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Numerical and Laboratory Investigations for Maximization of Production from Tight/Shale Oil Reservoirs
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The goal of this project is to investigate (with a focus on quantification), at multiple scales, the most promising processes that enhance production from tight/shale oil reservoirs, using LBNL’s unique set of parallel lab, micro-imaging, and reservoir simulation capabilities.


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) - Berkeley, CA 94720


This research is divided into two areas that address pressing questions about the micro- and macro-scale processes that control the mobility of fluids in fractured and unfractured shales. The first area is proppant transport, including the movement and distribution of proppants in propagating fractures, the effect of proppants on the fracture permeability during injection and production, and their long-term fate, including crushing or embedment during fracture closure. The second area is production enhancement, which includes lab- and reservoir-scale investigations of processes (separate and in combination) that enhance permeability, decrease viscosity or irreducible saturations of reservoir fluids, and result in maximum recovery of desirable hydrocarbons. Coordination between simulations, lab-scale tests, and micro-scale visualization will provide some of the first direct observations of proppant behavior and develop enhanced simulation capabilities for reservoir-scale modeling.


By examining methods to enhance production in shale oil reservoirs through multi-scale laboratory experiments and numerical modeling, this project aims to identify promising processes and methods for industry adoption that would result in improved oil and natural gas recovery. If successful in identifying interactions, processes and methods that can increase production by as little as 50-100 percent over the current low recovery rates, the impact in the industry would be significant.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • Identified the mechanisms governing production from shale oil systems from molecular to field scale
  • Completed coupled flow-proppant transfer modeling capabilities
  • Evaluated the proppant transport behavior of a wide range of slickwater hydraulic fracturing (HF) fluids within a controlled set of field-scalable fracture analogs with complex configurations.
  • Completed in-situ XR imaging experiment targeting forced closure of propped fractures.
  • A new analysis tool aimed at better understanding the role of proppant behavior in the evolution of propped fracture conductivity has been developed, and preliminary results are available.
  • Evaluated the role of proppant behavior in the evolution of fracture conductivity in the Wolfcamp shale propped fractures forced closure experiments.
  • Published results of the in-situ 4D X-ray micro-imaging experiments focused on the evolution of propped fractures.
  • Completed the evaluation of thermal methods for EOR. These simulations evaluated fractured reservoirs with more complex fracture configurations including (a) naturally fractured systems of different characteristics and (b) systems with secondary fractures induced by the hydraulic fracturing operations and the changing stress distribution in the course of production.
  • Completed bench-scale cyclic gas injection EOR study in porous ceramic and Teflon analogs to shale by injecting a wide array of light non-hydrocarbon and hydrocarbon gases.
Current Status

This project ended on 4/30/2022 and the final report is linked below.

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DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Additional Information

NETL — Stephen Henry ( or 304-285-2083)
LBNL — George Moridis ( or 510-486-4746)