Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Engineering Science

First Advisor

Harpalani, Satya


The steady flow method (SFM), most commonly used for permeability measurement in the laboratory, is not applicable for tight rocks, higher rank coals and coals under highly stressed condition because of the difficulty in measuring steady-state gas flowrates resulting from the tight rock structure of. However, accurate estimation of permeability of highly stressed coals is pivotal in coalbed methane (CBM) operations in order to precisely and effectively model and project long-term gas production. A fast and accurate permeability measurement technique is, therefore, required to investigate gas flow behavior of CBM reservoirs. The pulse-decay method (PDM) of permeability measurement is believed to be better suited for low-permeability rocks. In this study, application of the currently used pulse-decay laboratory permeability measurement techniques for highly stressed coals were evaluated. Considering the limitations of these techniques in permeability measurement of unconventional gas reservoirs, such as coal and gas shales, the conventional PDM was optimized by adjusting the experimental apparatus and procedures. Furthermore, the applicability of an optimized PDM was verified numerically and experimentally. This dissertation is composed of five chapters. To complete the research objectives as discussed above, it is necessary to have a profound understanding of the basic theories, such as, gas storage mechanism, gas migration, and permeability evolution during gas depletion in coalbed reservoirs. In Chapter 1, a brief discussion regarding the basic knowledge of reservoir properties and transport mechanisms is presented. The chapter also provides the appropriate background and rationale for the theoretical and experimental work conducted in this study. Chapter 2 presents the transient pressure-decay technique in permeability measurement of highly stressed coals and verifies the validity of Brace et al.’s solution (1968) by comparing it with Dicker and Smits’s solution (1988) and Cui et al.’s solution. The differences between these three solutions are discussed in detail. Based on the established permeability trends from these different solutions, a persuasive suggestion is presented for selection of the best alternative when testing coal permeability. Furthermore, permeability is regarded as a coupled parameter, resulting from the combined effects of mechanical compression and “matrix shrinkage” caused by desorption of gas. To isolate the role of gas desorption from the coupled result, a series of experiments were carried out under constant effective stress condition and a stress-dependent permeability trend was established. Chapter 3 proposes an optimized experimental design in order to improve the accuracy of the calculated permeability for sorptive rocks. In order to verify the optimized design theoretically, a modified mathematical model is presented and describes the one-dimensional fluid flow in porous media by a partial differential equation. The numerical solutions of the model are presented graphically to evaluate the fluid flow behavior in porous media. Finally, the validity of Brace et al.’s solution when testing sorptive rocks, without the need of consideration on the compressive storage and sorption effect, is elucidated. Chapter 4 demonstrates the efficiency and applicability of the optimized PDM through its direct application to experimental work designed to establish the permeability trend under best replicated in situ conditions. In this chapter, CO2 was used as the test fluid to profile and characterize the pulse decay plots due to its higher affinity towards coal than methane, and then establish the stress-dependent-permeability trend for highly-stressed CBM reservoirs. In this chapter, Brace et al.’s solution was also verified by comparing the laboratory data and computer simulated results obtained from the optimized mathematical model proposed in Chapter 3. The experimental work demonstrates that the optimized technique can be used for permeability tests of sorptive rocks without the need to carry out additional experimental work required to measure rock porosities and sorption isotherms. Finally, a summary and future research perspectives are presented in Chapter 5.




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