Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Engineering Science

First Advisor

Harpalani, Satya


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OFSUMAN SAURABH, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Engineering Science, presented on August 30, 2019, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.TITLE: GEOMECHANICAL STATE OF ROCKS WITH DEPLETION IN UNCONVENTIONAL COALBED METHANE RESERVOIRSMAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Satya HarpalaniOne of the major reservoir types in the class of unconventional reservoirs is coalbed methane. Researchers have treated these reservoirs as isotropic when modeling stress and permeability, that is, mechanical properties in all directions are same. Furthermore, coal is a highly sorptive and stress- sensitive rock. The focus of this dissertation is to characterize the geomechanical aspects of these reservoirs, strain, stresses, effective stress and, using the information, establish the dynamic flow/permeability behavior with continued depletion. Several aspects of the study presented in this dissertation can be easily extended to shale gas reservoirs. The study started with mechanical characterization and measurement of anisotropy using experimental and modeling work, and evaluation of how the sorptive nature of coal can affect the anisotropy. An attempt was also made to characterize the variation in anisotropy with depletion. The results revealed that the coals tested were orthotropic in nature, but could be approximated as transversely isotropic, that is, the mechanical properties were isotropic in the horizontal plane, but significantly different in vertical direction. Mechanical characterization of coal was followed by flow modeling. Stress data was used to characterize the changes in permeability with depletion. This was achieved by plotting stress path followed by coal during depletion. The model developed was used to successfully predict the permeability variation in coal with depletion for elastic deformations. As expected, the developed model failed to predict the permeability variation resulting from inelastic deformation given that it was based on elastic constitutive equations. Hence, the next logical step was to develop a generalized permeability model, which would be valid for both elastic and inelastic deformations. Investigation of the causes of coal failure due to anisotropic stress redistribution during depletion was also carried out as a part of this study. It was found that highly sorptive rocks experience severe loss in horizontal stresses with depletion and, if their mechanical strength is not adequate to support the anisotropic stress redistribution, rock failure can result. In order to develop a generalized permeability model based on stress data, stress paths for three different coal types were established and the corresponding changes in permeability were studied. Stress path plotted in an octahedral mean stress versus octahedral shear stress plane provided a signal for changes in the permeability for both elastic as well as inelastic deformations. This signal was used to develop a mechanistic model for permeability modeling, based on stress redistribution in rocks during depletion. The model was able to successfully predict the permeability variation for all three coal types. Finally, since coal is highly stress- sensitive, changes in effective stresses were found to be the dictating factor for deformations, changes in permeability and possible failure with depletion. Hence, the next step was to develop an effective stress law for sorptive and transversely isotropic rocks. For development of an effective stress law for stress sensitive, transversely isotropic rocks, previously established constitutive equations were used to formulate a new analytical model. The model was then used to study changes in the variation of Biot’s coefficient of these rocks. It was found that Biot’s coefficient, typically less than one, can take values larger than one for these rocks, and their values also change with depletion. The study provides a methodology which can be used to estimate the Biot’s coefficient of any rock. As a final step, preliminary work was carried out on the problem of under-performing coal reservoirs in the San Juan basin, where coal is extremely tight with very low permeability. An extension of the work presented in this dissertation is to use the geomechanical characterization techniques to unlock these reservoirs and improve their performance. The experimental data collected during this preliminary study is included in the last chapter of the dissertation.




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