Capillary condensation is the condensation of the gas inside nano-pore space at a pressure lower than the bulk dew point pressure as the result of multilayer adsorption due to the high capillary pressure inside the small pore throat of unconventional rocks. The condensation of liquid in nano-pore space of rock changes its mechanical and acoustic properties. Acoustic properties variation due to capillary condensation provides us a tool to monitor phase change in reservoir as a result of nano-confinement as well as mapping the area where phase change occurs as well as characterize pore size distribution. This is particularly important for tight formations where confinement has a strong effect on phase behavior that is challenging to measure experimentally. Theoretical studies have examined the effects of capillary condensation; however, these findings have not been verified experimentally.
The main objective of this study is to experimentally investigate the effect of capillary condensation on the mechanical and acoustic properties of shale samples. The mechanical and acoustic characterization of the samples was carried out experimentally using a state-of-the-art tri-axial facility at the Colorado School of Mines. The experimental set-up is capable of the simultaneous acquisition of coupled stress, strain, resistivity, acoustic and flow data. Carbon dioxide was used as the pore pressure fluid in these experiments. After a comprehensive characterization of shale samples, experiments were conducted by increasing the pore pressure until condensation occurs while monitoring the mechanical and acoustic properties of the sample to quantify the effect of capillary condensation on the mechanical and acoustic properties of the sample.
Experimental data show a 5% increase in Young's Modulus as condensation occurs. This increase is attributed to the increase in pore stiffness as condensation occurs reinforcing the grain contact. An initial decrease in compressional velocity was observed as pore pressure increases before condensation occurs which is attributed to the expansion of the pore volume when pore pressure increases. After this initial decrease, compressional velocity slightly increases at a pressure around 750 - 800 psi which is close to the condensation pressure. We also observed a noticeable increase in shear velocity when capillary condensation occurs, this could be due to the immobility of the condensed liquid phase at the pore throats. The changes of geomechanical and acoustic signatures were observed at around 750 - 800 psi at 27°C, which is the dew point pressure of the fluid in the nano-pore space of the sample at this temperature. While the unconfined bulk dew point pressure of carbon dioxide at the same temperature is 977 psi. Hence, this study marks the first measurement of the dew point of fluid in nano-pore space and potentially leads to the construction of the phase envelope of fluid under confinement.