Dynamic imaging of oil shale pyrolysis using synchrotron X-ray microtomography

Tarik Saif, Qingyang Lin, Kamaljit Singh, Branko Bijeljic, Martin J. Blunt

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71 Citations (Scopus)
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The structure and connectivity of the pore space during the pyrolysis of oil shales determines hydrocarbon flow behavior and ultimate recovery. We image the time evolution of the pore and microfracture networks during oil shale pyrolysis using synchrotron X-ray microtomography. Immature Green River (Mahogany Zone) shale samples were thermally matured under vacuum conditions at temperatures up to 500°C while being periodically imaged with a 2 µm voxel size. The structural transformation of both organic-rich and organic-lean layers within the shale was quantified. The images reveal a dramatic change in porosity accompanying pyrolysis between 390 and 400°C with the formation of micron-scale heterogeneous pores. With a further increase in temperature, the pores steadily expand resulting in connected microfracture networks that predominantly develop along the kerogen-rich laminations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6799-6807
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
Early online date3 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2016


  • dynamic imaging
  • synchrotron
  • oil shale pyrolysis
  • kerogen
  • pore structure
  • pore connectivity


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