Effect of capillary pressure on phase behavior in tight rocks and shales

B. Nojabaei, R. T. Johns, L. Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations


Phase behavior is important in the calculation of hydrocarbons in place and in the flow of phases through the rocks. Pore sizes can be on the order of nanometers for shale and tight-rock formations. Such small pores can affect the phase behavior of in-situ oil and gas because of increased capillary pressure. Not accounting for increased capillary pressure in small pores can lead to inaccurate estimates of ultimate recovery, and of saturation pressures. In this paper, capillary pressure is coupled with phase equilibrium equations, and the resulting system of nonlinear fugacity equations is solved to present a comprehensive examination of the effect of small pores on saturation pressures and fluid densities. Binary mixtures of methane with heavier hydrocarbons and a real reservoir fluid from the Bakken shale are considered. The results show that accounting for the impact of small pore throats on pressure/volume/temperature (PVT) properties explains the inconsistent gas/oil-ratio (GOR) behavior, high flowing bottomhole pressures, and low gas-flow rate observed in the tight Bakken formation. The small pores decrease bubble-point pressures and either decrease or increase dew-point pressures, depending on which part of the two-phase envelope is examined. Large capillary pressure also decreases the oil density in situ, which affects the oil formation volume factor and ultimate reserves calculations. A good history match for wells in the middle Bakken formation is obtained only after considering a suppressed bubblepoint pressure. The results show that the change in saturation pressures, fluid densities, and viscosities is highly dependent on the values of interfacial tension (IFT) (capillary pressure) used in the calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-289
Number of pages9
JournalSPE Reservoir Evaluation and Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geology


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