pore scale (Aplin and Macquaker, 2011; Loucks et al., 2012; Hart et al., 2013; Hackley and Cardott, 2016). These organic-rich sedimentary plays, generally described as shale reservoirs, are composed of very fine silt-and clay-sized particles with grain sizes < 62.5 μm (Loucks et al., 2009; Nichols, 2009; Passey et al., 2010; Kuila et al., 2014; Saidian et al., 2014). They undergo extensive post-depositional diagenesis that transforms rock composition and texture, hydrocarbon storage and productivity, and reservoir flow features (Rushing et al., 2008; McCarthy et al., 2011; Jarvie, 2012; Milliken et al., 2012). Although some shale rock facies can retain depositional attributes during diagenesis, many critical reservoir properties, such as, mineralogy, pore structure, organic richness and present-day organic potential, etc., are significantly perturbed (Hackley and Cardott, 2016).

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