Porosity distribution in the Devonian Antrim Shale: Controlling factors and implications for gas sorption

Adedoyin Adeyilola, Natalia Zakharova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unconventional reservoirs, such as oil and gas shales, are characterized by diverse and heterogeneous pore systems, and their detailed knowledge is critical for understanding fluid storage and transport mechanisms. The Devonian Antrim Shale in the Michigan Basin is an unconventional, primarily biogenic gas accumulation with a technical recoverable resource of 19.9 Tcf. While its general formation properties are known, the details of porosity distribution and pore morphology are lacking. This study provides a comprehensive description of the total porosity, pore size distribution, pore morphology and mineral associations for various members of the Antrim Shale sampled at three locations across the basin, and then investigates the factors controlling porosity distribution and the implications for gas sorption. Results indicate that the black-shale members, the Lachine and Norwood, are characterized by a lower porosity (0.1–2%) compared to the organic-lean members, the Paxton and Upper Antrim (2–7% porosity). Total porosity tends to decrease with the increase in organic content in the Antrim Shale as organic matter, in particular solid bitumen, occludes available pore space between mineral grains in the organic-rich black shale members. Organic matter displays little to no porosity of its own at the SEM resolution, but gas adsorption measurements indicate the presence of micropores (<2 nm), whose amount correlates positively to the total organic content. The Norwood member (TOC values up to 25%) is characterized by the largest share of micropores (up to 37% of the total porosity volume), while the organic-lean Paxton Member (TOC < 6%) has the least amount of microporosity (1–6%). Only the Lachine Member and select Upper Member samples showed larger organic matter pores, visible in the SEM images (∼50–100 nm). Mesopores (2–50 nm) are the dominant pore size group in the Antrim Shale, forming 45% to 76% of the pore space, and most of the pores are interparticle and intraparticle pores in and around clays, quartz, feldspar and pyrite grains. No single mineral component influences the total porosity distribution, but clay content exhibits a weak positive correlation to the meso-macro porosity. As microporosity is known to contribute the most to gas adsorption capacity of unconventional reservoirs, TOC appears to be most important factor controlling both CH4 and CO2 storage potential of the Antrim Shale. The Norwood Member, characterized by the highest TOC and microporosity volume as well as surface area of the micropores, is predicted to have the highest gas adsorption capacity but direct sorption measurements will be needed to confirm that. This study highlights some important differences with previous observations about porosity relationship to organic and mineral components of shale reservoirs, and expands the understanding of shale pore systems in the low-maturity range of organic-rich shales.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
StatePublished - May 2023


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