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Volume 2017, Article ID 4709064, 19 pages
Research Article

Using BIB-SEM Imaging for Permeability Prediction in Heterogeneous Shales

1Structural Geology, Tectonics and Geomechanics (GED), Energy and Mineral Resources Group (EMR), RWTH Aachen University, Lochnerstrasse 4-20, 52056 Aachen, Germany
2Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of Petroleum and Coal (LEK), Energy and Mineral Resources Group (EMR), RWTH Aachen University, Lochnerstrasse 4-20, 52056 Aachen, Germany
3MaP-Microstructure and Pores GmbH, Lochnerstrasse 4-20, 52064 Aachen, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to C. J. A. Sinn; ed.nehcaa-htwr@nnis.rapsac

Received 14 April 2017; Revised 11 August 2017; Accepted 24 August 2017; Published 23 October 2017

Academic Editor: Kundan Kumar

Copyright © 2017 C. J. A. Sinn et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Organic-rich shale samples from a lacustrine sedimentary sequence of the Newark Basin (New Jersey, USA) are investigated by combining Broad Ion Beam polishing with Scanning Electron Microscopy (BIB-SEM). We model permeability from this 2D data and compare our results with measured petrophysical properties. Three samples with total organic carbon (TOC) contents ranging from 0.7% to 2.9% and permeabilities ranging from 4 to 160 nD are selected. Pore space is imaged at high resolution (at 20,000x magnification) and segmented from representative BIB-SEM maps. Modeled permeabilities, derived using the capillary tube model (CTM) on segmented pores, range from 2.3 nD to 310 nD and are relatively close to measured intrinsic permeabilities. SEM-visible porosities range from 0.1% to 1.8% increasing with TOC, in agreement with our measurements. The CTM predicts permeability correctly within one order of magnitude. The results of this work demonstrate the potential of 2D BIB-SEM for calculating transport properties of heterogeneous shales.