Acoustic and Petrophysical Evolution of Organic-Rich Chalk Following Maturation Induced by Unconfined Pyrolysis

Omri Shitrit, Yossef H. Hatzor, Shimon Feinstein, Harold J. Vinegar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thermal maturation is known to influence the rock physics of organic-rich rocks. While most studies were performed on low-porosity organic-rich shales, here we examine the effect of thermal maturation on a high-porosity organic-rich chalk. We compare the physical properties of native state immature rock with the properties at two pyrolysis-simulated maturity levels: early-mature and over-mature. We further evaluate the applicability of results from unconfined pyrolysis experiments to naturally matured rock properties. Special attention is dedicated to the elastic properties of the organic phase and the influence of bitumen and kerogen contents. Rock physics is studied based on confined petrophysical measurements of porosity, density and permeability, and measurements of bedding-normal acoustic velocities at estimated field stresses. Geochemical parameters like total organic carbon (TOC), bitumen content and thermal maturation indicators are used to monitor variations in density and volume fraction of each phase. We find that porosity increases significantly upon pyrolysis and that P wave velocity decreases in accordance. Solids density versus TOC relationships indicate that the kerogen increases its density from 1.43 to 1.49 g/cc at the immature and early-mature stages to ~ 2.98 g/cc at the over-mature stage. This density value is unusually high, although increase in S wave velocity and backscatter SEM images of the over-mature samples verify that the over-mature kerogen is significantly denser and stiffer. Using the petrophysical and acoustic properties, the elastic moduli of the rock are estimated by two Hashin–Shtrikman (HS)-based models: “HS + BAM” and “HS kerogen.” The “HS + BAM” model is calibrated to the post-pyrolysis measurements to describe the mechanical effect of the unconfined pyrolysis on the rock. The absence of compaction in the pyrolysis process causes the post-pyrolysis samples to be extremely porous. The “HS kerogen” model, which simulates a kerogen-supported matrix, depicts a compacted version of the matrix and is believed to be more representative of a naturally matured rock. Rock physics analysis using the “HS kerogen” model indicates strong mechanical dominance of porosity and organic content, and only small maturity-associated effects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3273-3291
Number of pages19
JournalRock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Bitumen
  • Kerogen
  • Porosity
  • Pyrolysis
  • Rock physics
  • Thermal maturation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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