Molecular Fractionation in the Organic Materials of Source Rocks

S Alafnan and AS Sultan and J Aljaberi, ACS OMEGA, 5, 18968-18974 (2020).

DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.0c02239

Hydrocarbons that are transported in a hierarchal path from the nanoporous constituents of a shale matrix to natural and then hydraulic fractures are subject to continuous fractionation during the journey. The organic nanopores of a source rock matrix known as kerogen have pore sizes on the angstrom scale. At that degree of confinement, pores can act as a selective membrane, preferentially maintaining some components over the others in a continuous fractionation phenomenon that alters the adsorption/desorption isotherm. Several studies have considered the adsorption/desorption behavior of kerogen on the basis of a single component. In reality, methane is associated with other hydrocarbons, making that assumption questionable. The present work investigates the multicomponent gas sorption of kerogen structures via a molecular computational approach. The continuous fractionation results in the accumulation of heavier components. The compositional changes alter the phase behavior, enlarging the anticipated two-phase regime. Additionally, the ability of molecules to diffuse from kerogen was also found to be affected by the fractionation effect. These microscale effects provide some insights into the potential factors that influence the productivity at the reservoir scale.

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