Abstract

The identification of “organoporosity” (microscale and nanoscale pores within organic matter in shales), its importance to storage and perhaps transfer of gas molecules through shales, and methods for gathering three-dimensional images of the pores, such as by argon-ion milling and/or field emission scanning electron microscopy, have all been well documented and discussed for unconventional gas shales. However, other types of pores exist within shales that can be important to storage and migration of gas (and oil), and other technologies are available for their identification and imaging. The different pore types found in the Barnett and Woodford shales are described and classified in this article.

Scanning electron microscopy revealed the presence of porous floccules in both the Barnett and Woodford shales, which appear similar to laboratory-produced floccules and to those in other ancient shales. Published experimental and observational studies indicate that floccules are hydraulically equivalent to coarser grains and are transported by traction processes. Current-induced microsedimentary structures and textures within the Barnett and Woodford shales, as well as the preserved floccules, suggest such processes were active during transport and deposition. Pore spaces between the floccules are open and can provide storage space as well as permeability pathways for gas molecules through the shales. Pores are also found within organic matter that occurs both as discrete particles and as adsorbed coatings around clay grains in the shale. They are referred to here as “organopores.” Porous fecal pellets are also common in the Barnett Shale. Preserved fossil fragments such as organic-walled spores and inorganic sponge spicules have hollow central chambers, which may remain partially or completely open even after burial. Intraparticle pores occur between grains of various minerals (e.g., pyrite framboids). Microchannels within shale matrix, which may be the bounding surfaces of scours or microsedimentary structures, may also provide permeability pathways for hydrocarbon migration. Mircrofractures are also common, and their initiation might be related to mineral crystal structure. When present in sufficient quantity, these pore types offer potential gas (and oil) molecule storage spaces and permeability pathways through the shales.

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