The availability of natural gas in the Dutch subsurface has boosted the economy of the Netherlands for decades. Nowadays the production of natural gas from conventional sources is rapidly declining while demand is ever increasing. Indeed, it is expected that within five years the Netherlands will become a net importer of gas. Many other EU countries, having far less conventional gas of their own, are already faced with reliance on imports from Russia. Read more...

shale gas

While much progress has been made in developing fracturing technologies and methods, the permeability of a gas shale matrix is so low that very close fracture spacing is often needed to achieve sufficiently rapid transport of gas from the shale matrix into the induced fractures. More often than not, transport of gas from matrix to fractures is so slow that production is not economic.

To improve productivity, it is necessary to find ways of promoting pore connectivity within the shale matrix, hence promoting transport from matrix to fractures. The present project will investigate whether the stress-strain-sorption behaviour and mechanical damage characteristics of gas shales can be employed, alongside fracturing, to achieve the desired increase in matrix permeability. This project will involve experimental, theoretical, modelling and microstructural work on selected gas shale samples of interest in the Netherlands (e.g. the Posidonia Shale) and elsewhere in Europe.

As a first step in the investigation to find different methods to enhance pore-crack connectivity between the shale matrix and the induced fractures, we have investigated the microstructure and permeability of the shale matrix using a combination of methods (e.g.: Light microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Gas adsorption, Gas permeability).

Publications

Peer reviewed publications

1. Maartje Houben, Nico Hardebol, Auke Barnhoorn, Quinten Boersma, Colin Peach, Giovanni Bertotti, Martyn Drury (2016). Matrix to fracture flow inferences from core measurements and structural fabric (Whitby UK), 5th EAGE shale workshop, 2-4 May 2016.

2. L.A.N.R. Douma, M.E. Houben, M.I.W. Primarini, A. Barnhoorn (2016). The effect of temperature and pressure ont eh rock mechanical behaviour of the Whitby Mudstone Formation, UK, 5th EAGE shale workshop, 2-4 May 2016.

3. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, J. Lie-A-Fat, T. Ravestein, C.J. Peach, M.R. Drury, Microstructural characteristics of the Whitby Mudstone Formation (UK), Marine and Petroleum Geology, 70, 185-200, 2016. 

4. A. Zhubayev, M.E. Houben, D.M.J. Smeulders, A. Barnhoorn, Ultrasonic velocity and attenuation anisotropy of shales (Whitby, UK), Geophysics, 81, D45-D56, 10.1190/geo2015-0211.1, 2016.  

5. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury, C.J. Peach, C.J. Spiers (2014). Microstructural investigation of the Whitby mudstone (UK) as an analog for Posidonia shale (NL), 76th EAGE conference & Exhibition, 16-19 June 2014 Amsterdam, DOI: 10.3997/2214-4609.20141056. 

Other: Abstracts, conference contributions. 

1. Maartje Houben, Nico Hardebol, Auke Barnhoorn, Quinten Boersma, Colin Peach, Giovanni Bertotti, Martyn Drury (2016). Matrix to fracture flow inferences from core measurements and structural fabric (Whitby UK), Poster - 5th EAGE shale workshop, 2-4 May 2016.

2. L.A.N.R. Douma, M.E. Houben, M.I.W. Primarini, A. Barnhoorn (2016). The effect of temperature and pressure ont eh rock mechanical behaviour of the Whitby Mudstone Formation, UK, Talk - 5th EAGE shale workshop, 2-4 May 2016.

3. Auke Barnhoorn, Mutia Primarini, and Maartje Houben (2016). Fracturing and brittleness index analyses of shales, Poster – EGU 2016, 17-22 April Vienna Austria.

4. Auke Barnhoorn, Jeroen Verheij, Marcel Frehner, Alimzhan Zhubayev, and Maartje Houben (2016). Transition from elastic to inelastic deformation identified by a change in trend of seismic attenuation, not seismic velocity – A laboratory study, Poster – EGU 2016, 17-22 April Vienna Austria.

5. M.E.Houben, N.J. Hardebol, A. Barnhoorn, Q. Boersma, C.J. Peach, G. Bertotti, M.R. Drury (2016). Whitby mudstone, flow from matrix to fractures, Poster – EGU 2016, 17-22 April Vienna Austria.

6. M.E.Houben, N.J. Hardebol, A. Barnhoorn, Q. Boersma, C.J. Peach, G. Bertotti, M.R. Drury (2016). Permeability of the Whitby Mudstone matrix, talk - Fifth low permeability workshop, Mol Belgium 10-11 March 2016.

7. M.E. Houben, L. Douma, A. Barnhoorn, N.J. Hardebol, E. Remij, J. Smit, V. Valliappan, G. Bertotti, S. Cloetingh, M.R. Drury, C.J. Peach, J.J.C. Remmers, D. Smeulders, C.J. Spiers, J.-D. van Wees (2016). Basin to pore fracture network and fluid-rock interaction in tight sands and shale (2f2s), Poster - NAC 2016, the Netherlands 7-8 April 2016.

8. L.A.N.R. Douma, M.E. Houben, M.I.W. Primarini, A. Barnhoorn (2016). The effect of temperature and pressure on the mechanical properties of Toarcian age shale-gas reservoir rocks, Poster - NAC 2016, the Netherlands 7-8 April 2016.

9. N.J. Hardebol, Q. Boersma, M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, G. Bertotti, Fracture-fault network characterization of pavement imagery of the Whitby Mudstone, Yorkshire, Poster - Geomechanical and petrophysical properties of mudrocks, 16-17 November 2015.

10. M.E. Houben, A. Carone, C.J. Peach, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury, How permeable is the Whitby Mudstone?, Talk - Geomechanical and petrophysical properties of mudrocks, 16-17 November 2015.

11. A. Barnhoorn, M.E. Houben, M. Primarini , Geomechanics and petrophysics of Whitby Mudstone, Talk - Geomechanical and petrophysical properties of mudrocks, 16-17 November 2015. 

12. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, J. Lie-A-Fat, T. Ravenstein, C.J. Peach, M.R. Drury, Whitby Mudstone Formation its microstructure, porosity and permeability, Talk - Euroclay 2015, 5-10 July 2015.

13. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury, C.J. Peach, C.J. Spiers, Porosity and permeability of the lower Jurassic Posidonia Shale from Whitby (UK), Talk - LOWPERM 2015, 9-11 June 2015.

14. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury, C.J. Peach, C.J. Spiers (2015). Microstructure and permeability of the Whitby Mudstone (UK) as an analogue for the Posidonia shale (NL), Pico - EGU 2015, 12-17 April Vienna.

15. A. Barnhoorn, M.E. Houben, J. Lie-A-Fat, T. Ravenstein, M.R. Drury (2015). Variations in petrophysical properties of shales along a stratigraphic section in the Whitby mudstone (UK), Pico - EGU 2015, 12-17 April Vienna.

16. Q. Boersma, N.J. Hardebol, M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury (2015). Fracture-fault network characterization of pavement imagery of the Whitby Mudstone, Yorkshire, Pico - EGU 2015, 12-17 April Vienna.

17. A. Barnhoorn, A. Zhubayev, M.E. Houben, N.J. Hardebol, D. Smeulders (2015). Signature of seismic wave attenuation during fracture network formation, Pico - EGU 2015, 12-17 April Vienna.

18. M.E. Houben, A. Barnhoorn, M.R. Drury, C.J. Peach, C.J. Spiers (2014), PIPS-SEM comparison of the microstructures of the Posidonia Shale Formation and the Whitby Mudstone Formation, Poster - NVVM material Science meeting, 2 December 2014, Utrecht.

19. A. Zhubayev, M. Houben, D. Smeulders, A. Barnhoorn, Geomechanical and anisotropic acoustic properties of Lower Jurassic Posidonia shales from Whitby (UK), Poster - EGU 2014, Vienna, 27th of April 2014.

Enhancing shale gas production [extra]

Douma, L. A. N. R., Houben, M. E., Primarini, M. I. W., & Barnhoorn, A. (2016). The Effect of Temperature and Pressure on the Rock Mechanical Behaviour of the Whitby Mudstone Formation, UK, (May 2016). https://doi.org/10.3997/2214-4609.201600423

Douma, L. A. N. R., Primarini, M. I. W., Houben, M. E., & Barnhoorn, A. (2017). The validity of generic trends on multiple scales in rock-physical and rock-mechanical properties of the Whitby Mudstone, United Kingdom. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 84, 135–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2017.03.028

Houben, M. E., Barnhoorn, A., Lie-A-Fat, J., Ravestein, T., Peach, C. J., & Drury, M. R. (2016). Microstructural characteristics of the Whitby Mudstone Formation (UK). Marine and Petroleum Geology, 70, 185–200. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2015.11.011

Houben, M. E., Barnhoorn, A., Peach, C. J., & Drury, M. R. (2018). Potential permeability enhancement in Early Jurassic shales due to their swelling and shrinkage behavior. International Journal of Coal Geology, 196(May), 115–125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coal.2018.07.003

Houben, M. E., Barnhoorn, A., Wasch, L., Trabucho-Alexandre, J., Peach, C. J., & Drury, M. R. (2016). Microstructures of Early Jurassic (Toarcian) shales of Northern Europe. International Journal of Coal Geology, 165, 76–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coal.2016.08.003

Zhubayev, A., Houben, M. E., Smeulders, D. M. J., & Barnhoorn, A. (2016). Ultrasonic velocity and attenuation anisotropy of shales, Whitby, United Kingdom. Geophysics, 81(1), D45–D56. https://doi.org/10.1190/geo2015-0211.1