Research Topics

Research Proposal by Colorado School of Mines (CSM) OCLASSH
Physics of Reservoir Rocks: Organics, Clay, Sand and Shale
Submitted by Manika Prasad
Petroleum Engineering Department


  1. Define measurement protocols for various types of measurements on reservoir sediments,
  2. Make careful and relevant measurements on clean and organic-rich reservoir sediments, such as shale, mud, clay, and sand on a nano- to macrometer scale, and
  3. Compare similarities and differences between similar types of data gathered with different measurement techniques.

We will integrate results of microstructure, sedimentological processes, and elastic properties of sediments to provide key diagnostic technologies to quantitatively interpret seismic images and to link geologic models to reservoir properties. We will measure physical and dynamic properties (formation factor, tortuosity, water saturation and distribution, stress anisotropy and effective stress coefficients).


Our work has valuable synergy with research activities at CSM, our industry partners, and other academic ventures. For example,

  1. Seismic Imaging: What are effects of temperature, free radicals, stress and stress anisotropy on the mineral modulus and on seismic properties?
  2. Fracture Stimulation: Understand and map stresses concentrations, artificial stimulation response and other processes during fracture creation and creep? The data on basic science aspects of failure processes and stress concentration would be valuable for designing the increasing fracturing processes.
  3. Transport Mechanisms: Understand nano- to meso-pore and molecular sieving controls on fluid transport, intercalation effects due to polar organic compounds, make reliable reserves estimates. The transport and rock physics properties would have important bearing on understanding and modeling transport phenomena in shales.



O-CLASSH will have a Director and a co-Director to manage its operations; an administrator; affiliated faculties from various departments; graduate students; post-docs and visiting scientists; a Scientific Advisory Board. In the first three years, the Founding Members will be the Scientific Advisory Board. In Year 4, regular members can elect or nominate Scientific Advisory Board members.



The project has two types of memberships:
Founding Members (maximum 5 members) will have regular member benefits and:

  1. Membership fee = $300,000; payable upfront or in yearly installments in 3 years.
  2. Form the Scientific Advisory Board for three years.
  3. Provide or specify the samples and data that the Center will analyze.
  4. After three years, yearly membership fees for Founding Members will be $50,000; same as the regular membership fee.

Regular Members will (We request that a company join for a minimum of two years.):

  1. Pay a membership fee of $50,000 per year.
    1. The Consortium dues are payable either in yearly installments or upfront.
    2. The contract can reflect this commitment or be renewed annually.
  2. Have access to all parts of the scientific research and reports.
  3. Attend annual meetings
  4. For the first three years, elect one member to the Scientific Advisory Board.
  5. After three years, elect members of the Scientific Advisory Board.



We welcome direct involvement in various aspects of our research, such as advising students, spending sabbaticals at the Center, recommending special topics for research; inviting faculty and students to do research at company site.


Research quality experimental data, analyses, and procedures in annual reports:

  1. Procedures: Compilation of laboratory methods and techniques for reservoir sediments
  2. Data (provided in electronic as well as report form): Database of experimental results: seismic, electrical, geomechanical, XRD, surface area, porosity, permeability, and compositional data, digital microscopic images as per release agreements with specific companies.
  3. Training (as requested): O-CLASSH will train and transfer knowledge on best practices and equipment.



Experimental training is an often overlooked part of student training in modern curricula. O-CLASSH will train graduate student students on advanced experimental techniques and methods to prepare them for an increasingly unconventional work focus.


Current Equipment

Seismic measurements. Velocity, modulus and attenuation measurements will be made to cover a wide range of samples at extended pressure and temperature conditions.

Static moduli measurements. Strain data will be collected on samples to derive static strengths, Young’s modulus, and Poisson’s ratio – useful in fracture treatments:

  • Seismic and Electrical Property measurements at pore and confining pressures:
    • Low frequency device (3 Hz to 3000 Hz)
    • Ultrasonic frequency device (1 MHz)
    • Axial load frame (1 MHz)
    • Complex resistivity (currently coupled with the low frequency system but can be moved to any other)

Sample characterization. All rocks will be characterized for mineralogy and fabric with Scanning Acoustic Microscopy, Scanning Probe Microscopy, and CT scans. We will also conduct surface area, pore size, gas adsorption studies:

  • Imaging Systems
    • Micro-CT scanner (with flooding fixtures)
    • Acoustic microscope (with flooding fixtures)
    • SEM, Environmental SEM, FiB-SEM
    • Dielectric Imaging (with Physics Department)
  • Micro- to nano-scale characterizations
    • Modulus and Hardness: Nanoindentation (with Material Science) and Ion-milling machine
    • QEMSCAN (School wide resource)

Petrophysical measurements. Measurements of porosity, permeability, and electrical resistivity under various stress conditions and at different water saturations in addition to surface area and gas adsorption measurements with various gases:

  • Pore system measurements
    • Gas adsorption with "micropore" capability (pores in nanometer range)
    • MICP (we do have a system, but are critical of using any MICP for shales)
    • NMR system to measure pores and pore fluid properties under elevated pressures and temperatures
    • ESR - this is a functional magnetic resonance for free radicals (ESR = Electron Spin Resonance) - not our system, but we are planning to borrow it shamelessly :)
    • Centrifuge (not owned by OCLASSH)
    • Core-flooding systems (not owned by OCLASSH)
    • Traditional porosity, permeability system (PE department resource)
    • Permeability system for very low perm rocks
    • Porosimetry: we are currently defining a best-practice procedure to measure porosity and density in organic- and / or clay-rich rocks
  • Fluid measurements
    • Seismic properties of fluids (not owned by OCLASSH)
    • Open column chromatography
    • Rheometers (a zillion with the ChemEng folks)
    • Slim-tube, rising bubble apparatus

 Planned Equipment and People (Wishlist!)

Visiting Scientist - Rotating Grant: To work with OCLASSH faculty and students
Administrator: Part-time help to manage projects
Instrument Technician / Lab Manager: Manage, run, repair, and upgrade equipment, provide training, interface with suppliers
Students: Tuition and fellowship
GHz-frequency Acoustic Microscope: Image pore and fracture geometry, aligned pore space, and deformation of pores and impedance changes
Tri-axial system: Design, construct, and instrument true triaxial test system: currently at machine shop for analysis - hope to get system by spring 2013
Tensiometer: Instrument with accessories
This is not an exhaustive list! I am sure I am forgetting a bunch of other stuff. So, if you do not see anything here, ask. We might have it. -We are pack rats .