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. The Upper Chalks and the Marls should have major economic potential. 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 indicate large mineralogy, organic richness, and porosity heterogeneities throughout the Niobrara interval at all scales.

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