Diffusion-based modeling of gas transport in organic-rich ultratight reservoirs

Zizhong Liu, Hamid Emami-Meybodi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The complex pore structure and storage mechanism of organic-rich ultratight reservoirs make the hydrocarbon transport within these reservoirs complicated and significantly different from conventional oil and gas reservoirs. A substantial fraction of pore volume in the ultratight matrix consists of nanopores in which the notion of viscous flow may become irrelevant. Instead, multiple transport and storage mechanisms should be considered to model fluid transport within the shale matrix, including molecular diffusion, Knudsen diffusion, surface diffusion, and sorption. This paper presents a diffusion-based semianalytical model for a single-component gas transport within an infinite-acting organic-rich ultratight matrix. The model treats free and sorbed gas as two phases coexisting in nanopores. The overall mass conservation equation for both phases is transformed into one governing equation solely on the basis of the concentration (density) of the free phase. As a result, the partial differential equation (PDE) governing the overall mass transport carries two newly defined nonlinear terms; namely, effective diffusion coefficient, De, and capacity factor, U. The De term accounts for the molecular, Knudsen, and surface diffusion coefficients, and the U term considers the mass exchange between free and sorbed phases under sorption equilibrium condition. Furthermore, the ratio of De/U is recognized as an apparent diffusion coefficient Da, which is a function of free phase concentration. The nonlinear PDE is solved by applying a piecewise-constant-coefficient technique that divides the domain under consideration into an arbitrary number of subdomains. Each subdomain is assigned with a constant Da. The diffusion-based model is validated against numerical simulation. The model is then used to investigate the impact of surface and Knudsen diffusion coefficients, porosity, and adsorption capacity on gas transport within the ultratight formation. Further, the model is used to study gas transport and production from the Barnett, Marcellus, and New Albany shales. The results show that surface diffusion significantly contributes to gas production in shales with large values of surface diffusion coefficient and adsorption capacity and small values of Knudsen diffusion coefficient and total porosity. Thus, neglecting surface diffusion in organic-rich shales may result in the underestimation of gas production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-882
Number of pages26
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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