Ingrain - Rising to the shale challenge

With the recent drop in oil prices, demand is high for lower costs and higher efficiencies in shale development. Ingrain is rising to the challenge with an array of innovative technologies.

Shale development is a high-volume cost and data-driven business. Low commodity prices are constantly pushing the demand for affordable rock characterisation, while exaggerating the need for fast, efficient operations and high-quality reservoir data. Ingrain is responding with an aggressive technology rollout, alongside its rapid development of efficient processes and workflows.

As a leading provider of digital rock characterisation services, Ingrain recognises the keys to its success:

  • data available within days to meet completion timeframes
  • consistently offering reliable, scalable and deployable workflow
  • high-quality, cost-effective and fit-for-purpose analysis
  • minimal to no interference with field operations.

World players in exploration

With locations in the US, the Middle East, Brazil and Colombia, Ingrain has characterised core all over the world. With specialised expertise in shale and complex conventional rock formations, Ingrain's team of geoscientists and engineers has been helping clients solve exploration challenges since 2007.

Its workflows have been fine-tuned to provide high-frequency data and unique insights into challenging reservoirs, while its processes optimise sampling to understand heterogeneities and tune the focus onto productive zones.

In shale formations, Ingrain focuses on the understanding of shale pores, organic matter and porosity associated with organic matter, as well as pore shapes, sizes and connectivity. Its analysis is directly applied for the verification and calibration of petrophysical models, and rapid identifications of zones of the most productive rock. Its services lead operators to improved well placement, completion decisions and the identification of locations for landing laterals. Ultimately, Ingrain works to reduce development risks through better engineering and modelling inputs.

Flexible workflow design

Whole cores provide valuable information about a reservoir, but with reductions in capital expenditure budgets, some operators are choosing to steer away from coring in favour of options with lower costs and less operational interference. With Ingrain's rock characterisation workflows, any representative rock sample can be used (including cuttings, sidewalls, plugs and cores) and can be tied to logs such as borehole image logs, and density and photoelectric logs.

Whole core characterisation

When the whole core is available, Ingrain's characterisation process begins with CoreHD dual-energy computed tomography (CT) scanning. From this data, Ingrain computes a high-resolution vertical profile of rock bulk density (RHOB) and photoelectric factor (PEF). Bulk density is an indicator of porosity and organic matter content, while PEF is an indicator of mineralogy. The density and mineralogy information is used to define shale facies, to characterise and identify the zones of higher reservoir potential.

Through its digital analysis focused on quickly extracting meaningful information, Ingrain can generate this data in a matter of hours after the recovery of a core: a fraction of the time of traditional techniques. Information about total organic content (TOC), mineralogy and brittleness is also available.

For the visualisation of CT data, Ingrain offers a new tool called LithoVision™, which provides a user-friendly way of displaying log curves with core scans, making it easy to investigate geologic features such as burrows, stratification and fractures in relation to petrophysical properties.

Drill cuttings characterisation

Since open-hole well logs and conventional coring are seldom practical along laterals, and there can be a great deal of variability, it is becoming more critical to obtain high-quality geologic data from drill cuttings. Such data includes elemental composition and scanning electron microscopy, which allows the detailed visualisation and quantification of pore types and organic material abundance. Using cuttings can assist in adjusting the target zone, altering geologic spacing of fracturing zones for well completions, predicting estimated ultimate recovery and comparing results between multiple wells.

Pore-scale characterisation

Whether plugs are from whole core or representative drill cuttings, samples are selected for pore-scale analysis. Scanning electronic microscopes allows Ingrain to obtain high-resolution images of shale mineral grains, solid organic material and pore space. These images are analysed to quantify organic matter, porosity, porosity associated with organic matter, inter-granular porosity and high-density minerals present in the samples.

Next, 3D digital rock images are obtained from focused ion beams combined with a scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) to form a digital rock volume. Segmentation and image processing allows the separation of the solid mineral, organic matter and pore space of these 3D objects. Absolute permeability is calculated in each 3D FIB-SEM volume using a numerical method known as Lattice-Boltzmann.

Technologies leading the field

By combining these technologies, Ingrain offers operators several advantages for reservoir characterisation:

  • results available in days, not months, affecting critical decisions at the well bore
  • computation of upscaled porosity and permeability curves for an entire cored interval, through the integration of SEM data
  • validation of target zones through the incorporation of elemental, mineralogical, TOC and SEM cuttings data
  • confirmation of containment within a target zone is possible before completion decisions are made
  • possibility of compiling a higher density of data points within the target zone to make well-to-well comparisons
  • ability to obtain geologic information on wells previously drilled, where no wireline information is available.

Looking to the future

The drop in oil prices has unquestionably slowed exploration activity, and Ingrain's aim is for its clients to take advantage of the slowdown to focus on self-evaluation, as it helps them learn about their plays as efficiently as possible. The company will continue toevolve alongside its clients and the industry to deliver a quick and useful suite of services, fully scalable for the market's recovery.

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In this FIB-SEM volume, green is solid organic material, blue is connected porosity and red is isolated porosity.
Ingrain has characterised shale and complex conventional formations across the globe.
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