Evaluation of Fluid Transport Properties of Coal Bed Methane Reservoirs

Open Access
Alexis, Dennis Arun
Graduate Program:
Energy and Mineral Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 29, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Zuleima T Karpyn, Dissertation Advisor
  • Turgay Ertekin, Dissertation Advisor
  • Yilin Wang, Committee Member
  • Derek Elsworth, Committee Member
  • Demian Saffer, Committee Member
  • Coal bed methane
  • permeability
  • relative permeability
  • effective stress
Determination of petro-physical properties of coal bed methane (CBM) reservoirs is essential in evaluating a potential prospect for commercial exploitation. In particular, permeability is the most significant rock property controlling the transport of natural gas to the wellbore. Specifically, relative permeability of coal to gas and water in the fracture network determines the ease with which immiscible fluids travel through the reservoir in the presence of each other and directly impacts the amount of hydrocarbons that can be ultimately recovered. Due to the complex and heterogeneous nature of coal seams, proper relative permeability relationships are needed to accurately describe the transport characteristics of coal for reservoir modeling and production forecasting. In this work, absolute and relative permeability of different coal samples were determined experimentally under steady-state flowing conditions. Multiphase flow tests were conducted using brine, helium and carbon dioxide as the flowing phases under different magnitudes of confining and pore pressures. Results indicate that effective stress (Confining pressure – average pore pressure) has a significant effect on both absolute and relative permeability of coal. With increases in effective stresses, the absolute permeability decreases. Effective permeability and relative permeability, as well as the cross over point and the width of the mobile two-phase region decrease as the effective stress increases. In addition, the mobile range of gas and water in the coal samples investigated corresponds with water saturations above 50%, irrespective of the base absolute permeability of the sample. In brine-carbon dioxide two-phase flow experiments, the effect of carbon dioxide adsorption was observed as effective permeabilities measured decreased in comparison to the helium-brine permeabilities at the same flowing ratios. Gas transport is restricted in the presence of water as significant water occupation is observed in the fracture network during the two phase flow tests and also evident from the magnitude of the effective and relative permeabilities. As a result, relative permeability characteristics of CBM systems were found to be insufficiently represented as sole functions of fluid saturation. In addition, laboratory measurements were used to conduct field scale simulations of primary recovery from CBM systems using variable, stress-dependent relative permeabilities. Simulation results show that methane recovery from CBM reservoirs can be overestimated when dynamic changes in relative permeability relationships are ignored. A multi-dimensional correlation between relative permeability, fluid saturation and specific surface area of the cleat network is proposed as a continuation from this work in order to account for stress-related changes in cleat network connectivity.